How to process Kids school papers

Today I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents who have been educating their kids through the HIPPY program.  My goal was to give them ideas on how to handle the incoming avalanche of school papers.

However, my two year old is sick and we thought it was a good idea to not share her virus so we had to stay home.  This post is for them, but I bet there's something here for about everyone!

Set up a Forever Box

I bought this box from Staples
First you must realize you can not keep everything your child creates and neither can they.  If you haven't already, set up a boundary for the keep forever papers.  I have a clear file box for this.  You can get them at any office store.  Fill it with hanging files.  You can label each one with the year of school.  The one above simply says KDO (Kids Day Out).  You could just label pre-school because that first folder is holding everything you want to keep before they start Kindergarten.  I store the Forever Box under my child's bed.  I do have an additional shallow but larger box that I keep some of her larger art work in.  It is not very big and it is my boundary, that means when it's full but I want to add something I must take something out.

Set up an unloading zone

Your child's teacher will teach every student in the classroom where to store their backpacks daily.  They will learn where to turn in papers and they will learn where to retrieve papers.  And guess what?  They do it! They do it because they are shown how and it is communicated that it is expected of them.  You will do the same.  Imagine bringing your student home from school.  What door do you walk in?  Where the best place for the back pack to land?  You may want it in their bedroom but is that realistic for your child?  Make it easy for them to take care of their things and you'll have greater success.  My system is simple.  

I found this at Precious Cargo.
I have a 1940s magazine table that we use.  My 6 year old walks in the door and lays her backpack on it.  She picks it up here in the morning.

Create paper systems

There are some documents you may need to reference a few times through out the year (Policies Handbook, info you receive from your teacher at Open House regarding procedures and how much lunch costs, and maybe a paper or two that needs to go to the Forever Box such as a progress report or a copy of her report card).  I keep these in the side pockets of the little table.  

You need a place to store weekly papers you need to look at, like the spelling list or whatever type of newsletter your teacher sends home. I like to keep that out so we don't forget to go over the spelling words.  I have a small magnetic board hanging in the kitchen for this.  We call it the VIP (Very Important Papers) board.  
I found these boards at Melody's Choices and the magnet clips from Clever Container.
It's really important to set up a system for papers that need action, for example, picture day order forms, scholastic book order forms, field trip permissions slips, and the like.  You need to take action on these but you don't have the time to decide on everything that instant.  You need a place for these papers.  These are your responsibility as a parent.  If you already have a working system for yourself regarding papers, integrate these papers into it.  I often hang these on the small magnet board I have hanging next to the weekly papers board.  Before sending it back to the school write on your calendar the event time and place and also if she needs to bring a lunch with her.

Set up a home work station.  We used a kid-sized table for a long time that is set up in my kitchen.  I bought my student a desk and put it in her room.  She uses it to show off her stuff (sigh).  But she really likes using the desk in the dining room for homework so that's her new homework station.

The reality of paper management

My daughter's school sends home Monday folders.  I love this because I am only dealing with the paper flood once a week.  On one side of the folder is papers to keep (like the weekly note from the teacher).  On the other side is papers to return to school.  My job is to look through the week's work and sign a sheet that says I looked through it.  Then my daughter returns it to school.  Her teacher keeps the completed work for 9 weeks or so and then sends them all home.  I immediately go through the large stack and pick out items I love. 

If she has struggled with passing timed math tests, I keep the first one she passed, especially because her teacher wrote, "I'm so proud of you" on the paper.  That paper is far more valuable than the other papers in the stack so that is what I keep in her Forever Box.  After I take out the few things I want to keep, I let her go through the stack and see if I "missed" anything of value.  This gives her a chance to have a say in what we keep and it teaches her that we can not keep everything.   
I found these boxes at Clever Container.

If your school sends home papers every day you can do something similar.  Set up a folder or a box for each of your students.  Show your child where to lay their back pack when they get home.  Show them how to take out the papers.  Teach them to give you the action papers.  Teach them to look for homework papers/assignments and place them at the homework station.  Teach them to put their work papers (papers that were completed at school and you have to decide to keep or not) into their box or file folder. Take the time to walk them through each step until you think they've got it.  Don't expect to show them once and they'll know what to do forever.  On Friday after school go through the papers in the box.  Treat it like I do the Monday folder my child gets.  

Prepping your house and creating systems before your child actually starts school puts you ahead of the game.  There is a lot of adjusting that takes place when your children start school and having a paper plan is a big bonus.  You'll likely need to tweak your systems every year and with multiple children.  My systems will adjust pretty easily for two kids in school without buying anything additional to help me.

Remember that it is not your job to keep everything.  It is your job to manage the papers, and to teach your child how to do it too.  Again, your kids know what their teacher expects of them.  Take a cue from the child manager professionals they are and do the same at home.  

When you become overwhelmed with the amount of papers coming home remember that once they get out of Elementary school the paper issue drastically slows down.  At that point all you'll be storing in your Forever Box will be school pictures and yearly progress reports and that's about it.

Bonus tips from a Mom who has been there

I was clueless about a lot when my child started school.  There are two things I wish I had known/done.
  1. When you leave your Open House meeting, ask your teacher for the best way to communicate with her.  Get her email or her phone number if possible.  You will need a way to communicate because having your 5 year old relay confusing (they leave out key information) messages is only funny for a few months, then it just gets frustrating.
  2. Keep a stash of dollar bills.  You will need two dollars here and two dollars there for this and that. If you have the dollars on hand you can get permission slips with money out of the house much quicker, and you won't be the one who never got the slip and money in because you kept forgetting to go to the bank for two whole dollars!  

Additional sidenote for special cases

If your child has special needs of any kind you'll have extra paper.  Place IEP papers in their own file, probably within your own current action file system.  

If the parents are divorced it is vital to figure out a system for sharing papers and it is even more important for you to have organized systems your child can follow.  Schedule regular exchanges of information with each other. Use your smart phone by simply taking photos of time sensitive information and sharing it that way.  You will find some helpful tips here at Our Family Wizard. 

Don't forget to be ready to take photos of your little one entering this exciting time in their life!  This is a favorite of mine!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...