Friday, May 3, 2013

Ending the School Year -- Evaluations and Portfolios

We have just six days of school left for this year!  Then, we take a break, though not the entire summer.  I will post another day on our schedule.  For this post, I want to share what we are required to do for our end of the school year.

We are required to have a log showing that we have schooled either 900 hours (elementary)/990 hours (secondary) or 180 days.  I log days.  This is required by our state homeschool law.  Our state also requires that we have an annual evaluation performed by a certified teacher.  This means that we schedule a time with a certified homeschool-friendly teacher and we take our portfolio to that teacher and he or she looks over it and asks our student(s) some questions about their experience from the year.  Then that teacher provides us with either a check-off sheet or a short report stating that we covered the required subjects for the year, and that the student did, indeed, learn new things during the year.

What is a portfolio?  A portfolio is simply a sample of your child's work for the year.  We are to provide samples from each subject from beginning, middle and end of year.  For example, two or three math worksheets from the beginning of the year, two or three from the middle of the year and two or three from the end of the year.  The same for all other subjects, or a written report on something for a specific subject -- i.e. George Washington for U.S. History or Bird Migration for Science.  My youngest has completed four lapbooks this year, two for Science, one for Health, and one for History/World Geography.  We will take those along to our evaluation.  Any special project(s) the child completed and is proud of and wants to share, my middle son will be showing his salt dough map of Israel and Judah.  An evaluation takes about half an hour per child.

Then we have to turn certain things into our local school district at the end and at the beginning of each year. At the end of the year, some school districts require you turn in your portfolio every year.  Our school district requires that we turn our portfolios in just the first two years per student.  After the two years, we simply have to turn in our evaluator's report/check-off sheet.

My advice is that you study and know your state's homeschool law because there are school districts who will try to require you do more than the state requires, and they cannot do that. So, know your state's homeschool law and follow it.  Yes, you will have to follow the school district as far as whether or not your entire portfolio gets turned in yearly or if they have a different requirement for that, but they cannot require you to turn in more than a portfolio and/or evaluator's report.  Also, don't over-do your portfolio.  Don't put more in it than you need to.  The school district's job is simply to see that you are indeed teaching your child(ren) the required subjects and that your child(ren) are indeed learning something.  They do not have the right to tell you what to teach or how much of it to teach or any other specifics.  We don't give more than we absolutely have to because the government already oversteps their bounds into our private lives and we don't want to give them an excuse to overstep farther.

Most states/school districts also try to require you to turn in medical and dental forms showing that you are taking your child(ren) for medical and dental exams and having them immunized.  However, legally, you do not have to immunize (I know quite a few families who choose not to), and you can simply give them a letter stating that you get your children medical and dental exams and that you do not wish to turn in a form to them and this should be sufficient.  For further information and help with this, contact HSLDA or check out their website (I have a link on my sidebar).

Finally, I would like to impress upon you to become members of HSLDA if you homeschool your child.  You never know when a question or problem may arise that you have to face and aren't sure what to do.  Having HSLDA to turn to for such questions and problems is truly a blessing and offers peace of mind.  My husband and I renewed our membership this year to become lifetime members, instead of renewing annually or every other year.  If you are a committed homeschooler and know that you will be homeschooling for ten or more years, the lifetime membership is really worth it, and it much cheaper in the long run.

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