by Gina Roberts-Grey
Whether he's in preschool, junior high or somewhere in between, your child brings home an abundant amount of artwork and school paperwork. He hangs pages on which he practiced writing his name or learned about the different types of clouds proudly on the refrigerator and is heartbroken to find one that "accidentally" went into the recycle bin. At the end of the week, you're deep in a deluge of papers from school that your children want to display.
As the size of your family grows and your kids mature, you probably realize that your storage space is at a premium. You want to find a way to effectively and efficiently save some of the papers and school memorabilia but wonder where to keep all of it. You're overrun with boxes and plastic bins full of every paper your child has brought home. You can win the war without feeling guilty and resorting to throwing away the schoolwork he diligently worked on to impress you.
- Children thrive on sensing someone is proud of them. Display his spelling tests and math papers on the inside of the pantry, kitchen or laundry/utility room cabinets. Establish the practice of rotating his papers weekly from the cabinets to the recycling pile to use the blank back sides for scratch paper. When he grabs a bowl for cereal he'll see the impressive grade on his math test or the painting he created. Young children will delight in seeing their artwork and notes every time you open a cabinet. He'll know that you cared enough to share in his accomplishment and next week as he's learned a new fact he'll enjoy taking down the "old" information to replace it with current events.
- Use tests and papers for drawer liners in his room. When he takes out his clothes or gets a toy, he'll be reminded of his math facts, vocabulary words or how he used to write his name when he was younger. He can choose what papers he would like to line his drawers with and can change them a few times a year. You'll creatively save some of his favorite projects and give him some responsibility in maintaining organization in his room as well.
- Hang artwork on the refrigerator and take a picture of your young Rembrandt in front of his artwork for his keepsake photo album. When the refrigerator fills up, he'll know it's time for another snapshot. It's easier to store photos in an album than store all the papers from school, and you can document the grade, age and unit he was working on in school that the items in the picture represent.
- Turn his masterpieces into recycled works of art. Create place mats for family dinners from pictures or glue several of them to poster board to use under art projects at the table. Take some special artwork to a local office supply store or copy center to laminate them. Use a piece of poster board to add support to smaller items when needed and make sure to document his age and location at the time he created the artwork. Staple a pile of practice sheets or spelling tests together to make a scratch pad of paper for him to doodle on. He can always flip the pad over to review what he learned the weeks prior in school as well as learn about recycling.
- Start each year or semester with a treasure box to keep in his room. Give your child the opportunity to determine what he feels is worth saving. Set the ground rule that this is the only place to store his school papers. Often, by the end of the year, the tests, papers and artwork he couldn't part with months before are not as valuable. He'll begin to learn how to establish what he is sentimental about and what he doesn't find as important.
- Mutually agree on a plan to save only specific papers on a long-term basis. Save all tests but not practice sheets of homework pages, all artwork done in class but not doodles, and all time capsule items such as things that have his finger or hand print, or tell who he is at a particular stage. A story he wrote in kindergarten about his likes and dislikes is worth saving as opposed to his weekly spelling tests.
- Share the wealth with family members and special people in his life. Family members who live out of town love to know how he's doing in school and what subjects he's learning. This helps them correspond with him and maintain an active role in his education. Put together a package once a month to send a combination of practice sheets, artwork and tests for their refrigerators and office walls.
- Wallpaper the basement or garage walls with his prized art projects and tests. As he grows and builds his skills, he can fondly recall learning to spell the names of the tools in the garage or admire the drawings that line the basement walls. Giving him the artistic freedom to exhibit his work on the "wall of fame" allows him some control over how his items are displayed and when they will be replaced.
- Scan milestone tests that indicate a significant achievement or his artwork into bitmap or jpeg files. The images can be emailed to family members; transferred to keepsake items such as mouse pads, t-shirts and mugs for gifts; added to a screen saver; or used as the background wallpaper on your desktop. You can make copies of the discs to include with holiday card mailings to families to let them know how he's doing in school.
- Make a collage out of his favorite art pieces or tests that demonstrates a skill mastered. Using a piece of poster board and a plastic lucite frame available at many craft and department stores, he'll have school memorabilia to hang in his room or playroom. He can look forward to bringing home a new item to place into the "star student" display on the wall. His pride will soar as friends and loved ones comment on his achievements.
Highlighting his accomplishments does not mean you have to put on a room addition. By helping him learn what is important to both of you to keep, and what can be temporarily viewed and then recycled, you will win the battle of the paper. You'll have some fun using some innovative options and he'll appreciate your efforts to preserve his schoolwork.