Once the school year kicks-off, paperwork starts a flowin’ and everyone’s organizational skills are put to the test. You can’t do it all yourself, so it’s important to teach your little ones how to stay organized too. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping yourself and kiddo(s) organized throughout the school year.
The homework folder is the vehicle that drives communication between home and school. Designate and label an area in your kiddo’s homework folder for ingoing (“Papers to Keep at Home”—think fliers, letters from school, calendars, etc.) and outgoing paperwork (“Papers to Bring Back to School”—field trip slips, signed progress reports, notes for the teacher, emergency cards, etc.). I like to use a clear, pocket folder that fits into a three-ring binder. This way papers are easy to put in and pull out. Get three of these folders, one for ingoing paperwork, outgoing paperwork, and homework. Be sure to go through the homework folder each night with to check for time sensitive documents, organization, communication from the school, and homework completion.
Depending on the age of your child, you may need to help them through this organizing process a few times and teach them how to sort incoming paperwork before they can do it accurately and independently (this will make your job easier). Let them know the importance of bringing home paperwork from school. For example, flyers have important information about fun school events such as book fairs, bake-sales, fundraisers, and more. If they would like to attend these events throughout the school year, they need to be sure to bring the flyers home. Or, maybe even bribe—(ahem!) I mean motivate them into staying organized by getting that over-priced Trapper Keeper they’ve been begging you for....hey, whatever works for you!
NOTE: Isn’t it the worst when your kiddo springs an event on you that you had no idea about, such as, “today is the last day to shop at the book fair!”
Again, some kids are more inherently organized and intuitively understand this process. Either way, you should always check your child’s homework folder and backpack regardless of their organizational skills. Getting into the habit of taking a minute or so each day to sit down with your child and sift through their folder, will keep you organized throughout the school year while teaching them valuable organizing skills.
Designate a small file bin or accordion file for each child in your family. Be careful not to throw any old pieces of paper into that file system—just the necessities. Multiple subcategories can get confusing so keep it simple. For example, you may designate files or tabs within your child’s filing system such as: school, extracurricular, medical, other important documents (subcategories may vary). Things that may go into the school file tab may be home-school contracts, documentation on your child’s progress…and there’s really not much more that should go into that folder. Contact information for the school, extracurricular activities, and such, should all be stored in your phone so you have them on hand at all times.
I’m a huge proponent of digital filing—scan and upload important documents to a digital file. I use the application TurboScan ($2.99) to upload all documents that I don’t need a hard copy of (which is most actually). I email the documents to myself and drop them into their designated file folders within my inbox. Another option is to save these scanned documents in cloud storage, such as Dropbox, Google Docs, or iCloud.
Make sure to go through the files each month, or at the very least, before you start thinking about upgrading to a larger filing system (DON’T DO IT!). If you go through these files routinely, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes to organize at any given time.
Have everything prepped and ready to go the night before. Mornings are always pressed for time; anything you can do the night before, do. Put completed homework and any “papers to bring back to school” in the homework folder, which then goes directly into the backpack (not on the counter or the floor next to the backpack). If you pack your kiddo a lunch, get it prepped the evening before. If you give them lunch money, put it in their backpack. If you need to sign something, do that immediately. You get the picture…don’t leave tasks for the morning that can be done the night before. After all, mornings are for crying about getting up early, debating what to eat for breakfast, and not knowing what to wear to school.
Keeping you and your kiddo(s) organized is a simple process, but it is a commitment. Once you have your organization process in place, everyone will be a happier camper!