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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Homeschool Portfolios

As a home educating family, our schedule tends to get a bit interesting around this time of year. I am feeling (like always!) that we probably didn't get enough done, or we have loose ends that need tidied up or...well, you get the idea. It's this time of year that I get serious about putting together our girls' homeschool portfolios.
Over the year, I gather papers, drawings, awards, photos, lapbooks, and other items of interest in a central box for each of them so that I have it all in one place when I'm ready to put it all into a portfolio.

What is a homeschool portfolio? Basically, it's a "picture" of what your child worked on and accomplished that school year. It's a reflection too of who they are and what skills they've gained over the year. We love adding photos to ours so we can see how they've changed - maybe a new haircut, new style of clothes, or the addition of pierced ears.

A portfolio for your child is a record of everything they've accomplished through the year. It will also become a keepsake in years to come. A portfolio is one of the best ways to showcase your child's academic milestones for the year. It's also the perfect venue for highlighting field trips, certificates of achievement, book reports, and summer activities.

Several states require that a certified teacher at year's end assess home-schooled students and a portfolio comes in very handy for this very occasion. The assessor will appreciate looking through an organized and well-prepared portfolio as they converse with your child.

I thought I'd share some tips that I found helpful when I was putting together my first homeschool portfolio (and feeling totally overwhelmed!). I hope these tips are helpful to you too.

Putting Together a Homeschool Portfolio

Every parent should include what they feel is important in the portfolio. It can be as simple or as creative as you like.
The supplies I use are pretty basic:
  • Binder - 3 to 4 inches thick
  • Page protectors
  • Computer paper with design (for title pages)
  • Dividers
  • Photos of field trips
  • Note what is mentioned below too
Cover Art – Have your child create a cover for her portfolio. It could be a picture she draws or simply a coloring sheet that says "My Home School Portfolio". This gives your child a chance to personalize her portfolio. These are easily created on your computer.

Legal Papers –In this section, I like to include a copy of my state's home school requirements, a copy of my letter of intent to the superintendent of my school district, and the letter I received from him in response (including the envelope because it has the date stamped on it). One quick aside note here: I always send my letter of intent by certified mail and I attach a confirmation of delivery postcard as well. I include these receipts in this section, along with the superintendent's letter. A copy of the teachers' assessment is included in this section too.

Title Page – A recent photograph of your child is perfect on this page. Include also your child's age (at the beginning of the year), grade level, and birth date.

Learning Objectives – For each subject you'll be studying for the year, include a list of goals. Be specific and concise, so you'll have a way of measuring your success in meeting your goals.

Resource List – This list includes any and all curriculum you intend to use for the school year. Include books, field trips, and any other materials you are intending to use. Arrange this list by subject. For your own reference, include the publisher and author of each resource, in addition to the title. Piano lessons, ballet lessons, gymnastic classes, and other outside activities can be listed here as well.

Reading List – Throughout the year, keep a running list of the books your child has read on her own. List the title, author, and type of book (nonfiction, poetry, cookbook, fiction, etc.). This is the section in which you'll present this compilation. You and your child may be really surprised at the number of books read for the year! This is a personal note: I include here the books read through the summer as well! (Include it next year, it's ok!)

Evaluations – Some home school families keep records of grades, whereas others do not. For this part of your home school portfolio, include grades (if recorded), report cards, achievement test results, and any professional evaluations or letters of praise (if applicable).

Awards – Include here any certificates of accomplishment and awards your child received throughout the year. I also include pictures of trophies, ribbons, and other items that can't be physically placed into the portfolio.

Language Arts – Include copies of worksheets and writing projects. Be sure to highlight examples of her work that demonstrate what she has learned in penmanship, spelling, vocabulary, composition, mechanics, and grammar. For each month of the school year, include two compositions she has completed. This will show her marked improvement through the year. Include as well any drawings she completed in relation to this subject.

Arithmetic – Sample pages of her work sheets should be included. Did you engage in other arithmetic-related activities such as logic, consumer math (going to the grocery and learning what is the best deal), or other math games? Be sure to include examples of these in the Arithmetic section. We include Sudoku worksheets completed, speed drills, best test scores, and any drawings completed related to arithmetic. For a younger child, I include work sheets that show how her handwriting of numbers improved over the year.

Science – photos are the key here! Include pictures of science experiments or projects completed both at home and outside the home. Always pick up brochures of field trips taken, because they often have something to do with learning about science. If you belong to a home school cooperative and your child works on a group project with her class, get pictures and include them in this section.

Social Studies/History – Include any field trips taken relating to history (a visit to the State Capitol, historic landmarks, etc.), illustrations or drawings your child completed relating to these subjects. Sample workbook pages and field trip brochures can also be included.

Technology – Think multimedia here. Include such things as samples of work or projects your child completed. Did she take typing this year? Record her words-per-minute at the beginning, middle and end of the year to show improvement. Did she create anything on the computer, such as a spreadsheet or a Power Point presentation? Include photos and other items here to showcase her accomplishments.

Art – There is so much that can be included here, such as examples of art, photographs of art projects (pottery, painting, crafting, quilts, etc.), and anything related to art history.

Music – Include photographs of your child participating in the church drama at Christmas, singing in the children's choir, taking piano (or other instrumental) lessons, etc. Include any awards or letters of praise in regards to her musical achievements.

Physical Education/Health – Include photographs of your child doing physical activities. Examples: bicycling, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, soccer, badminton, tennis, gymnastics, bowling, t-ball, softball, or ballet. Children are naturally physically active, so just capture it on film and include those pictures in this section.

Extracurricular Activities – Socialization is one of the biggest "buzz words" when people talk about home schooling. Include photographs of your child interacting with others in this section. Examples might be attending a friends' birthday party, talking with nursing home residents, helping a relative plant flowers, playing games or reading with her siblings, or cleaning up the neighborhood.  

Additional Thoughts Don't fret if this is your first year. Just prepare for the fall and the following year. By the time your school year begins, have a designated crate or box in which you'll place everything your child does for the year. That way, compiling your home school portfolio won't be so overwhelming at the end of the year.

You may want to include a section for Bible verses your child memorized.

The rules for a home school portfolio are not set in stone, so be creative and add anything and everything you believe will showcase your child and his/her achievements.

The home school portfolio should be neat and well organized. Some parents like to include a brief summary for each section, outlining what was studied for the year. These summaries could be an invaluable tool for the following school year. Include summer activities, such as reading programs completed and vacation activities.

Memorabilia such as ticket stubs from performances, stickers, and other items can be incorporated into your portfolio.

The best time to purchase supplies is during the school supply sales toward the middle/end of July.

If you didn't compile everything this year and still want to create a portfolio for your child, go ahead! Get together the basics and do the best you can. Then, start fresh at the beginning of a new school year.

All my best to you,