At the end of the school year, kids and parents alike are exhausted and ready for a break. As everyone’s attention turns to summer vacation, all of the papers, projects and artwork that were so important just a few weeks earlier often get stacked in a corner or stashed in a bag, along with everything else that has accumulated during the school year, and tucked out of sight.
But with the first day of school approaching, it’s time to unearth last year’s papers, sort through them, decide what is meaningful enough to keep and store them in an organized way. It’s also time to prepare for the school year ahead. Here are some tips to get you caught up and ready for fall.
First, dump everything from the past school year out on the floor. It’s easier to make decisions when you look at everything collectively.
If your kids are young, the bulk of what they brought home is probably artwork. Even though you’ll be tempted to keep all of those precious first drawings, masks, mobiles and clay bowls, you will thank yourself later if you cull the collection now. Resolve to keep a representative collection of the most special pieces and let the rest go. You won’t even remember what you threw away. I promise.
Another great thing to do as you attempt to reduce your kids’ art is to offer a few pieces to grandparents. They accumulate less day-to-day artwork and probably will be delighted to receive it. There are also websites and apps, such as Artkive (artkiveapp.com), that enable you to take photos and create books out of the artwork. Keepy (keepy.me) allows you to create an online archive of your child’s artwork and even add voice memos if you’d like.
For storing kids’ artwork, the two most popular options are portfolios and plastic under-the-bed bins. Art portfolios can accommodate poster-size pieces of paper and are easy to tuck away in small spaces. Plastic under-the-bed bins can accommodate large pieces of easel paper and 3-D objects. They take up a little more space than portfolios but are easier to look through later. Don’t forget to label both the individual pieces of art and the outside of the container with the child’s name and grade.
As kids get older, voluminous art projects are replaced with piles of worksheets, quizzes, workbooks and notebooks. The good news is that there probably will be fewer items to which you feel emotionally attached. And older kids can help with the process of sorting and deciding what to keep and what to toss. The bad news, though, is that there may be a lot more stuff to look through. In an effort to save time, it may be tempting to just dump it all in the recycling bin, but you may regret that later. Allocate at least 30 minutes this summer to find a few things worthy of keeping — a special writing assignment, a test with a perfect score or something that includes a kind note from your child’s teacher. Then toss the rest.
Once you’ve decided which papers to keep, add your child’s report cards and school photos to the collection and place everything in a clearly labeled file folder. Keep a file folder for each year inside a plastic portable filing box. Create one box for each child and store them somewhere accessible but out of your immediate living space.
Now that you’ve cleared the backlog from the last school year, think about how you can efficiently manage this year’s influx of papers. Find a convenient location to place a few labeled, letter-size inboxes where you keep completed school papers for each child. At the end of each month, empty the contents and choose a few items you want to keep. If that seems too frequent, make it a goal to sort through the papers at the end of the first quarter — you will be happy you did at the end of the school year.
Also designate a place where your kids can put papers that need to be returned to school, such as permission slips, so that they don’t get mixed in with schoolwork. Wall pockets or files work well for both of these purposes and also help to keep surfaces clear.
While you’re creating these inboxes, remember to clear your bulletin board of all of last year’s schedules and reminders to make room for new information. Update calendars with days off, vacation dates and sports or activity calendars, if you have them. If you are feeling ambitious, check your stock of kids’ art supplies, paper and pens. You are about to buy school supplies again, and there’s no sense in buying another set of markers if you already have one at home.
The start of the school year will be hectic no matter what, but if you get ready now, it will feel more manageable. And you will be able to enjoy those last precious days of summer vacation knowing you’re prepared.
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