What to Do With All the Paper Coming Home From School?

managing the paper coming home from school

Although we’re all attempting to reduce paper to save the planet, it seems that weekdays about 3:15 p.m. my kitchen is flooded with so much school-generated material that I could paper the school’s entire gym floor. Apparently the school missed the reduce, reuse, recycle email.

As soon as I hear the familiar, “Hi Mom, we’re home!” and “Let go of my backpack!” I can sense another “school paper shuffle” event is about to occur. I hear zippers pulled and binders opening and I walk a little slower to prolong the discovery of what awaits me in the kitchen.

By the time I get there, the kitchen floor resembles the copy room after a machine malfunction and I wonder if the teachers have any paper left in their classroom.

To prepare for this event, I stretch my arms, angle my neck back and forth and crack some knuckles.  I look up and notice the boys staring at me.

“Mom?” my son asks as I am sifting through the papers. It looks like a snowstorm of white with blue streaks.

“Yup,” I answer, blowing the hair off my face.

“Somewhere in those papers is my homework from yesterday.  It needs to be signed,” he says and the phrase ‘needle in a haystack comes to mind.’ I lick my index finger and continue sorting paper.

Soon the finished piles consist of:

  • A “keeper pile.” This will not be filed properly until the “cleaning out of the home office” commences in a year, or we move. It may end up in three more piles in the office before finding a file slot.
  • A “throw away pile.” No child should spot their work in the recycle bin.  Covering the school papers in the recycle bin with a newspaper article about eating your five vegetables a day does the trick.
  • A “send back to school pile.”  This pile ends up being split into a pile for each child to put back into his backpack. The whereabouts of the paper after a child takes it back to school is a mystery.
  • A “hang on the refrigerator pile.”  Refrigerator space is divided equally amongst all children.  This helps to eliminate one sibling fight from the 23 you deal with every day.
  • A “homework pile.” My intelligence is called into question when I can’t understand my eight year old’s homework assignment. This pile could take anywhere from a half an hour to three hours to complete.

But wait! There is a sixth pile…the “unidentifiable paper pile.”  These papers reside at the bottom of the backpack, they smell of school lunch, goldfish crackers and gym socks, and one piece has a tomato soup stain on it. The school hasn’t served tomato soup since December, and it’s now February, but this jumbled piece looks like it was once a yellow flyer from the PTA. Oh, well.

I glance at the six piles and pat myself on the back:  Mission accomplished.

“Oh, mom? I forgot to tell you,” says my son as I stop and listen to his announcement:

“There is a packet of papers here from the teacher conference you are supposed to look at and sign,” he says, handing them over.

Back to the school paper shuffle…


About Tracy Heins 143 Articles
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