Throughout a child's school career, parents are inundated with mountains of paper. Graded assignments, artwork, report cards and an array of other school documents pile up and get stashed into desk drawers or displayed on refrigerators. Every once in a while, we think, "I really need to sort through this stuff," but few of us ever do. And if we do tackle it, we wonder, "What should I keep and what should I pitch?" Parents must have a plan to be sure that they keep the document deluge at bay. Here are some tips for implementing a school paper plan.
1. Make immediate decisions
When your children get home from school, go through and discard all insignificant papers, then decide which ones to display and which, if any, to keep. The following questions may help in the decision-making process: Is this an inventive story or unique drawing? Will it inspire my child to continue in his creativity in the future? Is it reflective of a particular hobby or interest during this period of his life? (If so, keep only one sample.) Is this a special report with an exceptional grade and/or encouraging teacher comment? Over time, retain a few really impressive pieces and put your child's age, grade and date on the backside, so he'll later have a sampling of what he did.
2. Don't procrastinate
When your child comes home with a permission slip or a test that you must sign, don't set it aside, thinking you'll handle it later. Even if the deadline is weeks away, immediately sign the document and hand it back to your child to put in his or her school folder. Things that can be handled quickly should be handled immediately.
3. Marking period only
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Keep graded papers that may be in question through the end of each marking period in case there is a discrepancy on the report card and you need documentation to discuss it with the teacher. Likewise, maintain your child's attendance record to be sure it accurately reflects the numbers listed on the report card. At the end of the marking period, discard all items no longer needed.
4. Preserve for patterns
If your child is struggling and may need a tutor, consider keeping samples of his work to show troubling academic trends.
5. Act on the unforeseen
Retain report cards, battery tests and immunization records for the duration of your child's academic career, in the event of a catastrophe. If he is in a special education program, maintain at least three years of IEPs, as well as any fact sheets that document medical evidence or his initial diagnosis.
6. Decked out for display
There are a number of ways to display items: magnetic white boards, bulletin boards, picture frames and clotheslines strung across your child's room. Let children decide which items to display. Include papers from different genres. Create a system whereby displayed pages are removed and new ones put up. As items are replaced, save only works you need or want to file away. Take photographs of treasured artwork and download them on your computer to use as a slideshow screensaver.
7. Save for posterity
Slip special papers into clear, three-hole punched sheet protectors and place them in a binder. Take photographs of artwork and either include it in the binder or make a separate photo album. Create a chronological binder to track your student through each grade. Have him fill out a page with characteristics about each year: who his teacher is, his favorite subject, accomplishments or awards, best friends and what he wants to be when he grows up. Include a pocket folder for each year where you can store report cards and other special mementos. Upon graduation, make a copy of your student's transcript and diploma and file it away.
8. Discipline of downsizing
Teach your child how to continually downsize paper piles by helping him learn which items are of true lasting value and which ones can be quickly discarded. Maintain high expectations of your child's accountability in keeping track of and delivering documents to his teacher. In doing so, he will begin a life-long habit of clutter-free living and responsibility that will benefit him for years to come.