Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Paper Project: The Year I Tallied How Many Papers My 3 Kids Brought Home From School

For weeks upon weeks, dating back to September 2009, I’ve been saving and counting all the papers that my twin fifth graders and my third grader brought home from school. Having spent the first few years of their lives as students feeling absolutely BURIED by paper – and constantly frustrated when teachers would complain that parents forgot stuff – I decided to determine if I’m just woefully disorganized or if it’s nearly impossible to keep on top of all this, no matter how many binders, organizing shelves and systems I attempt to employ to rein it all in.

Throughout this process, I've been asked why I seem to be "complaining" about being able to examine my children’s school work, everything from holiday poems and math problems, to science papers about bats, to sketch art and essays. I love watching my children evolve as learners, to see how their penmanship improves, how details on their drawings sharpen, how complicated the math problems become and how tender their observations about their family in writing projects. I do not want any of that to stop. I want to see their evolution with my own eyes. Additionally, I want their teachers and school staff to communicate with the parents and let us know what’s going on.

However . . .

I don’t think some of the folks at school realize how much paper is actually sent home, especially during the waning weeks of school when there are so many things that parents – particularly with more than one child -- have to remember (school concerts, events, poetry readings, field trips, etc.) that it’s frightfully easy for parents to miss that flier tucked in between dozens of other papers about a last-minute change to the band’s performing and practice schedule.

That being said . . . I have the final numbers, after having tallied the papers that were sent home over the last two weeks of school, as well as the 1.5 days of school this week. Let me add this caveat before I give you the number: Three 100-page notebooks, two 48-page softcover notebooks and one 32-page softcover writers’ guide came home and were added into the total. I count each page in the notebook as a page because, from my perspective, each one adds to the bulk of the stuff that gets dumped onto my kitchen counter, yet another thing I have to review. So yes, the overall total includes all the pages in, for example, a fifth grader's “Reader Response Journal” (where the student wrote observations about books he read, observations parents were supposed to read, spell-check and sign off on). From where I sit, although that wasn’t 100 loose papers on my counter, it was thicker and made the pile look even more ominous as it threatened to topple over into my dog Max’s water dish.

Forty-two fliers/announcements/letters were sent home by teachers, school staff, parent organizations and civic/town groups during this time frame (the second and third weeks of June, plus June 21 and half of June 22). My third grader brought home 226 math papers while his fifth grade brother brought home 143 math/science papers. My fifth grade daughter had 51 pages related to language/reading. The total for these 11.5 days of school was an astonishing 1,505 pieces of paper (including the aforementioned notebook pages).

When you add that sum to the overall tally from the rest of the school year, the grand total of the number of pieces of paper sent home for three kids in grades 3, 5 and 5 was . . . *drum roll* . . . : 3,870.

(I went back to see if there were any other big notebooks or brochures brought home during the year that significantly added to the total and found: Three 23-page Recreation Department brochures, two 14-page brochures from the state of Massachusetts about the flu, three spiral-bound student/parent handbooks and two parent organization sponsored gift wrapping/gift fundraising packets which totaled 26 pages each.)

Also of interest: Nearly 500 papers (495 to be exact) during the year were from school faculty (principals, teachers, school nurses, etc.), parent organizations and public/civic organizations.

(For the week-by-week breakdown of the paper tallies, go here.)
Now that your child [children’s] school year is over, how many pieces of paper would you estimate came into your house during the school year? Ever feel overwhelmed by the volume?


  1. Wow. There has to be a better solution than all that paper. Aren't all parents online now? A weekly e-newsletter seems so much greener...

  2. The funny thing is, we DO get electronic newsletters sent to us in an attempt to be greener. However we also wind up receiving dead tree duplicates in our kids' backpacks.

  3. I used to have a basket in my dining room (it was good-sized) that I would tell my kids (5th grade and 7th grade) to empty their backpacks into at the end of each day, then I would go through the papers later when I had time. Or, that way if something was "lost", we could just go to the basket and find it. However, I found myself cleaning out the basket about every-other month because it was full to overflowing.
    I always thought it was excessive, but I've never actually counted. I'm going to do that this year. We can check our kids' grades online, but as far as I know there are no options for e-newsletters, announcements or online calendars. I will use my "results" to push for more green thinking in our school district. Thanks for the idea. :)