Record Keeping for Interest Led Learners

When you don’t have a traditional homeschool, when everyone is following their passions–how do you keep track of everything?

What if you have to provide “proof of learning” at the end of the year?

I have a couple of ideas.

First

Know your state’s home school law. What will you have to show, and how often?

Second

Make a broad plan at the beginning of the year. I found it helpful to make a chart for each child, like this:

Fill it with things you know will happen and with books or curriculum you plan to complete. Look for holes and make plans to fill them. Because we are interest-led learners, the kids were closely involved in this process. I’d ask them what they wanted to learn and then fit those things into school categories and get the materials or lessons they needed.

Third

Choose a record-keeping method that fits you.

  • If you love taking notes and filling notebooks, get a spiral notebook for each child and journal each day’s activities. Or do it once a week.
  • Keep 3 x 5 cards in a recipe box and organize it by subject. If your child does something that fits “history,” write it on a card and file it under History.
  • Buy one of those fun planning books teachers use. Yes, I like to play school. But it doesn’t have to be a planner. Make it a record book of what actually happened, with activities listed under categories for each child or subject matter.

  • Keep evidence of learning in a file cabinet. This is my favorite method, one that has endured the test of time. Each child has a file folder for each year. I keep samplings of writing, library receipts, field trip brochures, certificates of participation, workbook pages, photos, projects, artwork, anything that represents learning in the required areas.
  • Keep track of reading with a list of great books. Let the child pick a book off the list and check it off when he’s done. Here’s a list of Newberry Award winners, and here’s a list of 1000 Good Books, organized by grade level. If your child puts the date completed next to the title, you will have an instant record of his reading that could go on for years.
  • Have the kids keep their own records (and check it once in awhile). You might have a budding administrator who loves keep track of things.

Fourth

Be flexible. If your method isn’t working for you, try something else.

Now it’s your turn. What record-keeping method do you like?

About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.

Comments

  1. I’ve been all over the place with record keeping. (And I’m only in my 2nd year!) I kind of did the file cabinet thing for last year. Next year, I’ll be doing high school so I want to be more organized. Thanks for the great tips!!
    .-= Angela @ Homegrown Mom’s last blog: Wednesday Workbox Day {Rainbow Resource Giveaway} =-.

  2. Such great information, Jena!

    We jot down short daily notes on a chart (chapters read, projects done, etc). The chart has spaces for a week’s worth of notes. The boys keep this chart in their own folders along with work pages, writing, drawings, maps, etc.

    At the end of the week I empty their folders, paper clip that week’s work together and put it in a large binder. Doing it this way makes it really easy to page through and find out what we were doing in a particular week.

    One of my favorite record keeping items over the years though has been a little journal that I keep. It’s just a small notebook that I keep handy and even carry in my purse. In it I write down all the questions that come up at a moment when we aren’t able dig deeper. It seems that my little learners always have the best questions at the most inopportune times! My little journal helps us save hang onto those great ideas.

    If we’re at the car wash for example and they suddenly want to know why the moon is sometimes out in the day time, I can write it down so that we don’t forget to look it up later. This is also a great place for making lists of books that we hear about and want to find, as well as art/project supplies that we need. Some of our best learning adventures have begun on those pages!

    • I remember reading about the notebook on your blog and now I carry around a small one in my bag. I love it! We aren’t homeschooling yet, but it’s still great to keep those questions and thoughts from being forgotten. I also write quotes from the kids. It’s fun to look back and read their reactions to the world.

  3. Yay, what a great, practical post Jena.

    We do a portfolio that is basically like your file folders in a binder. I also keep a seasonal list of learning for the family and yearly list of learning for each child, that is included with the portfolio.

    These learning lists are simply one page sheets divided into different learning areas – world study, science explorations, art, music, math etc… I fill them out as the kids learn through the season. Since my kids are so close in age they learn a lot together but where the divergence really occurs is in my oldest daughter’s personal reading (her history basically) and each child’s hobbies.

    I keep track of all the books we read on goodreads and print that out once a year.

    I too start the year with an overall view and think of things to fill in the gaps but mostly I record what they are learning instead of planning what I want them to learn, which is what interest led education is all about.

    Portfolio Review @ FIMBY

  4. I love the Notgrass’ Record of My Lifestyle of Learning” notebooks. Each of my children has one. There is a 2-page spread with the days of the week and lines on one half of the right page. The rest of the 2-page spread is filled with boxes titled with different learning strands. I just take each night before bed to fill in all that we’ve done in a day. It really makes an interest-led family feel like they get so much done. It also includes Saturday and Sunday, which I love because learning is everyday, not just M-F. The back of the book has several pages with lines for “Books I’ve Read This Year” and several for “Books Read to Me” and also for special awards, recognition, etc. It is from a Christian perspective, fyi.

    I loved the ideas for files and portfolios. Thanks!

    This is my favorite new homeschooling blog.
    .-= Joni’s last blog: Great Reading Quote =-.

  5. Wow I love these ideas! I struggle with this so much because on the one hand, I want to keep some sort of records (for my ex-husband, etc) but I don’t want the record keeping to be time consuming and a distraction from the actual doing and spending time with my kids. These are great. This one would work awesome for my life: “Keep evidence of learning in a file cabinet” – brilliant!
    .-= Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio’s last blog: You Know It’s Your Third Trimester When… =-.

  6. This is a great post! So many great ideas here in the comments, too.

    Here’s what we do: I use a little notebook to jot down what we’ve done, and at the end of the week I transfer those sloppy scribbled notes onto my blog as Learning Notes (complete with pictures and a good documentation of what happened that week).

    Here’s a link, if you wanna see: http://amongstlovelythings.blogspot.com/search/label/Learning%20notes

    Looking forward to coming back here for more ideas! :)
    .-= Sarah @ Amongst Lovely Things’s last blog: Breathing Easy Daybook =-.

  7. Thank you everyone! It’s so helpful to hear what others are doing. Such great ideas here. :)
    .-= Jena’s last blog: How I Keep Records in Our Homeschool =-.

  8. I feel like I’m saying “thank you” in the comment section of every post on this blog! I’m just getting started and all of you are such great sources of information.

    I’ve wondered how I’ll keep track of things. I have a planner for basic planning and I figure I can use that to work from. My kids are in preschool and 1st grade this year and I have an accordian folder for each one that holds their report cards, art I want to save, and all that. I figure I’ll do the same with homeschooling. Wish me luck!
    .-= Annie’s last blog: Because I Can =-.

  9. This is a very helpful “how-to” post. I’m not great at recordkeeping, mostly because I keep hoping to find the “perfect” system — the procrastinator’s mantra! This sounds both doable and not too different from what I’m already doing. Thanks, Jena!
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: Great Books for Boys!* =-.

  10. I do the file crate thing too, works wonderfully well. I also made up a page that has two columns on the top, one for each child, and then down the left it has 8 columns, one for each of the 8 subject areas our state requires instruction in. I use one per week and jot down whatever activities or work was completed in each area for each daughter. I also, if there is paperwork (i.e. a math paper or written work) will save them in the file and note that there is “proof” next to the activity on my weekly page with a checkmark. Then at year end I write up “yearly notes” and place the written work with the proper subject area’s notes. That and the extensive booklist has been a great way to keep records. Thorough, but plenty of room to write up things as they come up. I do mark down specific things sometimes (i.e. this math lesson or whatever) but really, it’s mostly me following them around and taking notes, unobtrusively, lol, or they would feel like they were in a zoo!

  11. Since we are unschoolers I just keep a journal of all the things we do. We go to the library twice a week. Tues/Thurs. So on those days while the kids are getting books I take the time to write what we have been doing during the week and anything we want to do or goals we are striving for. It’s more a journal for me than anything else.
    .-= Rana’s last blog: Great Outdoor Challenge – Backyards and Playgrounds =-.

  12. I just use Homeschool Skedtrack (https://www.homeschoolskedtrack.com). I don’t use it as a planner. I just use it to record what’s done each day. The subjects pop up on my screen with blank boxes next to them and I write in what they do that day. Then I can print out a list of all of their activities and resources at the end of the year.
    .-= Lee’s last blog: Slavery =-.

  13. I am terrible at record keeping, but I just put all of my daughters work in folders in a cupboard and that seems to work just fine. I’m pretty good at keeping a general idea in my mind of what we have covered, and my daughter is walking evidence of what has been learned, since she likes to share it with everybody she talks to. That won’t help if the state requires evidence of learning, but it encourages me that she is really taking it all in.
    I like the journal of questions idea, I am going to start doing that, Thanks!

  14. Juliette says:

    Hi there!
    Very early in our Homeschool journey, I came to the realization that I needed a log-book (one of the fewHS requirements in our state of MO) that was on the computer. After trying a couple of options that were either not designed for homeschooling or designed for much more structured homeschoolers, I finally came across Homeschool Daybook. It is perfect for our family. It is really flexible with definitions and yet gives you several different options for producing reports. It’s the only thing that has allowed me to regularly log our hours!
    http://www.homeschooldaybook.com/

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