Homeschool record keeping tips
These tips can help you stay on top of your important homeschool records.
I'm in my sixth year of homeschooling my four kids and I know that homeschool record keeping can be a daunting task–one that may even keep parents from making the choice to homeschool their own kids. Keeping organized does not have to be overwhelming, however, as long as you have a plan and stick to it.
I am a procrastinator by nature and I've learned that I have to overcome this tendency in order to keep my homeschool records up to date. If you're just starting on your own family's homeschool journey, don't hesitate to take a few simple steps that will keep you organized.
Know the Law
Each state in the U.S. has its own laws regarding homeschooling. In some states, you simply need to notify the state that you're homeschooling. In others, you are required to send in very detailed reports and samples of your children's work. Find out what end of the spectrum your state is on. The Home School Legal Defense Association has a helpful site where you can click on your state for a detailed list of homeschooling laws and regulations.
Have a Plan and Stick to it
I used to be what I call a 'highly-organized homeschooler.' I had my lesson plans written out in dated boxes in a teacher's planner. I'd have everything planned out weeks ahead. And then the flu would hit, and I'd spend hours erasing all of my plans and rewriting them. Then a nasty cold, ear infection, or stomach virus would descend on our house and I'd start all over.
I don't do that anymore. I'm now what I call a 'semi-organized homeschooler.' I don't have detailed, dated plans; I have lists. Ask me what science lesson we'll be working on three weeks from now,and I'll probably answer, "I don't know, whatever comes next on the list."
My lists still require planning but they're not dated and therefore don't require me to reschedule everything if something interrupts our regularly scheduled programming. I have learned what works for me, a busy, not-very-organized mom with a tendency to procrastinate.
Whatever your style of lesson planning, those plans are your best resource when it comes to keeping records. At the end of each month you can look back and see exactly what each child has done. I write a short paragraph for each student on each curriculum subject. These monthly reviews are stored on the computer. At the end of the year I print them out and put them in each student's portfolio for the year.
I have found portfolios to be the easiest way to keep records. Each of my kids has a three-ring binder, or two, with a section for each subject. Completed tests, essays, and samples of his or her work go in each section throughout the year. Don't procrastinate. File that work as soon as it is corrected. If you don't, you'll end up with an overwhelming stack of papers waiting to be sorted.
And, unless your state requires it, don't keep every scrap of paper. This is especially helpful if you are homeschooling more than one student. I keep all of my children's tests, essays and samples of their work from each month. That is a sufficient amount to give a big picture of their progress throughout the year and it doesn't require dozens of notebooks to hold it all.
In each portfolio there is also a section for their state-required standardized test scores. This would also be the place to keep your attendance records, if required by your state. Immunization records, certificates from extracurricular activities and lists of books read can all be filed in your child's portfolio and will give you a detailed idea of what your child has accomplished throughout the year.
At the end of the school year I purchase a plastic storage box–sweater-size works great–and place their portfolio notebook(s) inside. This is also the place I store any artwork or other items they have accumulated that I want to keep but can't put in a three-ring binder. I write my child's name and the school year on the lid in a Sharpie marker and the box gets stored downstairs in the storage room. I now have rows of these boxes for my children and if I ever need to find test scores from a few years ago, I know right where to look.
Portfolios are especially important if you plan to homeschool through the high school years. Many colleges and universities will now look at a student's homeschool portfolio in lieu of a high school diploma.
If you want a more technologically advanced method of homeschool record keeping, you might check out some of the software available for this purpose like Edu-Track and Homeschool Tracker. If you're looking for some free printable forms to keep your homeschool records many sites let you print directly from them.
Homeschool record keeping doesn't have to consume every minute of your spare time and shouldn't be intimidating. Remember that homeschooling is a choice you've made for your family, and keeping records is just part of that choice.