Because this is our first time homeschooling, we have been trying out various books, tools, and methods. I believe we have found one that is right for us. I tend to be an "out of the box" kind of thinker when it comes to activities and learning experiences. I do better when I have the freedom to be spontaneous. Spontaneity and flexibility is great for the actual "learning" part of school, but not so great for record keeping. The portfolio method beautifully blends the best of both worlds.
With this method, each subject has it's own binder with divider tabs. The first section has subject specific vocabulary words and activities. In other words it contains words or phrases that will appear in lessons throughout the year. For example, in her math binder she will find words like, congruent and vertex, in art she will learn words like, abstract and vanishing point. This section of the binder allows her to become fluent with the lingo before trying to tackle the concepts being taught.
The next section is where we add her worksheets and written work. This is very handy for my sanity, because I am not using any particular curriculum. I use various resources to create a well rounded learning experience. With this section I can pull worksheets from her three math books as well as the net and combine them in one handy organized binder. We place all new work on top of older work, so that Eloise can see her best work first. She can also flip to the back of the file and see her improvement.
The third section is my favorite. This tab contains photos of all projects, experiments, & activities that apply to the binder topic. If I want to see what science experiments we did, all I have to do is pull out the "Science" binder and flip to the experiments section. The only thing that I need to incorporate now is a typed description of the activity (i.e. materials list and instructions). I currently only have pictures with hand scribbled captions. For most I suppose this would be fine, but I may eventually end up teaching students other than my own, and will need the info as well as the pictures.
The last section contains quizzes and assessments. Assessments are sometimes in the form of a test, but will often be rubrics and informal assessments. I do not give her letter grades. This section of the binder is strictly so that she can see her mistakes and correct them. I can also use the info gathered in this section to determine what material I should include in future lessons.
This system is one that I actually had to use for two of my classes at UNO. I found that it really helped me to satisfy both my creative/spontaneous side and my OCD/Chinese-feng shui-balanced side. I could read 5 different textbooks and glean the best parts and ditch the rest. It didn't matter if I started a project one week and then didn't pick it up again until 3am two weeks later. When it was complete, the teacher checked it. I then had to revise and re-submit the final work. Upon approval the beautiful finished product was filed neatly in the binder for all to see. The messy originals remained in the binder stapled behind the final drafts for comparison. The binder grade wasn't given until the end of the semester when you were satisfied with your work. With constant feedback this system allowed me great freedom and the ability to truly reflect on my work. I had something tangible that I could review and say, "This is where I messed up, but this is what I have learned and done this semester".
Right now Eloise is just excited about the pretty binders that I made for her at 2am, but I believe that given some time she will come to appreciate this system as much as I do. She is a lot like me. It is hard for her to understand why everything has to be balanced. I used to be the same way. I now understand that lightning is an awesome force, but it is useless to us unless we harness & direct it. In the same manner, my daughters creativity and energy need to be harnessed and directed so that she can do great things. I know that the decision to homeschool coupled with helpful strategies will surely get us closer to that goal.
The pictures don't do this pretty glittery candy coated paper justice.
I'm such a big kid!