February 5, 2013

More Fun Than Documentation

Today I finally sat down and did my quarterly documentation and academic inventory for each of the kids.  I always put it off as long as I can (I even missed the fall inventory this year), but when I sit down and do it, I always have such a good time!  It's refreshing and reassuring to look back and see what progress the kids have made and how they've grown and changed over time.

Record keeping can be an area of some stress for homeschooling families because there's no prescribed way to do it and every state has different requirements.  I get e-mails with a fair degree of frequency asking what sort of records we keep, so I figured that I'd share today's updates.  And to be clear, what I'm about to share is what I keep in terms of progress reporting and documentation only.  We also keep their work binders and sketch books from each year and their online public school classes cover our rear ends in the attendance department.  In years that we don't take and public school classes, I also add attendance sheets to our documentation folders.

I keep a small folder for each child with those plastic sheet protectors in them for each year, which gets crammed with the following items:  All About Me questionnaire, IB inspired evaluation set, photos.

On the top goes their All About Me questionnaire so they can see, at a glance, all the things that they were into that year.  It's a sort of lazy mom's scrapbooking, I suppose.  And the kids love it.  It makes the rest of the evaluation process tolerable when you get to look back at who you were and ponder whether or not you are still that person now.  So part of record keeping days is that they are allowed to flip through and marvel at their former selves.

records 1

Next are the IB evaluations and checklists, which are probably the most important, but that hide invisible between the more frivolous and kid friendly things.  I love the International Baccalaureate School format of assessment and inventory, and some years ago I found a school that published their forms online.  They have since lost IB status and removed all of their documents, so I now type out my own, roughly following the format that they set forth.   It's about 8 pages of evaluations and goals.

work sample
Hunter working on his work sample for the Winter quarter.  Very serious.
It's gentle.  No grades recorded, but self assessments each quarter where the kids respond to prompts like, "I feel confident as a learner who makes my own choices and accepts the outcomes of my decisions," with a W for I'm still working on that, or a C for I've currently mastered that and am consistently practicing it.  They answer with a C or W on about 30 prompts.  Next they set goals for the quarter after reflecting on previous goals, and submit a work sample, which for us consists of a written response to the question, "What's the most exciting or important thing about being you right now?"  In addition to their self evaluations, the IB paperwork also has a quarterly evaluation form for the instructor that is broken down by subject and is marked with needs work, satisfactory, good, very good, or outstanding.  That's another 2 pages of info there.

Hannah Jane's pictures from last year.
And then on the very back of the stack, peering out through the back of the page protector, are their beginning of the year photo booth strips and their mid term This Year in My Life pictures.  Photo booth strips are almost always done near the end of summer and the This Year in My Life pics are made every January.

my year
The new year's pictures up on the fridge!

And the This Year in My Life picture is what got me finally catching up on my record keeping today.  I had to print them out to mail to family with our Valentines Day cards, and with the printed copies in hand, I figured it was time to file away last year's.  And since I had their notebooks out, I might as well go ahead and do the full shebang.  Right?

So that's a little overview of our record keeping year to year.  The outer items are mostly for fun for the kids, and the inner, IB evaluation forms are just in case we ever find ourselves needing evidence of mindful schooling for legal reasons, or if the kids ever decide they want to enroll in "real school."  I think public school teachers have a little wariness when formerly homeschooled kids roll into their classrooms, wondering if they've ever had any structure or have any record of what they've done.  This sort of paper work - the kind an institutional administrator could identify with - should serve them well whenever they decide to transition to the land of institutional education.

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