School Papers: What to Keep and What to Toss

paper8 As we finish off the school year, this is probably the best time to go through all those papers that I've been stockpiling. You know what I mean--work pages, writing samples, art projects, and the like. Whether your child is schooled outside of the home or in the home, it's highly likely that you have a stack like this too. This is just Jonathan's preschool pile, so don't worry if your's is bigger than mine!


Before starting this paper-taming journey, I used to put papers all in one pile. It didn't matter if I needed them now or didn't need to look at them again. They just all went into one spot. As a result, I would have to wade through a ton of non-important papers to find the one important paper I needed. (Not smart.)

Because not all of my kids' school papers are of equal value, I had to find a way to house them until the end of the school year. As I was creating my file system in my last post, I created two folders for each of the kids: one for current work (which I refer to on a daily basis) and one for completed work (which rests in my filing box). So now, whenever Jonathan draws me a picture or Matthew turns in a science writeup or we finish an art project, I have a place to put it.

My first task then, at the end of the year, is to pull out this folder of completed work. Before hyperventilating though, I would suggest that you go back to your vision. What are you trying to accomplish in saving these papers? Does this help your purpose? Will it affect the grander scheme of life? Will there be dire consequences if you toss them?

My personal reason for keeping papers that my children do is to give myself a snapshot of what they have done over the course of the year. I want things that showcase their individuality as well as their developmental stage in this year of life. For this reason, I generally throw out all homework sets, worksheets, and other generic daily work. If I save anything, it's usually their best test.

If you are in a public or private school, knowing this may allow you to toss things out right away. However, if you are required by your homeschool PSP or charter school to show proof of your work, you may need to wait until you are cleared for the year before you do so. Sometimes in my desire to purge, I end up throwing things away before I should, which is why I like to make sure the school year is completely over before I do a complete purge.

If I had to keep something, it would be original work. However, 3-D constructions don't file away very neatly! So what I like to do is take photos. For example, this cute little "Mayflower" that Jonathan created at Thanksgiving just doesn't fit well in a folder and is bulky. If you are more artistically inclined, you can set it up nicer, but for me, this is good enough.


If your child is really attached to his work, we make an agreement. We keep the original a little while longer, but set a date for it to disappear. I then print out the photos onto paper and put it into the file for the year. That way, I have a copy of the work without the bulk.


After my first pass, I was able to whittle it down by half. What I do have in here is a book we made, his lapbook from one of my reviews this year, a flyer from the orchestra performance we attended, five of my favorite drawings/notes he made for me, and my lesson plans. I included some pages of his reading program, but I think I will eventually end up throwing them away, along with my lesson plans, which I already have on my computer.

Another option I am working on for Matthew is scanning his work and filing them electronically in his school folder on my computer. Now that he knows how to type, we are simply saving his documents into his file on the computer. If this works out, I may end up just doing all of the kids' school files this way. Just think of the space I'd save!

At the end, I like to keep only the very best. If I were to go through the same file of paper I saved this year in another 12 months, I would probably purge out even more. Think about it. Do you feel a need to look through your schoolwork now as an adult?

I didn't think so. It's a good chance your children will not care either. For me, I think it is more an emotional letting go at times than a physical issue. As the years pass, I get rid of more, until all I have left are the sweet, misspelled, yet heartfelt letters of love from my kids.

Those things I'll keep.

My birthday card from Jonathan this year