Monday, April 30, 2012

Homeschool Record Keeping


When a family is first learning about homeschooling, they often wonder what records they should keep.  The first step should be to read up on the homeschooling laws in your state.  Some states will require a portfolio of work be turned in to the school district at regular intervals.  Some states won't require any record keeping at all. 

We live in Texas, which is one of the most (possibly THE most?) lenient homeschooling states.  We have no requirements at all for record keeping.  However, I think it's still important to keep records.  Should the question arise, I want to be able to prove I have been educating my children.  The records could also be helpful if we do decide to send them to school in the future.  Many homeschooling families also keep high school transcripts to assist with college applications, and as someone who is somewhat organizationally challenged at times, I figure it's wise to start keeping records now so I have time to get into the habit and learn what works and doesn't work for our family.

I have been keeping a 3-inch binder full of all the girls' schoolwork.  During the week, I put all the completed papers in a folder and then at the end of the week (okay, sometimes two weeks), I file them in the big binder according to subject.  It's hard to see the "big picture" in the moment, so I just save everything.  Sometime around Christmas and again at the end of the school year, I go through and ditch most of the papers.  I only keep the tests for things like spelling and math.  I keep the reading assessments I do at the beginning of each year.  For subjects that we don't regularly take tests in, I keep a representative sample of work.  I save some things from roughly the beginning, middle and end of the year to show progress was made. 

This method has worked pretty well, but it has flaws that I'd like to take care of.  First of all, I've still ended up with a full 3-inch binder at the end of each year for Sierra.  And that wouldn't be so bad even if I ended up storing 12 of them for her.  Problem is, I've got three kids and aside from the physical space all those binders will take up over time, I think it will also be a bit frustrating trying to locate a certain thing for a certain child when faced with such a daunting stack of papers.  Also, we have some things that don't fit in a binder that I would still like to save.  And finally, some of our best work doesn't have an associated worksheet to really show what was done.  Many things, like science fair projects or history activities, are documented with pictures and videos. 

I've decided I either need to come up with hard copies of the electronic media, or come up with electronic media of the hard copies so everything can be organized and in one spot.  I could print out pictures or put pictures and videos on a flash drive and file that with my binder of worksheets.  But I think it will be easier to scan the relevant worksheets and tests and create files on the computer. 

I've set up a "portfolios" folder which contains a folder for each child.  If I open one of those, there is a folder for each grade level and those open up to folders for each subject.  It's extremely easy to copy pictures and videos into the appropriate folders and scanning won't be a big chore once it's part of my regular organization routine.  I think I will likely keep the last 2-3 years worth of important papers in hard copy and the rest on the computer.  Of course, with this kind of system, back up is extremely important.  We already have an external hard drive with automatic back ups, but an extra flash drive is prudent too.  Of course there are still keepsake items that I'll keep on hand, but I think going electronic is the only way to reasonably keep full files on all three kids. 

We're still relatively new to this...do you have a fabulous idea I'm missing out on?  How do you keep records for your homeschoolers?

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