Even if homeschooling portfolios are not required by your local state regulations, it’s still a good idea to keep one for each of your children. But there are some things that you should know in order to even be able to keep one and those are the things we’re going to discuss today. You might find it to be one of the easiest means of record keeping.
Homeschooling Portfolios Defined
Simply stated, a portfolio charts your child’s educational progress through actual work samples you retain along the way. You’ll have an “at a glance” record of learning, school work, and accomplishments, but also of areas that caused delays or struggles. In other words, you might not want to keep everything, but at least make sure you’re not keeping only the very best. That would be a misrepresentation and not the best way to handling the assembling of a homeschooling portfolio.
For younger grades, unschooling, or a homeschooling method such as Charlotte Mason, a homeschool record keeping portfolio might look more like a journal than an actual collection of works. That’s because many of the things learned in these earlier years are learned not with a pencil and paper, but through actually living out a lesson through word or deed. For instance, you can’t record the nature walk you took with your five-year-old but keeping track of some things you might have learned and talked about during the process.
As your child gets closer to high school, the more tangible records you’ll be able to include. Things such as standardized tests and other test scores are important to your homeschooling. This helps not only with record keeping itself, but aids in transcription writing as well. The closer you inch towards senior year, the better prepared you will be for the process of moving towards a college career.
What is the Best Type of Portfolio?
There is no particular “best” when it comes to looking for a good portfolio. It really all boils down to what works best for you and what is easier to file away and grab again when necessary. Many homeschoolers use a 3-ring binder, which allows for tabbed dividers for different subjects. Others use file folders where each folder holds a different subject, and then all of these are kept in a filing cabinet. Still, others might prefer accordion files or a simple small tote with a lid. Again, the bottom line is, make it work for you and you will be pleased with the result. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just usable.
In today’s world, another popular method of portfolio creation is the digital portfolio. In this method, you would either record facts electronically or scan work and save them to a format that is easily retrieved. This way, tons of information can be stored on your computer, a flash drive, or CD, and paper records can either be thrown away or saved in something more permanent such as a cabinet or an under-bed tote. This method also allows you to create records in a photo or video format that will still stand as a viable marker of progress. If you decide to go the digital route, be sure to back up your files regularly.
The Contents of Your Homeschooling Portfolio
Creating a great homeschooling portfolio is not nearly as hard as you might think. It is a showcase of the school year, not a play-by-play book of your student's work, so keep that in mind when creating your child’s portfolio. Your own situation will dictate specifically what you’ll want to include, but some of the elements that are most often found in them are as follows:
A table of contents that points toward specific sections
A list of subjects studied and the objective you have in place for them
Activity logs created per day, week, or month, as you prefer
A list of resources you have used which can include booklist, videos, games, workbooks, homeschool curriculum, or any other supplement used in learning
Field trip information and proofs
Photos of field trips, assignments, labs, or projects
Samples of lesson plans
Writing samples for both handwriting and report documentation
Specific achievements, certificates, awards, or recognition for community service
Legal documents that are pertinent to your homeschooling year such as Letter of Intent (LOI) attendance record, medical records, etc.
Extracurricular activities your child participated in that year
Anything else you deem pertinent to your child’s learning for any subject
Finding Portfolio Help Online
Not only are there lots of places online where you can find tons of information on creating and maintain your homeschooling portfolio, but there are many sites where you can download and print templates for free. The template printables you can find are extensive, so you can pick and choose, but it’s a great money saver if you were planning to purchase, say, dividers that you can personalize and decorate. Tabs are another thing you can find online for free, along with the directions for using them in the best possible way.
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, be sure to reach out to a local homeschooling co-op, private group, or online support group. You’ll be surprised at what kind of freebies you can find once you know where to look.
Remember that your homeschooling portfolio doesn’t need to be perfect. You simply need one that works for you. In some cases, you might be required by law to keep one and if that’s the case, make sure you review the required protocol carefully and abide by that, especially considering these are likely to be reviewed at specific intervals.
If you’re keeping it for personal preference, you can be a little less rigid in the way you put the portfolio together. But regardless of the “why”, there are some “how’s” you can feel certain of. Here’s a quick summary.
You do NOT have to:
Keep every lesson, quiz, text, and worksheet
Keep a list of every single activity, field trip, book read, and movie watched
Master every subject for the year
You DO have to:
Keep records that reflect an accurate picture of learning and not just the best pieces
Make sure the format works for you
Allow this to be a process and not a destination
I hope these simple tips have helped you to feel more equipped in creating a great homeschooling portfolio. Enjoy this time! And when it’s finished, you’ll have an amazing keepsake to look back on.