The school year is ending. Are you ready for the school bus-load of paper “treasures” your child is going to bring home? Do you have any idea what you’re going to do with all this stuff that’s about to take over the kitchen counters, the dining room table, the family room floor and every square inch of your kid’s bedroom? One of the toughest tasks of parenthood just might be figuring out how to organize your child’s schoolwork.
Is this one of the real reasons you dread the end of the school year?
I loved having my kids out of school for the summer. I hated that it meant I would have to figure out how to deal with suddenly being the recipient of a year’s worth of educational progress.
Of course, you have a cute little kindergartner this year and you’re thinking that I’m crazy and there’s not that much. Well, think ahead. You have 12 more years to go. And if you have more than one child, double it or triple it or multiply by 12.
That’s it. Multiply it by 12, even if you only have four children because, believe me, school papers will multiply like hangers in the guestroom closet.
Like most parents, I kept nearly everything my first kindergartner brought home. I displayed it on the refrigerator and then filed it away in a bin in her closet. It didn’t take long for that bin to overflow. And then after trying to figure out what do with all the
mess vital indicators of her academic progress, I realized I didn’t have to be the one to deal with all those spelling sentences, red-inked math homework and a full year’s worth of precious art projects.
I decided to allow my children (I have four of them) to decide what was important to them and what they wanted to keep. Yes, Mom still gets a say, but it’s their schoolwork, so they should get a bigger say in what’s important to them.
So, how did I do it? How did I organize my child’s schoolwork, keep a good record of their accomplishments and still have room for us to live in our house?
I gave each of my children a storage bin as they started school. I used Rubbermaid Rough Totes (18-gallon size) because that’s what I had at the time. They are still my storage bin of choice. In fact, my basement store room looks like a Rubbermaid warehouse.
Whenever they bring something home from school they want to keep they put it in the bin after we’ve displayed and admired it for an appropriate amount of time. If it doesn’t fit in the bin, we don’t keep it. If an item is too large for the bin, I am happy to photograph it and put a print in. Ditto if it’s something made from materials that may be enticing to critters, like macaroni necklaces and breakfast cereal alphabet letters. Anything else is fair game for the bin.
I like the bin because it’s large enough to store more than papers. Trophies, medals and 3D projects can fit in the Rubbermaid. Of course, as they get older, the bin begins to get very full. This usually happens near the end of elementary school, and becomes a good time to teach them about selective saving. Once the bin is full, it’s full. This means that to add new things, they may have to sort through the old things and choose which things are most significant to them.
I’ve found that in the early years, everything is important, but as they grow, they discover they neither need nor want to keep every single thing they’ve brought home. Part of the reason for my one-bin rule is that I have four children. The bins are large enough that my basement would soon be overrun if I didn’t put limits on them. It also teaches my children to be discerning and not be hoarders.
I retained veto power over all discards but in the 25 years I had children in public school, I almost never needed to use it.
I do keep all report cards, standardized and admissions test results and IEP documentation. Those are stored in their school file in my filing cabinet. Once they graduated, though, I added the folders to their school bins.
Some people prefer to photograph and all documents and then toss the originals, but I like hanging on to the originals when possible. I’m all about digital, but I do not believe in a paperless history. I print photographs and I keep original documents. There is something special about holding in your own hands an actual piece of your family history, a sample of your grandparents’ handwriting or your father’s 3rd-grade art project.
But for those who are short on space or those who just believe the world should be digital, scanning or photographing their memories is another option.
You may prefer to store the treasures by year and that’s also a viable option. If you prefer a yearly box, these cool scrapbook storage boxes from Pioneer are designed for oversized paper storage, and can be easily decorated. They also come in colors other than white, should you decide to color code your kids.
Do you have a system to save and organize your child’s schoolwork? I’d love to hear how you make it work—or any questions you have about storing paperwork. Leave me a message in the comments section below.