Mission Organization: Schoolwork

by Cate on July 1, 2009

Kid Work Boxes

Anyone who has a child in school knows the amount of paper that comes home.  Whether it be an art project or an A on a math test, pretty soon, you’re swimming in the stuff.  When Nick isn’t looking, I sort through the papers and save the very best … the great test scores, the beautiful pictures, the crafty projects … a lot, but not everything.  There’s just no way to save everything – it’s too much!  And the one time I got caught throwing something away, I had to carefully explain why.  I mean, really, it was a multiple-choice test that he got an A on.  Yes, he filled in 5 little circles quite nicely, but I didn’t think we needed to save it.  Many exasperated protests later (from him, not me!), he relented and agreed with me.

But now what to do with all the treasures that we do save?  For awhile, I was putting them into a “Nick” file in one of my filing cabinets, right there next to the gas bill and other assorted household folders.  It was neat and tidy, but by the time year two of school rolled around, the file was bulging.  I added another file, but still, something needed to be done to tame the paper beast.

Enter Staples.  I bought 2 packages of mailing boxes, sized 15-1/8 x 11-1/8 x 2.  They come five to a package and sell for about $8, although I had a coupon.  They are the perfect size to house whatever your little one is bringing home from school.  So I set Nick up on the floor and gave him the (now three) bulging folders of all his schoolwork … everything since he started pre-school at age 2 through the end of first grade.  He sorted all the piles and went through and even decided (gasp!) to throw some things away.  I showed him the size of the box and told him whatever didn’t fit in there for that particular year, we weren’t keeping, this way he was a little more shrewd when editing the pile, but I left it completely up to him (you can fit quite a bit).  Everything in the folders I thought was worthy of saving, and could fit, but if he didn’t want to save something, all the better.

After he went through everything, he then sorted it by year and filled up the boxes.  It’s silly, really, but I love looking at the nice neat stack of boxes.  So organized.  So easy to look through.  So easy to find something.  Perfect, perfect, perfect.

We wrote the grade and the year on the side of each box, and then inside each box with the papers and projects, on the very top, we put the report cards and progress reports.  He tried to throw away a few handwritten notes from a teacher when he was 3, where she detailed in a rather exhaustive manner how he wouldn’t sit still in class, but I explained to him that when he was older, he might think it was fun to look back on it and read.  He wasn’t entirely convinced, but enough so that he took the notes out of the trash and uncrumpled them, adding them to the box.

When he was all done, we sat together and went through all the papers, marveling at how things have changed in such a short amount of time.  Big, expansive handwriting has shrunk considerably and is neater, straighter and on the lines.  Coloring that was all over the place is now thoughtfully drawn out and clear.  His name went from Nicholas on the earlier papers to the much more mature, Nick, thankyouverymuch.  I thought it was fun to see the changes from year to year, although he voted a few of the papers “hideous!” – a new favorite word of his.

Mission Organization: Schoolwork, one step at a time.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Caron July 1, 2009 at 10:02 pm

I am tucking this idea away for a few years from now when Will is older. Right now, I have all his work stuck in a tote in my office — it’s nowhere near full, so we have some time to get to a real solution. But when we are ready, this sounds like a great way to go.


Patsy Kreitman July 2, 2009 at 7:40 am

I need to so something like that! I have a huge pile of papers between both boys and have “edited” it down quite a lot. I need to store them in boxes so that they will be easier to keep organized. I love your idea!


pamela July 2, 2009 at 9:04 am

This is a fantastic idea! I have a portfolio for my boys stuff and I think it’s about to explode. I will have to get some of these boxes! And I agree with you…you can’t save everything. :o)


Joanne July 2, 2009 at 9:10 am

This is definitely a cute idea. I’m the oldest and so my mom saved almost all of my school stuff “in case my younger brother ever needed it”. Then she had my sister 9 years later and I swear she’s still saving stuff from when I was in second grade even though my sister’s 13. For her grandkids.


Debbie July 2, 2009 at 9:21 am

That is a great idea. My youngest just finished 4th grade and all his saved work is just a mish mash. I will have to give this a try…Thanks!


Kris #40 July 2, 2009 at 10:24 am

I was just thinking of doing something last night as I was looking in my closet in the dining room and spied a folder full of school papers. There is stuff upstairs, downstairs, etc. I might have to add going to staples on my chore list today


The Neighbor (Wife) July 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Great idea! I use long flat tupperware bins for each year. I’ve gotten caught throwing something away too. I acted like it was a mistake. At least, you fessed up!


Jenny July 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm

I saw something like this on Oprah where a mom collected her 5 kids things over the years and when they graduated from college or moved out on their own(I can’t remember when she presented them to each child exactly) she gave them a little wooden chest that had file dividers in it with each year of the child on the divider and in between were pictures, love notes to mom, class pictures, mementos etc.
They were so precious some of the younger kids couldn’t wait until they got theirs when the were older.

Personally, as a teacher I have over my 19 years so far, have accumulated many thank notes, cards, pictures, etc and I went to either Pier 1 or World Market and got a chest to keep my stuff in. When I tell people that I do this and why I say: “Well, when I am in the nursing home with nothing to do, I have something to read and remind of all the good stuff from my teaching career”


Claire July 2, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I think we have a very large box from when I was in kindergarten and first grade…after that, the saving dropped off dramatically! I used to have a folder of all my essays from high school English, but I think I threw them away…wishing I had kept them now even if they WERE about The Red Badge of Courage (ugh!) and The Scarlet Letter. :-)


Laura July 4, 2009 at 2:50 pm

This is a wonderful tip…off to the office depot.


Cynthia July 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm

As someone who teaches I totally understand about the clutter of paper and books.


Katrina July 5, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Awesome idea. Now have three in school, even the papers saved are piling up!


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