PREPARING FOR THE NEW HOMESCHOOL YEAR

I already did a post about the curriculums we will be doing for the new school year. (You can read that here in case you missed it 😉! A common question for homeschool families is, “How do I choose my curriculum for the year?” Well, that may be a loaded question for some. Many homeschoolers have spent hundreds of dollars on “good intentions,” hoping to implement pricey curriculums purchased on a whim, by a referral, or to fulfill some requirement. I tend to lean towards whatever is simplest, cheapest, and the least amount of prep 🤣! So it was a no-brainer when I adopted a curriculum based on my state’s education requirements.

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Eaton Family Tribe (circa 2012)

Homeschool families may opt to sign up for the FREE portfolio reviews in many states. This is the tool we chose instead of using an umbrella homeschool program. Here’s a brief explanation of the two options.

What is a portfolio review?

Homeschool portfolios are a form of student record keeping that documents regular educational instruction. In Maryland, homeschool portfolios illustrate that a child is consistently learning specific subject areas. By law, they should not be checking for “progress” or grades necessarily, but that the child is receiving a consistent education. This is assessed through dated materials.

What is an “umbrella” or “cover” school?

An umbrella or cover school is different than a portfolio review. An “Umbrella” or “cover” school will approve and oversee a homeschool program. They may offer distance learning that can be used for one subject or as a complete curriculum. I have heard great privileges about using umbrella/cover-school resources, particularly in the high school years, but, our family has opted for the free portfolio review through our county.

My Portfolio Review Process

For us, FREE, is always good. It comes with a bit more work, but I don’t mind. Homeschool reviews can cause a lot of anxiety for folks. In the beginning, I certainly lead the anxiety club for that! However, over the last 7+ years, I have come up with a system that has helped me receive a compliant assessment every time. Prayerfully, sharing 5 easy steps will help you with your next review!

1) GET YOUR MINDSET RIGHT. PREPARATION IS KEY!
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” ~ Robert Collier
Success doesn’t come from one day’s effort; it requires effort from the starting and needs repeated effort every day.

If we begin our homeschool year accepting this as our motto, then there should be no room left for the worried feeling that comes with portfolio review.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell

Once you register with your state/county as a homeschooler there will be requirements that every homeschool family must meet. KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE! Like anything else, you can access them online. They are usually found in the Dept. of Education for your state under the homeschool section. Knowing the expectation can establish the confidence necessary to meet the requirements. Knowing the requirements also helps with school planning for the current school year and future planning. The parent that is clueless about the state requirements has plenty of reason to be worried and anxious. This, my friends, is an easy fix!

2) PLAN YOUR CURRICULUM ACCORDING TO THE REQUIREMENTS.
Because homeschool is customized, families have a variety of ways to fulfill these requirements. The beauty of homeschooling is that life is learning.

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” — Eartha Kitt.

Many daily activities can be credited as academic instruction. Most elementary subject areas are as follows:
*English.
*Mathematics.
*Science.
*Social studies.
Art.
Music.
Health.
Physical education.
[Foreign language (optional)]

Purchase a 3-ring binder (3″ or larger) for each of your students. Create tabs for each subject. Also, create a Google Drive folder for the current school year, each student, the term (Fall, Winter, Spring), then the subject folders in each student folder. Put SOMETHING in (*) subjects daily. Be sure to DATE each assignment!! It can be video, worksheets, pictures from a field trip, etc. The other subject folders may be added to weekly. Again, pictures, worksheets, field trips, etc.

Organizing my quarters this way has made for seamless compliance. I am no longer scrambling to get papers and other evidence together to confirm regular homeschool instruction. I begin my year like this every year, making sure to label folders (Fall, Winter, Spring) for each academic school year in case I need to reference them.

3) GET YOUR KIDS INVOLVED (If you want).
Since about 3rd grade, I have always involved our kids in the homeschool review. They have shared about specific projects that affirm the “regular instruction” that officials require. It’s not necessary, but it has been a great experience for our kids and another assessment tool for me to know whether they grasped an understanding of the particular assignment.

4) BE SURE TO HAVE A FOLDER FOR ELECTIVES (EXTRA-CURRICULAR).
Although it’s not required, officials have always inquired about “extras” like foreign languages and other subject areas that are not “required” learning. No harm in logging those as well. I have found that when it was time to do resumès and/or transcripts for our college student, going back to past experiences added to her portfolio.

5) BE CONFIDENT IN YOU AND YOUR KIDS ACCOMPLISHMENTS!
Organizing work this way has given me the blessing of seeing the growth in our children and the growth in my abilities as their primary teacher. Certainly not without mistakes, our homeschool has flourished since I implemented this process for our family’s organization. It’s a great way to get dad involved too if he isn’t already. Having children “show and tell” at dinner time, Saturday mornings, or other favorable times gives me other assessment opportunities.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he/she has overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington

You can be confident in knowing that growth is happening in your homeschool, and your review is an opportunity to share that growth!

Jamia E.
Christian. Wife. Mother. Educator. Model. Actress.

Lord, give me the wisdom to navigate through this life all to your glory.  ~ James 3:13-18

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