I’ve been asked for tips on how to keep homeschool records. I’m not sure there’s any surefire tips for how best to do it other than find a way that works for you and then just consistently do it.
In my opinion homeschoolers generally don’t seem to like record keeping and the time it takes. I’ve heard so many excuses and complaints for why people think they “can’t” do it or why it isn’t necessary. I personally don’t think it’s a matter of can’t or shouldn’t but “don’t want to” in most cases. It is a chore, just like doing dishes or laundry. It needs to be done so it’s best to just do it.
The daily grind of keeping our record system up to date may be an arduous task but don’t dwell on the unpleasantness of it, look to the blessing that completing the task will bring. I love looking back over our records to see how far we’ve come and what we’ve covered.
So what system do I use for record keeping? I’ve combined digital photography with typed journalling to create a homeschooling photo journal.
During the day I keep my digital camera on hand to snap everything about our day. The photos by themselves would make a great record of our year. What exactly do I photograph?
* the boys while they work (looking down onto what they are writing, from across the room, from the side etc)
* significant steps in projects, activities and experiments (a picture of the box/kit, the equipment we used, what happened, end results, any disasters etc)
* completed work (worksheets, projects, pictures etc)
* the books we read, the dvds we watch, the cds we listen to and often snap the internet page we are looking at too
* the incidental learning experiences and play that happens throughout the day
* all the fun and educational outings we go on
…..like I said, I’ll photograph just about anything and everything.
At the end of the day I download my photos to the computer and type an entry about our day in my journal’s Word document. I use subject headings to prompt my memory and keep everything organised and easy to refer back to. What do I write about?
I write down:
* the tasks we have completed in each subject
* the page numbers or exercise numbers that were completed
* whether goals were achieved or whether further work needs to be completed
* any challenges that the boys or I encountered and what we did or plan to do to overcome them
* evaluations of my own teaching – what is working well and what is just plain disastrous
* any extension ideas or changes I’d like to make
* any general comments about the day
Where do I find the time to do all of this? It’s really not all that much…well I don’t think so. Most days I gravitate towards the computer at the end of the day or in the evenings so I just make sure that my journal is the first thing I do once I’m there. I also find that the most time consuming element of my journalling is inserting pictures so I don’t do that every day. My priority is to write about the day. I can come back and add the photos at another time.
Do I ever fall behind? Oh yes of course. In fact, odds are that I’m more often behind than up to date! But I choose not to beat myself up about it and I try not to get more than two weeks behind at most. With my planner I have a written record of the finer details of our days to fall back on and I can always use our photographs to jog my memory.. Generally though I find that entries are more accurate and thorough when I can manage to write them on the day they happened. But when I get behind I usually make a weekly entry rather than several daily entries. That way I can get back up to date quickly. These entries are never as good but it’s more important to me to get up to date than to fall further behind trying to catch up with daily entries on information that probably already become hazy in my mind.
At the end of the term I print out our Photo Journal (the bureaucrats only receive a copy burnt onto disk). It’s really nice to look back through our term. Often times, at the end of a term, I’ll feel like we haven’t accomplished as much as I had hoped but looking back through the journal I can see just how much we really have completed.
It’s also a lovely record for family and friends to flip through. Often times they have a totally misguided view of what we do during the day and a document such as this helps them peek into our days at home. Some of our family members had their fears alleviated about our homeschooling decision after looking through our first term’s journal.
For the bureaucrats who (inaccurately) feel they have a stake in the education of my children, the journal also serves as a tool to provide more than adequate evidence that my children are learning. Let me be clear on this point however…I do not keep records for the sole benefit of the bureaucrats and their registration procedures. The records I keep are for my family – our memories and as documents to plan from for the future. Record keeping for your family is useful and valuable. Record keeping to prove something that you already know to people who have no consequence in your child’s education is meaningless and frustrating. Since I’ve chosen to register my intention to homeschool I am required to provide records to these people. However, the records they receive are only copies of those I have already created for my own purposes. I’m happy to “share” my record keeping with them but would not create records solely for their scrutiny.
At the end of the year I combine all four term journals together into one document. After (mostly) daily journaling the end product looks quite impressively thick. But that’s the point of the activity – to remind ourselves just how much we actually do.