Homeschooling your child is one thing … but record keeping in your homeschool may be an entirely different ball game!
How do you show third-party evaluators that you’re “keeping up with the Joneses” in achieving academic success?
We’re so glad you asked! Here are some standardized ways that homeschool families can keep records to track progress as their students advance through grades.
Record Keeping No. 1: Documentation Of Studies Or Learning.
Because homeschool laws vary by state, some homeschoolers are required by law to keep documentation of their studies, while others are not.
Take Kansas and Missouri, for example. Kansas homeschool families are not required to keep records, but Missouri homeschoolers are (see a Q&A on understanding Missouri homeschool laws here).
However, even if you live in Kansas, we recommend some form of record keeping. This can help you stay organized as the teacher and principal. It can also benefit your students when they apply for jobs, prepare high school transcripts, and apply for college.
Some common ways of record keeping include (but aren’t limited to):
- Homeschool planners and day organizers
- Software trackers and/or computer spreadsheets
- Lesson schedules
- Portfolios, binders and folders of written work
- Scrapbooks, yearbooks and photo albums from field trips
- Online presentations, multimedia and projects
Record Keeping No. 2: Standardized Testing.
While neither Kansas nor Missouri require homeschoolers to take standardized tests, some families choose to take them regularly as a yardstick for their children’s academic progress.
Standardized testing also becomes more important in the high school years, since a high enough score on the PSAT can qualify your student for National Merit Scholarships.
As Russ McGuire wrote on our Facebook page,
If you have a rising junior who tests well, I strongly strongly encourage you to sign up for the PSAT. Our son had multiple full-ride scholarship offers because of his success on the PSAT (which is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship competition).
(You can read more about the PSAT here.)
Record Keeping No. 3: Placement Tests And Assessments.
Often curriculum choices will offer free placement tests for your child to take, so you can purchase the appropriate grade-level material.
Additionally, community colleges sometimes require your homeschool student to take a free assessment before they will admit you into a high school credit enrollment program.
In this way, your child can earn college credit before they’ve even graduated from homeschool high school. This can translate into huge college savings!
But First, A Little Context…
While record keeping can appear big and scary to newbie homeschoolers, they may be comforted to know that it can be much easier than it appears!
Why? Because as you progress in homeschooling, you realize the enormous difference to a public school setting where grades (and standardized testing) are a minimum standard to ensure your child is learning …. something.
Take, for example, the model of Finland and its educational system. They don’t do any standardized testing until age 16. They don’t even begin formal academics until age 7!
Yet their students rank among the highest in the world for critical-thinking skills in science, math and reading.
Why? Because their schools stress an individual’s learning and mastery of the actual material, not just the testing of it.
(You might also find more surprising facts in our post about homework vs. homeschooling.)
For example, if your child is performing above the minimum grade level, there’s no need to hold them back! Homeschooling is perfect for the gifted child who masters concepts much faster than many of their peers.
Likewise, if your child is a struggling learner and performing below the minimum grade level, there’s no need to push them above their current abilities or add unnecessary stress.
You can target just the problem areas while they continue thriving in their areas of strength. (See our related blog post about homeschooling children with current IEPs.)
Some Real-World Evidence
Research on the long-term effects of homeschooling bear this out. In statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), researchers found that:
- “The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. … A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015).”
- “Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.”
- “Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.”
- “Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.”
- “Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges.”
In other words, homeschooling can help you break away from a minimum mindset (grades) to a growth mindset (maximizing your child’s potential for learning)!
Once you start, you’ll find that you can give your child a truly customized, tailored education based on their learning styles, interests, and developmental ability.
A Word About High School (Preparing for College)
As we saw above, homeschoolers tend to score higher on college prep tests like the SAT and ACT than the average test taker.
(We have a whole blog post dedicated to preparing homeschoolers for the ACT and SAT!)
Keeping records may not matter so much in the early years of your child’s education, such as preschool and elementary school.
However, records become more important in high school, especially if your child is planning to continue higher education and provide a transcript for college and university applications.
A general rule of thumb provided by HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff is to keep at least 2 years’ worth of homeschool records, and for every year of high school (see more in this blog post about homeschool laws for Missouri).
Generally the type of curriculum you choose can also help you keep records. Many all-in-one curriculum packages already add lesson scheduling and student worksheets for you to keep in a binder once they’re completed.