School Paperwork Organization & Printables!

School has been back in session for a few days, weeks, even a month or two for some, and it is always a bittersweet thing. It is a sign that warm summer days are numbered but daily routines are back and welcomed.

My boys have all been attending school full time for quite a few years now; my oldest is a junior (I can't even) and my youngest just started fifth grade. We have done the back-to-school organizing thing enough now that it has become easier and smoother and we all stress less and less. So instead of throwing everything at you in a single post, I thought that over the next few weeks I would focus on a few different "organizing with kids" tricks, and cover what has worked and what we are still working on.

To get started, I am revisiting one of my very first posts which is also the most popular in all of my eight years of blogging. Organizing school paperwork!

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That's right! As of today, the original post has been pinned over 697,000 times! Clearly, school paperwork is a topic that so many of us have to deal with on a daily basis, and any help we can get is always appreciated.

However, since I originally created the printables and wrote the post, a couple of things have changed. Our process has been streamlined, I have learned better labeling methods and my printable style has evolved. In fact, those oldie printables didn't even print correctly for all of my readers (which is the worst) and the labels were designed for address labels instead of file folder labels (what was I thinking!?).

So I finally did something about it for you all! New printables and a few new tips to go with them.

Our school district has been making a lot of progress in their attempts to go paperless. Over the years I have noticed fewer papers coming home and more communications happening via online newsletters and websites. So good! And since my original post, I have also discovered document scanners, so there is that.

But we still need to have a process and flow for the papers and homework that do make it home.

T I P   O N E

Create a workflow for the paper, and keep it as easy as you possibly can. When the boys bring home something that requires my attention, I ask they create a pile for me right on the kitchen table. This ensures I will see it and that I will touch it before serving dinner. If I don't give the papers back directly to the boys right away, I have gotten myself into the habit of leaving forms at their breakfast spot so they see them first thing in the morning.

Think about your routine and how you can be sure to always see the papers and return the papers. I stopped using an inbox for immediate action items because I found they would instantly get lost in a stack. If they are sitting out where we need to eat, I am sure to touch them and take action at some point before the kids go back to school the following day (and because I don't like any table/counter clutter I know the pile will be taken care of quickly). If a form comes home with important dates, I either stick the form into my planner or write down the details and recycle/file it away.

T I P   T W O

Create a spot for charts and study guides. Each of our boys has a personal workspace with a bulletin board or wall pocket. This is where they store their weekly reading logs and study guides because this is where they do their homework. When a new form comes home, they know to either turn in or recycle the previous documents.

T I P   T H R E E

Assign a holding zone. Each boy has a slot in a cabinet in our dining area, and it holds everything that needs to be referenced or dealt with until a certain time frame expires or until I have the time to deal with it for good. Examples may be forms with sports details or hard copies of long-term activity notes and schedules or those extra special assignments and works of art that I just can't let myself part with. Anything that requires some thought or that may need to be referenced again at a later date.

(We have a similar method for our bills/personal paperwork. When the mail comes in, it is promptly sorted into two piles; to-do/to-pay and recycle. We have an inbox that any actionable items go into and then we manage those items once per week).

T I P   F O U R

File away the memories.

Let me preface this tip with the understanding that what you decide is important to keep is most likely different than what I find important. I am a sentimentalist, and I have learned that time is short, milestones are valued and my memory isn't the best. I love to look back at things my kids wrote at certain ages or documents showing their test results and grades for certain periods of their lives. This is important to me, but I understand it isn't important to everyone. There is no right or wrong answer as to what you should keep and what you should toss. My general rules for the items I chose to keep and store are:

A reflection of a milestone (handwriting, new math skill, growth, etc...)A story or piece of writing that wows me/takes me by surpriseImportant tests/test resultsReport cardsAwards/certificatesLetters home from teachers/staff (both the good and the bad)Pieces of art that took time and effort
When it comes to art, only the very best/favorites are kept in their original form. Most are displayed on our walls, sitting on shelves or stored away inside of art boxes. Everything is photographed and stored virtually with the Artkive app. I love this app because it allows me to photograph the art, assign it to a specific kid, and stores the photo and the details (child, date, grade, etc...) to my account. I have been doing this for years now and I can still pull up art from when my boys were in Kindergarten. The best part is that it isn't taking up any extra space in our home. Artkive also has an online store that allows you to turn the artwork into memory books or canvases or calendars... This has been my chosen way to manage artwork, but there may be a variety of new and different apps available on the market that function in similar ways.
The rest of those documents are filed away into file folders by year.

And that is where the printables come in handy!

First, I created new templates for file folder labels that can be accessed and downloaded for anyone on a Windows machine or a Mac! They were designed to be downloaded and opened with Adobe Reader and printed on Avery File Folder Labels (8366).

You can also label the file folders with any standard label maker, I have been using this one and I really love the variety of options that it offers.

As you can see above, I created a few different color schemes for the labels to offer some added variety.

Once all of the file folders are labeled, I like to add a coversheet to each folder with a place for the child's school portrait and details about each year.

The coversheets simply tuck inside the front of each folder.

Quick Tip: I originally filed all of these folders inside of three very large document boxes, but quickly found they were too bulky and heavy to easily access and maintain. I recommend sticking to a standard desktop file box size or even a space-saving expandable 13-pocket folder.

The new coversheets were designed to fit a 5x7 portrait size or smaller.

S T E P   F I V E 

Backup everything digitally. The entire reason I fell in love with the idea of doing this for myself and my kids is that my parents held onto things from my childhood, as did my husband's parents from his. During many visits, these papers come out and we laugh, cry and share stories from our childhoods. I love looking back at my highs and lows and revisiting both the great accomplishments and not-so-proud moments that made me who I am today. And I have learned so much about Bryan as a kid, and especially enjoy finding similarities between him and our boys.

The thought of all of those memories and milestones and documents being lost or destroyed makes my heart crumble. And we all know that it can happen all too fast and completely unexpectedly. A number of years ago we added a document scanner to our office and it has made scanning in a stack of papers a breeze. The PDF's are then uploaded and stored online. We are big Dropbox users but Google Drive and Amazon Prime (free storage for Prime members) are also great options.

Once the systems are initially set up, they are pretty easy to maintain (and update) year after year. And I am so happy that someday my boys will have the opportunity to come back home with their families and look back at their folders and share their stories.

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