When we moved into our first house, my parents excitedly made plans to come see what my husband and I purchased for our starter home. In addition to bringing a lovely house plant, they showed up with moving sized boxes of my childhood memories. Some boxes were old toys, but a majority was old school work. It was fun to go through some of it and try to remember those early years in life. (I am the proud recipient of many Best Napper awards from Kindergarten.)
However, it quickly got overwhelming to sort through. Plus, my husband wasn’t too crazy about storing all of that old stuff in our new house. Keeping this experience in mind, I was determined to find a way to preserve some of my kids’ school work, but also make it less overwhelming for them (and their future spouses!).
The system we’ve implemented is pretty easy. I purchased a clear file folder box and 14 hanging file folders for each of my kids. I labeled each tag with one grade from Preschool to 12th Grade. This took about 5 minutes. All of the major office supply stores have these items and they are fairly cheap. (I found my set at Aldi!)
The next step was getting all of their school work sorted. I had accumulated it all in a box and then went through each paper. I did the best I could to guess which grade it was from. Now that we have this system set up, it is easy to get it all sorted each year.
To Save or To Throw
Throughout the year, my kids bring home completed and graded papers, tests, report cards, growth charts, and projects. If they don’t see me go through their work, I can recycle a large amount of the worksheets and spelling tests I find. I try to save anything that they used creativity with like stories they’ve written, art projects they’ve created, etc. I save all good notes from teachers and friends. I also save tests that I know they’ve studied for or are very proud of.
I also save ANYTHING they want me to save.
Yes, you read that correctly. If they want me to save it, I do.
We talk about why they are proud of it. All of this saved work goes on top of the file box throughout the school year. I try to pick my battles carefully, and throwing away school work isn’t a battle I have the energy to fight every week!
Preserving Their Work
At the end of the school year, I go through our stack of accumulated papers and pick the best of the best to save. I recycle the rest.
My kids are not a part of this process! I have a binding machine in my office so I quickly run all their papers through the machine to make it neater, but you wouldn’t need to do this. I also put their school photos and any awards in their hanging folder as well. That’s it!
The End Goal
I always try to keep the end goal in mind: I want to provide them with a very reasonable amount of school work they can go back through when they are adults—if they want to. I also keep in mind that I do not want them to be overwhelmed with excess stuff from their childhood. Each kid will have ONE plastic box of all of their school work, awards, school pictures, etc. It will be up to them whether or not they save or throw it all away.
This system has been very easy for us to implement and takes minimal effort throughout the year.