Every family engaged in a home education program must maintain a portfolio of records. The statutes say:
The parent shall maintain a portfolio of records and materials. The portfolio shall consist of the following:
1. A log of educational activities that is made contemporaneously with the instruction and that designates by title any reading materials used.
2. Samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student. Statute 1002.41(1)(b)
Maintaining a log involves writing down your educational activities and keeping a list of any reading materials used. What is an educational activity? That’s up to you to decide but beyond the obvious, there is no reason the definition can’t include:
- family vacations
- trips to the library
- caring for pets
- going to the grocery store
- watching an educational program on TV
- a field trip
- building a sand castle
- playing with Lego
- baking cookies
- and much more
You can make your log as elaborate or as simple as you like. Some families keep to the minimum, jotting notes on a calendar. Others keep elaborate diaries of each child’s activities and progress. Still others just date and check off assignments completed from a master list or teaching plan. Any of these methods is acceptable. The key issue to keep in mind is that your log has the potential to become a public document (for instance, if the School Superintendent asks to review it), so you may want to omit notes of a personal nature.
The second part of your portfolio includes samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student. The hardest part about this portion of the portfolio is finding space to put it!
Did your child work on an elaborate project (or two) this year? Did you take an education vacation? Don’t forget to fill your portfolio with photographs or child-created drawings. A picture really is worth 1000 words.
Bear in mind that you are keeping samples, not every rough draft ever created by your child. The organization of your samples can be as simple (everything in a large box) or elaborate 3-ring binders with dividers for each subject) as you want.
Samples are especially helpful if you choose to have a teacher evaluation at the end of the year. Your evaluator will want to review these samples (as well as your log) to get an idea of what kind of work your child has been doing.
Keep your portfolio
The portfolio shall be preserved by the parent or guardian for 2 years…Statute 1002.41(1)(b)
The statute doesn’t state whether this is 2 years from the beginning of a school year or from its end. A conservative choice would be to keep your portfolio for 2 years from the end of the school year it documents.
The portfolio shall be made available for inspection by the superintendent, or the superintendent’s agent, upon 15 days’ written notice. Nothing in this section shall require the superintendent to inspect the portfolio. Statute 1002.41(1)(b)
The superintendent can choose to review your portfolio at any time, for any reason, including for no reason at all. He/she is required to give you 15 days advance notice in writing of the decision to perform such a review. Should you receive such a notice, don’t panic. The Superintendent does not have the authority to grade or evaluate your portfolio. He/she can only verify that one exists, that is, that you have complied with the law by maintaining a portfolio.
Further and perhaps even more important, the inspection is of the portfolio, not of you, your child or your home. There is nothing in the home education statutes that gives the superintendent (or anyone else) the authority to perform a “home visit,” nor to interrogate or test children. It is recommended that you arrange to have your portfolio brought to the Superintendent’s office and that you leave your child(ren) at home. In fact, the parent does not have to attend and can send a representative.
At the review, don’t offer information or respond to questions about your child’s abilities, accomplishments, grade level or similar. These are all outside the bounds of a portfolio review.
Note: If your child was documented as a truant while enrolled in public school, you will be subject to monthly portfolio reviews until such time as the committee conducting the review determines that you are in compliance with the statute. At that point, your program will be treated like any other home education program. To learn more about special provisions for children who have been declared truant, go to Statute 1003.26(1)(f).