homeschooling resources

Advice and Resources for Parents.

Record Keeping: You Don't Have to Save Everything

The tease of warm air is calling me. The sweet smell of early spring makes me want to open windows and shake off the dust of winter. It's the time of year when my "nesting" instinct kicks in and with no babies joining our family, I take to the basement for a spring cleaning.

Among the piles of abandoned toys and boxes of forgotten items are tubs and tubs of school papers, books, art projects, experiments and more. As one homeschooling mom said to me exasperated "How do you know what to keep and what you can throw out?"

During my first year of homeschooling I saved everything. Even the scraps of paper the kids used to solve their math problems. Why? What if the school officials wanted to see how they came up with their answers? I wasn't taking any chances. Now, in our third year, the possibility of anyone asking me to bring in six tubs of my children's work has dimmed.

Where you live will determine what records you are required by law to keep. Even if records are not mandated in your state, they are valuable tools for your child's future. Figuring out what to keep and what you can "toss" is one of the keys to running a smooth, stress-free homeschool.

When it comes to the books and/or textbooks themselves, unless you plan to pass them down to a younger sibling, you can get rid of them. Most libraries, thrift shops and homeschool support groups will be thrilled to take your books as donations. One important note: before passing the books on be sure to record all the pertinent information about them - title, author, publisher, year published and a brief summary of how the book was used by your student. When it comes time to write your high schooler's transcript, you will be happy that you did. You may need to document all the books your child used when applying to colleges.

Though many states do not require families to keep a daily log book, this type of documentation is of great help if/when you need proof of your child's educational activities. A daily log book is similar to a diary or journal. It's a simple means of keeping track of each day's events and lessons. It need not be anything fancy or "official". A simple composition book or three ring binder can do the job. On each page you can note the date and write down short descriptions of what you child did that day. A great time saver is to simply write down lessons, trips and events as they happen, instead of trying to recall the whole day's activities at the end of the day. This save you time at the end of the day and ensures accurate recollection while it's fresh in your mind. I date my logbooks and put these in the "keeper" box.

Some states require an inspection of a portfolio on a quarterly or yearly basis. Though the idea of putting together a portfolio may seem daunting, it's a great way to streamline the piles and pare down what you really need to save. Portfolios can include artwork, scrapbooks, writing journals, hobby projects, pictures, experiments and field trip projects. A good rule of thumb when deciding what to "keep" for the portfolio is to choose the best example of each subject, project or artwork. A well rounded portfolio will help others get a keener sense of who your child is during any type of evaluation.

Many moms fret over an attendance book. As it's been said before, homeschool is not recreating school at home so forget about those attendance books from your own school days. If you are keeping a daily log book each day it is serving a dual purpose and will save you from keeping two separate books.

When it comes to the "keeper" pile the one thing that stands out for me are any annual evaluations or testing that your state requires. If you live in one of these states, be sure to keep evaluations and/or assessment tests with daily log books in a safe, secure place. To me, these are among the most important papers to keep.

Last but not least are any awards or certificates your children have amassed throughout the years. If your children have gotten reading awards, science fair awards, talent show awards or any certificates of accomplishments they have achieved, display them proudly but don't forget to add them to the "keeper" pile. They're another great way for someone outside your homeschool to see what your child has accomplished.

The various papers, books, artwork and projects that your homeschool accumulates over the years provide verification and validation of your child's education. They are an essential way to document their educational careers. Like any keepsakes that we hold on to, they can often take on a life of their own. Knowing what to keep and what to let go of is the key to moving forward down the path to your child's future when they're ready to spread their wings and fly.

Listen to an Interview About Homeschooling with Christine Lorensen