It’s that time of year again.
Time to set up my children’s portfolios for the new school year. By Florida law, their portfolios must include titles of reading materials, a log of educational activities, and samples of work–though the law dictates little beyond that of how much detail to keep, how to organize it, etc. Over the years, I’ve worked on finding ways to simplify our record-keeping so I can keep track of what we’ve done without it being a burden. Fast and easy is what I want, and I’ve found that the key to fast and easy is putting in some time to set it up, so that it’s fast and easy the rest of the year.
First, I figured out the topics we’ll study and the books I plan to use. As our bookshelf shows, I always choose more than we’ll ever be able to finish. Generally I pick one or two for our spine in a particular subject and then lots of others to throw in here and there. (You can probably tell that we’re studying world history and using a variety of sources for literature to match–though if you could see the shelf below, you’d really realize the over-kill I have regarding sources to use. I love books. Most are used and inexpensive. And I’ve learned that what I originally plan to use doesn’t always turn out to work so well. I love to have back-up plans handy.)
Next, I typed up a sheet per subject where I can log any special projects we plan to do. (I list a few that we might do, to give me some to aim for, but we generally do only some of the ones I plan and then do a few others that I didn’t originally plan. I like to keep it flexible so we can take advantage of great opportunities that come our way.) The plan sheet includes a simple system for me to log the hours we spend on each subject. (I didn’t do this for earlier grades, but with teens in high school, I find it helps me plan out credit hours. I fill in a clock icon for each full hour spent on the subject, or a fraction for any fractional hour spent. For some subjects where I’m not sure initially if we’ll end up with enough hours to break it down into other subjects, I’ll list several sections of clock icons under different categories. So last year English had sections for Debate, Shakespeare Club, and Writing Club so I could log those hours separately until I figured out whether they would simply count as part of our English studies or whether any could be elective credits or simply extracurricular activities based on the number of hours invested in them.)
Then, I made copies of the table of contents pages of the major books we plan to use (or tore them out of workbooks that we plan to consume). If the title wasn’t listed on a page, I wrote it in.
Once I put these pages into a binder, I already have titles of reading materials and the beginning of a log of educational activities started. I’ll add dates (or check marks if I get behind and don’t remember the date) to the forms as we do activities. I’ll add titles of reading materials as we throw in other books, websites, magazines, or whatever. (If I forget some, I don’t worry. As long as I have the major ones, we’re good. And keeping receipts from the library helps, too.)
As the year goes on, I’ll add some samples of the children’s work–especially some from the beginning, big projects, and some from the end of the year–and the portfolio will be good to go, containing what’s required by law.
Since I plan to have my teens do a couple of online courses this year, I’ll throw in copies of printouts or screenshots of what they do there: a syllabus, a record of their progress, and a sample or two of their work. But mostly, I’ll just add dates and color in clocks during the year now that I’ve put together their binders.