Let’s talk about homeschool portfolio reviews.
As we approach the end of the traditional school year we’re in reflection mode, for many of us that also means it’s time for an annual homeschool portfolio review. A lot of people get stressed out around this time of year, creating a portfolio can be intimidating to new homeschoolers.
In addition to being required for many homeschoolers portfolios are also of great use to older kids seeking employment, internships/apprenticeships, college admittance, and can even be used to obtain car insurance discounts! Hopefully this post will help take some of the mystery out of the portfolio creation & review process.
Today we’re going to concentrate solely on portfolios for elementary-aged children. We’ll look at middle school and high school portfolios in a different post. Additionally, we’ll take a look at the unschoolers portfolio on a future date.
To create an accurate portfolio you’ve hopefully kept samples of your child’s work from throughout the year, kept a reading log, and took photos of outside activities. If you haven’t just do the best you can, recreating what you can (honestly!), and finding an understanding evaluator. Consider creating a journal of activities, perhaps looking at your Facebook photos over the last year can trigger your memory. I promise you that you have enough for a review, you just have to creatively organize it.
5 Easy Steps to Create an Elementary Homeschool Portfolio
Step 1: Know your state laws and follow them
If your state requires a portfolio review the law likely spells out what needs to be seen. In my state the portfolio must include: a dated reading list, a log of educational activities, samples of handwriting from various points over the past year, samples of any worksheets/workbooks/assignments/materials used by the student. This portfolio must be reviewed by a state-certified teacher once every 365 days.
Your state may require more or less, you want to make sure that at the bare minimum you meet the requirements of the law.
Step 2: Keep a dated log of books read, materials used, and educational activities.
Even if your state doesn’t require this it’s a great way to track what you accomplish every day. There are a lot of fancy apps, computer programs, and planners that can be used to keep track but for me it’s easiest to use a small simple spiral-bound notebook that I tuck away in my purse (ok, these days it goes in the diaper bag). I write the date on the top of the page and list our activities and books read, making separate columns for each kid. Don’t forget to list things like field trips, educational television programs watched, and trips to the library. It may seem overwhelming at first but it’ll become second nature to take a few seconds to jot your activities down.
Step 3: Gather samples of your child’s work
Repeat after me: Gather SAMPLES of my child’s work…
A portfolio is a snapshot, it shows how your child progressed through the year. A portfolio should not contain every single worksheet your child filled out over the last 365 days. Your evaluator doesn’t have time for that and neither do you! 6 math worksheets will suffice, you don’t need to include the whole math book. (If you dont want to rip pages out it’s ok to use photo copies!)
Step 4: Gather photographs of field trips, event flyers, art projects, etc.
Again, you don’t want to include information from every single event, just a few to show that your child actually does leave the house and do things…
Photographs are especially useful here because they don’t take much room, can be printed quickly and inexpensively, and show your child out in the thick of it. You can even take photos of your child’s art projects and math assignments if you like!
Tip: If you have a learner who does things “differently”, photos are a fantastic addition to the portfolio and can even make up the bulk of the portfolio! For instance, my son does most of his math and writing on his Boogie Board (seriously, this is the best thing ever for a reluctant writer or someone with dysgraphia!) or a white board, and occasionally I take photos of his work. To avoid clogging my phone and computer with these photos I created a school album on Flickr (it’s free!) so I can easily upload my photos right from my phone.
Step 5: Put everything together in one place & you’re done!
Some people go to their evaluation with a box full of papers, some with a manila folder. I prefer to use a divided accordion folder because they are easily sealed and stored after the portfolio review. I put our reading list/educational log in one pocket, work samples in a pocket, and photos/flyers/misc things in another pocket. I keep print outs of required paperwork in the last pocket in the event our evaluator doesn’t have them on hand.
A word about finding an evaluator
Don’t let just any teacher perform your child’s evaluation. You want to find an evaluator that understands and is in sync with your educational philosophies. The evaluator will be talking to your children and possibly listening to them read, you want to pick an evaluator who will make your children comfortable. Ask in your support group or your friends for recommendations.
Contact a few evaluators and ask them what they like to see in a portfolio and how they feel about your method of homeschooling. Ask them how they determine if a child is making sufficient progress. Ask them what they will expect your child to do at the portfolio. Your goal is to find an evaluator so awesome you visit them every year.
Meg Grooms is a decades-long secular homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle, currently calling Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.