Monday, September 30, 2019

Homeschooling Record Keeping - The Portfolio

The Homeschool Portfolio
What is a Homeschool Portfolio, and why should you keep one?

A Homeschool Portfolio, in some states (such as mine), can be a way of certifying to the state that your child has, in fact, received an education in the past year (this is not legal advice, be sure to research the laws of your state). For this reason, some home educators find them intimidating - but they're really simple to assemble!

A Homeschool Portfolio is also wonderful keepsake - a way to remember what things your child did and learned in a particular academic year. I love being able to look back and see all the happy memories of earlier years.

A Homeschool Portfolio also a great organization system, because once you have curated the best items of the year into one tidy binder, the remainder of worksheets, scratch paper, writing efforts and artwork can be freely discarded if you do desire. All your happy memories are tidily arranged in one spot!

How to assemble one? 

Well, the ways to make them are as unique as the people who make them.

Most of the online articles I've seen involve pretty print-outs, but I'm not a pretty printout sort of Mom ; )

Our Portfolio is very utilitarian, and relies upon my daughter's actual work to make it attractive.

If the mood strikes her in a given year, she might make a piece of art to grace the cover.

I use a plain 3-ring binder, usually about 1" or 1 1/2" thick (thicker is fine if you need it!)

At the beginning of the school year, I put .in some filler paper, graph paper, and various yet-to-be completed assignment pages - such as workbook pages or writing assignments.

During the course of a school year, I add these things to our binder:

If she receives a certificate for some achievement during the year, like completing swim lessons, or finishing a level of music education - that goes in the portfolio.

When she finishes a "grade" of Math in Khan Academy, there is a list of all the skills that were learned in that grade. I copy that into a word processing document, and print it out for the portfolio.

I keep some plastic sleeves in the portfolio with samples of her best artwork, tickets to plays, brochures from field trips - the type of thing you might put in a scrapbook.
Our state requires "work samples" from the student, which is challenging because most of her work has been done on the computer, or is not normally recorded. It is hard to have a sample of something like reading aloud, flashcards, singing a memory song, giving a speech, or an oral spelling test.

So, I make a point to do some work offline primarily for the purpose of creating a portfolio. Not busy work, but some well-chosen assignments that will supplement her online work.  We usually have some time during the year when we are away from technology - whether we're traveling, or simply have a power outage because of a storm! During these times, I use workbook-type materials which create a record of her current learning. I actually keep these pages in her portfolio before they're completed, and she uses it as a school notebook, as she finishes the work, it's already in her portfolio.

I really like Amy Maryon's Free Curriculum for the needed workbook-type pages. And of course, there are many other great paper resources out there, too! 

Some assignments, like book reports or handwriting practice, naturally create a paper trail - and they're completed on the paper already in the portfolio! If typed, we print them, hole punch them, and add them as soon as they're done.

I also keep representative copies of her handwritten working-out of math problems (what we called "scratch paper" when we were in school!). She does this on the graph paper that was already in her notebook.

At the end of the academic year, we print out The Annual Academic Summary and The Daily Log and put them in the front of the binder.

Since we add pages to the portfolio all year, and do much of the work right in the portfolio binder, "assembling" it at the end of the year is as simple as removing those pages that don't belong. Pages that aren't complete are removed, or put in the NEXT year's portfolio, to be done later.

If pages are redundant, they're removed and can be discarded if we wish. Which is to say, if she did 100 pages of addition drill, it doesn't ALL need to be left in the portfolio.

Perhaps I should mention, as a side note, that we don't follow "graded" curriculum. I don't think to myself, "She's in First Grade, so we must start and finish a First Grade Language Arts book this year!" Instead, I teach by skill - so "Phonics," "Spelling," "Bible," "Foreign Language," or "Multiplication" simply take however long they take, with no concern for grade level (more than a year, less than a year, it doesn't matter). It doesn't bother me a bit to move unfinished pages from one year's book to the next, if needed. Likewise, we might complete a Khan Academy Math "Grade" in the middle of a year, and immediately start the next one.
 So, that's it! Once the portfolio is assembled, it's ready for review, and then it can be placed in our family archive. Electronic documents (Annual Summary and Log) are also filed in our electronic archives, for handy access.

In summary, at the end of the year, our portfolio contains some or all of the following: 
Annual Summary
Daily Log
Artwork Samples
Creative Writing Samples
Math Samples
Research or Science Project Documentation, if applicable
Tickets, memorabilia (photos if desired)
Printouts of Khan Academy Math Skills Summary
And anything else we feel is appropriate that year!

I hope you find this helpful.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Homeschool Record Keeping - The Annual Summary

Homeschool Record Keeping, The Annual Academic Summary
At the end of a year of homeschool, it's a great feeling to be able to look back and see all that we've accomplished! An Annual Summary makes that possible.

What is an Annual Summary? It is a document that lists every resource we used in the course of a year, all in one place. Every book read, every concert attended, every skill acquired. But, unlike the Daily Log, it doesn't show the day-to-day, just the big overview.

It is very easy to assemble, and I update it as I go.

When I create an annual summary, I try to keep in mind what things are considered educational in traditional schools, and/or are required by my state, that I might tend to overlook when recording. For instance, "academic hours" in traditional schools include such things as attending concerts, finger painting, fire drills, field trips, learning about culture and traditions, attending plays, and learning about bowling. And, in Christian schools, academic hours also include chapel, religious education, singing hymns, Sacraments, and Bible reading. If you just think "3 Rs" it's easy to mistakenly overlook a ton of academic hours.

Here is a fictitious annual summary (for the sake of my daughter's online privacy). She's not really in First Grade, nor are these our current materials. However, many of the First Grade materials I used for this example ARE ones I am enthusiastic about! : )

First, I create a Word Processing document - I keep this one on my computer desktop all year for easy access, along with my other record keeping documents.

(Feel free to copy & modify this template for your own use. That's what it's there for!)

The document itself is entitled with the current grade, like this:
 "First Grade, Annual Academic Summary"

Then, I paste my template into my desktop document:

Annual Summary, First Grade


Language, English:




Foreign Language:

History, US, State History, National, State & Local Government, Geography:




Physical Education:

Fine Arts & Music:

Home Ec:

First Aid, Safety & Fire Prevention:

As the year goes, I enter our completed academic accomplishments and experiences into the document. I add specific titles, authors, and URLs, rather like a bibliography.

It looks something like this (but of course, will probably be longer than this at the end of a year of study!) :

Annual Academic Summary, First Grade

The Beginner's Bible
Attending Sunday School
Liturgy on Sundays
Family Devotions: Reading Genesis & Matthew
Learning the Lord's Prayer
Attending Baptism of Baby Nicholas Pappas
Attending Wedding of Maria and Andreas Kostas

Language, English:

Learning Phonics with Blend Phonics
Bob Books
The Beginner's Bible for Toddlers
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Starfall Learn to Read

McGuffey Speller by Alexander H. McGuffey, pages 3-5

Copycat Books, Proverbs

Foreign Language:
Salsa Spanish Videos
Duolingo Spanish, alphabet lessons

History, US, State History, National, State & Local Government, Geography:
Visiting State House
Heritage Village Field Trip
Liberty's Kids videos
If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern

Khan Academy First Grade Math
Starfall Games

E-Learning for Kids
Greg's Microscope by Millicent Selsam
Field trip to Natural Science Museum

Attending Health Fair at Park
Learning Song about Brushing Teeth 

Physical Education:
Swimming Lessons
Folk Dance Lessons 
Riding Scooter

Fine Arts & Music:
Field Trip to Art Museum
Making Stamp Art with Cut Potatoes and Paint 
Piano Lessons at Hoffman Academy
Attending play: Little Red Riding Hood at Community Playhouse

Home Ec:
Making Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Sweeping with a Broom
Emptying Dishwasher

First Aid, Safety & Fire Prevention: 
Attending Fire Safety Day at Firehouse
Fire Drill
Learning about hydration and heat safety
Water Safety lessons at Swim Class


That's it! By keeping this on my computer desktop (and I do sit at my computer to teach), it is very easy to update this document regularly. Every time my daughter finishes reading a book, it goes in the log. If she reads parts of a book, like three chapters from a science textbook, I add the word "selections" after that entry. Field Trips, Cultural experiences, Phys Ed outings, and Religious instruction are all included.

At the end of the year, this document is printed and hole-punched, and goes in the front of the Portfolio. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Homeschool Record Keeping - The Daily Log

Homeschool Record Keeping - The Daily Log
Homeschool record keeping intimidates many parent educators. The sheer volume of "printables"online attests to that fact. And, if that isn't enough, there are also fancy online services that promise to help you with this task - for a fee!

Good record keeping is easy - and it can be done without any printables or expensive services at all! I do mine all on a word processing document on the computer. It is VERY easy - and since I'm at the computer during my daughter's school day, it's a simple matter to keep records current.

This is my primary method of ensuring that I meet my state's legal attendance requirments. State laws vary (Check your own state's laws! This is not legal advice); some states require a certain number of hours per year, others require a certain number of days, and some require certain subjects. This Daily Log provides reassurance for me that all of the legal blocks have been checked.

Each year, I certify to my state of residence that I will complete their legal requirements for my daughter's education. As a Christian, I take "giving my word" very seriously, so it is important to me that I do what I agree to do - whether or not anyone ever asks to see proof that I have.

I prefer computer records to printables for a few reasons: 
1) My handwriting is atrocious!
2) A computer record can be searched quite easily for a specific entry
3) If you forgot to enter something three days ago, it can be added without making a mess and
4) The record can be sent electronically, if for some reason you need to share it with someone else.

 I have been doing this for a number of years for my daughter, but for this post I am creating fictional entries for a younger virtual child, in the interest of online privacy.

My basic method is this: I create two documents, and place them in a desktop folder. The first document is a "Log" - inspired by my earlier professional life when recording my work was a routine task.

The second document is an Annual Summary - a concise overview of the detailed Log. It will be the subject of my next post (Next Monday, God willing). Stay tuned for that! : )

My third  post will be about assembling a Portfolio (God willing, Monday after next),

But for now, I'll just say that both of the Log and the Summary documents are printed at year's end, and added to the Portfolio, as well as being stored on my computer.


I keep a folder on my computer desktop which is labeled with the current grade. In it, I put the current documents, along with any computer resources for that grade (for instance, our PDF music book, and things like current Grammar Charts and Math Reference pages go here).

The folder might be called, for example, "1st Grade" or for a home with more than one child, "Suzie, 1st Grade"

The Log

The log is a simple list which days we school, how many hours we school per day, and a list of the tasks accomplished each day. I keep an ongoing Word Processing document on my desktop, and back it up regularly by emailing it to myself - that way if my computer crashes, it is still out there in the ether.

If your state requires so many academic hours, or so many days' attendance, this might be a great way to document that.

At the top of the Log, I enter the child's name, grade, and year.

The Schedule

Then, I put an anticipated schedule that will be followed most days. It includes a list of subjects, and which resource is usually used for that subject at the current time. I boldface it. It looks something like this: 

Religion: The Beginner's Bible
English: McGuffey Reader, Pictoral Primer
Spelling: McGuffey Speller
Foreign Language: Salsa Spanish Video
Math: Starfall Games 
Science:eLearning for Kids
Social Studies/History: Liberty's Kids Video
Home Ec: 
Phys Ed:
Music: Hoffman Piano Unit 1

Each Day's Entry

Then, to make each day's entry, I simply put the date for a day's entry, and anything special about that day "Valentine's Day" or "Uncle Dave arrives for visit" I then Copy & paste the boldfaced schedule onto that day, and add details & additional resources to each line, subtracting any subjects that are not covered that day. I might also record at the end of the post (for my own sake), any personal or family notes that would help me remember that day. So a day's entry might look like this:

January 1, 2020, New Year's Day - 4 hours
Religion: The Beginner's Bible, Noah and the Ark & Steve Green Hide 'Em in Your Heart Songs
English: McGuffey Reader, Pictoral Primer, page 37
Spelling: McGuffey Speller, column 1, page 3
Foreign Language: Salsa Video, Goldilocks Story
Math: Starfall Games - Bowling subtraction game

Social Studies/History: Liberty's Kids Video, Episode 19
Art: Fingerpainting

Phys Ed: Riding Bike
Music: Hoffman Piano Unit, Unit 1, Lesson 3, Hot Cross Buns
Out to dinner with Smith family for Mexican. Suzie learned to tie her shoes today : )

Periodically, within the document, I subtotal the hours accomplished, so I can see at a glance how close we are to completing the state requirement for the year (and it reassures me that we usually exceed the state requirement by quite a bit!) 

As you can see, once you have the daily schedule template, updating it only takes the tiniest bit of time, simply fill in the pages or lesson number for each entry, and add or delete as appropriate : )

Curious as to WHY you'd want to do this? Check out last week's post:
10 Reasons I Keep Homeschool Records
 Stay Tuned for upcoming posts on the Annual Summary and Assembling  a Portfolio

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Monday, September 9, 2019

10 Reasons I Keep Homeschool Records

10 Reasons I keep Homeschool Records
This is a little series on how and why I keep thorough homeschool records.

Knowing why we do something often makes the "how" so much easier! 

So, I'll start with explaining why I keep homeschool records at all.

Many states do not require record-keeping as such. But just because the law doesn't require something, doesn't mean it's not a wise practice.

***This is not legal advice, be sure you check the laws in your state on your own!***

There are several reasons that I choose to keep homeschool records:

1.  Self-confidence.
Have you ever had one of those days (or weeks, or years) when you think, "I felt so busy, but I don't think I got anything DONE!" A written record lets ME know what I've accomplished each day as a teacher.

2. Family togetherness
A good record of our school days lets my husband know that we're getting a lot done, so he can rest easy.  It also lets him be more included in our day-to-day educational process, so that he can easily chose to contribute to our current topic.

3. Sharing
Sometimes I'm discussing with a friend some book, website or video that was helpful in years past.  Thanks to good record-keeping, I can do a quick computer search, and let my friend know exactly where to find the material. Likewise, if I meet a new homeschooler who wants to know exactly what our homeschool days look like, I can show her.

4. Legal Peace of Mind
Sadly, "Innocent till Proven Guilty" only applies to criminal law cases, not civil law cases. I find it reassuring to know that should the question ever arise about my education of my child, I have documentation to demonstrate that I am doing a thorough job, that my legal representation could use to defend against false accusations.

6. Gap Prevention
I have a schedule, but without record-keeping, it is too easy to let one subject be forgotten. With good record-keeping, I can see at a glance that all the boxes are getting checked regularly.

7. Organization
With all the records neatly in place, such tasks as compiling a portfolio, filing paperwork with the authorities, or creating a transcript become easy.

8. Keeping on Track
A good record-keeping system helps me remember where we are in which subject, so that if a bookmark falls out, or a computer link disappears, I can find my place.

9. Creating an Independent Learner & Providing for a Substitute
At this point in our journey, I am the motivating force behind my daughter's education. But, if I need a "sick day" - it's nice that my job could be done by my husband or someone else, without missing a beat. Also, a good record-keeping system makes it possible for my daughter to gradually take over more and more responsibility for her own education.

10. Memories
A good homeschool record makes the perfect memory book for a growing child. A full record of accomplishments, names, memories, and highlights, without having to keep every scrap of work ever done!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the Daily Log, the Annual Summary, and the Portfolio! 

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