Wondering if your homeschool documentation is “good enough/too much/not enough”? Need a better (read easier) system? In my 6 years of homeschooling, I have found this is what works best for me…in my homeschool that includes both typical and special needs learners.
In a post series I wrote a few years ago about the advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling a child with special needs, I touched briefly on documentation. Interestingly enough, documentation was put in the disadvantages column. I’m sure this is due to my own prejudice against paperwork. Having been a Speech Language Pathologist for 18 years and a parent of twins with special needs for 13, you can imagine the amount of paperwork I have filled out in the past 2 decades.
The first place to start with regard to documentation for any child being homeschooled, whether they are a typical learner or a child with special needs, is to find out what your state requires. To find out what your state requires, visit HSLDA.
Some states require a good deal of documentation, others….not so much. If you are homeschooling a child with special needs I recommend doing more than the minimum amount required. This need not be cumbersome. For my boys with special needs and my girls who are typical, I put everything in a small three ring binder (one per child) and make sections that include: School, Medical, Community, and Work Samples.
I also (and this is important) put my name and phone number/other contact information in the binder’s inside cover. If this baby gets lost, I want it back.
This is just to give you an idea and your particular state’s requirements for documentation may be very stringent or very lax. It is your responsibility to know what you are required to document and have “at the ready” if someone were to ask for it. But here are some ideas of what you may want to include and I find a binder to be the easiest way to keep it all organized.
The first page of my/the school section includes the school year, grade level(s) and…
- a list of what materials/textbooks you are using for the school year, including textbooks (name and grade level–I make this at the beginning of the year). If we finish a book and start the next in a series, I just write in the new one at that time. At the end of the year, I can easily write in if we did that book/subject the whole year (1) or a half year (.5). I also include computer learning programs being used (if any), and type of curriculum(s) being used. If you are unschooling and/or not using text books in a given year, I would still write that down in this section.
- attendance record~~need not be fancy. There are may free printables available or use a printed off calendar, (the whole year on one sheet) and just circle the days you do school.
- Homeschool co-op participation (if any)
- Outside tutoring (if any)
- Some states require annual standardized testing be done on any child being homeschooled. Put that in this section.
- Basically if it is about academics, add it here.
**I also include a copy of my state’s requirements (both subjects to teach and documentation) from the HSLDA website in this section for my own reference. Also, this way if “the powers that be” want to see my binder, I have right there in the same place, a list showing them that based on what my state requires, I am in compliance.
Medical Section: (definitely include for a homeschooler who has special needs, but really it is a good idea for any child being homeschooled).
- Dr.’s visits. For both typical and special needs children, annual physicals and any appointments with specialists should go in this section. Make sure your PCP does a hearing or vision screening annually and that it is documented. If they recommend a follow-up visit to an audiologist or optometrist, make sure you follow through with this and include the results. When the PCP gives me printed out copies of vaccinations received or growth chart copies, I put them in this section as well
- copies of outside evaluations done, reports, and/or therapies performed (Speech, OT, PT, etc).
- I also add in this section when we cover the following topics in our homeschool year:
- Drug awareness/prevention
- Fire Safety
- Water Safety
- Stranger Danger
I like to do my documentation as a yearly portfolio that also includes:
- descriptions/photos of field trips
- family vacations
- community experiences
- extra-curricular activities
You may also add in this section:
- Church involvement
- Scouts or 4-H involvement
- Volunteer opportunities (did your typical and special needs siblings do a buddy walk together? Document that here).
Typically a mom who has only one or two children will keep more work samples per child than a mom who has a larger family. I like to include the following as a minimum; add to this as you want.
- handwriting work sample (beginning, middle and end of year) for my boys with special needs, they are unable to write anything but their name, but I do still include a work sample of their name for beginning and end of the year, not any other dictation.
- generated reports (programs like IXL Math and Starfall Phonics ~~I use both of these programs for all my kids, special needs and typical learners) generate reports for you; all you have to do is print them out and add them a few times a school year.
- A few samples for each subject that is required for you to teach in your state.(Check HSDLA for what subjects you are required to teach and check this every year for changes and updates. When I started homeschooling I was only required to teach 4 subjects; last year that changed to 5).
- A few samples of any other extra subject or learning area that you have taught in addition to the required subjects.
- PROJECTS/ART: take pictures of your favorites through the year. at the end of the year make collages using these pictures using a program like Picmonkey. This way you can document and keepsake dozens of pictures, mementos and projects in the span of just a few pages in the portfolio.
In addition to serving as a great method of organization, including the photos of field trips and community activities also makes it a great “homeschool yearbook”that documents your child’s journey year by year. If your child ever transfers back into a “regular” school, you have a great record to show a classroom teacher or IEP team of what subjects and levels your child was working on while being homeschooled.
- Take a picture of your child on the the first and last days of school for the school year and include.
- Include sheet with Handprint of younger child at beginning of school year
- Allow child to decorate front of binder in their own special way
- Use a larger binder and span a few years ( for example, K-2) in one binder. Separate school years in each section via different style divider tabs or just three hole punching a sheet of colored paper.
Who may want to see your binder (“the powers that be”): State employees, Social Service employees (if your child is special needs and receiving state services like ST, OT, PT, through the state), Case workers, fellow homeschoolers.
Who you may like to show your binder to: The PCP/pediatrician who gives you a hard time about homeschooling when you take little Johnny in for his checkups. Grandparents or other family members who would enjoy seeing your children’s progress and projects. Grandparents or other family members who can’t mind their own business and give you a hard time about how you are educating your own child(ren).
Who will need to see your binder if you stop homeschooling: “Regular” school admin., classroom/homeroom teacher, IEP team.
What would you add as far as documentation? Do you use a binder or do it on computer? Leave a comment and share with me! Find this post useful?Then please share with others.