Taming the Paper Monster
- Tuesday, December 01, 2009
A few of you are old enough to remember when personal computers were introduced and the manufacturers grandly announced that we were soon going to be a paperless society. Whoever made that prediction had obviously never run a homeschooling household.
As homeschoolers, we accumulate more kinds of paper than Grandma knew existed. And if your house is like mine, the piles threaten to overwhelm us. School assignments, art projects, household papers, mail, clippings to file for use sometime in the future—they all pile up at an astonishing rate. Here are some strategies to tame the Paper Monster that huffs and puffs his way into your house.
First, decide what to do with all of those wonderful math and handwriting papers your children produce every day. Most states do not require you to keep every paper and project your child does for school (what a relief!). A file folder or tote box for each child will corral those papers you do decide to keep. Sort through the box quarterly to see what is really important and trash the rest. Explain to your children that those are just practice papers and that you'll only be keeping copies of their very best work. We use the same principle in other areas: we don't record the child's daily piano practice, but we may videotape a recital.
What about art projects? A rotating refrigerator exhibit works for many families. When it's time to remove a picture or painting, the child decides whether to discard it, give it away, or keep it in his own Memory Box. This is a file box kept in the child's room; he keeps papers, souvenirs, etc. in it. When it is full, he must either stop adding to it or sort out the items no longer important to him. Whenever possible, design your art lessons around something that can eventually be given to a loving friend, neighbor, or relative.
Organizing Research Files
Homeschool moms are always on the lookout for great teaching ideas. Over the years I collected hundreds of magazine articles, pictures, and other teaching materials to supplement my children's regular curriculum. My files were chaotic until I started filing according to school subjects.
At first, I labeled file folders for each subject area: science, history, music, and so forth. Eventually, I needed to develop subcategories in each area, for example, Science—Meteorology, Science—Zoology, and Science—Human Body. History files are in chronological order, for example, History—Greeks and Romans or History—U.S. Colonial. Other file headings include Holidays—Fall; Language Arts—Spelling; Music—Composers; Homeschooling—Catalogs; and Homeschooling—Legal Issues. When first starting, you may not need such detailed file names, but it is helpful to have a plan for expanding when you need to. Start with just a subject heading, such as Math; then detail it as needed. An older child may get valuable experience as he helps you set up a filing system.
Let the best quality filing cabinets you can afford. Drawers are heavy when full; suspension rollers save you lots of aggravation and are easier for students to handle. Legal-size drawers are nice. You have a few extra inches along the sides for extra-long items, notebooks, or flashcards. If hanging files are not built into the drawers, purchase a metal frame set. Hanging files hold more than traditional manila file folders, they don't slide down in the drawer, and they glide easily along on the side rails, making filing a pleasure—almost! If you are schooling in the family room, a nice filing cabinet could hold all of your textbooks and teaching materials when you finish for the day.
Make a rule for yourself to only save papers you will actually take time to process or file—no "To Be Filed" piles allowed! (I still struggle with this one). It doesn't take any longer to file an item immediately than to file it later. Actually, you'll save time by not having to guess how many inches down in the "To Be Filed" box you might find a missing resource. Self-discipline pays for teachers as well as students. Trust me on this.
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