10 Simple Steps for Documenting Homeschool Progress, Part I

(Previously published in SPED-Homeschool, August 2023)

Documenting your child’s progress throughout your home education journey is like collecting treasures along the beach. However, it can and should serve as much more than an academic record of progress. It offers a recollection of how your child has grown in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it provides one with a glimpse into who your child is, who he is becoming, and who he might become. I like to look at it as a way to honor your child – so cherish the process!

Many years ago, while home educating my sons, I asked them to create puppets of their favorite mammals. (This was part of a culminating activity, as later they would be asked to use their puppets to “act out” their answers to questions.) Their final products were so incredibly different.  My husband and I laughed and laughed about the stark differences, as these products were mere reflections of the differences in my sons’ personalities, learning styles, and preferences. My oldest son’s puppet was meticulously colored and cut, with the animal’s color “perfectly” depicted.  My youngest son’s puppet, on the other hand, was vibrant and colorful – the colors clearly not within the “norm,” but truly entertaining!

According to Carol Tomlinson, “Intelligence is multifaceted.  Children think, learn, and create in different ways.”  Therefore, assessment must also be multifaceted. The end products must and should look different. Thus, the better question is: “What evidence do you have that your student has mastered the objective?” And more specifically, “What skill, strategy, or process must he know, and does he?”

It is that simple!

Once that is determined, how you gather your information is the fun part. The sky is the limit! (I am sure you are already incorporating many of these.) Here are some of my personal favorites!

  • Anecdotal Records & Observations – Keep notes in an old-fashioned spiral notebook. Put the date on the top page and record what you have done that day, how the student responded, and any glaring challenges. Be an astute observer of your child(ren). Which concepts/skills did they master easily? What did they find difficult about that lesson? Are they bored with the content? What poignant or purposeful statement did they make? Review these records later and notate what needs to be done the next day or week.
  • Portfolios – Keep a three-ringed binder of your child’s work. This could include art projects, book lists, worksheets, writing samples, poetry, as well as photographs of field trips, activities, and projects. Make sure each item is dated. Include as much as you can and need. At the end of the year – you can review and decipher what stays and goes. Make sure you keep some samples from various times throughout the school year so you can show growth.
  • Learning Logs for Content Area Subjects – Encourage your student to keep a notebook for Science or History. Upon studying a particular concept or topic, the student is asked to write (or dictate) a paragraph about the topic. (You can be as specific as necessary.) After reviewing the paragraph, you will know whether or not the child has a firm grasp of the content.

Remember that assessment and documentation of such should only occur when and if it serves to inform your instruction. It is then that the teacher should craft his/her instruction to ensure proper skill application and concept understanding. Otherwise, it is meaningless.

Next week, I will include some more of my favorites!