Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Homeschool Portfolios in the great state of PA

I went looking and realized that I've talked about our homeschool portfolios but I never really posted about how I put ours together. The state of PA has a pretty extensive homeschool law. It's not difficult to comply but you do need to know what they require (and conversely, what they don't or can't require) based on the law. For portfolios, I need to submit a Log, samples of the student's work, achievement test scores if applicable (only 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades), and a letter or other proof that we had an acceptable evaluator determine if progress was made during the year.

I work on our portfolios throughout the year so that I don't get overwhelmed at the very end. I've found that if I file the younglings worksheets weekly, I can easily go through the file box at the end of each quarter (every 9 weeks) and put things right into their portfolios. It makes the very end of the school year easier to finish up.

So what IS required for our portfolios? (Each state obviously has different laws so I'll just share what I do for PA. Although I like having a completed portfolio at the end of the year. It's kind of like a memory book or yearbook for us. The younglings like looking through them from time to time also remembering all the fun or maybe not-so-fun things we did!)

At the beginning of our school year (aka back-to-school supply sales time) I buy each youngling a two inch, 3-ring binder. In them, I put tabbed file dividers for the following categories:
Logs, Attendance, Testing Results
English (under English, I hole-punch cardstock sheets and add little Post-It flags for the various categories like grammar, spelling, penmanship, composition, vocabulary, and reading)
Science (with a cardstock sheet divider for Geography)
History (with a cardstock sheet divider for PA History)
Civics and Safety
Health, Physiology, and Phys. Ed.
Music and Art
Electives (for Spanish, Typing, Bible, etc)

The very first page I include is a signed letter from our evaluator stating that they looked over the submitted materials and deemed that the student made progress in the past year.
Under the first tab is where I put our attendance log (I use this one) and our weekly log sheets (check those out here). Since I only write MFW week 1, day 1 etc for our My Father's World studies on the younglings personal weekly logs, I also include copies of the weekly grid from my teacher's manual.

For each subject, I include a brief typed summary of the main texts we used (textbooks or living books) because I'm also required as part of my 'log' to include a book list. That way in my more extensive book list, I don't have to type out the same math book for every week of the year. I write a basic overview of what we covered for that subject including any projects that we did, trips that we took that correlated with the subject, and extra resources we used. (This is where blogging regularly throughout our school year totally helps me and my less-than-stellar memory!)
After the summary, I often copy the index of any main textbook that we used so that the school district and our evaluator know what was included in that particular text. (Like the Saxon Math book or the Rod and Staff English)

Then I include a book list that I update regularly throughout the year. I put it in an Excel spreadsheet so that I can include the title, author, subject the book was for, the date they read it (I go with 'the week of' for dates so I don't drive myself crazy or be unintentionally dishonest), and which student read it. Some titles they both read; others are just for one or the other. I put in all our library book titles immediately when we get home and then have the younglings put their personalized paper clip color in the book after they have read it. (Soprano is purple, Tenor is green) I still end up asking ALL the time, "Did you read this one yet?"
So there's my summary, the indexes, the book list, and then any grading sheets (really only for Math and Spelling) and samples of their work. I try to include 1 sample from each quarter which I pull from my file box. I usually have a few more with math and grammar.

For some of the subjects that are hard to hole-punch samples for (science projects, fine arts, electives), I include a picture collage with captions of activities we did throughout the year. These are collages from 2011-12. This year I used my new My Memories software for much nicer looking final products.
If I have samples of art that are easily included in a binder, I add those too.
I also throw in any brochures from field trip locations.

I include probably more samples and more extensively written out summaries than most folks (and more than what is actually required) but I'd rather err on the side of having enough in case the school district would want to review our portfolios more intensely. The rest of those worksheets and projects... fire feeders! The younglings love burning up their old schoolwork! :)

Portfolios are a lot of work but the key, at least for me, is to work on them throughout the year to keep it manageable. The end result it a great keepsake!

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