I recently had my first homeschool portfolio group review for my daughter and despite my nervousness, it went really well! Once the assembling of the portfolio and the review were all said and done, I realized that I had nothing to be worried about after all!
So for all of you out there who may feel the same way I did about doing a homeschool portfolio, take heart, portfolios don’t have to be (and really are not!) scary! I will be doing a series of posts this month talking all about portfolios, from what it is, to how to assemble one, to how to organize all of the “stuff” you gather from doing homeschool everyday.
I thought we would start with homeschool portfolio basics first, then go over the details in later posts (like what to include and how to organize it all). So here we go!
What is a portfolio?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a portfolio is:
1: a hinged cover or flexible case for carrying loose papers, pictures, or pamphlets;
2: a set of pictures (such as drawings or photographs) usually bound in book form or loose in a folder: or
3: a selection of a student’s work (such as papers and tests) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress.
Well, I think they nailed it! A portfolio can be all three of these things, but I think that definition number three really sums it up pretty well!
A portfolio is simply a collection of work and activities that your child has done over the course of your homeschool year; an overview of the past year.
A homeschool portfolio can show:
- What your child has learned.
- The progress that has been made.
- What areas they may be struggling in.
- The resources that were used.
- What subjects and material was covered and how.
- Any records your state may require, such as attendance, etc.
And it can include:
- Tests and quizzes.
- Completed worksheets.
- Artwork (actual artwork or photos of it).
- Photos of projects, trips, activities, experiments, etc.
- Samples of writing and spelling.
- A list of curriculum, resources, and materials you used.
- Progress reports
- A list of books that were read (both independently or read together).
- Records of attendance, subjects and topics that were covered, field trips taken, extra curriculum activities, etc.
You do not have to include everything on these lists and they are by no means meant to scare you, but to help you get a clearer picture of what a homeschool portfolio can be (which we will cover more in the next post, so no worries if you are feeling overwhelmed right about now!).
And of course my child’s homeschool portfolio will look different than your child’s will and that is OK; There is no right or wrong way to make a portfolio! What is important is that you have the type of portfolio that works for you and your family (and that satisfies any requirements that your state may have).
Why do you need a homeschool portfolio?
Really, it is up to you (and your state!) to decide if you even need a homeschool portfolio or not! Some states may require one as an annual assessment, but others may not. If you know that your state doesn’t require one and you don’t want to put one together, than that is fine! However, if your state requires it, or even if it doesn’t, a portfolio can be a good way to document the past homeschool year.
Your state may require you to do one…
When I decided to homeschool our children, I was most worried about two things; socialization and annual assessments to the state. In Maine we can either annually submit our child’s standardized test results or a letter from a certified teacher that says our child met the state’s requirements based on their review of the child’s homeschool portfolio.
Right from the beginning I knew I would choose the portfolio option (for several reasons), mainly because I didn’t want my kids to have to take a standardized test every year, especially in the younger grades. I was also quite familiar with portfolios due to my background and schooling in education, so I knew the portfolio option was a better fit for me personally.
So if your state requires a homeschool portfolio, then that will be a good reason to complete one! However, there are other reasons to do one besides meeting state requirements.
It can be a good way to wrap up the school year…
After the stress and nervousness (which were both unnecessary!), I realized that finishing the portfolio brought a sense of closure to the school year. I know it may sound kind of cheesy, but it was a good way for me to see that we made it through another year of homeschool, and that we not only survived, but we learned stuff too!
As I was putting the portfolio together I realized just how much we had done and how far my daughter had come in one short year. Sometimes when you are in the middle of homeschooling, just trying to get through the week (or even the day…or hour!) can be overwhelming and you feel like you get nothing accomplished. But after seeing all of the things you have to include in your portfolio, that feeling goes away!
Plus, now that 2nd grade is officially behind us, I am giving myself permission to start planning for the next homeschool year, yay! I know I may be crazy, but I LOVE planning for the upcoming year. And now that we have reached our 175 days of school and completed the formal portfolio review, I have time to focus on planning…but that is for another post!
It’s a good reason to sort through all of those papers…
Homeschooling is great, but man does it come with a lot of stuff! Between all of the books, curriculum stuff, school supplies and the piles of papers, projects and school work that gets done, there are days I feel we are drowning in it all (please tell me that we are not alone on this!).
And while portfolios don’t help to eliminate the books, supplies and curriculum stuff, it can help you to sort through all of those papers and get rid of some of it. Putting your child’s portfolio together is a great way to save only what you (or you and your child) feel is important and worth saving.
That means that a lot of the other stuff can be thrown away. I know it may be hard to throw away all of that work that took the whole year to complete, but it’s alright! Once you are happy with what you have saved and included in your child’s portfolio then go ahead and get rid of the rest (I waited until after my daughter’s portfolio review was over and approved before I threw anything out, just in case there was an area where I needed to add more). And if you wanted to, you could always take pictures of your child’s work or scan their papers and save them on your computer if you are having a hard time tossing everything that was completed over the year.
However you approach it, doing a portfolio means there will be leftover work at the end that doesn’t make it in, and that’s good! It should only include work that paints a picture of the year, not a day-to-day record of every little thing that was done. So go ahead and free up some space in your house by tossing that extra work!
Preserve the past years memories…
Before I had children, I enjoyed scrapbooking and would work on it quite a bit. After I had my daughter I thought I would continue to scrapbook all of the milestones and cute things she did…yeah, not so much! I just have a bunch of loose pictures, unused stickers and an empty scrapbook because I wanted to be able to make the perfect book, full of memories, but that never happened!
Fast forward 7 years, and while I still have never finished that baby scrapbook, I was able to complete my daughter’s homeschool portfolio in less than a couple of hours! It meant that I had to let go of the idea that it had to be perfect, and that it wasn’t going to be a scrapbook quality portfolio. But you know what, that’s ok! When it comes to doing a portfolio there are so many ways to go about it; you just need to find what works for you (which I discuss more in another post).
No matter how you choose to do one, the important thing to remember is that you are creating a collection of your child’s work and it does not have to be perfect! Look at it as a great opportunity to save those memories that you made all year long, not as another task that you need to stress out over (something I had to keep reminding myself!).
If my state didn’t require some form of assessment, such as a portfolio review, I honestly don’t know if I would have done one or not. But now that I see how painless and simple it can be, I will continue to do them each year, even if they are not required. The sense of closure to the year that it brought, and the collection of memories that I now have, were well worth the couple of hours (not even) it took to put my daughter’s portfolio together.
I hope that this post eases some of your fears about doing a portfolio for your own child and shows you that doing a portfolio doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming! Follow along with me in future posts as I go into more detail about portfolios in this, “Homeschool Portfolios 101” series, and see how painless and worthwhile it can be to do one!
Do you have any other advice on what a portfolio is and why you may want to make one?