From Simple to Sublime: Check Out These Homeschool Portfolios!
I find homeschool portfolios to be a subject that is rather polarizing among homeschool families. Some homeschool parents rave about compiling their kid’s portfolios and others dismiss the idea altogether. My family falls somewhere in between. We unschool, so keeping track of our kids progress isn’t our main priority. However, I am learning that portfolios are important outside the obvious state law requirement.
Before you fall in love or lament the portfolio process, I urge you to consider WHY you’ll be compiling a homeschool portfolio in the first place. If you define how you’ll be using a portfolio, it will then become so much easier to choose a process that suits your needs and that you will stick with.
COMPLY WITH STATE LAW: The most obvious reason to keep a homeschool portfolio s that you have to. According to Florida Home Education Statute 1002.10(1)(b): “The parent shall maintain a portfolio of records and materials. The portfolio shall consist of the following:
- A log of educational activities that is made contemporaneously with the instruction and that designates by title any reading materials used.
- Samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student. Statute 1002.41(1)(b) “
If the only motivation you have is to simply comply with state law, then you might consider one of the simpler methods below such as jotting down activities on a calendar or uploading pics to a Facebook page. Of course, if keeping a portfolio is super-arduous you can always elect to homeschool under an umbrella school and then you’ll no longer have to bother with portfolio record-keeping.
DEMONSTRATE PROGRESS FOR AN EVALUATOR: Another reason to keep a homeschool portfolio is to demonstrate progress to your child’s evaluator at the end of the school year. An evaluator is supposed to evaluate your child based on their progress, not wealth of knowledge. It may be difficult for your evaluator to determine progress, if you’ve not kept very good records. This is especially important when working with a new homeschool evaluator who hasn’t had the opportunity to meet with your child year after year.
I know some homeschool families keep a private Facebook page and give their homeschool evaluator access so the evaluator can see the child’s progress during the year. I’ve never felt comfortable asking our homeschool evaluator to get involved with our Facebook page because it seems like a lot of added work on her part, but if your evaluator doesn’t mind this could be a really neat option for some.
HELP KIDS SEE THEIR OWN PROGRESS. Beyond compliance, homeschool portfolios are a fantastic “storybook” of your child’s learning each year. Our portfolio is filled with stories the boys have written and it’s fun to see how their creativity, and language, evolves over time. We fill our portolio with videos of the boys’ reading, too. From “Go Dog Go” to “Germonimo Stilton Saves the Day” it is fascinating to go back and watch how the kids reading has developed. Beyond my own misty-eyed emotion for my fast-growing boys, reviewing a portfolio with your children from time to time really helps the kids see their own progress.
Our eldest son has a fixed mindset, which means it is difficult for him to overcome learning road blocks. I am finding it increasingly helpful to gently remind him of how far his learning has come. Reviewing the portfolio helps children see learning as a life-long process rather than a final destination.
PREPARE FOR COLLEGE APPLICATION. Once your child reaches middle-to-high school age, it might be a good idea to get a little more serious about portfolio record keeping. Of course, compiling a portfolio for college is different than simply complying with Florida State Law.
Whether the college your child applies to requires a portfolio or not, having a portfolio ready will help your child:
- keep track of how close they are to their goals
- encourages them to achieve more as they see the entries in their portfolios building up year after year
- keeps information needed for scholarship applications organized and handy
A quick Google search turned up this great blog article on things to include in a child’s college portfolio: Marianne Sunderland
With a clear goal in mind, let’s take a look at some fantastic portfolio ideas submitted to us by local Gainesville homeschool families. Big thanks to everyone who volunteered their ideas!
My son is homeschooled with FLVS Flex curriculum for a majority of his coursework. Since we’re classified with the county as a homeschooling family, I played it safe and stuck to the FL statues regarding what to track. Basically, I provided a list of the FLVS lessons he completed by week. I also included information about the activities he completed that my husband and I organized outside of FLVS. The FLVS information is easy to track – the lessons, dates complete and grades are on the website. – Sara Sartain Walters
MOTHER OF MULTIPLES (High School age to Toddler)
We are old school. I keep notes in a paper planner and work samples in three ring binders. We do annual IOWA or Stanford tests as well. You don’t have to report the scores to the county, your evaluator can just let them know they were administered and your child is making adequate progress. – Laura Lan Loftus
PRO PHOTOGRAPHER MOM OF TWINS
I used to take pics throughout the week and make a weekly collage using the Photogrid app. At the end of the year I had over 50 pages for a yearbook that doubled as a portfolio. Now to that we are members of an umbrella school we aren’t required to keep a portfolio but I still take lots of pics to make a yearbook. – Laura Coffey
MOM TO TWO BOYS
I use Homeschool Tracker. You can make lesson plans for the year or add lessons as you go, keep track of resources used, make transcripts, track attendance, keep grades, report cards…whatever works for you. I print out reports at the end of our school year (completed assignments, field trips, resources). I put the reports in a binder along with samples of school work. I keep an accordion file with art work, special projects that the boys want to show the evaluator. I keep student workbooks & take them with me for the evaluation in case our homeschool evaluator wants to look at them.
I use Goodreads to keep track of books the boys have read. I have the app & they think it’s fun to scan their books. I print out their book list & include that in the portfolio binder. I also take pictures along the way & keep them on a Shutterfly share site in case the evaluator needs/wants to see them.
Last year I used Homeschool Planet and I will switch back to Homeschool Planet when my year is up with Homeschool Tracker. I liked Homeschool Planet because you could add books, resources, pdfs, websites & videos to the lesson. It also synced up to Google Calendar, sent reminder emails of supplies or books needed & you could access it on your mobile/tablet. I like Homeschool Tracker, but Homeschool Planet is more user friendly & keeps adding features that make it more appealing. – Summer Smith
MOM TO PRETEEN DAUGHTER
I put samples of work in a a 3-ring binder, and write up summaries of what we do in subjects that don’t produce much written work, and also include a section for field trips, books we read to her, books she listens to on audio, and books she reads. – Tonya Becker
BRAND NEW HOMESCHOOL MOM TO KINDERGARTNER
The teacher I work with actually took my portfolio last year to show everyone an example. She loved it. It was my first and it’s so simple. I make tabs for Reading, Writing, Math, Crafts, Field Trips, Physical Education & Extra Curricular. Then to prove he actually does crafts, physical education, and field trips I take photos and label them. I also get a binder that has slots on the sides so I can include color pictures and I even made a diploma. – Noreen Garret Haff
This is the table of contents. After kindergarten it should include science, and social studies as well.
These are the pages I include to show his reading math and writing. If you do things on the computer just print the summary to show his progress.
I make tabs for Reading, Writing, Math, Crafts, Field, Physical Education & Extra Curricular. Then to prove he actually does crafts, phys educ, and he does field trips I take photos and label them.
MOM OF TWO BOYS WHO FEARS BITS OF PAPER
I’m not fond of clutter, nor am I very crafty at pulling together photo albums and those sorts of things. We simply take pictures on our iPhones and upload what the boys are doing as we go. We also keep samples of the boys’ writing in Google docs and keep track of progress of various programs such as Brainzy, Filament Games, and Khan Academy via the provided online-dashboards. – Kate Byars
So what do you think? Did you find some inspiration in these portfolio samples? At minimum, I hope you are reassured that whatever you do, do what is right for you and your child. As you see from the examples above, compiling a portfolio doesn’t have to be fancy, nor uber-creative although some of these certainly are amazing!
Do you have a great portfolio idea, app, or tool? Please share with us in the comments below!