Updated: Jul 10
The school year is coming to an end. Do you have piles of homeschool work samples to sift through? Are you daunted by the thought of putting together your portfolio? I have been there. We are missionaries and as such, we move a lot. In the last 7 years we have moved 7 times. For many of those moves we brought with us a whole tote of homeschool portfolio binders. A couple of years ago I finally switched to digital and tossed the binders. It has made portfolio creation and moving much easier. If you aren't ready to toss the hard copies, it is okay. You can use my portfolio creation method either way.
The key to stress free portfolio creation is to create it as you go. Don't wait till the end of the year. Doing that results in an overwhelming task that you are very unlikely to want to complete. So, prepare to start on the right foot for the coming school year. My portfolios consist of 3 parts, a list of topics covered, a reading list, and samples of work completed. I have used Evernote and Seesaw for digital portfolios. I like Seesaw best and have used it since 2018.
I keep a note inside the portfolio where I keep a running list of topics we covered. This is an important tool for us right now since we live in Quebec and need to have our portfolios reviewed by a ministry representative. I add topics to this list any time we cover anything new. This may be a long conversation in the car about how an engine works, a history question we talk about as we play a board game, or a new lesson in the math curriculum. It not only shows the kiddo's progression of learning to our rep, it also helps me to search our day for learning moments. So much of learning takes place outside of lessons and this helps me document that. It is a great way to document "unschooling" as well. You could definitely do this on a sheet of paper in your binder if you stick with paper. It does help if you organize the topics by subject, roughly since so many things address more than one subject. For 8th grade I will have the kiddo record his own topics learned because he will be doing so much of his learning without me.
The reading list is another note within my Seesaw portfolio. It should be pretty self explanatory. It has an ongoing list of books that the kiddo read himself and a list of books that Adam or I read aloud or audio books we listened to as a family. I classify them as books read by the kiddo and books read to the kiddo. I add the books in as they are finished.
Last, but not least, the hard part of portfolio creation is the collection of samples. The general recommendation I have seen in my own online searches over the years is to have roughly 3 samples for each subject in your portfolio for the year. That is what I went with when we lived in Minnesota and Michigan, but it isn't enough in Quebec. I now shoot for 3 per semester as a minimum. Since the purpose of the portfolio is to show growth over the course of the year I try to put in one entry per subject per month on average.
What goes in the portfolio? We tend toward interest driven learning and only use a curriculum for math. So, we don't have a lot of worksheets or papers to show. Much of the kiddo's portfolio is made up of photos. Let me share a bit by topic (these are all required in Quebec).
French (second language): I have a couple samples of writing, a photo of him in a one month beginner class, and photos of him playing games or speaking in French. This subject always has the least examples because most of his study is speaking.
English (language arts): Rough drafts and final drafts of a couple of papers he wrote, the rules he wrote for the games he designed, journaling pages, and a photo of a trip to Shakespeare in the Park.
Math: Most of the math work we do is verbal so I put in most of the written work he does. I also put in photos of hands on math, like doubling a recipe or activities from his curriculum.
Social Sciences/History: This is almost entirely made up of pictures from field trips. It also has a couple of short written works for Model UN and photos of related art projects.
Science: There is a rough draft and final draft of a paper he wrote. There are many photos of the experiments he conducted and projects he worked on.
I entered each of these either when they were happening or within a few days. I don't even print out his reports anymore, I just take a photo of the finished report on the computer. If you are sticking with a paper portfolio, you can add as you go too. If you feel like you are getting too many samples, just weed some out occasionally. As we near the end of the school year I double check all of our subjects for samples. If I notice that I didn't collect enough in a subject, like in French, I just ask the kiddo do a couple of activity pages to fluff it up.
I actually enjoy making portfolios now. It is so low key and our rep has consistently loved seeing them. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about making a great portfolio. You can comment on this blog post or message us on one of our social media pages.
I did forget to add the kiddo's couple of paragraphs reviewing how his year went. Once I got that sent in, my 2019-20 school portfolio was approved by my DEM. We spent about 3 weeks at the end of the year lightly covering the required competencies and that was acceptable to our rep, so don't worry so much about how long it will take to get them done. There is no required amount of time or depth to cover them.