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? Here is what works for us.
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 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 Notebook
Section One: Daily
This is the section that the kids use everyday, so it needs to be up front and easily accessible.
1. The Morning checklist goes in first. I keep this sheet in a page protector and the children check it off with dry erase marker as they complete their morning duties. You can read more about how we do this part of the day here.
In every state that I have ever lived, you must count and record attendance for 180 school days. I print this sheet on card stock and let my kids check off the day at the beginning of the school day. Here is my favorite attendance printable, but the internet is full of hundreds more. Pick one that suits your needs!
I’ve been printing this same school calendar for years. I’m so glad that she keeps making new ones! As she suggests in the post, I use different color highlighters to mark school days and non school days for my kids. I don’t use this as attendance because it could possibly change, but it is a helpful resource for them. Note: My life is full of crazy circumstances. I do NOT plan the whole year in advance. I generally will highlight a month or two at the most.
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. Read more about it here.
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. Here is a simple about me sheet for the little guys (K-1). There are so many choices for older students. I created a faith-based one to use this year..
2. Yearly Goals—> You can find my favorite here. Another great one is here. If you have little ones, just write the word goals at the top of the paper and 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. Here are a few suggestions: Preschool, Kindergarten Assessment, Beginning Reader assessments, Dolch Sight Word Assessments (K-3rd grade)
4. List of curriculum for the year—> I literally just type out 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. Here are a few free printables: K-6 report cards, editable report card, Donna Young’s Report Cards
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 would 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 are a few of the things we do have sections for:
1. Reading Logs—> I have my kids record every book they read in some manner. These are my absolute favorite. It’s worth the money. You could also do something simple and just keep a list like this one. If you don’t like either of these, trust me, there are hundreds more in Pinterest. Just do a quick search and find one that fits your style.
2. Math—> We have 10 small math booklets each year. Each booklet ends with a test that I put in this section. I throw away the rest of the booklet when they are completed.
3. Bible—> We use this section to take notes on what we learn in our quiet times or to put in great printables from the hymn studies that we do. If you’ve never done one of my hymn studies, I’d love for you to check them out here.
4. Writing—> My 4th and 5th grader both take IEW at a local co-op. We use this section of our binder to collect the best of their writing throughout the year. The teacher has them keep a class notebook, so for most of the year, this section is empty. We transfer the best papers over at the end of the year.
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!
Looking for a super simple way to set it up? I’ve updated my pages and created a Student Record and Planner. It’s record keeping made easy and you know you love that!