It’s the time of year that strikes fear in many a strong homeschooling heart: evaluation and homeschool portfolio time. You know what you have accomplished this year but communicating that to an evaluator and putting it on paper can be unnerving. Creating a homeschool portfolio can be a daunting task, especially if you are new to homeschooling or are late in the game in keeping track of all you have done this year. But, it is not too late to turn out (and turn in!) an amazing homeschool portfolio and earn credit for the incredible learning and progress your students have made this year. Just follow these 10 tips for creating the best homeschool portfolio and your homeschool portfolio is sure to make the grade!
What is a homeschool portfolio?
Many of you may be wondering just what a homeschool portfolio is and its importance. A homeschool portfolio is a record of what each of your students has accomplished in the core and elective subjects during the school year. It documents educational progress and mastery in subjects so that your students can be given credit for their work. A homeschool portfolio is not required in every state, or if you work with an accredited homeschool partner. But, many of you homeschoolers out there will have to turn in a homeschool portfolio to your school district or a licensed evaluator. It is important to know your state’s homeschool laws and if a homeschool portfolio is required. Even if it is not required by the state, many homeschooling families choose to create a homeschool portfolio as a memory book to show family, friends, and their students all that they have done during the school year. Whether you “have to” or just choose to create a homeschool portfolio, we recommend keeping the following thoughts in mind.
10 Tips for Creating the Best Homeschool Portfolio
- Remember What It’s for – A homeschool portfolio should show student progress and mastery. So, it is a good idea to include an overall grade/record keeping sheet, essays, writing, and projects that show what your students have mastered. Your goal is to display what your students have learned and show that they are ready to move on to the next grade level. It is a good idea to include lesson plans and curriculum overviews as well so that your evaluator has an idea of what your learning goals were for the year. This way you are setting the bar, not the evaluator!
- Show It All – Do not fall into the trap of thinking that your homeschool portfolio needs to be perfect or only reflect your child’s brilliance. The point of a homeschool portfolio is to show learning and progress throughout the year. This should include areas of strengths, weaknesses, and growth experiences. So, do not be afraid to include quizzes or tests that show lower scores. Put in rough drafts and final, polished essays, showing that your student has mastered what they are learning. Any educator or evaluator will know that learning is a process, and each student is different! Reallifeathome.com homeschool mom Angie has a great list of what you should consider putting into your homeschool portfolio if you need something to get you started!
- Keep It Organized – There is nothing worse in the land of portfolios than a sloppy, unorganized binder with work spilling out all over! We recommend using a large 3 ring binder for younger students for all classes and small 3 ring binders for each subject for high school students. Include a table of contents at the beginning of your binders and separate out subjects. Follow a pattern such as including the grade report at the beginning of each content section followed by learning objectives, sample lessons, quizzes, tests, and projects. This will be especially important if you are being evaluated as it will show that you maintained progress and records in each content area. Finish your portfolio with any volunteer work, awards, or extra credit work you have done during the year. While this is all wonderful, the core subject learning is most critical and will matter most to an evaluator.
- Include Your Students – Make logging hours, organizing paperwork and projects, and selecting what goes into the portfolio a family affair including even the youngest of students in the process. After all, it is their hard work and learning you are showing off! Including your students in the process of making their portfolio will not only take the bulk of the work off of your shoulders, but they will also be evaluating their progress as they go. This will increase self-awareness of strengths and challenges as well as provide a nice confidence boost when your children see how far they’ve come!
- Log throughout the Year – It is much easier to create a portfolio if you start early and log often. Log hours in each subject, especially where your state requires (such as P.E.). Make weekly or daily logging part of your routine. Decide how you will organize your binder early on in the year and keep those pieces (quizzes, tests, essays, etc.) separated from one another so that you can easily add what best shows mastery without tons of time spent sorting and stressing over lost work. Consider setting aside 1 day each month to select what should go in your portfolio from that month’s school work. Staying organized all year means when the evaluator rings your doorbell, you will feel prepared without the stress!
Do not let creating the best homeschool portfolio keep you up at night. With these tips (and those to come!!) you will be ready to show off your students work fully confident they are making the grade. Stay tuned for more on creating the best homeschool portfolio in our part II of this series!