By Louise Frazer.

Keeping track of a child’s work is important proof that homeschooling parents are doing their
job. Since we receive numerous queries about portfolios, we thought running a series on
portfolios for the upcoming school year would be beneficial to many. As you may know, all of the HSLDA staff members are also homeschooling parents, either currently or “retired’’. Naturally, we go through the same kind of obstacles and challenges that our members do. So, it seemed only natural that while planning the series, one of our staff (we won’t say who) volunteered to test out some of our advice.

It sounded simple — putting her child’s work into a presentable portfolio — and it would have been if it hadn’t been for the slight backlog in organization.

For the demo, she took last year’s work of one of her children, which had not quite made it into a portfolio. Well, actually – since we’re being transparent here – it hadn’t even come close. Although every piece of work was saved, it lacked form and organization. In fact, different pieces of work were in different boxes and in different rooms.

Determined to get this portfolio under control, she went on an all-out search to find all the missing work. This took a little more time than expected. She spent at least an hour clambering around the attic and rummaging under the bed and in closets for the right boxes. Then she spent another 45 minutes finding suitable photos from the correct year on three different USB keys. This was followed by at least another 30 minutes organizing them in a file so they would be ready to insert in the appropriate sections of the portfolio. Digital photography saved the day with its recorded dates.

Finally she thought she was set to begin assembling the portfolio. She then realized she had misplaced the binder, plastic page covers, and separators purchased for assembling the portfolio. After some more scrambling and scrounging through various boxes, she finally found the missing materials.

You would think that once all the right boxes and materials were located the rest would be straightforward. Unfortunately our test demo mom had not thought to completely separate each child’s work into different boxes when she had stored it all away. It had seemed so clear at the time what belonged to which child. But even just a year later, sorting through which child’s work was whose was another lengthy task. This required a certain amount of detective work to ensure the correct samples were assigned to the corresponding child.

Undeterred, although knee-deep in an explosion of boxes, books, and papers, she plunged bravely in only to stumble on yet another unforeseen difficulty. Not having stamped the date on her child’s work, it took searching through their plan for that year to figure out what order things were done in, so that work samples could be placed in progressive chronological order.

Although she thought she carefully placed the papers and books into sturdy boxes, it was inadequate to keep some things from being slightly damaged over the course of several months. Since she had not used the foolproof method of storing papers in plastic sleeves placed in a binder, some of the papers were slightly rumpled, one was torn, and another looked like it had water damage, rendering some pieces unusable for a portfolio. Despite this setback, and after sifting through more piles of papers, she was able to select a number of undamaged samples of the various subjects.

Listing all her resources throughout the year proved to be another challenge. The books not
borrowed from the library were sitting in the boxes waiting to be logged. However, because she had not jotted down library books, websites, and films used during the year, she could only record what she remembered with certainty. This resulted in a less complete list than she would have liked.

Despite the (self-made) hindrances, at the end of the portfolio-building weekend, our mom felt pretty satisfied with the completed portfolio. She also could more easily see that despite the challenges and obstacles, her child is learning! There was also a sense of relief for her to reclaim some space previously occupied by the sea of books and papers.

Our organizationally-challenged mom was last seen sipping lemonade and reading a long-lost article she found at the bottom of one of her boxes. The title, you ask? She’s was a little vague, but it had something to do with home organization.

So, if you don’t want to repeat this kind of experience, the upcoming series will save our members time and trouble. Look for the first article in August on the HSLDA blog.