Many parents wonder how to organize school papers. We start the back-to-school shopping determined to save money on school supplies and systems to keep our kids organized throughout the year. A month after school starts the nifty filing folders are forgotten, their binders are bulging, and we’re on a first-name basis with their homeroom teacher who has been sending daily emails about missing assignments.
It’s frustrating to see your child’s grades slip because they forget to turn in completed homework. And watching your kid get left behind when the rest of the class goes on a field trip because you didn’t sign the permission slip? That can break a mom’s heart.
So let’s talk about how to organize school papers now, before summer vacation even begins winding down. With a little planning and effort this month, you can help your kids stay organized throughout the year.
How To Organize School Papers
1. Choose your spot wisely.
The problem: They forget to grab papers on the way out. The key to a good organizational system is finding one that works with how you’re already living your life. You need a storage spot that makes sense with your departure and arrival routines. For instance, keeping papers in the mudroom near the door to the garage won’t help if your child leaves through the front door to catch the bus. Likewise, using an upstairs home office will most likely lead to papers accumulating on the kitchen counter until you get around to filing.
Try this: Hang a magnetic white board with decorative magnets near the exit you use most often. Use the magnets to hold signed permission slips, lunch money, and other papers. Then use a dry erase marker to make notes of things you need to remember like late pickups or crazy outfits for Spirit Week. Seeing these things on the way out will help everyone remember them.
2. Dedicate a particular spot to schoolwork.
The problem: Giving kids one section of a paper sorter that you also use for bills and other household stuff means they’ll ignore it. Just as you wouldn’t want your work- or tax-related papers mixed up with theirs, your kids need a spot of their own for paperwork.
Try this: Dedicate a a rolling file cart with a supply drawer to homework assignments and school supplies, along with other school-related papers. At the end of the week, have your kids empty their binders and backpacks of old papers then file graded assignments. Once filed, your children will be able to review their past work before exams.
3. Give each child their own files.
The problem: You have more than one kid, and their papers get mixed. If Timmy’s teacher says he failed to turn in an assignment that you know you saw a grade on (and that’s happened more than once with my son), you don’t want to have to rummage through all of Janey’s papers trying to find it.
Try this: I’m down to one child living at home now, but in the past I used different colored file folders in the rolling file cart for my kids. Come to think of it, I still use that system: my Mom Files (the school papers I need to hang onto) are red, while my son’s files are blue.
4. Deal with paperwork daily, and enlist your child’s help.
The problem: Monday morning your child remembers he’d signed you up to bring cookies to class today. You’re already running late, but now you’ve got to stop to pick up three dozen cookies (without nuts, half of which also are gluten-free) on the way to school.
Try this: Designate a specific time each school day when your child must go through their backpack and binder to sort that day’s papers. If you don’t want to do this the instant you walk through the door maybe after dinner is a better time. The point is to have your child look at that day’s paperwork that day to help her remember any assignments she’d forgotten about or notes from the teacher that you were supposed to see.
5. Have a different file for each class.
The problem: Timmy needs to review this quarter’s vocabulary words, so he’s ready for the final quiz. Janey, meanwhile, has an algebra exam and needs to go over the different equations she’s learned. Finding the relevant papers isn’t easy since they’ve just been shoving them into one file folder each.
Try this: Keep a “completed” and “pending” file folder for each class a child is taking in the rolling file cart. When they sit down to go through their papers, have them file completed assignments by subject. For long-term assignments like research papers or semester projects, stash the relevant materials in the “pending” file for that class.
6. Be picky about what you keep long-term.
The problem: Little kids (rightly) believe every piece of art they’ve made is a masterpiece and that you should keep them all. Unfortunately, you’ve only got a limited amount of storage space and, let’s face it, they just called it in on some of those drawings of you.
Try this: If your child is young, ask her to go through her files at the end of the quarter to select one or two items for a “School Memories Box.” Bulkier items, like dioramas, are best remembered with a photograph tucked into the school memory box. Add to that each quarter and go through it together at the end of the school year. You’ll have fun looking back on memories from previous grades will both be able to appreciate how much your child has grown.