Homeschooling: End of the Year Review and Progress Report

{Free Printables} {Georgia homeschooling progress report}

This summer I’ve been mulling over how to handle the end-of-year. Some homeschoolers do nothing because they consider homeschooling an on-going, everyday lifestyle. While I agree with that, I also want my son to see what he’s accomplishing and in the process, help him understand goal-setting. However, doing a “graduation” every year would be overkill, and it would take away from the real graduation at the end of high school.

I’ve decided to do an end-of-the-year review and brief celebration. For that, I have put together a slideshow of my son’s homeschooling year, and I’ve pulled together some of the work he’s done, including the portfolio I keep for him, so he and his family can see it. We’ll also give him a certificate of completion and a small congratulatory gift – though probably something to help continue with his studies. (This year we got him a poster of carnivorous plants, which is his latest interest and project, and he yelped with joy when he saw it, so I think he likes it!)

Here you can see him after we did a brief review with the slideshow. My son loved it and was full of commentary about what he did this year! He also earned some badges, so I gave those to him as well. (Note: I’m sharing the slideshow with close family and friends in my next post. If you’re family or friend, just e-mail me for the password.)

In Georgia, we’re required by law to write a progress report for our students every year, and we’re supposed to retain them for our own records. Since you probably won’t ever have to show them to anyone, there’s no reason to stress over how you write it, but I know there are people who would like guidance on how to do this, so I’m sharing the format I use in a Word document that you can download and tailor for your needs. I plan to write it in this format every year unless for some reason the law changes and gives me specific guidelines on how to do it. Basically it’s very simple. I list each subject and then use bullet points to fill in the resources and comments about his work.

Download this Word document here: YEARLY PROGRESS REPORT Word doc

NEWS! I have created a Printables Page where you can download these and other print-outs for free that might help you on your homeschooling journey. If they are helpful to you, I hope you’ll send me an e-mail and let me know!

Do you mark the end of your homeschooling year? If so, how?

A Homeschool Pre-Kindergarten Graduation

{Part 3 of Recording A Homeschool Student’s Progress: The Homeschool Portfolio} {Free print out}

So after my practice year, recording everything we did, and completely changing my mind about my son’s grade level, I wanted to wrap it all up with a graduation celebration.

Why a graduation for “pre-kindergarten”?

The main reason I did this was because I wanted my son to feel a sense of accomplishment.  But more than that, I didn’t think he completely understood what his “homeschool” was all about.

He knows he’s being homeschooled, and he even tells other people this.  He understands that many kids “go to school,” and I think he has a rough sense of what school is through television and books we read.  He also knows that those short, formal reading and math lessons are “school.”  But what I’m sure he didn’t know is about all the other stuff:

(Note: If I don’t have a link to a post on these topics yet, I plan to write them in the future.)

For a while, I had planned not to tell him that these things were “schoolish.”  He loves everything, and he’s naturally curious!  I didn’t want to spoil the fun.  But then I realized that he should be commended for his natural curiosity, and he should know that all this cool stuff….Yay! It’s school!  And I hope that because of that, commemorating the end of the year will somehow motivate him to get through the stuff that isn’t as fun like those reading and math lessons.

The second reason I wanted to do the graduation was because I wanted to showcase my son’s accomplishment’s to our family, and I hope that this will soften any concerns they may have about homeschooling.

There was also a third reason to do the graduation, but I didn’t realize it until after it was over: Having a graduation for my son and our family was the best way to get me to summarize what my son accomplished and showcase it in an interesting way.  In turn, this was the best way to teach me what I should be doing for our future record keeping!

I prepared three things for the graduation:

  • A progress report such as the Georgia law requires for a homeschooled child after the age of 6.  (Note that this progress report is for your records only.  You do not have to submit it to anyone.)  This report was about six pages long (bullet lists for each subject, and I used the “course of study” list to know what to highlight).
  • A 15-minute slideshow of photographs that I took of many of the workbooks, artwork, games, projects, classes and outings my son did as he worked through a typical course of study for a preschooler and kindergartener.
  • A completed “pre-kindergarten” course of study certificate  (For a free, blank pdf of the certificate that you can use for your own needs, click here: Completed Course of Study Certificate)

On the morning of the graduation, I put these out in our living room:

  • Various projects (posters, books etc) that my son had done throughout the year.
  • The portfolio or 3-ring binder with all the goodies I mentioned in my record-keeping post.

But ultimately I realized that all anyone would ever look at would be the progress report and the slideshow.  So this is what I learned about my record keeping:

All I used to write the progress report was my photographs and my blog’s Table of Contents.  That’s it!  (UPDATE: Upon greater reflection, I realize that I do use my charts/summary on occasion to help me write blog posts, however.)

I didn’t need to consult my beloved charts or that lengthy summary I wrote every week.  So was it all a waste of time?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I’m glad I have them because if I had to, I have plenty of evidence of our daily work.  It also fills out his portfolio quite nicely, and it makes a really nice keepsake.

Will I continue using the charts and weekly journal?  I’m sure I’ll use the charts.  They help keep my own peace of mind since I’m not using a curriculum.  As for the weekly journal, I may not be as diligent about that now that I know I probably won’t use it much, but I think I’ll try to keep it up because it, too, gives this homeschooling mama peace of mind.

In conclusion

You must think I’m a maniac especially in the light of the fact that in Georgia, we do not have to keep portfolios and we only need to write a progress report and keep it for our own records for three years!  (Same with the standardized tests that Georgia homeschoolers are supposed to take every three years starting in the third grade.)  Even if I were to put my son in public school at some point, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever review these materials.  From what I’ve heard from other homeschoolers, schools test a child and place him/her where they think he/she should go.

Yet I do it because 1) perhaps I am a maniac, 2) it’s how my mind works – I’m a writer and organizer on paper, and I only wish my house were as organized, and 3) for me, it’s important to teach my son goal-setting and let him feel the reward of accomplishment and also show his family what he’s done.  In short, it’s all about having peace of mind about this homeschooling journey.

Recording A Homeschool Student’s Progress: The Homeschool Portfolio, Part 1

{Homeschooling without a curriculum} {Eclectic Homeschooling} {Free print outs for your record keeping.}

Though I have seen countless blogs on the Internet offering advice on how to keep track of your child’s homeschool, I knew that I would have to come up with my own system or I wouldn’t stick to it.  So I write this post with a grain of salt and encourage you to do the same.  There’s no right or wrong here.

This past year was my “practice year” as I explained in my last post.  I’m really glad I took the effort to keep track of what we did because it has helped me create a system that I think I’ll stick with.

First of all, I don’t use a packaged curriculum.  I drew on different resources for my son’s “pre-kindergarten” year (which was actually kindergarten, and I’ll explain about that in my next post.)  Most people call this eclectic homeschooling.

I consulted a preschool and kindergarten “course of study” that used to be on the World Book Encyclopedia website.  I’m very disappointed they removed this page because it was very thorough, and upon reading whom they consulted to put it all together, I felt it was a good source.  Fortunately, Beverly Hernandez got permission to put this list on About.com before they took it down!  (Thank you, Beverly!)  You have to click on a lot of links to read all of it, but I’m grateful it’s there.  It’s comprehensive through the 12th grade.

I did not worry about covering everything on these lists, and I don’t think you should be either.  I was only intentional about teaching a few choice subjects: reading, math, the solar system, and the weather.  Everything else we covered through my son’s own interests!  Yes, that’s right!  (And I should note that after introducing him to the solar system and the weather, he took an interest in these subjects and we’ve done much more than I was planning.  Yay “mostly child-led”!) (Okay, so I’m intentional about storytelling too, but that doesn’t feel like work!)  Recently I went over these lists carefully, and I was able to check off every point except for one.  (Estimation, which is under math, so I’m doing that now.)

This is what I did this past year to keep track of our homeschool. To download these forms for free, see my printables page.

  • I created a Homeschool Chart that I kept on my desk at all times.  Across the top were all the subjects that I have to cover by law and other subjects important to me.  Since I walk by my desk several times a day, it was no problem checking off what we did and writing notes to help myself remember.
  • At the end of each week, I typed up a brief summery or Homeschool Journal.  I would list any books we read, chapters we covered, projects we worked on, outings, and classes.  Anything I thought was noteworthy. I knew I probably would not need all of these details, but I also felt it made a nice keepsake.
  • Last March I started an Excel spreadsheet for our Reading List.  I figured out that I can go online to my library account and copy and paste the list of book titles we checked out along with the author’s name and date we checked it out!  Then I put a checkmark next to them when we read them, or I deleted the row if we didn’t read it.  I keep another spreadsheet where I list books we own.  I’m adding to it as we read the books.
    • My strategy here was to take the stacks of books we read during “book time” and place them on my desk.  Then at some point during the day – or in the evening – I would update the spreadsheet.
  • Homeschool Portfolio:  I used a 3-ring binder to store the charts, the Homeschool Journal (which I printed out at the end of the year), some of my son’s work, the spreadsheets, pamphlets to places we’ve been, receipts for his classes and anything I bought for homeschooling. I plan to keep one binder for each year for each child. (I may just keep the past three years for our records, or I may consolidate them and keep some of it for a keepsake.)
    • I asked two facilitators from classes my son took to write up a brief report about him, and they were more than happy to do so.  I added these to the binder as well.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like it because I came up with a strategy that worked for me.  I took the effort to make the chart and summary a habit, and I didn’t stress over fine details.

Last month (May 2012) I wrapped up the school year, and I wanted to commemorate it with a “pre-kindergarten” graduation.  To prepare for it, I wrote up a progress report as is required by Georgia law.  I’ll write more about that in the third part of this series, and I’ll share which parts of this record keeping I used and which parts I realized were not needed, and I’m debating whether or not to nix some of it.

I hope you’ll stay tuned by subscribing to my blog in the right-hand margin, and I hope you’ll share with me your record-keeping strategies!