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!