Recordkeeping is an important aspect of your homeschool, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming or intimidating!
Whether you live in a state that requires hefty documentation and portfolios or a lax state with no requirements, keeping records of what you do in your homeschool is super important.
Some homeschoolers choose to take a digital approach, using programs like Trello, OneNote, Evernote, or a homeschool-specific digital portfolio service. Parents even sometimes create private blogs or Instagram accounts to keep a rolling record of day-to-day learning.
We prefer to take a low-tech pencil and paper approach to recordkeeping. Why? Because it’s easy, accessible, and has a better feel for us!
Here’s a look at our easy, no-fuss, inexpensive homeschool planning and recordkeeping system!
Homeschool Recordkeeping Requirements
Every state has different regulations regarding how much documentation you are required to keep. Some states require homeschoolers to create an annual portfolio. Others require absolutely nothing.
And some states, like my state of Kentucky, say they require you to document “scholarship” and “attendance” but then don’t actually require you to submit anything. This documentation would come in handy in the event of an inquiry into your homeschool. If for some reason the state decided to check in on you, having accurate and detailed records of what you’re doing in your homeschool would be a great asset.
Benefits of Homeschool Records for Parents and Students
Regardless of your state’s requirements, the state isn’t really the greatest beneficiaries of your homeschool recordkeeping.
You and your learners are!
Keeping samples of student work can help you to see change over time. When you look at past work, you’ll notice the improvements they’ve made and celebrate their growth!
It can also help you to locate areas where your learner may need additional support. Having samples of work can be helpful if you opt to bring in an outside professional, like a tutor or therapist. Work samples can help them to know the best ways to offer their expert support.
What Goes Into a Homeschool Recordkeeping System
Again, every state varies as to what they would like you to document. Some require specific subjects to be taught at prescribed intervals. Others might require standardized test scores. Others require nothing at all!
Related: How do you find your state’s homeschool laws? Find out in “How to Start Homeschooling for Total Beginners“
I’ll use my state of Kentucky as an example again.
Documenting attendance records.
We are required to meet either 1062 instructional hours or 185 days if operating on a year-round schedule. I tend not to get too lost in the weeds as far as documenting hours goes. Seasoned homeschoolers know a few things:
- Learning happens at all hours of the day whether we instruct it or not (and usually, the deeper learning happens outside of “instruction”, but that’s for a different post)
- Much of the time spent inside of a classroom is actually spent on procedural tasks and NOT direct instruction, so the number of hours is a bit of a red herring.
I document days that we cover all of what I feel makes at least a “minimum viable day” as Pam Barnhill puts it. For me, that’s math, language arts, read-aloud, independent reading, and writing. Most days also get a healthy amount of art/music, science, and history. We also leave a generous amount of time for any rabbit trails we want to go down (like the day we spent an entire afternoon learning about the history, cultivation, and lore around traditionally grown green tea…you never know what you’ll dive into!).
If we did at least the minimum, I circle that day on my calendar spread for that month. At the end of the month, I add up all the days we “did school” that month. At the end of the year, I make sure all of the months together equal at least 185.
The Kentucky Department of Education states that we must, “record and maintain scholarship reports of each student’s progress in all subjects taught at the same intervals as the local public schools.”
They also say that, “Subjects taught should include reading, writing, spelling, grammar, history, mathematics, science, and civics. It is the parents’ right to offer other subjects, as well.”
Using those subjects as buckets, I can then look at the kinds of work we do over the year and drop my child’s work into one of those categories. That might include:
- Book lists and reading logs
- Writing projects
- Photos and videos of projects or experiments
- Videos of narrations
- Formative or summative assessments from a program we’re using
- Computer printouts of progress in online learning games
- Photos of field trips
- Art pieces
- Any other relevant examples of learning
I don’t worry much about grades at this point. After all, if our goal is to have a healthy relationship with learning then grades tend to drive a wedge and erode intrinsic motivation. We aren’t learning to get good grades here! We’re learning because lifelong learning is a core value in our family and an essential component of a good life.
Grades become more of a factor in our state’s pass/fail requirements for teen driver’s licensing, but that’s not a bridge I’m crossing just yet.
Until then, we approach our work on its merits and learn for learning’s sake. I’ll take the best examples of it and include it in our binder and folder system, which I’ll go into next.
Our Low-Tech Homeschool Documentation System
For the last three years, I have used some fairly basic paper planners to document what we do that day. I choose planners that have ample writing space for each day in a weekly spread, a monthly spread where I can circle the days we homeschooled and write down events:
The weekly spread has large text boxes where I usually jot down everything we ended up doing. I sometimes end up using it to plan in advance for the things I would like for us to get to, but I’ve generally been more of a “plan from behind” homeschooler.
To that end, I tend to write down ANY learning that happens, even if it occurs on the weekend. Why? Because ALL learning counts!
There are also some weeks where perhaps we have to take a day off to attend to something in the family. The week shown below is actually a pretty good example of this.
We spent all day Monday driving home from a funeral that was five hours away. During that time, we listened to Peter and the Wolf and some audiobooks. We saw the Michigan state capitol building (it was right down the street from the church we were at!) and had an impromptu lesson in the car about state capitols, government, state vs. federal, and so much more. We also did a lot of mental math calculating mileage and time as we drove, learned about regional geography, and had lots of Big Juicy Conversations about our experiences. It was a rich learning day we were able to seize!
For the last few years, I’ve been using this particular planner from Amazon. I love how many note pages it has at the back. Typically, I’ll create pages for goal-setting, curriculum lists, and narrative sketches out of these. I also use them for jotting down freewrites or quick little projects that don’t have another home.
Any loose work (i.e. created independently and not within a workbook) gets stored in a binder throughout the year. The binder has tabs for various subjects, and we create a new cover image together for each new year using PicMonkey.
At the end of the year, I cull this collection down to a few of the most representative or special pieces and store them in an accordion folder with the work from years past. If we homeschool for all of K-12, then we should end up with 13 sections full of work that show his growth and progress over his homeschool years.
How I Incorporate Digital Work Samples
While all of my daily documentation is done on paper, I do keep some digital records. My system is pretty simple for the moment.
First, any photos or videos I take of our homeschool days on my phone get immediately put into a separate folder in my Photos app labeled “Homeschool 2022-23” or whatever the year happens to be. If I want to find something quickly, it’s pretty easy to just go to the folder and look through it. It’s also kind of fun to go to years past to hear what he sounded like reading aloud or to see what his projects looked like.
I also use my Instagram account to sort of record bits and pieces of our days. That account is more for the musings I have about homeschooling and less a fluid record of his growth and development, but I do showcase our regular happenings from time to time.
No matter how you go about it, keep your homeschool records in a way that suits you best.
If you like keeping physical items and enjoy the process of handwriting your daily progress, do it! If you love popping photos into Evernote and keeping a rolling portfolio of your child’s progress, great!
The wonderful thing about our world is that there are myriad ways for you can showcase your learner’s growth and progress. I hope some of our system could spark ideas for you.
Go out and record what I’m sure will be your best homeschool year yet!
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