I love homeschooling my children. Spending every day with them and watching them learn is a gratifying experience. We have so much fun doing experiments, reading books, and making things. That is the part of homeschooling that is fun for me. The part that is less fun??? Paperwork! Ugh! My state requires us to keep a portfolio of our children’s work each year. We are required to keep the portfolio for at least three years. Now, every year I get the materials needed to make their portfolios, and every year I promise myself that I will stay on top of the paperwork each week so it does not get out of hand. And….every single year…I find myself scrambling to sort through and file mounds of papers that have been sitting around for weeks!!
It’s my own fault. Organizing is NOT my thing. If you were to see what my half of the closet looked like compared to my husbands, you would laugh. I am great at planning things in my head, making grocery lists, planning our homeschool day, but putting things away in their proper place…yeah, that’s not me. My spice drawer is a mess, as are most of my drawers. Don’t get me wrong, when I need something, I can find it, but my organizational system usually makes sense only to me. 😉
However, maintaining a portfolio is important for our homeschool, so this is what I do to get it done. Once a month I designate a weekend for filing. I spend about an hour on each child. As we finish school each day, I paperclip their work together and put it in a folder. On my filing weekend, I take all this stuff and organize into piles for each child. I choose one of my piles and then sort papers by subject. Form there, I place the majority of the work into binders for science, history, and writing. I have these notebooks organized by topics. The science binder is set up in units. The history binder has sections for maps, people, places, events, literature, and essays. Their English binders are organized by book (for my oldest) and by style of writing (for my youngest).
I file all of their papers in the correct spot, and that pile is finished! Next, I take the papers for subjects like spelling, reading and Bible and place them in an expandable folder. These take up less room than binders, and I find that I don’t necessarily need a binder for each subject. I try to organize these folders by date as much as possible.
This whole process usually takes me a couple of hours. I know that if I simply did it on a weekly basis it would probably take me a matter of minutes, but I just can’t seem to do it. Some weeks are so hectic I’m pretty happy if we just get our school done and the house is somewhat clean. Plus, filing really bores me so I tend to put it off. I am toying with the idea of having my kids do some of the filing in their portfolios next year, after I have finished grading their work.
Of course, purchasing these materials can be expensive, but I get most of them at the dollar store, so I can get my binders and folders for $1.00 each. Another problem is then storing the portfolio. This usually falls under my husband’s domain. We put the portfolios from each year into one of those large plastic tubs, and write the school year on top. It then gets put into a closet or somewhere in the attic (basically anywhere we have room). After the three years are over, my kids and I go though the boxes. If there is something special in the portfolio that they want to keep, like a lapbook or project that meant a lot to them, they are allowed to file it in their “special” school folder. Of course, we limit how much they choose because we just don’t have the room to keep everything! Occasionally I will choose a few things to keep as well.
Next, we ask ourselves if there is anything special in the portfolio someone else might like to have. One of the grandmas in our family is an artist, so my kids will sometimes pull out artwork they have made to give to her. Poems go to another grandma. The rest of the work usually gets tossed. I feel bad sometimes just throwing their work away like that, but if I kept every single piece of paper from their homeschool lives my house would look like one of those hoarding TV shows.
Anyway, that is my far from perfect record keeping method. How do you keep records in your homeschool? If you have any tips or ideas I can use, leave them in my comments.