Unschooling is a homeschooling practice (lifestyle!) of child-directed learning. Unschooling looks different for each family, however, there are some shared principles among each family. Unschooling is trusting that your children can learn without prompting from adults. In unschooling families the children learn naturally, according to their interests, abilities, and desires. Unschooling is an excellent way to live and learn, however, come portfolio review time you may be a little worried.
I have some tips and tricks to help you manage the portfolio review process that I’ve gleaned from speaking with portfolio evaluators and friends who unschool, but please keep in mind that while my family espouses some unschooling beliefs, we are not unschoolers. I invite unschoolers to please comment and share what works for your family!
Tip 1: Find an unschooling-friendly evaluator.
Finding the right evaluator is important for all families but especially unschooling families. Ask your friends and support group for recommendations and reach out to the evaluators. Ask the evaluators if they are comfortable performing evaluations on unschooled kids and if they have any requirements above and beyond what your local law calls for. Do not agree to hire an evaluator if you are not totally comfortable with them. And in the end, remember that if you aren’t happy with an evaluation you are allowed to have another one performed by someone else.
Tip 2: Use technology!
My family began homeschooling well before smartphones were a thing, heck, the internet was hardly a thing when we started. Back then unschoolers were known to take banker boxes full of papers, projects, photographs, and other materials to their evaluations. Fortunately we can convert everything to digital these days. In fact, I know a family who takes only their kids and a smartphone to their evals!
Here are just two services that can help unschoolers at evaluation time:
Goodreads is a website & app that can keep track of the books read and used, and the app has a great barcode scanner to make tracking easy on the go! This is a great option for those who have to keep a dated list of books read.
Pinterest boards are a great, portable way to visually organize your child’s learning. Pinterest can store educational materials used, store digital versions of your child’s artwork or fliers from field trips, and photographs of your child’s experiences. You can even create private boards if you want!
Tip 3: It’s all educational, so list it!
I know it’s natural to want to fit things into neat little boxes, but that isn’t always the best choice for our children. Actually, I don’t know any child who fits neatly into a box.
What might work for you is to keep a running list of educational activities, without organizing them into subjects. This can be overwhelming, especially for an unschooling family, but if you get in the habit it will become second nature. Better yet, have your children track their own educational pursuits! An easy way to keep track is to use the technology listed in #2, but a regular old notebook will work too!
Tip 4: Go for a conversation-style portfolio
Write your own evaluation and use that as a portfolio. Write a year-end letter that describes your child’s progress, their projects, and he like. You can even have your child write their own evaluation, either once a year or periodically.
Tip 5: Put your child in charge!
In unschooling the child is responsible for their education, so put them in charge! Let them decide what to present and how to present it. Your only job will be to facilitate their evaluation, whether it be a slideshow presentation or an interpretive dance 🙂
As an unschooler you’re already thinking outside of the box, just carry that over to your evaluation and everything will go just fine!
Meg Grooms is a long-time 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 and currently call 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.