The Importance of Homeschool Record Keeping

It's every homeschooler's nightmare. A local school district official knocks on the door and asks to see your homeschool record keeping. However, after a brief moment of panic, the realization dawns that this isn't a nightmare after all. You've done your homework and are prepared for such a visit. After spending a few minutes looking over your records, the impressed official heads for the door, satisfied you are in compliance with the law.

It rarely happens, but what if it would happen to you? Would you be prepared? Record keeping is a critically important part of a homeschooling parent's job. However, the importance of homeschool record keeping goes way beyond being prepared for an unexpected visit from a school official.

Why?

Why is record keeping so important? The documentation of your children's Christian homeschool education can serve many purposes beyond simply proving compliance with the law. Children applying for scholarships or other honors may need school records in order to satisfy eligibility requirements. The college application and admission process depends heavily on the existence of detailed homeschool record keeping. In addition, a child entering or re-entering a public or private school can be placed more easily and appropriately if adequate records have been kept. Homeschool records also help provide the opportunity for personal and/or professional evaluation of student progress and planning for future academic pursuits. Finally, some families may elect to keep records for nostalgic reasons or for the purpose of providing a way to showcase a child's homeschool experience for family and friends.

Still, it's difficult to know where to begin. Since no two homeschool experiences are the same, it's impossible to design a record keeping plan that works for every family. This guide is intended to provide the information you need to assist you in developing a record keeping system that meet your specific needs.

Who and When?

Whether you're a first-time home educator or a veteran who has never made homeschool record keeping a priority, every homeschooler should start keeping detailed records now! While you may never need to use some of what you collect, the benefit of having comprehensive records far outweighs the time invested to create them. Besides, it doesn't require much time in the first place? While the time required will vary from family to family, most homeschoolers must invest relatively little time in order to create and maintain a well-designed record keeping system.

What?

Now that you've decided you should keep records of your family's homeschool, what should you maintain? The answer to this question is determined to a large extent by the consideration of several important factors:

• Where do you live?
• With what laws must you comply?
• How old is your child?
• Will your child be entering a public or private school in the future?
• Is your child college-bound?

Where you live plays a significant role in answering the question of "what," In the United States, state laws govern the education of all children, including children who are schooled at home. Since failure to comply with the laws of your state can result in the loss of your right to homeschool, knowing and understanding your state's laws is vitally important in determining what records you need to keep for your children. An online search for your state's homeschool laws can help you determine records you are required to keep.

Another important factor to consider when determining what records to keep is the age of your children. While it is strongly recommended to keep records for all children, it is especially important to keep meticulous records for high school aged children. These records can significantly impact the college and/or job application process of your teenage child. In addition, if it's likely your children will eventually be placed in a public or private school, detailed records will make the transfer process much easier, potentially eliminating the need for extensive placement testing.

Though some families have very few requirements to satisfy, they still choose to keep records of their children's homeschool experience solely for personal and/or sentimental reasons. So, even if all you want to do is show off your child's academic abilities to family and friends, homeschool record keeping is a great idea!

How?

There are as many different ways to keep homeschool records as there are reasons to keep them! Exactly how you keep your student records should be determined by many of the same factors considered above and may change as your homeschool journey progresses. Factors like location, age of children, academic goals, and others also affect how you should keep your records.

While there are many possible record keeping methods, one of the most effective and efficient ways to compile academic records for children of all ages is to create a portfolio, a collection of documentation intended to demonstrate a homeschool child's academic progress. The contents of a homeschool portfolio will vary from family to family according to specific legal requirements, as well as personal preference. However, a comprehensive portfolio always contains some variation of many of the following items:

• Student data page: General student information, such as name, birth date, address, etc.
• Medical records required by law, such as immunizations
• Documentation of compliance with state requirements that may or may not include the following items:
   - List of specific goals and objectives for each academic subject
   - Documentation of communication with local school district officials
   - List of educational materials utilized, including author and publisher
   - Sampling of student work in all subject areas, particularly those required by law like math and science.
   - Documentation of required and/or voluntary assessment, including report cards and standardized tests.
• Report of extracurricular activities, such as field trips, church activities, sports, and music.
• Documentation of special awards, honors, accomplishments, and achievements earned.

A portfolio can be compiled completely from scratch or can be created using packaged record keeping programs available in a variety of formats. Electronic curriculum options, such as online or computer-based curriculum can provide easy access to much of the documentation needed to put together a complete record of your children's home education.

So, why are you waiting? Wherever you are on your homeschool journey, don't wait for a knock on the door to begin your homeschool record keeping. Start creating a record of your children's homeschool experience today!

Summary

Record keeping is a critically important part of a homeschooling parent's job. However, the importance of homeschool record keeping goes way beyond being prepared for an unexpected visit from a school official. Wherever you are on your homeschool journey, learn how you can begin your homeschool record keeping and start creating a record of your children's homeschool experience today!