Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teachable Tuesday -- The Homeschool Portfolio

I know many live in states where the portfolio is not required; I also have spoken with many people over the years that believe that Pennsylvania is so "hard" for homeschooling families. I myself believe that they are right on the money, not expecting an outrageous amount from parents, but holding them accountable for their child's education.

This time of year is always busy at our house, getting the portfolios ready for evaluations and then the school district. While some families use just the 8-10 items per subject as suggested by many homeschool books, our family looks at it differently, and usually requires a 3-4 inch binder. Portfolios are far more than required books for the state at our house; they are essentially "memory books" for each year of the girls education. As I have been working on the girls books, they have spent hours going through past years, remembering and laughing together about favorite trips, activities, and "easy" work from days past. Some of you may be putting together your first portfolio; I thought I'd share a few tips that I've found helpful:

1. You need a filing system throughout the year; don't try and sit down in April or May and gather everything together from a million different places! I use a portable hanging file, with each child having four files:
--academic work for portfolio: this is pretty self explanatory....file all tests, reports, essays, etc.
--artwork: choose a couple from each month that stand out and will show progress; for bigger items that
can't fit in a folder, take a photo and use that
--photos/special events: one of the BEST pieces of advice I EVER got when starting homeschooling was to
carry a portable camera with me at all times; you never know when a "field trip" might present itself!
(By the way, the photos are also usually the "favorite" thing to look back on over the years!)
--(for anyone using photos, I also try to keep a "finished pages" folder in my files as I complete them)
--academic work NOT for portfolio: not EVERY worksheet, lab report, etc. should go into your portfolio; but
I usually keep a file for everything else until AFTER I get the final letter from the school district
acknowledging that we've "passed" inspection! After that I discard the remainder of this folder

2. Last year we started a new tradition that has saved me hours of sanity. Sometime at the end of January, I
choose two days for the girls to work on portfolios; usually it's a snowy or rainy day when it's too icky to
go out and play. We have a "P.J." day, and go through all our files from the first half of the year (this
includes cleaning out backpacks if they attend any kind of co-op classes!) and deciding what to use. We
then sort everything into subjects, and either start the portfolio or return everything to the file bin
until spring. In essence, half of your work is now done, and it's a good day for the kids to see how
far they've come already in the year!

3. For those of you that like to scrapbook, I find that nothing is more "therapeutic" for me than portfolio
scrapbook days in the winter/spring. I try to find an evening or a free couple of hours to take a few
photos from the year and arrange them. My youngest also enjoys scrapbooking, and one year I used her
pages as the subject dividers for each section; this year, she has a whole scrapbook done from a class
she took to include with the portfolio! My oldest isn't as crafty, but considers my scrapbook pages in
her portfolio one of her greatest gifts each year. A couple of years she even requested a "theme" for
her portfolio, and either horse or Beatrix Potter characters were found throughout.

4. Don't forget the "required forms" section for your portfolio...this should include your log, your attendance,
reading lists, and any required testing/medical items for the year. I also include a page on field trips,
books used for planning, videos relevant to curriculum, and websites used in our school year.

Finally, if you can afford it, the plastic sheet covers will keep your portfolios protected for years to come. We actually have a whole shelf on one bookcase that has portfolios from years past (this year I think we start shelf number two!). Eventually, the girls will take these with them as they leave, but for now, we have wonderful memory books from the past five years to enjoy!

For any of you who NEED to submit portfolios, I hope this post gave you some pointers! ONE FINAL NOTE: IF YOU LIVE IN A HUGE SCHOOL DISTRICT, YOU MIGHT WANT TO JUST SUBMIT THE SMALLER REQUIRED ITEMS TO THE DISTRICT, SINCE THEY HAVE TO MANY TO LOOK THROUGH....BUT MAYBE KEEP THE REST AT HOME!

2 comments:

Alasandra said...

I fail to see why parents should be accountable to the state and have to prove they are educating their children to the state.

Children belong to their parents not the state. While the state should be accountable to parents; parents should never have to be accountable to the state.

Parents are accountable to themselves and God for their children.

Also does your state require private school students to keep portfolios? If not, why should homeschoolers be required to meet a requirement that private schools do not have to meet?

Patti Mahaney said...

First to the above comment all schools/ classrooms have to keep records that just makes sense and is of benefit to the student. Portfolios become a positive experience when you realize you are not doing it for the "state" but for the child. I work on transcripts now and very often I find more credits for the transcript just by the quality of the portfolio.

On another note here are two ideas that work for us. We have a digital camera for our pictures and every year it's my husband who prints out collages. It's a way for him to be involved and also helps him to see things he might have missed while at work. Another thing we do is both parents and child write out a top ten list of the best things done this year. It's always interesting to see where we all agree and also what different things pop up in our lists.