Like it or not, as homeschool parents, we need to keep records of or for our school. Even though they may be annoying, or you think of them as extra, unnecessary work, your home school records are essential.
Why Do Homeschool Records Matter?
Homeschool records are a way to keep track of what you are accomplishing
Is school happening every day? Are you teaching all that you are required to teach? Do you know if your kids are learning anything? How could you prove that, if you had to? The records that you keep give you a way to confirm all of that.
Some states require that you keep and submit certain homeschool records to comply with state laws.
Each state sets its laws about homeschooling. Some states are quite lenient about what they require from homeschoolers. Others have much more stringent regulations. Some states require lists of curriculum used, attendance records, standardized tests, even portfolios of students’ work. To comply with those laws, you must keep careful and accurate records of your homeschool.
Accurate and complete homeschool records will give you the ability to complete/create report cards and transcripts.
If you homeschool your children through high school, you will need to create an official transcript for them when they finish. A transcript should include a listing of the courses taken during each year of high school, the credits received, and the grade received for each class. Your life will be so much easier if you have kept good records throughout the school years. (Do I speak from experience? I’ll never tell!) Regular report cards may be helpful if you intend to enroll your child in another school and need to demonstrate their academic abilities.
Homeschool records are a good way to keep yourself on track with your academic goals for the school year.
As you plan out your school year (which I hope you do!), your planning pages and lesson plans will help you stay on track. Do you intend to finish the science book by the end of the year? Your written plans will help keep you all on track to complete that book. My kids still give me a hard time about the time we spent almost the entire year of history class in Ancient Egypt. There was so much cool stuff to do, so many great books to read and activities to complete! (And that was way before Pinterest!) Good plans and record-keeping will help you focus on looking long-term and not getting bogged down!
Homeschool Records You Need to Keep
Some record-keeping is helpful, useful, but other records may be mandatory. How do you know what is necessary to keep? A look at your state homeschool laws will tell you what is compulsory. I know you don’t want to read “legalese!” You can find what is necessary, written in plain English – check with your state homeschool organization. For a summary, check out the Home School Legal Defense Association’s website here. You must keep records to satisfy your state’s legal requirements. The rest is up to you. Here are some suggestions.
- Materials Used
- Subjects Taught to Each Student Each Year
- Grades Received for Assignments and Grading Scale Used
- Supplemental Materials and Reading
- Major Projects, Reports, Assignments (pictures, files, documents)
- Group Participation
- Extracurricular Activities
- Courses and Credits
Methods for Keeping Homeschool Records
Now that you know what records to keep, what things are necessary, how are you going to keep track of all this information? Ideally, you want all the records you maintain organized, accessible, and up-to-date. Are you a paper and notebook sort of person, or do you love using technology for everything? Since we are all different, and we all think and process things differently, no single system will work for every one of us. You need to find a method that works for you, one you will use regularly. Here are some suggestions that might help you out. And yes, I have tried most of them.
Paper/Notebooks (standard paper grade book or sheets/forms)
Keep your entire homeschool in a 3-ring binder. Have a section for materials and curriculum, a place for attendance and school calendar, another location for lesson plans, grades, important papers, etc. Set the notebook up however you like, as long as you use it!
You can choose a similar but digital approach, using files on your computer. Use spreadsheets for attendance or for assignments and grades. You can use folders for different years or different students, or even various subjects.
Some homeschool parents choose to use memory boxes as a way to keep notable student assignments. These can be a way of documenting and illustrating progress and accomplishments.
Programs or Apps specifically designed for school/homeschool records
A Google search will lead you to many different programs or apps designed specifically for homeschoolers. These programs range from basic to very inclusive and involved. Some full-featured programs will include lesson planners, record keepers, attendance trackers, grade recorders, book lists, curriculum lists, and several other features. Some are expensive; others are not.
Maybe You Are a Hybrid Person
What if you like to keep memory boxes, spreadsheets, paper lesson plans, and digitized photo documentation? Go for it! There is no right or wrong way to keep track of things, just whatever works best for you. Whatever works for you is the right way for you. And there is nothing that says you can’t change your system if you find another way you like better!
Homeschoolers Can Use Google Classroom
Believe it or not, but Google Classroom can keep track of assignments and grades for you. It is not a complete system, but it can work for some things. If you have never explored the potential of Google Classroom, you should at least check it out. It may work best for older students who may be doing more of their work on the computer. Google Classroom allows you to create assignments, specify due dates, set the total number of points per assignment, and grade and record the scores. It also allows you to link to videos and other sites, upload documents, and integrate with other programs and apps. It is at least worth a look.
Don’t want to deal with any grades or grading records yourself? Outsource it!
If you are using a publisher’s complete curriculum, you may have the option (for a price) of having them grade, record, and issue report cards and transcripts for you.
Don’t Overcomplicate Your Record-keeping!
Life (and homeschooling) is complicated enough; don’t make it more complicated than necessary! Remember the old acrostic KISS? (Keep It Simple, Stupid) I am not calling you “stupid,” just reminding you to simplify what you can in life. No need to obsess over keeping your homeschool records; keep track of what you need to, and let the rest go. My personal view is that you don’t need to issue report cards to kindergarteners or preschoolers. If you want to, fine, but the world will not end if you don’t! Keep the following three guidelines in mind:
- Check and follow all state requirements
- Decide what method works best for you
- Keep it simple!
What Has Worked for Me?
I love to have things all neatly planned and organized. I like everything orderly and perfect. Does that ever happen in real life? Not so much for me! I had eight children within ten years, and then another one six years later. And we (I) homeschooled all of them. Some years went better than others. No single year ever went exactly as planned.
I tried several different methods of keeping track of school plans and records. A zipper 3-ring binder with multiple sections for planning and assignments. Files on my computer for different years, folders in those files for various subjects and children. Full-featured computer program – it was way too complicated for me! I found another program that worked for me, but then the maker quit supporting his software.
Fortunately for me, I live in a state that does not have any reporting requirements for homeschoolers. For the last several years, I have written my lesson plans on a chart I made, used Google Classroom for assignments my son does on his computer, and recorded his grades in an app on my (older) iPad.The app I use is called Homeschool Helper. I have used it since 2012; unfortunately, I don’t think it is available any longer.
So, are you a digital person? Or are you more of a paper and notebook fan? Remember, the system you use doesn’t matter. Just be sure to use some method of keeping your records! I would love to hear about the way you keep track of your homeschool records. Share them in the comments!
Looking for more information about homeschooling? Find it here!