Creating a Meaningful Portfolio

In many states, creating a portfolio of your child’s work is a legal requirement for homeschoolers. Doing so gives the state authorities the reassurance that your child is making sufficient academic progress, as well as provides a written record for your homeschool’s program. But, creating a portfolio with meaning and memories can add so much more to your family’s homeschool journey. By creating one that is personalized and tailored to your child and your program, you will be creating a book that will be cherished for years to come. Additionally, a well organized, personalized portfolio will give its evaluators a better understanding of your child and your family. This way, your evaluation will be far more significant than one for a more generic or haphazard collection of your child’s work.

Compiling your children’s portfolios does not have to be difficult, but it can be time consuming. Here are some ways to stay on top of things, as well as ways to put your own personal mark on these “end of year” collections:

  • Begin organized and stay organized. Keep a file for every subject area, for every child. You will find that just having a folder into which your children can place their work will save you hours of running around at the end of the year. Date all completed worksheets and place them in the appropriate file immediately. For books (like math consumables), you can date the appropriate worksheet and leave it in the book, tearing out examples when you put your portfolio together.

  • Document everything you can. It’s a great deal easier to document field trips, books read, and schedules as you are accomplishing them, then to try to reconstruct the year after it’s complete. You can do this on the computer, or simply keep a notebook into which you write all relevant events as they happen.

  • Write a weekly log. Writing daily lesson plans in advance can be helpful, but for most of us, schedules can change as the week goes by. Doctor’s appointments, unforeseen events, needing extra time to complete an assignment or simply moving ahead more quickly can all lead to those lessons changing on a daily basis. If you keep a weekly log for what did take place in your homeschool, you will be able to provide an accurate, written account of what was covered and any special classes your children were able to take.

  • Take lots of pictures! Not only do photos provide a visual aid in helping to envision your homeschool program, they also afford you the chance to record events as they happen. Pictures don’t have to record only the “big” events. Doing a science experiment, curling up reading a book, playing a math game or reading a map are all day-to-day events that you will want to remember in pictures. There are many ways to document these pictures, the most popular of which is the hobby of scrapbooking. Scrapbooking materials and supplies are available from private consultants and in hobby stores. You can decorate pages with journaling, explaining what’s happening in each photo, and enhance them with your own creative flair.

  • Take photos of items too large to fit into the scrapbook. For example, if your child has created a number of wonderful art projects or science experiments, make sure you not only photograph your child working on them, but take ones of the finished project, as well. So many of these special “treasures” are fragile and photographing them will preserve them forever. For prolific artists, you can also assemble an art “show” monthly and photograph the group of projects altogether.

  • When in doubt, keep it! It’s a good idea to keep all sketches, diagrams, spelling tests, maps, current event projects, reports, handwriting samples, book reports, creative writing examples, math worksheets & tests, foreign language samples, ticket stubs to special events (such as museum trips, theater events, etc.) and map & timeline projects. You can always weed out later ! But by saving them in an organized, methodical way, you will be able to pick and choose which samples you can best include.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to sort and compile your portfolio. Don’t wait until the last minute ! I like to give myself some time every day for a few weeks to really create the picture of each of my children I wish to convey. Rushing will only stress you out and make you want to hurry through the process. Take the time to create organized groups for every required category and then pick the ‘best’ reflections for every quarter for every subject. Using a three-ring binder, I use standard section separators and create different sections for required forms given by the evaluators, book logs, field trip logs, weekly logs, calendar (attendance chart), writing samples (creative writing, as well as reports), handwriting samples, math samples (worksheets & tests), spelling (worksheets & tests), science logs, foreign language samples and photos.

  • Neatness does count! To provide the clearest record, I take my scrapbook pages and take them to the local copy center and have them color copied. I also find that this presents a tidier, less bulky ‘feel’ to the pages in our portfolio. Additionally, this keeps our cherished family photos in the family album. Copy centers will reduce and/or resize your scrapbook pages if they don’t fit onto a standard 8” x 11”. I also have color copies made of my children’s writing samples so I don’t have to tear out samples from their “final copy” books & journals. Copy centers will do this for you for a nominal fee but some copy centers will allow you to make the copies yourself. Standard Xerox does work but doesn’t look as crisp or presentable. Scanning on a high quality scanner on your own home computer might be another viable option, but may not offer you the same resize opportunities as a copy center’s professional touch.

  • Don’t forget the basics. Make sure your child’s name, address, phone number, age, grade and other relevant information is right on the front of your portfolio. It makes it far easier for evaluators to pertinent information first thing. Additionally, it helps evaluators to know if you use a specific method in your homeschool. For example, if you employ the Charlotte Mason, unit study or Classical methods, it helps your evaluators to have that information right away so that they can best read your portfolio with that in mind.

  • Have fun! Remember to look at this as your opportunity to share your year with your child’s evaluators. Express your passion for homeschooling and your child’s special gifts on every page. The love that you convey for your child will clearly show on the pages of your portfolio!

In conclusion, remember that your child’s portfolio is a memento that will record his homeschool journey. Ask yourself what meant the most to you this year and make sure all those events or projects are included. Look at this book as your own keepsake, as well as the message you hope to convey to your evaluators. Taking the extra time to make it special will make it a treasure for you, but it will also help to give the best window into your homeschool. Make sure that window is one you want everyone to see! In doing so, you will provide yourself with a record of a moment in time that will last a lifetime.

Author’s bio: Ellen Stanclift is a freelance writer and homeschool teacher in Camden, Maine. In her “before children life”, she taught 2nd grade in public school, but now enjoys teaching her favorite students, Joshua (9) and Caroline ( 6 1/2).

  • Editor’s note: With Ellen’s great ideas you can start the year off right by planning for the end of this year’s evaluation today! How easy it will then be to send the portfolio to HOME for your review!