Wondering how to create a homeschool portfolio or notebook? Here is what works for us to keep mom and student organized for the year!
I’ve been homeschooling for almost two decades now. And I’ve learned that one thing that can send many of us homeschool parents into a slight panic is assessment and keeping up with progress. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
A notebook is the perfect way to track your child’s progress through the year and keep a handle on their work. Many states require parents to keep a portfolio like this, but even if your state doesn’t, I would challenge you to consider the value in creating one anyway. It keeps mom and student organized and ready for the year, as well as each homeschool day. Wondering how to create a homeschool portfolio or notebook?
I’ve got two options for you. One, you could get our Student Record & Planner notebook. Easy peasy. Or two, you could get the digital version, print it out for your student, and let them create their own customized version.
I’m going to tell you how to help your students create a customized version, while also explaining the sections included in our Student Record & Planner.
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 homeschool 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 It For?
Often we get tangled up with this question. The answer might surprise you. I think EVERY AGE and grade is perfect for a homeschool 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 a Homeschool Portfolio?
Let me tell you my secret. If you want to be successful at making this homeschool 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.
The Materials to Create a Homeschool Notebook
Of course, every good notebook starts with a notebook. Ha. Seriously though, this is an important choice. I’ve tried generic versions and I promise you’ll regret it. They can’t handle the wear and tear of a youngster opening and closing on a regular basis. So resist the back-to-school end caps and head straight for the Avery brand. I buy 1.5 inches and it’s sufficient for what I save. If you go larger, it will be difficult for the children to handle, so make sure you consider that. I let my children pick their color for the year.
You will also need dividers. I am not partial to any brand. I prefer the ones with pockets, so we can store extra checklists and reading log sheets there (more about that later).
Decorating the Homeschool Portfolio Notebook
Every year we come up with fun ways to decorate our notebooks. This year we covered the back with washi tape. It was quite simple. We took 3 different colors and alternated them. Even my 6 year old boy was successful in this without help. Granted, no one’s notebook will go in the hall of fame for most exquisite artwork, but they did it themselves. I find that this makes them so excited to use it!
Next is the cover page. This is just a regular sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper. I prefer card stock as it looks nicer, but regular printer paper works just fine. We’ve done all kinds of things like decorating with stickers and drawing. I’ve learned that my kids prefer to draw their own. I usually print the page with their name, grade and year. You could use any program to do this like Microsoft Word or Pages. I use PicMonkey and create a custom image (816px by 1056px). Then use the font of my choice to write their names.
What Goes Inside the Homeschool Portfolio Notebook
You will receive all of the pages mentioned below in the digital version of the Student Record & Planner.
Section One: Daily
This is the section that the kids use everyday, so it needs to be up front and easily accessible.
1. Attendance record and homeschool calendar come next.
In every state that I have ever lived, you must count and record attendance for 180 school days. I let my kids check off the day at the beginning of the school day.
2. The Weekly checklist goes next. We keep these in reverse order. So the checklist on top is this week. At the bottom of the stack will be the first week we had school. This checklist is how I keep track of grades and progress each week. It’s also how I assign chores.
Section Two: Assessments
This section is for mom only since my kids are only still in Elementary. This is the place where I collect pertinent information that shows their progress. Depending on how you homeschool, this section could look very different. Here are some basic things you might include:
1. About me sheet—> This is our favorite first day activity and it’s such fun to look at as the year goes by.
2. Yearly Goals—> If you have little ones, just talk to them about what they might make as a goal for that year. Allow them to draw pictures and you can record their answers with keywords or phrases. Don’t skip this. It’s a really great skill to teach your kiddos!
3. Pre-tests or assessments done at the beginning of the year—> It’s great to know where your students stand academically. That actually was the original purpose behind the concept of a test. While I think that tests have become grossly misused, they still stand as a good measurement of progress. I always start the year with my little guys by doing some basic assessments. That way I can show them how much they have learned.
4. List of curriculum for the year—> Here I make a list of what we are using for each subject, complete with the name of the book or whatever information I feel is pertinent.
5. Quarterly Progress reports—> My state requires these, but even if they didn’t it’s kind of fun. They are great to share with dad or grandparents. Plus it’s a good habit to start getting ready for the high school years.
6. Test/quizzes (quarterly or annual sampling)—> I use this section to collect tests that either don’t have another place in the notebook or provide an overall view of progress, such as an end of the semester test.
Section Three: Subjects
Section three is pretty much wide open. There could be a divider here for every subject that requires space in the notebook. However, not every subject requires that. We do many multi-age curriculum notebooks that have their own journals such as science and our worldview study.
Here is also where we include reading, media, and field trip records:
1. Reading Record —> I have my kids record every book they read: date, title, author, and their star rating. Seeing all that they’ve accomplished throughout the year inspires them to keep reading!
2. Media Record —> We live in a media rich culture. And some of it can be highly beneficial to schooling. So we include a sheet where they can record any media they’ve consumed: date, title, type, and their star rating.
3. Field Trip Evaluation —> We use this section to keep track of the field trips we take throughout the year. They have space to write what they learned, what they liked, and what challenged them on this field trip. They can even give it a star rating.
And that’s it. Pretty simple, huh? The bulk of our notebook is actually the weekly checklists for much of the year. By the end, there are tests and sample work from other areas to fill it up, too. I store these notebooks in a box in the attic. Each child has a box of their own. Someday, they can keep the notebooks. Meanwhile, I have them ready to showcase our work from year to year!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.