Gavin brought home about a half dozen papers on his first day of kindergarten three years ago. And the papers have not stopped flowing since! Schoolwork could easily swamp our living room so I needed an easy solution for wrangling all those papers and keeping the memorable ones for posterity.
Part One of the solution was finding a place to store the papers as they infiltrated our home throughout the year. I chose a cupboard that was conveniently located in the living room where the boys enter the house at the end of each day. After they empty their backpacks and separate the papers requiring parental action, I browse the completed schoolwork, smile at the adorably misspelled yet phonetically accurate words, and then stash it away in the cupboard in two piles – Jasper’s on the left and Gavin’s on the right. All papers are placed in the cupboard and no mental energy is wasted on any weeding decisions at this point. More on that later.
Part Two was deciding what to do with the foot-high stack of papers at the end of the year. Saying that I needed a quick solution is an understatement because there’s only one week between school years for these kids (yay, year round school!) and there are now two sets of papers to sort with both boys in elementary school. Papers from the new school year would be arriving in the cabinet in a matter of days, so the previous year’s schoolwork organization solution needed to be completed … fast!
Several years ago, I stumbled upon a schoolwork binder solution on a blog that is apparently no longer active so I can’t claim full responsibility or provide proper credit for this idea. I loved it immediately for its simplicity, space conservation, and colorful rainbow styling. I’ve seen many solutions involving storage tubs and hanging folders, but prefer the binder solution because it’s more accessible and easier to enjoy months and years later.
While shopping for school supplies at the beginning of every school year, I buy two white 1.5” binders that will be used to keep schoolwork at the end of that year. A package of primary colored rainbow cardstock from Target is used for the covers and spines. I print a 4×6 school photo along with the spine and cover template on the cardstock so that the binders are ready to go at the end of the year.
Before schoolwork is added to the binder, several special items are inserted into plastic sleeves and clipped into the binder first:
- Class photo with student names on back
- Report card
- Tests and assessments
And several smaller, loose items are placed in the front pocket of the binder:
- Individual school photo CD
- Name plates
Each year, there has also been one or two composition books or spiral notebooks full of morning work and homework. Spiral notebooks conveniently fit right into the binder’s rings while composition books fit in the back pocket or an 8.5×11” Project Life envelope.
Sort Those Papers!
Now, it’s time to tackle the piles in the cabinet! The process of sifting through all the papers and finishing each binder takes only two hours to complete which is why I don’t bother making any culling decisions during the year.
I should also note that I’m pretty liberal with the toss pile. Whenever I feel like I want to keep more pages, I just remember that this binder may seem small, but it’s only one of eventually 13 binders for each boy! The composition and spiral notebooks also already contain a significant amount of basic writing and math work so most loose papers are discarded as the subject matter quickly becomes redundant.
When deciding what to keep, I look for patterns and keep one or two pages of each type to represent that work. For example, they both had many Letterland papers in kindergarten, but I just kept two favorites to remember it by. There was no need to keep all 30+ Letterland papers because they were all basically the same. Spelling tests happened weekly, but I only kept one finished test and its corresponding homework practice sheet. The boys had a weekly Spanish class so I kept 2-3 Spanish worksheets. I also keep anything timely such as one of many Olympics worksheets to remember when notable events occurred during the year. Creative stories are always included. Always!
Artwork is perhaps the easiest to filter. Most art paper exceeds the binder’s 8.5×11” size so it gets tossed. If the item is particularly memorable, I’ll take a picture and include a print in a scrapbook. There are always ample art pieces on 8.5×11” paper that fit perfectly so I select a few of my favorite pieces of this smaller size to represent the year’s artistic ability. Any art involving handprints or drawings of friends and family members make the cut regardless!
The Finished Product
When it’s complete, each binder is a concise representation of the year’s work and visible improvement from beginning to end. Perhaps most importantly, the boys enjoy looking through them. Jasper’s binder collection just began with the completion of kindergarten and he’s already taken it off the shelf several times and asked to page through it with me. I’m glad he takes pride in the work he’s done and hope he enjoys looking at these binders when he’s grown.
What about you? How do you manage and store your kids’ school papers? Please share below!