Paperwork for the Home School Family

Written with Permission

By Malia Russell

Taxes. Medical bills. Permission slips. Calendars. Rosters. Phone trees. Papers to grade. Schoolwork to file. Artwork by children. Prayer journals. Bills. Bank statements. Ads. Junk mail. Newspapers. Magazines. Legal paperwork.

No wonder the word paperwork has a bad reputation. It seems benign as it quietly seeps into our happy homes. Then it gets stacked, piled, filed, pushed, dumped, hidden, and crammed until it can no longer be ignored. Finally, in frustration or out of necessity, we spend half a day struggling with paperwork. One curse of the electronic age is the speed with which we can take a single message, mass produce it, and send it all over the globe. Unfortunately, paperwork is one area we simply cannot afford to ignore.

Although I have not yet found a solution to eliminate the constant deluge of paper found in our homes, I have found that there are some things you can do to make handling all that paperwork a little easier. One thing I know for certain: messy piles of paperwork can grow into a monstrous problem, stealing our peace and joy. First Corinthians 14:40 is a verse I often ponder when I am tackling a housekeeping issue—and paperwork is no exception. It says, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

Let’s start with how you keep your paperwork. Our family has three categories of paperwork:

• Business paperwork

• Schoolwork

• Everything else

Business Paperwork

For our business paperwork, I use a filing system similar to the system I used as an accountant. That makes maintenance pretty simple, even if someone else does the actual filing. If you have a home business, it is wise to speak to a tax professional to get his advice about what and how to store your business paperwork.

Everything Else

For things in the “everything else” category, I have two systems. The first is just a system to gather it all in one place until I have time to deal with it. We have a large wicker basket that we call the “paperwork basket.” All the children are taught that all loose paperwork (except schoolwork) goes in this basket. Then, when I am ready to tackle paperwork, it is all in one place. Also, if I suddenly need a piece of paper that is not yet filed, I have to look for it in only one spot.

As I empty that basket on a regular basis, I use a simple filing system: I discard anything I do not need for reference and file everything else alphabetically. This is a simple, usable system. I add new folders as needed, and once every six months I try to go through and eliminate things we no longer need.

When we do our taxes annually, I make one huge file of everything required for our taxes and put those items in a sealable manila envelope marked with the year. We store all our tax-related paperwork in a separate area so that it does not take up valuable filing cabinet space.


For Preschool Children: We keep a 2-inch, three-ring binder for each child. I do not use tabs for preschool. Keep it simple. When they create some artwork or something else on paper that they want to save, we hole-punch it and put it right on top. When the binder starts getting too full, I will (privately!) cull some papers. I will sometimes send these to grandparents in a care package. This is a good idea if you have several family members who like to get artwork from your children. If you visit nursing homes or hospitals, the children can share their artwork with the residents.

For Elementary-Aged Children: We also keep a three-ring binder for each of our elementary-aged children. These are a little different, because we include tab dividers for the main subjects. Try not to make it too complicated, because you will teach the children to do the filing themselves. Broad categories such as writing, art, math, science, history, and Bible should be sufficient. Train your children how to file things neatly and in the right categories, and also teach them how to decide what to keep and what to toss.

For Middle School Children: Middle schoolers accumulate a lot of papers. My children’s math papers alone could fill up a three-ring binder. At this stage we switch to having a filing box for each child. This box will include all of their school subjects, as well as provide a place for their artwork (they produce a lot of this!). They can keep their own team rosters, AWANA schedules, and special notes or letters from friends and family here as well.

This box can also be a place where they keep the package inserts from video games, Lego instructions, and their manuals for electronics. Of course, you should keep the receipts and any warranty information in a folder in your filing system.

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