How to create a simple homeschool portfolio

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

Written by Cait Curley of My Little Poppies

It’s that time of year again, homeschoolers! A time when many of us need to complete required standardized testing, evaluations, and homeschool portfolio reviews.

Before I was a homeschool mom, I was a school psychologist. I have maintained my educator’s license and that means I can review portfolios in my state. Over the past several years, I have enjoyed these reviews. I love to see how other homeschoolers do this thing! We are all so unique and creative and our children are interesting and amazing.

But I know how overwhelming the homeschool portfolio process can be… especially if you wait until the very last minute.

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool Photo by Georgie Cobbs

I’ve tried several approaches when it comes to homeschool portfolios. I have used the traditional three-ring binder, the file box, and the accordion folder. I’ve attempted -and failed- to use Evernote as an electronic homeschool portfolio.

Last year, I waited until the very last minute to finish our portfolios. I don’t know about you guys, but the absolute last thing I want to do in June is to spend the day stuck inside, organizing all the homeschool things, when I really want to be outdoors in the sunshine!

I swore I would do it differently this year, and I am happy to report that I found a system that works well for our family.

In August, I started using Instagram and a free app called Seesaw to maintain a digital portfolio and I love it. (You can read about what that looks like here.)

What I am trying to say is this: As someone who has been on both sides of the homeschool portfolio review process, it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can be quite simple! The trick is to find what works for your unique family!

First things first: Review the laws in your state

Before you begin, it is imperative that you are familiar with the homeschool laws in your state. Every state is different, and not all states require or accept homeschool portfolios. HSLDA is a wonderful resource for homeschool laws and regulations.

Homeschool portfolio myths

Before we get to what to include in your portfolio, let’s debunk a few homeschool portfolio myths.

You absolutely do not need to:

  • include everything you did all year
  • demonstrate mastery in all areas
  • include every single book you read during your homeschool year
  • appear perfect

I promise, with a little planning, the homeschool portfolio process can be fairly simple!

(Of course, you are welcome to go over-the-top if that is how you like to roll. I have seen some amazing homeschool portfolios that are true family keepsakes!)

The purpose of a homeschool portfolio

For those who are anxious about the homeschool portfolio evaluation process, fear not! It is important to remember that the goal of the homeschool portfolio is to showcase your homeschool year and to show your child’s progress and growth over the course of that year.

No one knows your child better than you do, including your evaluator. It’s your job, as the homeschool parent, to help the evaluator get to know your unique kiddo – strengths, weaknesses, and all!

Materials

If you are creating a traditional homeschool portfolio, you will need a few supplies:

  • A 3-ring binder, file box, or accordion folder
  • Subject dividers, sheet protectors, and/or file folders (so that you can organize the portfolio by subject)
  • 3-hole punch

Nowadays, many homeschoolers choose to maintain electronic portfolios. There are so many ways to accomplish this, but many choose to:

  • Utilize an app like Evernote or Seesaw
  • Maintain a homeschool blog

Homeschool portfolios are as unique as the family who makes them

When it comes to homeschool portfolios, the portfolios are as unique as the families who create them! You can be as simple or as creative as you’d like, as long as you showcase your child’s homeschool year, progress, and growth.

In years past, I created traditional portfolios, but I wanted to switch to an electronic version.

This is my first year maintaining a digital portfolio and I absolutely love it

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool Photo by Scott Webb

Examples of what to include in your homeschool portfolio

First things first – Be sure to include your child’s name, date of birth, grade level, and school year.

Next, make sure you include anything required by your state. This may include:

  • Letter of intent
  • Attendance records
  • Instructional hours
  • Tests, grades, and other assessments
  • Transcripts
  • Credits (high school and/or college)
  • Curriculum used
  • Reading lists

I always recommend including work samples for each academic subject. You need not include every bit of work completed, but it can be helpful to pick a few times throughout the year for sampling (September, December, June). This helps to show growth over time.

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

When it comes to booklists, it is impossible to include every title. Instead, include a list of books read and try to demonstrate variety.

You may want to include independent reading lists, read-aloud list, and/or audiobooks. Some homeschoolers can access these lists via their library card, some use an app like Goodreads, and others keep a running list at home.

Here are more ideas for what to include in your homeschool portfolio:

  • Lesson plans, sample lessons, and/or learning objectives
  • Daily, weekly, and/or monthly logs
  • A photo of your child

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

  • Extracurricular activities such as athletics, clubs, music, theater, etc.
  • Achievements and awards
  • Work experience
  • Community service hours

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

  • Unit studies
  • Life skills
  • Field trips (photos, memorabilia, brochures, etc.)

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

  • Attendance at and/or participation in theater and musical performances
  • Stories, essays, and reports
  • Computer skills
  • Documentaries and film

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

  • Online learning
  • Foreign languages
  • Science projects

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

  • Gameschooling (yes, it counts!)
  • Fitness (I use an app to record our daily hikes and I upload each day’s stats to my digital portfolio)

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

How to Create a Simple Homeschool Portfolio | Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, Simple Homeschool

  • For those with electronic portfolios, video clips are great! I love to record:
    • Sporting events
    • Musical performances
    • Dance recitals
    • Children reading aloud
    • Kids explaining various projects and creative pursuits

Feel free to add anything that works for your family. I have a kiddo who has been interested in survivalism all year and I will be sure to discuss all the new skills he has learned when I meet with our evaluator.

And that brings me to…

Meeting with your evaluator

Breathe, mama. You know your child better than anyone else on this planet. The goal of the homeschool portfolio review is to give the evaluator a clear picture of your homeschool year, your child’s year, and progress over time.

It is perfectly okay to discuss strengths and weaknesses. We all have them! The evaluator is not expecting mastery or perfection, the goal is to showcase development and growth over time.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to chat about what an amazing kiddo you have!

Planning for next year

If you’re anything like me, you start off strong and organized in September, but something happens around the holidays.

As I mentioned earlier, that was certainly me last year!

I resolved to make things easier on myself and that’s what prompted me to use a digital portfolio this year.

I have a reminder set on my phone and each night, when it goes off, I upload all of the photos and details of our day to the Seesaw app.

If you plan a little bit now, you’ll thank yourself later. Here are some ideas:

  • Head to your local office supply store and buy your homeschool portfolio supplies now.
  • Figure out a system that works for you. Maybe you have a file folder for each kid and you add to it throughout the year. Perhaps you set a reminder on your phone three or four times each year to locate work samples and add them to your growing portfolio.

The goal is to make your homeschool portfolio work for your unique family. Find out what works for you and start now. You’ll thank yourself next June!

Tell us in the comments- Do you have to create a homeschool portfolio? Do you have any tips to share?

If you found this post helpful, subscribe via email here to receive Jamie’s FREE ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom!

About Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. You can also find her hanging out with Kara at The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.

Comments

  1. I will have to create my first portfolio next year as required by PA law, but I feel very ready to do it! My best tip is to check out other people’s portfolios (in your state) and also review what your evaluator requires. Some people go more over the top and some people are more minimalist. Personally, my hope is to hit the minimum legal requirements–I don’t want to impress my evaluator, but just want to get the job done. I don’t plan on using photos, binders, or slip sheets. Just some papers and a staple works for my frugal self.

  2. Thank you soooo much! We will be new to homeschooling in the fall, but I’m going to do one for all of my kids and sneak things in there over the summer that would “count” that they’re doing anyway. I need all the help I can get, even thought I’m in a pretty lenient state.

  3. I have to do a portfolio, which includes log of academic activities and samples of student work. I’ve done that the last 5 years by including weekly overview check-box-style assignment sheets and our workbooks (we’ve done a lot of workbooks over the years). This year, I chose to do composition notebooks and write weekly assignment list and activites/fieldtrips/etc in it for each child. My kids also do writing in these books every-so-often ( writing samples). I take pictures throughout the school year, but rarely add those to my bare-bones portfolios. My evaluator knows and interacts with my kids throughout the year, so they really just need to see concrete evidence of school work.

  4. I would love to know what your set up looks like on seesaw. Did you do one classroom and use other for the grade? Did you make your own homeschool as an add school with a classroom for each grade/student? Love the idea but would love to hear any tips for using it for homeschooling. We love gameschooling so this feature will come in handy.

  5. I am just finishing up our portfolio this afternoon! I have done a pretty good job of keeping up with it this year so all I needed to do was look it over and make sure I didn’t forget anything important. This was a great reminder as I was going through what I already had done.

  6. We have almost no required paperwork in my state, but after living two years in a state that had a few more requirements, I realized how lazy that had made me about tracking progress. This next year, I want to be more organized and create portfolios for myself and my kids to be able to look at and say, “Look what we accomplished this year!” Thinking about it was pretty daunting though, because I had no guidelines of where to start. I feel like I have a much better idea of what I need to set up for next year now.

  7. Sorry this in not portfolio related, but I’d love to know the title and author of the book you are using to draw apples in the photo above. 😊

  8. After working on my teens portfolio yesterday, I thought it would be a good idea to do one for ourselves and for those who already graduated, because we are forever learning. Lists of books read and lessons learned, places we visited, community service, extra- curricular activities, new words we’ve learned and on and on.

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