Like most mamas of school-age kids, my “new year” does not start on January 1st. The first day of school is what marks a brand new year for us – our calendar is full, there are changes to almost every part of our lives, and we jump right into a brand new routine.
With a son starting his second year of high school and a daughter entering her second year of middle school, our routine looks very different from what it looked like just five years ago. They switch classes and have at least a dozen teachers between them. My son carries a laptop to and from school, my daughter an iPad, where most of their work will be stored and shared. And activities after school are…Well, there are many.
Two years ago, I made a pledge with myself at the beginning of the school year to keep all of their important paperwork in one place. And I actually stuck with it (for the most part)! I kept a binder at my desk. When either one brought home a paper from school (or dance or football, etc.), I punched holes in it and stuck it in the binder. Obviously the paper load was heavy at the start of the year and dwindled from there, but I used the binder all year long. When they needed to see their orthodontist, I pulled out my binder to find their class schedule and figure out the least disruptive time to set the appointment (always an impossible task, isn’t it?!). Field trip form? In the binder. Teacher’s list of “favorites” when her birthday was near? In the binder.
I breathed a little sigh of relief every time I pulled it out and actually found what I was looking for.
Over time I decided to kick it up a notch and divide my binder into more manageable sections. At first I placed things in as I got them, with no rhyme or reason, which helped me figure out what kind of sections I actually needed and will use. And while keeping a separate binder for each child is a great idea, for me it just works better to have everything together in one place – only one thing to keep up with means I have less opportunity to lose/forget/stop using it, right?
So this year I have a section for my son’s classes (his schedule is there, along with a syllabus for each class and other guidelines for each that I print from teacher websites, and then I’ll add papers throughout the year as they come in – instructions for special projects, reports, field trips, etc.), my daughter’s classes (ditto to the above), and then an extracurricular activities tab for each of them – my son’s tab will be full of soccer paperwork and schedules, and my daughter will have dance info all year long.
Then a last section is just for me – my life, like yours, is spread out all over the place, but when looking through last year’s binder I realized that I had stuck my own papers in between the kids’ because I’d gotten in the habit of keeping everything there, and it was nice having it all together.
Obviously the same system doesn’t work for everyone, but after a year of experimenting and realizing I actually could keep all the craziness in one place, I’m here to tell you it did make life a little easier. I created another (free!) printable this year to stick in the cover of your binder, and decided to make a version for each season – print out your favorite or print all four and change up your cover with the changing weather, whichever works for you! Just add a binder and we all know one thing is certain: the paper will come.
What does your school year organization system look like? Let me know in the comments below, and post pics of your binders on Facebook! I would love to hear/see what works for you!
Hi! I’m Raven, an East TN native and UT grad. I could color in a good coloring book for hours, I love to find and paint “well-loved” furniture and I just adore pretty things. In my 16 years of marriage to David, I have experienced just about every work/home balance possible and currently work full-time in a fantastic position that allows me the flexibility to (try to) make it all work. Having tweens/teens is a lot like having a newborn – everything is new again, there are lots of opinions, and there is definitely no official guidebook. I’ll be sharing our stories from this phase of life and look forward to connecting with other moms who are in this super-fun/emotional/totally-nutso stage, too.