Sunday, June 1, 2008

Papers, Papers Everywhere - Not! Or How and Why to Create a Portfolio

What does a hard-working homeschooling mom do with all those 3-D projects, art papers, grammar workbooks, math tests? Throw them away? Horrors!! There is an alternative that can make both the “savers” and the “throwers” happy, believe it or not. The solution is to make a portfolio to showcase a selection of each student’s best work throughout the school year. Portfolios are required by law in some states, but they are a good idea for everyone for several reasons: preserving hard work, providing evidence for skeptical grandparents or other family members and friends, planning purposes for younger siblings, and recording grades and/or levels earned.

A meritorious portfolio does not include every single assignment from every single subject. It includes a representation, which has the best writing samples, the best test scores, the best artwork, the best notebooking pages, and the best worksheet pages. It also includes pictures of 3-D projects, field trips, and other activities that can’t be condensed to a single written document.

To grade or not to grade? That debate is a whole separate subject which is goes far beyond the scope of this entry. But, if you choose not to give actual grades or not to fill out a report card (or its equivalent), then a portfolio becomes even more important. A portfolio gives physical evidence that little Johnny really is a genius – just like you always thought!

The easiest way to make a portfolio to do all along, but it’s never too late to start. My preference is to take my children’s binders (again, a different topic, but I’ll get to that one eventually) about once a month, choose papers to go into the portfolio and trash the rest, unless they’re needed for a later test. Older students who have final exams may benefit from having some of the papers not needed on an every day basis sorted and put into another binder kept on a shelf for future reference.

That’s the ideal scenario. However, I fully realize that it’s June and most of you are just ending your school years. If you’ve got piles, cartons, or binders stuffed full of papers all over your dining room table, that’s OK! Take it one pile at a time. Sort by subject, then by date, then choose the best page or two out of every 10 or 20. Use dividers to separate each subject. Have each child decorate the front of his or her binder, add the year and grade, and you’ve got a portfolio!

Questions? Yes, please! How else will I create my “following?” Your questions may provide fodder for a future blog entry, or I’ll respond personally. ~Bethany