Rules and regulations regarding record keeping vary from state to state. In some states, homeschoolers are required to keep detailed records including attendance, grades earned, source material used, and field trip information. Other states have no reporting requirements at all. To further confuse the whole record keeping issue, homeschoolers approach learning from various methods; from boxed curriculum complete with record keeping guides to unschooling void of subject and content areas. For these reasons, this article will provide some basic tips that will serve homeschoolers from any state and any homeschooling approach.
No matter where you live or how you chose to homeschool, it can be beneficial to your own sanity to keep track of where your kids are at and where they are headed. A simple notebook can serve the basic purpose of record keeping. During the first few years of my family’s journey, I kept a separate notebook for each child; however, as time went on and more children were added this became more of a hassle than assistance. After the fourth child, we graduated to a five subject notebook for each year with each section for a different child.
So, what do you keep track of in this notebook? This question can be especially difficult to answer if your family unschools or takes an eclectic approach to schooling. Most states that require record reporting will want to know what your child is learning, when they are learning it, and how well they’ve learned it. This means four columns on each page: (1) the subject, (2) the date, and possibly amount of time spent on the task, (3) and the grade, or remark, (4) the resource used (this will make it easier for you to assess the resource and decide to continue using it or throw it out).
Getting Down to the Nitty-gritty
Maybe your state requires more than the basics, or you hope to provide your children with progress reports and report cards to show to family and friends. In this case, a simple notebook won’t suffice. Teacher’s stores and some book stores carry simple record keeping books that can be helpful. However, if you are comfortable using Excel or another spreadsheet software program they can work just as well with less out of your pockets.
You will want to keep track of the items listed above, in addition to marking periods and a place for mid-term and final grades. To avoid the rush and hassle of grading and recording each marking period, be sure to enter items as they are completed. If you are using a spreadsheet, it will save you some time to utilize the formula options to compute final grades and attendance.
Homeschool Tracker is a program that takes the chore and paperwork out of record keeping. The cost is close to fifty dollars, but you have the option to try before you buy for a small fee that is refundable should you chose to purchase the program. With this program you will be able to lay out your entire year before it begins. Then track each student’s progress and adjust the year’s plans as you go along. At the end of each marking period you will be able to print out report cards; and prepare transcripts at the close of each year. You adjust the way you keep your records and share resources among students.
Homeschool Solutions is very similar to Homeschool Tracker, with the added benefit of a separate resource list. This list allows you to record the cost of all of your family’s education resources. This can be very beneficial if you live in an area with education tax benefits.
Just remember, there is no right or wrong way to keep homeschooling records, just as there is no right or wrong way to homeschool. Find what works best for you and your family through trial and error and networking with other homeschoolers then stick to it. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.