I’m trying to decide which post should be my first under the “Homeschooling” category, and since our oldest has her end-of-year portfolio review tomorrow, I suppose it’s as good a topic as any. I mean, my life for the past few weeks has been an endless stream of desperately trying to organize a year’s worth of material into something that resembles progress, so it’s definitely been on my mind.
This is only our third review, and while it’s always incredibly helpful to be able to look back and see everything we’ve worked on for the year, sometimes it can feel a bit disheartening. Let me explain.
While our family attends a homeschooling co-op once a week from September through April, that’s about as close as we get to structure in our lessons. I wouldn’t call us un-schoolers necessarily, because we do take advantage of pre-made curriculum when we can. In fact, with four littles, the oldest of which just turned eight, sometimes audio lessons and workbooks are a life saver. (Sometimes you just really need to get some math or social studies in.) That being said, we’re pretty loosey-goosey about when we homeschool and how.
While an official school year runs according to the public school schedule, ours runs year-round, including weekends and holiday. We usually take a few weeks off after our review to rest and recuperate before starting up again, but then it’s right back to business. With all that time devoted to learning, and with the piles and piles of samples and photographs I have to sift through and organize, I always expect the finished product – the portfolio – to be, well, enormous, but it’s not.
Now, I’ve been told that some people have gotten away with submitting a piece of notebook paper with a numbered list of subjects they’ve covered for the year as a portfolio; that it’s the one-on-one interview that determines whether the child passes or fails. But, that makes me nervous. So, we have filled a 3” 3-ring binder every year for the past three years. Still, after it’s all finished, it feels like we covered much less than we did.
I’m sure I’m not the only parent to feel that way. After all, if I think back, I can remember all the hours and all the battles, the encouraging words and the probing questions, and when it comes down to it, what I’m really supplying is samples of the time we spent learning. And though it doesn’t seem adequate when an entire year is condensed into a binder that takes less than five minutes to flip through, I keep reminding myself that it is. In the end, if my daughter has taken away a grasp of what we studied and retained her curiosity and thirst for more, that’s what really counts.
I’m now ready to take the next few weeks and breathe and prepare for the next year when we’ll have two school-age kiddos and I can take what I have learned in reviewing this past year to expand on the next.
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