May 15, 2017
Preparing and Presenting the Portfolio: Attending School Reviews with Renewed Confidence
By Louise Frazer.
You and your child have worked hard all year. You’ve gathered and sorted your materials for their portfolio. There are still a couple of things to consider adding before calling it “done”. One of those things is to have your child add an introductory paragraph about themselves. This is just a brief introduction about what they like and perhaps a couple of highlights of the year that were particularly meaningful or exciting. This paragraph can be decorated with artwork, a photograph, or other embellishment, allowing their personality to shine through. Another item to add is the parent’s brief overview of the school year, not more than two or three paragraphs, describing in broad lines your child’s school year. This can include the method of instruction (literature-based, project-based, etc.), highlights of something you and your child are particularly proud of and perhaps a little about their struggles. For example, if your family visited a retirement home every month, or your child participated in a play, mention it. If your child was recuperating from a concussion for two months causing a delay in the schedule, mention it. Be prepared to back it up with appropriate documentation, if required.
Now sit back and have a good look with your child at their portfolio and take the time to savour it. You both will be encouraged to turn the pages and see their progression. Relive those moments you had together whether it was finally conquering long division or enjoying an exhibit at a museum.
If you find that you feel more critical than you would like, ask an experienced homeschool parent to look it over with you. Sometimes an objective eye can point out the strengths you might not have seen, or perhaps confirm your suspicion that you need to consult with a professional to help find new strategies to boost next year’s learning.
With renewed confidence and portfolio in hand, you are ready to show your child’s accomplishments.
If at all possible, both parents should attend the portfolio review. This gives the teaching parent a boost of confidence and can steady their nerves. It also sends a message to the school that you are supported and the family is united in this homeschooling venture. If your spouse absolutely cannot attend, or if you are a single parent, consider asking another homeschooling parent or a relative to accompany you.
If you feel apprehensive going into the review, remind yourself that homeschooling is a legal option throughout Canada, and you are a professional, your child’s educator. Answer questions politely and confidently, but refrain from being long-winded. If the person reviewing has a suggestion or criticism, thank them for their feedback. If the suggestion is framed in a “should”, tell them you will look into it, or you will consult with your homeschool association. You do not need to commit to anything on the spot.
Generally, portfolio reviews are brief encounters with scant feedback. You are there to demonstrate your child is progressing so you can maintain harmonious relations with the school board, and so they can fulfil their government mandate. Rarely do they give much feedback at all, and even less do they congratulate homeschooling families. If they do, it’s like the cherry on your sundae. Your reason for homeschooling is not for their accolades. If you want constructive, thoughtful feedback, consider hiring a teacher privately. School administrators have little time to give to homeschoolers and are already very busy with the end of year obligations within the school system. Since they might be on a tight schedule when you present your child’s portfolio, this can mean they might need to have a closer look at a later date. Do not leave your portfolio behind; it is your precious legal proof of your school year. However, they can make photocopies.
Preparing and presenting your child’s portfolio can appear nerve-wracking, especially if it is for the first time, but taking the time to prepare can help you sail through with confidence. Please note that this article is intended mainly for our Québec members, although much of this applies to any homeschooler who must prepare to meet with school authorities. If you are in doubt as to what is required of you in your province, please call the HSLDA office.
We are nearing the end of our portfolio series. The next article in the series will be about knowing how to deal with the different school authorities. We hope it has helped to answer some of your questions, but if anything is unclear, or you have questions about something we haven’t covered, we would love to hear from you. We will compile the articles and publish “Portfolio Questions and Answers” on our blog.