Keeping a Portfolio

This video details the steps I use to create a portfolio and three benefits I see in keeping this practice from year to year. .

We all love looking back at old pictures. Kids especially love looking back at the places they have been and what they were doing at a certain age. When I pulled out some portfolios from previous years for pictures for this post, it didn’t take long for my kids to find them and start looking through. They were completely absorbed! They love to remember and see what they have learned in previous years. They are PROUD of their portfolios.

Some states require parents to keep a portfolio. Ours, in fact, is one of them. But I don’t keep a portfolio merely because of the requirement. I keep a portfolio because my kids like it so much.

A portfolio can be put together at any time of the school year. You don’t have to start it at the beginning, but some years I have done that. You can wait until the very end and put it together in a day and it can been just as good. So, just know that a portfolio is something you can start at any time of the year.

I really think the key to keeping a portfolio consistently from year to do is to keep it very basic. Homeschooling is tough. Some years, I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING extra so if putting together a portfolio is going to feel like a major project, I’m OUT! If you like adding pictures and Cricut designs, by all means, indulge yourself! But be aware that you may come to a year where all that just feels like too much. Your child’s portfolio can be unadorned and still be special to them and you.

Our Portfolios

Notebook Cover. I choose 1/2 inch binders with the slip cover in the front and allow our kids to design their own covers. Some of them choose to draw their own and others have designed them on the computer. Encourage them to take their time, use color, and make it beautiful. Sometimes, especially for younger children, I will print in large letters the child’s name and grade level on a blank sheet and have them design around it. Older kids may want to write their own name and grade level in large, colorful letters.

  1. Cover page. This is the first page you see when you open the notebook. It is a one page, typed summary of their school work for the year. This is the only page of the book that actually requires work on my part. I do my best to keep it only one page so it doesn’t seem like too demanding a task from year to year. (The rest of the portfolio is as easy as punching papers with a three whole punch and putting them in the notebook.) Here are some examples of what I might put on the cover page.

-Begin with a short paragraph about your child summarizing their accomplishments and interests for the school year. I like to put specific things that they were interested in for that year. Maybe they learned to crochet or caught their first fish. What is their favorite book at this age? What do they want to be when they grow up?

-Briefly summarize what they learned in the main subjects.

-Field trips. Keep a list of all the places you have visited throughout the year- either with co-ops or on your own. I include state parks and educational places we have stopped at on family vacations.

-Any music lessons, art lessons, clubs, sports they were involved in.

2. Book List. The second page of our portfolio notebook is their book list. I give a clipboard to each of our kids with an empty booklist template for them to complete throughout the year. It has a section for books they read and a section for books read aloud to them either by myself or audio books. Often, when I look at the kids’ portfolios at the end of the year and pull out the booklist, I am pleasantly reminded of books we read at the beginning of the year that I had completely forgotten about.

3. Quality work from major subjects. I usually pick a sample from the beginning and end (2 samples) of the school year for major subjects like math, english, history, science. Labeling them by tabs is a nice touch, but not necessary. You can slowly collect things throughout the year and stick them in your notebook OR you can gather them in one day at the end of the year. I have done both. For other subjects, I only include subjects at which that child has especially shown interest- maybe art, foreign language, or mechanical skill projects, science experiments, etc. It’s also nice to include one or two special writing assignments like a research paper or book report or other writing assignments. In the pockets of the notebook, I might stick bulletins from performances or orchestras they attended, certificates from camps or other events in which they participated.


And that’s it. There’s really not much to it! Other than the kids’ designing the cover of their notebook, I have only three sections in our portfolios-cover page, booklist, and collection of work. Like I mentioned at the beginning, I really believe that keeping it simple is the key to consistently keeping a portfolio from year to year.

This is something you can put together on the last week of school as part of their school work. It can be easily done in a day. It’s a nice way to wrap up the year. It helps them remember all that they have done and gives them pride in their accomplishments.

One other benefit I have seen is that a portfolio is a great way to show grandparents what the kids are learning while they are at home. Do you have family members who question whether or not your child is receiving a quality education? Share their portfolios! The kids will proudly stand beside and tell about all the things in their book. It could help a family member see your homeschool effort in a completely different light.

If you have not before, I encourage you to try keeping a portfolio this year. It is a project your kids will take pride in! And you might find that keeping a portfolio is a huge confidence booster for you as well! When you start doubting yourself and how much you are accomplishing this year, look through last year’s portfolio at all you completed in one year. I think you will surprise yourself with how good it makes you feel.

If you have been keeping a portfolio, I’d love to see pictures and hear how you put yours together!

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