Do you struggle with managing the piles of papers that come home from school? Do you find it a challenge to sort the schoolwork from the informational memos from the items you need to take action on? Well, so did we. We tried a few methods that just did not work, but eventually, I got a good system going.
This is another one of those things that we put away when we were showing our house, because “your house won’t be attractive to buyers if it looks lived in”. Well, now, isn’t that fun? So, we put it away and that was fine for the summer, but when school started back up, we really noticed how much we needed this system. You never really appreciate something until it’s gone, right?
Basically, it’s just a file system using file slots, but I guess it’s the process and logistics of it that make it work for us. Each child has 4 bins, as follows.
Depending on the grade and the teacher, there are various communication methods. The most popular is the ‘Take Home Folder’. This goes back and forth every day with completed schoolwork, notes to and from home, forms to fill out, project information, etc. The completed schoolwork might need to be signed and sent back or just kept at home. Sometimes we get a weekly envelope with items regarding school wide information and events. As they get older, the kids start using student planners to manage their homework and other things they need to do or bring to our attention. These need a daily signature.With 3 school age kids and a 4th that will go to school eventually, I opted for the Safco Mesh Desk Organizer with Two Horizontal and Six Upright Sections (3255BL). They have 8 slots each and I got 2 of them, for a total of 16 slots, 4 for each of 4 kids.
There is a narrow edge below the vertical bins where I put labels. Another nice thing about this unit is that it’s two sided, so you can label both when you have them placed with both sides accessible. They also work great up against a wall or cabinet since everything just slides in and out. We use the vertical slots for ‘In’, ‘Out’, and ‘Homework’ since they get used most often. Schoolwork that stays home goes in the horizontal slots since it just piles up until I can decide what gets kept and what gets pitched.
A critical piece of this system is the routine for when the children arrive home from school. First, they wash their hands. Then, they return to the entry to put away their shoes (we don’t wear shoes in the house), empty their backpacks and then stash them. If they have homework to do, they take the books and worksheets to wherever they are going to do their homework. They put the ‘Take Home Folder’, the ‘Student Planner’, the ‘Weekly Envelope’, etc. and any stray papers that are kicking around the back pack into their ‘In’ bin. If they need the planner to do their homework, they will keep that until they have finished.
Our job is to review each of the ‘In’ bins and do some sorting. Completed homework that is to stay home is reviewed by us and then we put it into the ‘Schoolwork’ bin. If there are homework sheets to be done, we take a look just so that we understand what they have to do and then put them into the ‘Homework’ bin. This is typically how the younger kids’ homework comes home, before they advance to the Student Planner method. We can then make sure they are getting to it in a timely fashion.
There are a couple of extra bins for Mom and Dad. One is the ‘To Do’ bin and the other is the ‘Information’ bin. As we are sorting, we put anything that we need to take action on in our ‘To Do’ bin and then anything that is a memo or notice that we need to keep will go into the ‘Information’ bin. Most of the informational things are ‘read and toss’, but some have details that we need for a bit.
The ‘Out’ bins are for anything that needs to go to school. These include notes to teachers, completed forms, checks, signed papers, etc. As we address the things in our ‘To Do’ bin, we move them over to the ‘Out’ slots, to be taken to school the next day. Most items have a little time before they are due, so we review it all right away so we know what’s there and then take action a couple times a week.
In the morning before school, the kids come and pick up anything that’s in their ‘Out’ bin and pack it up with their books. We sign the planners in the morning because then we can check whether or not the homework was completed.
The final important part of this system is the placement of the file sorters. We have placed them in the office, which is right off the entrance, so they are easily accessed by the kids. No excuses for not using them! Also, they are right there for us to see. If they weren’t, we’d forget to do what we need to do!
So, like I said, this system works! The bins aren’t as attractive as say, a flower arrangement, but if we stay on top of things, we do have an effective, organized, family tool. It helps us meet deadlines and not lose important papers. It helps the kids keep up with their homework assignments. This system also keeps the papers in one location, rather than spread all over the house.
If you have a great idea for organizing your kids, we’d love to hear about it! Just post a comment and share it with our readers.