If I even just hint at the word “portfolio” to a fellow homeschool mom, I can almost FEEL her squirm. She starts to feel all panicky inside, certain she isn’t organized enough, diligent enough, or qualified enough to pull one off.
Of course, she’s wrong. A homeschool portfolio is a beautiful and wonderful thing AND anyone is totally capable of creating one for their homeschool. I promise.
So let’s buckle down and figure out how to create a homeschool portfolio. You ready?
Why you need a homeschool portfolio
Whether your state requires one or you decide to keep one for your own records, a portfolio is the perfect answer to the quandary of homeschool record keeping. Inside you can collect samples of your child’s work, make lists of grades, and keep an eye on weekly progress. It’s also a beautiful keepsake for your child to document their educational journey.
When I first started homeschooling, I lived in a state that required portfolios to be turned in to a certified teacher for a yearly assessment. When we moved to a state that did not require such a thing, I dropped it. I figured it would save me time and effort. Why do something that wasn’t required anymore, right?
Oh how I wish I had never stopped. Within two years, I could quickly see that my homeschool records were a royal mess. I had no idea where most things had gotten to and there was certainly not a neat “snapshot” of all we had learned. One day it finally hit me that starting the portfolio process again would solve my organizational issues… and I’ve never gone back!
What exactly IS a homeschool portfolio?
The purpose of a homeschool portfolio is to provide a picture of your educational journey. The most important fact to remember: a portfolio is a snapshot, not the whole story. We are not aiming at saving every single one of Johnny’s handwriting sheets here. We just want to give a sampling. Honestly, there is no need to keep every single handwriting page anyway! Your notebooks and boxes will be overflowing with the mundane details.
When deciding if something should go in the portfolio, I weigh it against these questions:
Does this show fairly significant progress?
Does this provide essential proof of learning (like a test, quiz, or essay)?
Does this particular item have special meaning to my child?
What ages/grades should I use a homeschool portfolio for?
Often we get tangled up with this question. The answer might surprise you. I think EVERY AGE and grade is perfect for a portfolio. As soon as you start intentionally homeschooling your child, keep a record of it. Grade/age doesn’t really matter.
The older your child gets the more you will see the need to have this helpful tool. For middle school and high school students, the portfolio is a wonderful organizational record of your child’s coursework. Even if your state requires a formal report card or testing, the portfolio will be the perfect backbone for the process.
When should I start our homeschool portfolio?
Let me tell you my secret. If you want to be successful at making this portfolio thing happen this year… you must put it together BEFORE the school year begins. I always print out the checklists, divide sections, and set up the portfolio before we start school each year.
It is a fluid process, so I don’t mind if the sections or lists change throughout the year. But I have found that if I don’t have something in place before the school books open, I will be sitting in the school room with a pile of unorganized chaos at Christmas. No one wants that.
What should I include in a homeschool portfolio?
The list of possible items to include in your portfolio is infinite. Depending on your homeschooling style and curriculum, your portfolio will likely look very different than your homeschooling friends’. In fact, your own children may even have very different portfolios. That’s just fine. Remember the goal. We are simply looking to keep a snapshot of learning here. Anything you want to include is fine!
Here are some ideas from my own family’s portfolio to get you started.
Section 1: Daily
Weekly Checklist (or Morning Checklist for the younger guys)
Reading Record (until it’s full)
Section 2: Records
Educational Snapshot (list of subjects and curriculum/books used)
All About Me Profile or Worksheet
Section 3: Subjects
Field Trip Evaluations
I’ve been making portfolios and checklists for years. In fact, last year I shared this one and was surprised at how popular it has been. So this year I decided to step it up a notch. I created an entire set of portfolio documents for my kids. They are completely editable!