Student Portfolios: How to Build Them in Homeschool Settings

Many people don’t know what the day-to-day of homeschooling really looks like. Responsible parents who choose to homeschool their children actually have to provide a great deal of structure and work with their children to produce a thorough student portfolio. This can seem like a daunting task, but with the right preparation and mindset, making a homeschool student portfolio can be a fun and rewarding project.

Know Your Requirements

No two student portfolios look alike, but they all generally include schedules and projects produced by the student over the course of the school year. This can include academic papers, craft projects, course syllabi, and even multimedia representations of lessons. Whatever goes into the portfolio, parents should research the homeschooling requirements in their state. Use those requirements as a baseline, but endeavor to go above and beyond in your actual curriculum.

Stay Organized

Choose a method of organizing the portfolio, so it’s easy to store and access. Some families create files, folders, or boxes for each school year, others elect to organize by subject. You should be able to use these divisions in the portfolio as study and review materials, plus they need to be available for state inspectors who may request proof of proper homeschooling activities. If you opt to include electronic projects like videos and websites, have a list of links in the portfolio with a short description of each item.

Choose a Curriculum

You should start every school year with a detailed outline of what topics you will cover and what benchmarks you should reach. Most states do not exempt homeschool families from meeting general education requirements, so make sure you’re fulfilling those obligations while also covering the materials that are most important to your family. Building a curriculum from scratch can be difficult and time-consuming, as it needs to include individual lesson plans in addition to general goals. For parents who would like to use a professional homeschool curriculum, many are available through services like K12.

Integrate Technology

Fully or partially electronic student portfolios offer an excellent opportunity to reduce clutter and impart valuable technology skills to your children. An electronic portfolio can involve digital photos and videos of hands-on projects, recordings of oral reports, digital copies of essays, and even projects that are native to specific programs. This allows for twice the learning, as students should be involved in their projects and the use of the technology itself. Students who build electronic portfolios learn how to use hardware and software that professionals use in a wide variety of fields.

Assess and Reflect

The best part of a homeschooling portfolio is that it allows students to look back on past work to see how much they’ve learned over the years. Plan for reflection activities at regular intervals to review a period in the portfolio and work with your child to use this assessment to set new goals for the next period.

Student portfolios don’t need to be overwhelming. As a thoughtful collection of work built over time, it’s a real gift to be able to see concrete milestones in your child’s education.

Image via Flickr by Carissa Rogers

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