Creating, Maintaining and Presenting a Homeschool Portfolio
Many school districts now require homeschoolers to present portfolios showing their student’s progress in an organized fashion. This is actually a very convenient method of recording whenever it is done properly. Here are some ideas on how to create, maintain, and present your homeschool portfolio for a successful assessment, evaluation and review.
First of all, it is important to have a firm grasp on precisely what a homeschool portfolio is. Basically, a homeschool portfolio is a collection of materials that are used in order to showcase what your child has learned over the course of the “school year.” This is important because numerous states require an annual assessment of homeschooled students either via testing or the presentation of a portfolio. While it may seem that keeping a portfolio is only good in so far as you need to comply with the law. This is not the case however. Portfolios can also help parents and their children to record their progress and achievements. This becomes even more important once a child has reached high school and needs a diploma.
Now that we understand the importance of a portfolio, it is also important to understand that there is no right or wrong way in which to create a portfolio. It is up to the parent and/or child what materials the portfolio will contain. However, it is a good idea to choose a variety of material in order to reflect what the child has learned, experienced and accomplished throughout the year. Some items that should be included in your portfolio are: Suggested items to include are:
(1.) A journal which contains notes about activities and the progress that has been made.
(2.) A list of resources (ie books, computer software, games, toys and outside classes).
(3.) Samples of the child’s work (ie samples of creative writing and drawings, text book or workbook pages, and if possible you may include audio or video tapes of your child singing, playing a musical instrument, reading aloud, or taking part in a a dramatic performance – pictures will also sometimes work well in place of audio or video tapes).
(4.) Photos of field trips, artwork, projects and family life.
(5.) Brochures and booklets from field trips and other activities.
(6.) A list of books that the child has read including both the title and the author.
(7.) A list of your goals for the year.
While this may seem quite overwhelming, you’d honestly be surprised at how easily you can accomplish this when you start preparing your portfolio at the beginning of the year. Simply use a three ring binder and add paper for your journaling. Start off by listing a few of your goals for the year and what resources you’ll be using to achieve those goals (these can be modified throughout the year as needed). Then begin collecting samples of work, organizing them by subject, and punching holes in them to place them in your binder. Always have at least a throw away camera at hand so that you can take pictures of anything that you’d like that your child does (ie reading, playing, dancing). You’ll also want to take pictures at field trips as well as pictures of your child’s projects and creations. These pictures can either be placed in a photo album or if you’re feeling really craftsy you could organize them into a scrapbook. You’ll also want to make sure to hold onto any brochures or other paper items that you collect while on an educational outing. These can be easily placed in clear see-through sheet protectors. This is also a good time to begin accumulating a list of books that are being read.
Once you have put together the beginnings of your portfolio, don’t stop there. Regular maintenance (I suggest weekly as it will help you to write your lesson plans for the following week) should include regular journal entries and an ongoing collection of work samples, photos and whatever else you wish to include. Some school districts will require a quarterly assessment throughout your homeschool year. This is a time for parents and children to reflect upon their progress and accomplishments from the previous months. Yet, even if your school district doesn’t require a quarterly review, you won’t want to wait until the end of the year to scramble and race to put together a portfolio that your school district will approve of. Neither you nor your child deserve having to go through the unneeded stress of having to sort through all of the material that has been collected throughout the year.
When it is time for review you may choose to remove some of the materials from your portfolio. You will find that some of these things simply do not properly reflect what you’ve accomplished throughout the year. If/when you decide to weed through your portfolio, you need to remember that the purpose of the review is to provide a general overview of the homeschool year, demonstrate that the child is engaged in homeschooling and that progress is being made.
The portfolio review can be exciting since it provides both parents and children with a time to talk about what they’ve been doing at home. When discussing this with your child, you may find it helpful to write down a summary of the items that you wish to highlight during your year before the review. For instance, if your child learned to read or master a skill you may wish to point this out to the reviewer. Of course, you should never view your portfolio review as a time for you to be judged or ridiculed. It is a time to listen, learn and support from your reviewer. Your child does not need to be present during this time. However, if your child wants a chance to “brag” about their accomplishments and progress to other homeschoolers, then this review is a perfect opportunity for them to do so.