I’ve needed a simple unschooling portfolio for a while, and I think I finally found a system that will work.
Our homeschooling approach is so relaxed, independent, and child-led, it’s safe to say that we unschool [here’s a great description of what that means]. I’ve been a little reluctant to use that label, because it tends to carry a lot of baggage along with it. Plus, I happen to have a child who enjoys workbooks and worksheets just as much as she enjoys hands-on activities, so at a glance, it doesn’t always look like unschooling around here! It’s hard for me when I see that she’s skipped around in that math workbook she requested. Even though I know she’s learned those concepts in some other way, it feels so loosey-goosey. Fear creeps in and I start to worry we aren’t doing “enough.” Then I start pushing my own agenda and…that never goes well.
Unschooling is what works for her, and I know this, I’ve seen the proof; but she dragged me into it somewhat reluctantly. I’m finding that I need to keep some sort of record for myself. I need something I can reference, to see that she’s learning and things are going just fine, so I feel better and am able to back off and let her do her thing. Inspired by the bullet journals I’m seeing all over Instagram, I whipped up a super simple unschooling portfolio of my own using a regular 1-subject spiral notebook. I also kept Florida’s homeschooling portfolio requirements in mind when setting this up.
The first page:
First is a key, with color-coded bubbles indicating traditional subject areas. This exists for my own peace of mind. When I tried keeping a log in the past, I got way too hung up on how to categorize activities. The color-coded bubbles make it quick and easy when we have activities that cross over different subjects.
Underneath the key, I list resources used. Not every single resource, just the ones used most often. There’s plenty of space left so I can add to it as needed.
Next comes the log:
Easy peasy. At the end of the day, I just write down what she did. I can already tell I’m going to save a ton of time thanks to those color-coded bubbles! Less writing, fewer decisions about what “subject” something belongs to—it’s just as quick to list an item under multiple subjects.
In the back of the notebook, I started a reading list. I’m only including books she reads on her own. In the past I included audiobooks and other read-alouds but you know, if you’re a story-loving family, that gets overwhelming super fast! Besides, those other titles will be listed in the daily log. My whole point is to save time and not think about this too much.
And, this entire system fulfills part one of those Florida portfolio requirements.
I’m in Florida, too! What about samples?
The other part of those portfolio requirements state that we must keep “samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks, or creative materials used or developed by the student.” I upload photos to a private Instagram account throughout the year. Again, not every single thing, but field trips, little projects, selected worksheets and drawings, and anything she’s especially proud of or interested in. So easy! The person evaluating the portfolio can view the account at the evaluation, or you can print a little yearbook at the end of our school year (when she finished kindergarten last year, I used Shutterfly to create an Instagram photo book):
So that’s it! I’m feeling really encouraged by how little time this simple unschooling portfolio takes. I’ve tried digital portfolio methods, such as Evernote and even keeping a blog, but that was (surprisingly) time-consuming. Setting up this paper journal only took 10 minutes, tops, and that was mostly because I decided to color the headings. Logging educational activities takes hardly any time at all!
Next school year, I’d love to use something slightly smaller (maybe composition notebook size, or a tad smaller) with heavier weight paper. Not picky about what’s on the paper: lines, graph, dots, or blank are all fine.