homeschool, organizing, portfolios

What’s in a Portfolio?


I’m over at Heart of the Matter Online today talking about homeschool portfolios. Go take a look!

What does a hard-working homeschooling mom do with all those 3-D projects, art papers, grammar workbooks, and math tests? Keep everything? Yikes! Throw them all away? Horrors! Of course, Grandma’s refrigerator makes a wonderful display area, but when Grandma’s fridge is full, there is an alternative that can make both the savers and the throwers happy, believe it or not. The solution is to make a portfolio to showcase a selection of each student’s best work throughout the school year. Portfolios are required by law in some states, but they are a good idea for everyone for several reasons: preserving hard work, providing evidence for skeptical grandparents or other family members and friends, planning purposes for younger siblings, and recording grades and/or levels earned.
I’ve made portfolios for each of my children for each of the twelve years that we’ve been homeschooling. Since I know that the word portfolio strikes fear into the hearts of many homeschooling moms, I’ve broken down the process for you in order to make it not so scary. I also wanted to provide you with some motives behind the idea for creating portfolios for your children if you are not required to do so by your state law
The word portfoliobuzzes around the homeschooling community faster than a case of chicken pox. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a selection of a student’s work compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress.” Notice that the definition contains the word selection. A portfolio does NOT contain every single piece of paper ever touched by your children’s pencils.
It includes a representation of completed work, which has the best writing samples, the best test scores, the best artwork, the best note booking pages, and the best worksheet pages. It also entails pictures of 3-D projects, field trips, and other activities that can’t be condensed to a single written document. I traditionally keep most tests for our yearly portfolios. For subjects with a lot of papers (such as math worksheets), I keep one out of every twenty or thirty worksheets. For subjects with fewer papers, I keep one in every ten or twenty pages.
What about dioramas, full-sized body outlines, and salt-dough maps? What about all the learning games we play instead of doing boring worksheets? How are those activities documented in a two-dimensional portfolio? Take pictures! For a while, these projects occupy a place of honor on the dining room table or on the window seat. Then they graduate to living under the guest room bed. When the next project is ready to reside under the guest room bed, the first one moves to the circular file. But first, I take a picture of it. We set the little people up again and the kids pose as I flash the pictures I forgot to take when they originally made the project. You can make professional scrapbook pages to go in your portfolios, or you can slap the pictures onto cardstock, write up a few labels, and call it good.
Field trips can also be documented with pictures. If you usually sling a camera around your neck and annoy even the most photogenic of your children with the flash, this will be a breeze. In addition to documenting trips with photographs, you can incorporate ticket stubs, programs, and maps, either hand drawn or removed from an old atlas with your route highlighted. If it’s relatively flat and can be taped or glued to paper or cardstock, then it can go in a portfolio. Another idea is to place smaller items in an envelope and then attach the envelope to a piece of cardstock. Remember to label the envelope.
If you’re a journaler, or if your children enjoy journal writing, you (or they) can include weekly or monthly journal pages documenting the highlights of your school year. This might also be a good, nonthreatening exercise for the reluctant writer. It’s interesting to look back through the years and see how your priorities have changed. Children will oftentimes be amazed that their favorite subject in second grade turned into their worst subject by seventh grade, or the reverse. They’ll enjoy remembering friends who have moved away and their favorite co-op classes.
Finally, what would a portfolio be without lists? You can include lists of goals for the year, books read, resources used, and more. These can be located at the front of the binder so they don’t get mixed in with the math papers or the science lab reports.
If you give your children report cards each year or graduation certificates, these may be included in your portfolios as well. I prefer to put these kinds of documents at the very front so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. If you don’t want to punch holes in special items (or can’t due to size or format), place them in clear sheet protectors.
Happy portfolio-ing!

Q4U: How do you keep samples of your kids’ work from overtaking the dining room table?

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Portfolios 101

 This is a repeat, I admit it, but it’s that time of year again! School’s out (or nearly done) and you’re wondering what to do with the plethora of papers under your dining room table. Or, you know you have to make a portfolio, but you  have no idea how to go about it. In the coming weeks, I’ll post more ind-depth directions and thoughts on portfolios, so keep reading!

What does a hard-working homeschooling mom do with all those 3-D projects, art papers, grammar workbooks, math tests? Throw them away? Horrors!! There is an alternative that can make both the “savers” and the “throwers” happy, believe it or not. The solution is to make a portfolio to showcase a selection of each student’s best work throughout the school year. Portfolios are required by law in some states, but they are a good idea for everyone for several reasons: preserving hard work, providing evidence for skeptical grandparents or other family members and friends, planning purposes for younger siblings, and recording grades and/or levels earned.
                                    
A meritorious portfolio does not include every single assignment from every single subject. It includes arepresentation, which has the best writing samples, the best test scores, the best artwork, the best notebooking pages, and the best worksheet pages. It also includes pictures of 3-D projects, field trips, and other activities that can’t be condensed to a single written document.
To grade or not to grade? That debate is a whole separate subject which is goes far beyond the scope of this entry. But, if you choose not to give actual grades or not to fill out a report card (or its equivalent), then a portfolio becomes even more important.  A portfolio gives physical evidence that little Johnny really is a genius – just like you always thought!
The easiest way to make a portfolio to do all along, but it’s never too late to start. My preference is to take my children’s binders (again, a different topic, but I’ll get to that one eventually) about once a month, choose papers to go into the portfolio and trash the rest, unless they’re needed for a later test. Older students who have final exams may benefit from having some of the papers not needed on an every day basis sorted and put into another binder kept on a shelf for future reference.
That’s the ideal. However, I fully realize that it’s June and most of you are just ending your school years. If you’ve got piles, cartons, or binders stuffed full of papers all over your dining room table, that’s OK! Take it one pile at a time. Sort by subject, then by date, then choose the best page or two out of every 10 or 20. Use dividers to separate each subject. Have each child decorate the front of his or her binder, add the year and grade, and you’ve got a portfolio!
I’m currently working on an e-book dedicated to portfolios, so if you have any bright ideas, drop me a line, I’d love to incorporate some of them!
Q4U: What do YOU do with all the artwork, papers, tests, and projects that accumulate throughout the school year?

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The Mom Binder Part 2

So, you’ve snagged a binder and scavenged enough tabs to have one for each child plus at least one for general administration/support-type papers, right? And, you’ve printed out year-at-a-glance calendars as well as monthly calendars, right? If you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about, see The Mom Binder Part 1 article that I posted a few days ago. If you’ve done the above, then let’s finish our totally cool, useful Mom Binders.
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Start by labeling a tab for each child. Mine are alphabetical and from youngest to oldest (yeah, I know, another nerdy organization thing), but they can be in any order you wish. Behind each tab, In put ALL the documents required by your state and/or school district. Check with your state homeschool organization or with the Home School Legal Defense Association if you’re not sure what’s required. If you live in one of the few states that doesn’t require any paperwork, you lucked out, but there are still a few things you’ll probably want to keep handy in your Mom Binder.
In the state of North Carolina, where we currently live, all homeschoolers are required to keep attendance logs for 180 days, immunization records (or the proper exemption paperwork), and test scores for each child, beginning at age 7, every year. I have all of these records from every year that we have homeschooled in NC. I start at the back of each child’s section and every year add in the new stuff on top, closer to the front. That way, if I should ever get audited, I can easily lay my hands on the right paperwork.
In addition, I keep printed schedules or teacher guides for each subject, as appropriate. This is just for information not in a separate teacher’s manual and for things that I need to reference frequently. I also keep a loose plan of what each child is doing for that year, so I can remember that each vocabulary segment takes 4 weeks, each science module takes 2 weeks, and that there are 33 lessons for grammar. This is my cheat sheet so I don’t have to remember everything.
My oldest daughter is graduating this year (in just over a week!! Open-mouthed smile), so in her section, I’ve added a plastic sheet protector with all of her final high school records: official ACT score sheets, final transcript, course descriptions, and reading list. I’ve labeled the sheet protector and put it immediately after her tab, so all of her information is ready to be copied and sent off to colleges. Hhhmmm, just had a thought that maybe I should put those originals in our fire-proof box and put copies into my Mom Binder.
Next, I have an “admin.” tab. I keep the Notice of Intent and other communications from the state in there, along with an official letter from HSLDA when we needed their help a few years ago. I’ve also printed out the basic state requirements just to keep handy.
In the “support group” section, I have my official membership cards from HSLDA and our state homeschool organization, as well as other miscellaneous information from those groups.
The last tab is labeled “Mom,” and in there I’ve kept helpful articles that I want to implement, encouragement from various sources, and notes from homeschool conferences. When I no longer need an article, I either trash it or file it with like documents in my file folder system.
That’s it! Leave me a comment and let me know how you set up your Mom Binder.
Bethany

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The Mom Binder, Part 1

014I’ve referenced The Mom Binder quite a few times recently, and while I was writing those posts, I looked for the original Mom Binder post to link to. I couldn’t find one—time to write about one of my favorite homeschool organization tools. I’ve seen quite a few references online to household management binders, so why not a homeschool management binder?
Start with a 1 1/2- or 2-inch binder. Any larger than that, and it wouldn’t be workable. Any smaller than that, and there wouldn’t be enough room for everything that needs to be in it. You can repurpose one you find around your house or buy a cheap one just about anywhere. You can choose your favorite color, or choose the kind with a clear plastic cover so you can slide in your own artwork. Obviously, I’m not much of an artist, but at least my binder is properly labeled!
Next, figure out how many dividers you will need. I have one for each child (so that is 2), one for administrative paperwork (such as the notifications our state requires), one for support groups (memberships to HSLDA, our state homeschool group, etc.), and one for other stuff (like interesting articles). If you add those up, it makes 5, which is the exact number in a set of tabs (they also come in sets of 8). Yes, I’m totally neurotic about using matching tabs and using all of the ones in a set! If you’re not, that’s fine. Smile Just make sure you at least have a tab for each child, plus at least one for administrative and/or support-type papers.
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In front of all of the tabs, I have printouts of 2 year-at-a-glance calendars, to cover the whole school year. Behind those pages, I have printouts of each month, one per page. I use the year-at-a-glance calendars as a visual for how many weeks we do school in a particular month, when holidays fall, etc. On the monthly calendar pages, I write in co-op dates, which week number we’re on, and other general school notes. I keep attendance on the same computer program that I use for planning (the free version of Homeschool Tracker), but I’m a visual kind of girl, so I like to see the big picture.
Print these calendars from your computer, or check out some of the great, FREE offerings from Donna Young and The Homeschool Mom.
Now that you’ve got your shopping list ready (binder and tabs) and your memo to print out yearly and monthly calendars, I’ll let you get to it! Tune in on Thursday for exactly what types of papers and records you’ll be storing behind each tab.
Bethany

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April e-Book Special!

I’m happy to announce that throughout the entire month of April, my e-book Demystifying Homeschool Portfolios will be on sale for 20% off of the regular price! Start your spring cleaning by getting those pesky paper piles under control once and for all! Click here to go to my business website, then click on the “E-Books” link at the top.


What does a hard-working homeschooling mom do with all those 3-D projects, art papers, grammar workbooks, math tests? Keep everything? Yikes! Throw them away? Horrors! When Grandma’s fridge is full, there is an alternative that can make both the savers and the throwers happy, believe it or not. The solution is to make a portfolio to showcase a selection of each student’s best work throughout the school year. Learn the whys and hows of creating homeschool portfolios. Discover creative means of preserving and documenting non-paper items. Receive step-by-step instructions and encouragement along the way, whether you’re just starting or have twelve years’ worth of stuff to sort.

Q4U: Have you ever done portfolios for your children’s schoolwork? What kind did you do?

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Alternatives to Traditional Portfolios

Pretty please remember to re-follow my new blog url (link on the left)! Also remember the totally cool giveaway coming next week only for my new blog followers (on this blog).

Here’s today’s Heart of the Matter offering:

By now, most of us have heard the party line about the why and the how of assembling traditional portfolios for our homeschooling students. But, some things just can’t be flattened or captured in a photograph. What do we do with large canvas paintings? What about performances by the future ballerina or actor? How do we best showcase the culmination of thousands of hours of practice for our classical pianist?
We use a professional artist’s portfolio for large-scale art projects and we create an electronic portfolio for videos, audios, and multi-media presentations. This is my daughter’s artist’s portfolio. It is the smallest size I could find at a local art supply store (because I’m cheap!), but it has done the trick. I paid less than thirty dollars for it on sale. This will allow you to showcase over-sized drawings, paintings on canvas and other mediums, and other art projects. For a teen who wants to go to art school, an artist’s portfolio is a must.
Here are some links to help you decide which size/brand is best for your artist:
For musicians, if you can afford to do so, set up time at a professional recording studio in order to get the best results. If you can’t afford that, buy cables to connect the instruments or microphone directly into the computer. Several free programs are available online for download that will enable you to record, mix, and save music into different types of files. The quality of the recording is almost as important as the quality of what is actually being recorded, especially if your musician is planning on using these as college entrance auditions. Dancers, actors, and filmmakers can record their performances and dramas directly onto computer files. Again, be sure the sound quality is superb. Also be wary of poor lighting conditions and outside distractions while you’re doing the actual filming.
With an electronic portfolio, students can control who sees which content. They can create CDs to send to people and even create several different CDs with unique recordings as needed. If the files are stored online (securely, of course), students can refer anyone they wish to that website to view its contents. Another benefit of creating an electronic portfolio is that a lot of information can be stored in a small amount of space. It is portable and can be available to more than one person at the same time.
Here are some links that detail the electronic portfolio process:
The more our high schoolers are involved, the more they will take ownership of their portfolios. Besides, teens will probably come up with ideas that we would never have imagined. Enjoy the process and be creative.
Q4U: What creative ideas have you implemented in the portfolio process? Please share them with the rest of us.

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Introduction to Portfolios

Welcome to all the visitors from the Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Janice Campbell this week. Thanks for stopping by.

This is a repeat, I admit it, but it’s that time of year again! School’s out and you’re wondering what to do with the plethora of papers under your dining room table. Or, you know you have to make a portfolio, but you  have no idea how to go about it. In the coming weeks, I’ll post more ind-depth directions and thoughts on portfolios, so keep reading!

What does a hard-working homeschooling mom do with all those 3-D projects, art papers, grammar workbooks, math tests? Throw them away? Horrors!! There is an alternative that can make both the “savers” and the “throwers” happy, believe it or not. The solution is to make a portfolio to showcase a selection of each student’s best work throughout the school year. Portfolios are required by law in some states, but they are a good idea for everyone for several reasons: preserving hard work, providing evidence for skeptical grandparents or other family members and friends, planning purposes for younger siblings, and recording grades and/or levels earned.
                                    
A meritorious portfolio does not include every single assignment from every single subject. It includes a representation, which has the best writing samples, the best test scores, the best artwork, the best notebooking pages, and the best worksheet pages. It also includes pictures of 3-D projects, field trips, and other activities that can’t be condensed to a single written document.
To grade or not to grade? That debate is a whole separate subject which is goes far beyond the scope of this entry. But, if you choose not to give actual grades or not to fill out a report card (or its equivalent), then a portfolio becomes even more important.  A portfolio gives physical evidence that little Johnny really is a genius – just like you always thought!
The easiest way to make a portfolio to do all along, but it’s never too late to start. My preference is to take my children’s binders (again, a different topic, but I’ll get to that one eventually) about once a month, choose papers to go into the portfolio and trash the rest, unless they’re needed for a later test. Older students who have final exams may benefit from having some of the papers not needed on an every day basis sorted and put into another binder kept on a shelf for future reference.
That’s the ideal. However, I fully realize that it’s June and most of you are just ending your school years. If you’ve got piles, cartons, or binders stuffed full of papers all over your dining room table, that’s OK! Take it one pile at a time. Sort by subject, then by date, then choose the best page or two out of every 10 or 20. Use dividers to separate each subject. Have each child decorate the front of his or her binder, add the year and grade, and you’ve got a portfolio!
I’m currently working on an e-book dedicated to portfolios, so if you have any bright ideas, drop me a line, I’d love to incorporate some of them!
Q4U: What do YOU do with all the artwork, papers, tests, and projects that accumulate throughout the school year?

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Portfolios Demystified

Put Paper in Its Place, Part 5 (of 5)

Welcome to the final segment of the “Put Paper in Its Place” series! If you’re a homeschooler and if you’ve been reading the entire series, this last section should just help you synthesize everything. As you may already suspect, I am not an advocate of keeping every single worksheet, piece of art, or diorama produced by the little darlings. Shocking, I know. Surprisingly, neither am I an advocate for trashing everything. You’ll be pleased to know that a middle ground exists. It’s called a portfolio.

The word portfolio usually strikes fear in the heart of homeschoolers. I have to keep a what? Why would I want to keep all that stuff? But all of the shadow boxes, insect project boards, wooden villages, and authentic medieval costumes won’t fit into a binder! Yes, I have heard all these comments and more whenever the topic of portfolios comes up. Yet, I always reply that a portfolio is not only a necessary thing, but also a good thing. Let me show you how and why.

What is a portfolio, anyway? I decided to look up the word in my official Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition to see what its normal usage is. After all, it’s a unique homeschooling word, right? At least, I thought the way that homeschoolers used the word was specific to us. I almost fell off my chair when I read this definition: “a selection of a student’s work (as papers and tests) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress.” So much for being revolutionary. Regardless, a portfolio is a collection of your child’s scholarly achievements.

(image courtesy of http://www.eHow.com)

How do you gather all this stuff? Do you just grab the last three pages out of your kids’ hands on June 15 and call it good? Do you wait until your high school senior tells you that his prospective college wants to see his portfolio when he visits tomorrow? No, no, no! On the other hand, you really don’t need to have the exact same number of papers for every subject perfectly typed on the computer and color coded in a set of twelve filing boxes.

A meritorious portfolio does not include every single assignment from every single subject. It includes a representation of work completed: the best writing samples, the best test scores, the best artwork, the best notebooking pages, and the best worksheet pages. It also includes pictures of 3-D projects, field trips, and other activities that can’t be condensed into a single written document. Set aside some work from every academic year. Do it as you go through the year so that it will not be an overwhelming task at whatever point you close out records for each year. I take my children’s desk binders about once a month, choose papers to go into the portfolio, and trash the rest, unless they’re needed for a later test.

The further your child gets academically, the more you may wish to weed out some of the earlier work. You may end up with only one kindergarten handwriting page and one first grade math test by the time your child graduates. That’s fine. Don’t take all of it out, though. I’ve attended homeschool graduations where a portfolio containing selections from twelve years’ worth of work was displayed. It was really neat to see the child’s scholastic progression through the years. Your child may enjoy looking back over her progress as well.

Okay, you’re collecting all of these papers and photos (of larger projects), so where do you put all of them? The best place for a portfolio is in a binder. Yes, even for you file foxes. The main reason for this is that a portfolio should be portable. (Extra bonus points if you notice that both of these words have port as the root, from the Latin word porto, which means I carry.) It’s much easier to carry a binder into a college admission counselor’s office than it is to carry a filing cabinet. You’ll definitely want a 3-inch size for this project. Feel free to let your child choose her favorite color, or buy the kind with the clear pocket on the front and have your student design her own cover.

Put subject dividers into the binder. File the papers from earliest (kindergarten or whatever grade you started homeschooling or saving papers) to the latest within each subject. Just save one out of every ten, twenty, or even thirty pages. Save more tests than regular worksheets. Save the best essays, and choose just one of those essays to show all of the child’s work—outline, rough drafts, corrections, and final draft.

I can hear you now: Why am I making a portfolio? It sounds like way too much work, and it’s not even required by my state! Do I still need to make one even if my child is not headed to college? Obviously, some states make portfolios mandatory, but aside from that, reasons abound for making one. If you choose not to give actual grades or not to fill out a report card (or its equivalent), then a portfolio becomes even more important. A portfolio gives physical evidence that little Johnny really is a genius—just as you always thought! Portfolios preserve hard work, provide evidence for skeptical grandparents or other family members and friends, help with planning for younger siblings, and record grades and/or levels earned and completed.

If you have piles and boxes of papers, start slowly. Set up the binder first so you have a place to put the papers you’re saving. Then go through one stack or box a day, perhaps while you’re watching TV at night, and eventually you will have a lovely portfolio of your child’s academic successes. I’m cringing as I write this, but I just have to reiterate that you must keep up with a project this large or it will get away from you. If you put a few papers into the portfolio every month or so, it will be no big deal, but if you procrastinate, you’ll find it more difficult to subdue the paper piles.

I hope you’ve found this series on paper to be helpful. The more I wrote, the more I realized could be written; however, this is it for now. I’ve provided you with the tips and encouragement that you need to conquer the paper monster once and for all.

** This article first appeared on the Lesson Pathways blog. **
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Papers, Papers Everywhere – Not! Or How and Why to Create a Portfolio

What does a hard-working homeschooling mom do with all those 3-D projects, art papers, grammar workbooks, math tests? Throw them away? Horrors!! There is an alternative that can make both the “savers” and the “throwers” happy, believe it or not. The solution is to make a portfolio to showcase a selection of each student’s best work throughout the school year. Portfolios are required by law in some states, but they are a good idea for everyone for several reasons: preserving hard work, providing evidence for skeptical grandparents or other family members and friends, planning purposes for younger siblings, and recording grades and/or levels earned.

A meritorious portfolio does not include every single assignment from every single subject. It includes a representation, which has the best writing samples, the best test scores, the best artwork, the best notebooking pages, and the best worksheet pages. It also includes pictures of 3-D projects, field trips, and other activities that can’t be condensed to a single written document.

To grade or not to grade? That debate is a whole separate subject which is goes far beyond the scope of this entry. But, if you choose not to give actual grades or not to fill out a report card (or its equivalent), then a portfolio becomes even more important. A portfolio gives physical evidence that little Johnny really is a genius – just like you always thought!

The easiest way to make a portfolio to do all along, but it’s never too late to start. My preference is to take my children’s binders (again, a different topic, but I’ll get to that one eventually) about once a month, choose papers to go into the portfolio and trash the rest, unless they’re needed for a later test. Older students who have final exams may benefit from having some of the papers not needed on an every day basis sorted and put into another binder kept on a shelf for future reference.

That’s the ideal scenario. However, I fully realize that it’s June and most of you are just ending your school years. If you’ve got piles, cartons, or binders stuffed full of papers all over your dining room table, that’s OK! Take it one pile at a time. Sort by subject, then by date, then choose the best page or two out of every 10 or 20. Use dividers to separate each subject. Have each child decorate the front of his or her binder, add the year and grade, and you’ve got a portfolio!

Questions? Yes, please! How else will I create my “following?” Your questions may provide fodder for a future blog entry, or I’ll respond personally. ~Bethany