Preparing the Homeschool Portfolio

Yesterday, we talked about why you should keep good records. Many states have forms that they just give you to fill out. Simple enough. But if you live somewhere where either you’re required to produce a portfolio or where you don’t have to keep records to turn into the state, a portfolio is a good option since it effortlessly records your child’s progress.

Did I say effortlessly? Yes, this is not wait until the night before your son graduates high school and put a portfolio together for him, this is something that you keep as your child grows.

The first thing that you have to figure out is where you will put such a collection of materials. I suggest one of two things depending on your purpose: either keep your portfolio in a filing cabinet (or box) or in a large, 3 inch, 3-ring binder (or several as your case dictates)!

What should be in your child’s home schooling portfolio? Here are some good suggestions collected from various home schooling websites:

A Journal
I buy a small notebook and use it to keep a journal about my child’s progress. I once mentioned to someone that I did this and they thought it sounded like too much work. If you’re thinking it sounds like too much work, you’re thinking of writing too much. Journal entries for my daughter include things like: “Mastered 3 letter words today.” or if she’s having a bad day, “Too distracted today–recital tonight.” I use the journal for two things: one is to obviously make some anecdotal notes about her progress. But I also use the journal to tweek my approach. I have since learned that my daughter doesn’t do school well if other things are going on that are too exciting (like a recital). I have simply decided it is not worth the effort if she really is not able to learn well that day and so we take a field trip, do a cooking project or something of the like rather than “regular” school. (And yes, for those of you who are new to home schooling–those things count as school too. Why not? They do it in public school?)
Don’t forget to label your child’s journal with his name and the school year on the front.

A List of Books
I keep our list separate from my journal but you can keep it in your journal as well. But somewhere in your collected materials for your portfolio, you should keep a list of textbooks that your child is using (list the publisher as well) and also a list of books your child is reading in his free time.

It is good to have one or two goals, in each subject if appropriate, and to write them down. Then you can go back at the end of the year to see if you’ve accomplished them. Goals do not need to be too complicated. My goal for one year was to teach my daughter how to read 3 letter words. She not only did that but surpassed my expectations and was reading at the 2nd grade level by the end of the year. Goals can also include things like projects you want to complete, places you want to go, etc.

Photo Album
Some people recommend that you keep a photo album throughout the year that contains brochures of field trips you took as well as appropriate photos of projects, places and things that will remind you of your school year. (I am horrible at getting around to a real photo album although I’m very good at getting a CD put together.

Samples of Your Child’s Work
You do not need to save every single piece of paper. If you have the room to do so and are particularly adept at organizing, well then be my guest. But you don’t need every paper to document your child’s progress. Some examples of things to save would be:

Tests on which your child got a 100%
Book reports (especially of favorite books)
Research papers
Art work
Other papers that help document progress

Keeping a portfolio is a great keep sake, a good way to chart progress and keep records.