Have you ever watched a left-handed person try to take notes in a traditional spiral notebook? It's almost painful. The angle is wrong, the spiral's in the wrong place, and even the neatest handwriting approaches illegibility as fatigue and frustration take over.
That's how it feels to be a non-traditional organizer using traditional school supplies. While everyone around you slides papers neatly onto binder rings or into the pockets of folders, you just never manage to make things work as neatly and effortlessly.
So...why buy those supplies?
If you've got a kiddo (or two) at your house whose notebooks and folders look like they've been through a natural disaster somewhere between school and home, help them adapt their supplies to their styles.
Ways to adapt a binder:
- Buy a portable three-hole punch to put in the front of the notebook.
- Load the binder with page protectors so unpunched papers make it into the notebook. Or, if that's not gonna happen with your cram and jammer or drop and run organizer, try folder pockets (hole-punched inserts that look like a pocket folder opened up and folded back) or a three-ring acetate envelope with a snap or Velcro fastener.
When I taught Organizing by STYLE
to an elementary school audience,
I found that clamp binders were a
huge hit with fifth grade boys.
- Add a clip to the front of the binder so the day's papers get clipped inside the cover and can be added to the right section of the notebook at home.
- Ditch the three-ring binder for one with a spring-loaded clamp. Kids who don't take the time to put stuff into the rings sometimes enjoy putting papers away when they have an excuse to play with the clamp.
- Replace the binder with an accordion folder. Choose one that's divided into sections, or one with just one wide, yawning opening, depending on your child's style.
What to use instead of a standard-issue, paper pocket folder:
- A file folder. Like pocket folders, these come in a variety of colors, and can be color-coded by subject. If the papers aren't going to go in the pockets anyway, why create an unnecessary battle?
- Transparent folders that allow kids to personalize them (photos show through the opening) or see what's inside. These also come in a variety of colors, with and without pockets.
- A folder that has top and side access and a tab closure at the top. Multi-colored (again). Never underestimate the value of being able to play with an organizational tool. The more fun it is to put something away, the more likely it is it'll get there.
- Clear acetate envelopes with string-tie and button closures. Sold at office supply stores, these often come in multi-packs that make them less expensive per item.
Admittedly, these choices are often more expensive and harder to come by, but in many cases, the time and heartache saved makes it worth the extra cash and detective work -- and sometimes, you actually luck out and find cool tools at the dollar store or the clearance racks. When I taught lessons in elementary school classrooms, I brought a variety of supplies in for kids to play with and had them trouble-shoot potential issues. They were amazingly astute when it came to figuring out what they would and would not use, and they often loved things that cost a dollar or less (colorful report folders with hinged closures were a big hit) as much as the more expensive office supply items.
As you discuss back-to-school shopping with your child, use this summary sheet to talk about options and highlight his or her choices. Having him (or her) talk through the choices is an important part of getting your child to understand his or her styles, and eventually, to advocate for them. When we teach our kids to respectfully advocate for themselves, we're teaching a skill that goes far beyond organization.
So before you and your credit card hit the stores and start checking off items on that school supply list, take a moment to make sure you're supplying your child with the tools he or she needs to have a great year.