Organizational ideas for parents of kids in school (aka OMG all the incoming papers!)

School started today for our three kids (1st, 2nd, and 9th graders) and if it’s anything like last year, we should get the toboggan out and go for a ride down the pile of papers we received last year. I’m hoping to get a jump on this before the piles get huge and need the advice of dopers out there on how to organize the influx.

How does one do it? Keep the permission slips, with the homework (new and graded), artwork, fliers, pamphlets, parental notices, non-urgent and urgent stuff.

My kid has one folder that’s sort of his In box. Anything that needs to be read by me goes in there - one side marked “To Be Returned” and the other “To Stay Home”. Once a week (if I were Supermom, it’d be everyday, but once a week is more realistic for me), I go through the folder one side at a time, sign and write checks for the “To Be Returned” stuff, and I give it to the kid to put in whichever folder it needs to go into to get back to that teacher (English for the English teacher, etc. - when he was in elementary school, it all went into one folder for the teacher). Next, I take out and read the “To Stay Home” stuff. (Usually while I’m on the crapper. I’m a multitasker like that.) Any important dates/times/phone numbers get written in my calender and the notice goes to the recycle bin. Any notices/flyers/pamphlets about things I don’t care about (football teams, summer camp, Byzantine pottery exhibits), gets put in the recycle bin.

Artwork gets admired and then honestly critiqued by the kid. “Do you love it enough to save it, should we give it to one of the Grandmas, or should we toss it?” (A precursor to the decluttering mantra “Keep It, Sell It, Toss It!”) There’s room on the fridge for two pieces of artwork - anything kept after that either goes in a frame and gets put on the bedroom wall, or one of the fridge pieces has to come down to make room. I’ve never subscribed to the “first grade macaroni art must be saved 4evah!” style of parenting. Everything gets ooh’s and aah’s, but art is impermanent. That’s the beauty of it.

Graded homework in other classes gets pitched after admiration, except for very big projects, which I keep one or two a year in a file folder in my cabinet labeled WhyKid-School, along with class pictures, report cards (each quarter I pitch the last one, since the earlier quarters are printed on the later cards) and ISAT scores.

Can you come organize my home? Please? I’ll make cookies!

That sounds like a great system. I wish I’d been that organized. I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the current things that needed to be sent back, usually by dealing with them as they came in. Report cards and test scores (achievement tests like ISAT, not classroom stuff) went into a folder in the file cabinet. And I kept a folder in a cubby in the desk with all the general school stuff in it, like the handbook, medicine permission forms, the maps to other schools for away games and suchlike. Seems strange to look up there now and not see it.

The one idea that was a real help for me, although the kids made fun of me for it, was color-coding the calendar. I borrowed the idea originally from the public grade school. For each school year they gave us a calendar with all the off days shaded and all the major events marked. It also had the phone numbers and other info in it. So when the kids (by that time two of them) started to parochial school I did the same thing with the calendar I bought, which hangs just over the phone, btw. I used a highlighter to shade in the days, either the whole box or part of it, depending on whether it was a whole or partial day off. Then when the oldest one started high school I did the calendar in the respective school colors, red for the grade school and green for the high school. Actually I guess I used yellow for the days they both were off. Then I wrote in events in the proper colors. We could tell at a glance who had something going on when.

I guess I didn’t really answer what you asked. We kept a “school box” for each kid, just a plastic storage container (the ones next size up from the shoe box size) for them to put things they wanted to keep. Most of the papers they brought home stayed for a couple of days until we’d looked at the grade and talked about them and then they went into the recycle bin. Artwork went into the box if they wanted. Important notices and team schedules went into the school folder in the desk cubby. We didn’t keep up with it as well as I would have liked, but the major stuff was always where we knew to find it. If it wasn’t in the folder you probably didn’t really need it. The rest was more haphazard. The calendar meant that a lot of the little notice type thingies could be disposed of.

The “Organized Home” website, I’ve found, is a good source of ideas for this. Right now on the front page there’s an article on dealing with the paper chase, and another article on “launch pads” (creating a space for each person where all the things he or she needs to get out of the house in the morning are stored together).

I especially endorse WhyNot’s paper handling method - we’ve never tried the two pockets in the folder (I may just steal that…), but we do try very hard not to handle a piece of paper twice. Deal with it, then file or recycle it.

It has also helped tremendously that our boys’ schools are increasingly using e-mail or the school website to communicate with parents. Not only does it save paper, but e-mail can’t get eaten by the dreaded Backpack Monster.

Good ideas above! I can’t imagine having three kids to keep straight - we practically go nuts making sure that just one child is kept organized.

We have a list taped to the back of our door at child eye-level that our son is supposed to check every single day before he goes - not unlike a pilot’s checklist before take-off. Even though he is in 4th grade it is quite a list: homework folder with parent’s signature, language homework, Cub Scouts uniform on scouting days, swimsuit/towel/goggles on swim days, book to read, books to return on library day, lunch or lunch money, snack, water bottle, taekwondo uniform on taekwondo days … and that’s just what I recall off the top of my head, the actual list is longer.

Was school this complicated when WE were kids? I don’t remember needing such an arsenal of organizational weapons just to avoid pointed notes from the teacher that “you forgot to sign Johnny’s homework book last night!”

thirdwarning, I really like your color-coded calendar system. I had an only child for 12 years, so I only had to deal with one other person’s schedule. But we will have an overlap starting next year (next year?! Ohmigod, that’s too soon!) when his little sister starts preschool and he’s still in high school, plus, by hook or by crook, I’m going back to school as well, so we will have some crazy scheduling going on. I’m going to steal your idea and our calendar will be a rainbow!

As for anyone that wants organizational help, I have a ton of ideas, and I can even implement them. Now, if y’all want to come clean my house, that’d be great, because what I suck at is keeping up with the wonderful system I set up! :smack: