A homeschool portfolio review

In the state of Maine there are a couple legal options for homeschooling.

You can register with a private school (and I think you can even become a private school) or send the Department of Education yearly notifications of 1) your intent to homeschool and 2) a copy of a year end review signed by a certified teacher. Maybe you can send standardized test results but I'm not sure about that.

Lucky for us ahem... relaxed homeschoolers (recall I haven't done anything bookish with these kiddos since April) there are certified teachers within the homeschool community, many homeschooling parents themselves, who respect alternative methods of education. Who, by sitting down and spending time with our family, can verify to the state "yes, these Tougas children, unconventional though their schooling is, are in fact learning".

Like duh, of course they're learning. In some instances they are way beyond the skills and knowledge of their peers and in some areas they are not. They are unique, and homeschooling them is a recognition and celebration of that fact.

But... I still need to prove to the state I'm not shutting them up in their room all day and neglecting to provide them an education. Enter the learning portfolio which I take once a year to be reviewed by a local homeschooling parent who is also a certified teacher.

A Learning Portfolio

What's a portfolio you ask? In our case it's a binder that I use to keep track of educational evidence. Ie: what the kids learn and do in everyday life as well as a place to record their more "bookish" activities, copies of progress in their math workbooks and handwriting practice for example.

This year's binder is full of art, poems, maps (places we've been and places they've drawn), pamphlets from communities activities we've done, musical concert bulletins, copies of letters written and received, hiking logs, a list of favorite books we've read, photos and a couple math, spelling and handwriting samples for good measure.

I also have 8 pages filled with stuff we've learned to keep track of everything that isn't recorded elsewhere. On these sheets I divide the kids learning into categories that somewhat line up with the state requirements but classified in a way that makes sense for our family.

I break down our studies into these topics (in no particular order) world study, nature study, science explorations, Maine study, outdoors/physical activity, math, language and communication, crafts, music & dance, art appreciation, poetry and Bible.

I love preparing this yearly recollection, a scrapbook really, that showcases our kiddos learning. These binders become mementos, like our photo albums, that the kids refer back to. And I have them just in case any official wants to indeed verify that I've provided an education for my children.

Sharing these with the certified teacher every August is one of the highlights of our school year (we learn all year round so I choose to officially finish up one year just before the next begins). I love her gentle manner and visiting with her bright and talented teenaged children.

Last week was hot so we sat outside on the picnic table under the shade of the maples, with iced juice and a checkered table cloth. She viewed the kid's work, asked them questions and listened to presentations they prepared. The kids alternately drank all the juice, played on the hammock swing and ran around the yard. It was lovely, all around lovely.

At the end she signed a letter she'd prepared verifying that they've made progress and were schooled for the required amount of days in our state. And so ends our school year. A week before our new one begins (smile).

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  • nicola

    nicola on Aug. 26, 2009, 4:28 a.m.

    this is so interesting. thank you for sharing. i am on the tip of asking a homeschooling question or two on my blog, as isabella starts a public charter school here in a state with awful budget cuts (again) for schools. sweet photo of brienne! nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com

    nicola's last blog post... sewing with lala


  • Organizing Mommy

    Organizing Mommy on Aug. 26, 2009, 4:58 a.m.

    OH, I love the portfolio!! We did that every year--just for kicks-- not because we were required to, but just because! Now our kids do classes that are highly structured, but in the old days, that's just what we did--a grand portfolio/ scrapbook sort of thing that documented everything. I should get those out and look at them!


  • steadymom

    steadymom on Aug. 26, 2009, 12:12 p.m.

    Love it, love it! We do something similar, but just for our own fun. My husband and I have a learning scrapbook for ourselves, too!


    steadymom's last blog post... Choosing Creative Toys


  • Kristi

    Kristi on Aug. 26, 2009, 12:44 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing!! It is such a wonderful idea! I've been wondering how to keep track of things now that we're getting more & more relaxed and this seems like the perfect way.

    Kristi's last blog post... Monday List


  • Heather

    Heather on Aug. 26, 2009, 2:06 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this! I have been looking for examples of homeschooling portfolios for Maine, so this is perfect :-) I am hoping to homeschool my daughter eventually (she is 15 months and I am a little anxious apparently). So figuring out all the different tasks that need to be accomplished is first on my to do list. Thanks again for sharing!


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 26, 2009, 3:43 p.m.

      It's super easy to meet legal requirements to homeschool in Maine. You'll be just fine. For further reassurance you can watch my video on how we homeschool our 3 elementary aged kiddos. If you live in the area (Lewiston) and ever want to get together to talk homeschooling, let me know - smile! I love to help new homeschoolers.


      • Heather

        Heather on Aug. 27, 2009, 10:58 a.m.

        Thanks for the link to the video! I just came across your site yesterday, and you seem to have lot's of info available! Plus, your pictures are great. We live in Gardiner, so not that far. Maybe a meet up would be in order sometime! Thanks for being so helpful. It's always nice to find like minded mamas, especially ones that live semi-locally :-)


  • Shawna

    Shawna on Aug. 27, 2009, 11:46 p.m.

    thanks AGAIN for sharing so much valuable information. the records and organization is the part i fret about homeschooling in the future. i suppose if you stay on top of it, it's no harder than blogging or posting my daily photos. and if i start working my way up to it now, i might not even notice the work in it when "school" time comes along. :O) plus, what a great library of memories you must have!

    Shawna's last blog post... the catch up letter


  • debbie

    debbie on Aug. 28, 2009, 7:57 p.m.

    I love how straightforward your learning outline is - thanks for sharing that. We put together a portfolio for ourselves this year, but it was mostly photographs, as I had not thought ahead enough to be holding on to all the programs, etc. It was eye-opening to put it all in one place, make the lists of books, activities, experiences...how satisfying. I'm looking forward to putting it together with more foresight this year, and your sample outline is a perfect way to organize it!


  • Jen

    Jen on March 2, 2010, 8:14 p.m.

    we live in the Gardiner area and this is my first year home schooling. my daughter is 6 and she is doing many things on kindergarten and 1st grade levels. We are putting together a portfolio but are un sure on who to bring it to. Do we have to pay a company to give it to a teacher? I don’t have many home schooling ties. My mother worked with a 5th grade teacher who is willing to do the review but is unsure of what is required of him. Any help will be greatly appreciated.


  • ruth

    ruth on Aug. 16, 2012, 5:47 p.m.

    God giving gift !!! Thanks for sharing...Love it and learned so much. May God continue blessing you on your Home school journey, since you are a blessing for the rest of us :)


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