Sunday, August 4, 2013

Planning for a New Year: Portfolios and Work Folders

Maine requires that homeschoolers either do standardized testing or portfolio reviews with a certified teacher at the end of each school year. I've always chosen to keep portfolios, and after 9 completed years of homeschooling I have a shelf full of them.

Why portfolios?

Portfolios are a GREAT way to have a visual record on our school year that we can look back on as the kids get older. Beyond the Math tests and handwriting samples, portfolios can include photos and reminders of all those WONDERFUL field trips and awards achieved throughout the year. Portfolios can be as unique as the family that creates them.

Getting Started

Every year the kids choose a color for their portfolio, notebooks and work folders. Color coordinating supplies to each student makes grabbing the right ones quick and easy for everyone.This year Cati has chosen green and Sam has chosen blue. (This will be challenge for me because in years past Cati has ALWAYS been blue and Sam orange or yellow.)

Supplies Needed

To start the year, I purchase a 2" binder (with the clear sleeves in the front, spine and back), a couple paper folders and at least one composition notebook. (We notebook some of our subjects, but this year only science will follow this method.) I also buy divider sheets with tabs. Our subjects are organized into Language Arts, Math, Science, History, and Extras. A hole-punch comes in handy. I also jot down quick notes on Post-its to add to papers or pictures or awards.

Before the Year Begins

I start off by hole-punching and adding our Letter of Intent to Homeschool to the binder - it's another one of those things that Maine requires of homeschoolers - followed by an attendance sheet. (I like Donna Young's FREE attendance sheets here. This website is also GREAT for LOTS of other printables so DEFINITELY check it out.) 

And then I photocopy the TABLE OF CONTENTS from the textbooks we'll be using or a LISTING OF CHAPTERS/UNITS. I LOVE doing this for each of our main subject areas! 

Why the Table of Contents? Chapters?

Besides putting those table of contents in our portfolios to show the work we've accomplished, they're GREAT for these things:

  • A quick glance shows a portfolio assessor what skills and subject areas were covered and learned during the year
  • Bringing these lists to the library is an easy way to find additional books and movies for upcoming studies
  • Supplementing book learning with Netflix moves and field trips can be planned using the table of contents or chapter lists
  • Notes and plans can be jotted down on the photocopies as a "planner" or to mark areas that need additional work or were learning successes
  • Chapters and units can be visually divided into semesters, quarters or any other "period of time" that you use in your homeschool

What about Work Folders and Notebooks?

The other 2 organizational pieces of our homeschool studies are notebooks and folders. We're only part-time Charlotte Mason learners, but one WONDERFUL, effective way for us to learn is NOTEBOOKING. (You can learn more about Charlotte Mason and notebooking here and here.) This year we'll only be notebooking our Life Science. I prefer composition notebooks over generic one subjects because the pages are less likely to rip out over the course of a whole school year, and the kids think they're cooler. You can even get them in colors now!

Our work folders are cheap, paper ones. Plastic would certainly last longer, but I was able to get 20 of these last year at Staples during their sales for FREE. Until I run out, we're using these! Inside our work folders I placed a seasonal reading log (that you can find here) , mini flip books that supplement our book learning, Spelling Power Daily Test Sheet and Learning Steps (slipped into a plastic page protector to be reused over and over), a few sheets of graph and lined writing paper, and any additional print-outs I'd like them to do. (You'll see a Who Am I sheet in the photo. That's for our first day back to place in the back sleeve of our portfolios. Find the sheet here.)

How are you planning for a new year?


  1. Love the matching colors, Jessy. Great organizing tip!

  2. This is a great post- I'm going to post it in Adventures ;)

  3. Thank you for linking up this helpful organization post in the Kid Blogger Network Back to School linky! It will be so helpful to so many parents.


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