School is starting soon. It’s the time of the year when I have to pull up my organizational bootstraps and prepare for the onslaught of paper that will soon be pouring out of backpacks and onto my kitchen table. I’d like to think that preparing myself for the school paper battle is me being a good and responsible parent, but it is really just self-preservation. If I didn’t handle the paper as it came into the house, you would find me in June quietly weeping under a pile of incomplete field trip forms, overdue library book slips, and assorted craft projects.
The first order of business for me to get ready for the school year and its avalanche of paper is to head to a stationary store and pick up some inexpensive folders with pockets. I get one for each child in fun colours that will hopefully cheer me up when I’m shuffling paper in February. Each folder gets labeled with my child’s name (or their alter-ego superhero name), the calendar school year, and the grade they are going into.
I try to handle the paper coming into the house only once. If it’s art and I can see a lot of effort was put into it or it makes me smile, I’ll put it in the folder. I’m pretty cold hearted though and recycle a lot of artwork. I keep my eye on the goal of having a good sampling of their artwork for them (or me) to reminisce over in future years without it monopolizing all my closet space. This may sound harsh, but I also think it’s important for the kids to understand that my heart is not attached to every scrap of paper they touch and theirs shouldn’t be either.
One way I limit what I keep is by sticking to the space the folder allows me. The left side pocket gets all the paper from September to January and the right gets February to June. It might sound rigid, but it makes it easier to decide what stays and what goes when I know I’m limited to what the folder can accommodate. If the kids make big works of art or a 3D creation, I’ll take a picture of it then throw it out. Like I said, I’m cold hearted, but I honestly don’t have the time, space, or inclination to store a life sized model of a penguin made of construction paper and marshmallows.
Having kids that are in the primary grades means that I also get a lot of communications from teachers, for example: what units they are covering, word wall words, or notifications about kids with allergies in the classroom. These papers go into the folders too, but I also take a picture of them with my phone before they are filed so I always have a copy on hand if I need them.
Forms are a bit of a different ball game. If it’s a form that is requesting information, like all those beginning of the year forms, I try to just sit down, fill them out, and get them back into backpacks as soon as possible. I treat those like a very competitive game of hot potato.
Then there are the two part forms – the ones where the school is giving me details of an upcoming event and I am giving permission, and usually money, so that my child can participate. For these, the first thing I do is enter the event into our family’s online calendar. The fact that it is a shared calendar is good because a second set of eyes can catch any glaring mistakes, like a school play starting at 10:00 pm – not that I have ever done that *whistles and looks away*. Then I take a picture of the event details with my phone in case I’m having doubts about the accuracy of my calendar entry later. I’m prone to calendar entry mistakes is what I’m saying here. Then the event details paper goes into the folder and the permission slip goes into the backpack.
The last thing to go into the folder each term is the kids’ report cards. Once the June report card is in there, I can file them away in my “school stuff” storage box and put a lid on the school year.