Four and a Half Piles of School Papers

At the end of the school year, there are three things that are a given. 1. It only takes a day or two to hear, “Mom, I’m bored.” 2. Water play of any sort makes the long days more fun. 3. There will be papers, papers, and more papers sent home from school. We can help with that last one.

how to organize school papers

Just because your kid’s papers come home in one bag doesn’t mean there is just one single type of paper.

There are a few different types of papers, and each one needs you to do something different to them. Let’s break it down.

  1. Proof Your Kid Did Something, aka Homework. Chances are, this is just not that amazing. Most of it is probably worksheets. Review and recycle ASAP.
  2. Official Looking Stuff Parents Need to Know. These flyers are usually printed on colored paper. They are not usually remotely important. Do a quick sort and purge to get down to just a handful of items that may truly need your attention. These might include school-issued passwords to online programs, which sometimes apply throughout the summer and into the next year. A three-ring binder for you, the parent, is a great place to keep the true, official notices and numbers handy.
  3. Report Cards and Other Official Stuff. The truly official papers should be filed in a safe place, with your child’s permanent records. Most families put these in the same room or filing cabinet with the household files. If your child has an Educational Assistance Plan (EAP), you’ll keep assessment findings and other support documentation. When your child is young, if they are on track at school, their records probably aren’t critical, to be honest. But once they reach high school, every report card, activity they participate in, award they earn and reference letter they save could be part of their college application process. Help your kids learn to keep important papers safe in file folders or a file box.
  4. Original creations. Your pint-sized Picasso will come home with finger paintings. Your budding engineer may create entire villages from Popsicle sticks. Your author-in-residence may have written a prize-winning poem. Your kid creates work that is uniquely theirs, that showcases their own talents, that they show pride in. Take the time to praise, display and digitize it. You can create a coffee table book or other tangible work of art that will last a whole lot longer than it will if it’s stuffed under a bed or crammed into a plastic box. Digitize them in a scanner or take pictures with your phone right away. Or find a personal photo organizer ( to do that for you.

Here’s a visual recap of these four piles of kid papers.

Can you think of any other types of paper that you need to keep?
Don’t bother keeping school papers to pass down to the next kid. When their time comes, their teachers will have their own way of presenting a learning concept. I recommend keeping recent school directories with #2 above; older school directories in #3 as keepsake items or not at all.

The half pile that I mentioned? I also end up with summer workbooks or skills packets. These might be things you buy, or things that the teachers send home. They might include summer reading lists and reading tracking charts. Do yourself the favor of telling your kiddos about them, setting goals, and letting them work through them at a regular pace during the summer. We’ve had a routine of doing a couple of workbook pages each day. This year, we’re giving our kids a weekly packet to complete at their own pace. Either way, I’m grateful for the unused learning resources that the teachers sent home.

How long does it take to get through all the school paperwork? Realistically, it can take less than an hour per kid to sort into these categories and purge. It might take up to another hour select and digitize the artwork that you’ve saved all year. If it takes much more time, you might be overthinking it. Your child, even elementary school children, can help you with this task. They’ll love telling you about all the amazing stuff they do at school.

If you haven’t unpacked that backpack yet, now is the time to dive in, sort the papers into the categories above, and reclaim your kitchen counter from school papers that have quilt up all year long.


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