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.
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.
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!
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!
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
- 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.
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
- Extracurricular activities such as athletics, clubs, music, theater, etc.
- Achievements and awards
- Work experience
- Community service hours
- Unit studies
- Life skills
- Field trips (photos, memorabilia, brochures, etc.)
- Attendance at and/or participation in theater and musical performances
- Stories, essays, and reports
- Computer skills
- Documentaries and film
- Online learning
- Foreign languages
- Science projects
- 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)
- Co-op classes
- Art projects
- Nature journaling
- 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?