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Homeschool Portfolios

The portfolio process is a delightful way to peek into your past learning experiences, and is also an excellent way to be accountable and track your learning. While you read through old binders and boxes you will find yourself living in the past. You will see with your own eyes how much you have actually learned! Wouldn't it be great to put those past experiences to work for you? Well you can! Join HLN and its adventure into creating portfolios!

Whether you are new to homeschooling or are an old-timer, you need to think about how to keep quality records of your hard work. No matter what method or what type of curriculum you chose to use, it is imperative to keep concise and accurate records and documentation of the work that has been completed. You will use these records throughout the years to compile various types of records and transcripts of your work.

What Exactly is a Portfolio?
A portfolio is a tool that can be used to tell a story about what has been learned, what needs to be learned, the steps you have taken to master a topic, what worked for you and what didn't, and any areas of difficulty you may have. It is a form of self-assessment where you, the learner, are actively involved in discovering all that you know!

A portfolio allows you to look at your accomplishments over a period of days, months, and even years. It provides you with a timeline to observe how your interests have grown or changed over the years. It provides a venue by which outsiders can take a peek into your world and learn about what your beliefs, views, interest, abilities, and talents are. Most importantly, portfolios provide you with the feedback you need to increase your self-esteem, which in turn builds your confidence so you will never be afraid to attempt any learning experience!

What Goes Into a Portfolio?
It depends on what kind of portfolio you are designing. What you must remember about a portfolio is that it may be the first impression you make on someone. It is a carefully chosen selection of work that represents your abilities, and it has a set goal and purpose. Portfolios also have a specific theme and intended audience. You may be given a theme for your portfolio with clear expectations of what is required to be in it.

How Many Kinds of Portfolios Are There?
There are countless types of portfolios! The main types of portfolios include:

  • The Personal Portfolio
    This type of portfolio is intended for home use only. It is used as a form of self-discovery to see how you are learning and to check if there needs to be an improvement or change in the way a topic is being approached. This personal portfolio could be used to gain an overview of all subjects learned, or it could simply focus on one area of skill, such as gymnastics, music, art, science or reading. Imagine being able to see your growth in a subject through the use of photos, documented experiences, videos, completed work, and letters of congratulations from coaches, peers, family, friends, and mentors! What a great way to build self-esteem and open the pathways to further enriching learning experiences.

  • The Documentation Portfolio
    This portfolio is designed for people outside of the homeschool area to evaluate your academic achievements. These people are mainly interested in viewing and documenting what you have learned during a set period of time. This is the kind of portfolio that you will provide for the local school district. Carefully consider what you will place in this portfolio. Place only what is mandated by the law-no more and no less. Make sure that you:

  • Read and thoroughly understand the laws of your state and local government regarding homeschooling.
  • Find out what curriculum guidelines are mandated by your state.
  • When a review is due of your progress, set up an appointment with the person in charge. Send a letter in advance verifying when the appointment is, and that you expect to take your portfolio home with you.
  • Provide the reviewer with enough time to preview your work but not enough time to make copies for the whole staff to see.


  • The Volunteer Portfolio
    This portfolio could be used for both outsiders and for home use. This portfolio should include any type of volunteer work you have completed. It could be a life-long portfolio or simply a portfolio that covers a few short months. You many want to keep a separate binder with plastic pages in it to keep track of hours that you have spent volunteering. Remember to include photos with descriptions of where and when events toke place and what role you played in it. Don't forget to include newspaper articles about the event or thank-you notes from the head of the company you volunteered for. You will be able to use this later on for your employment and college portfolios!

  • The Diagnostic Portfolio
    This portfolio lets you examine your work. It provides an insight into where you are academically, socially, and even spiritually. It is an open window into what you are having difficulty with and where you need help. This portfolio is for home use only, but can be shared with people who help you assess needs.

  • The Prescriptive Portfolio
    This portfolio helps you to review your past learning records, documentations, and experiences to see what strategies worked and which did not. It is a way to identify your learning style. It is a way to view the past to help you in the future!

  • The Employment Portfolio
    Many homeschooled children work with mentors within their communities in many different fields of expertise. It is important to document all of these learning experiences especially where a skill had been introduced, practiced and mastered. This portfolio can also show that you are hard working, honest, capable, caring, on time, and productive. Be sure to include letters from each mentor here. Also include any newspaper articles, brochures, or photos that can help support your claims. Make sure that you date all documents so that you have accurate information within your portfolio.

  • The College Portfolio
    Wow! Imagine that it is already time to begin thinking about college. The better organized you are with your records and documentation, the easier it will be to complete this portfolio. You may have to complete several portfolios depending upon what each college asks for. Make sure to keep track of information that is needed so that you can run off copies to save yourself time. Be sure to follow the guidelines precisely for each college you are applying to. Some colleges require you to complete a digital portfolio. Make sure that you understand all that is required before submitting your portfolio. Speak with the college's homeschool representative about any questions you may have regarding your portfolio. You will use this and other portfolios you have assembled to design and write up your own transcript.

A portfolio is a representation of your work-it is like a well-told story. It reflects your knowledge, skills, beliefs and talents, and it is something that you can use to impress people (especially yourself!) with all that you have accomplished during your homeschooled years. How do you do that?

You begin by making a great first impression. Your portfolio should always be designed to accommodate all of the documents and evidence you will be using to support your theme and goal. The work should be of your best quality and should tell a story to the reviewer in a clear and concise fashion. Your portfolio should follow the given definition for requirements. Your cover letter should be well planned out and well written. The cover page should be neat, using only one font, and it should captivate the reader's attention, drawing them in to want to learn more about you. The title page can have designs on it, and can be printed on bordered paper. But remember-less is always best! The table of contents should include all topics and subheadings that are in the portfolio.

Next, you will want to complete a narrative summary. This summary should be one to two pages long and should describe what you had learned and how you learned it. Discuss how your documents support the accomplishments that you have made. A refection paper follows your narrative summary. This is a brief explanation of your documents and the evidence that supports your learning success. Lastly, you should include a list of all the documents or evidence that you used to support your claims.

A portfolio can be as unique as you are. Although you should follow the guidelines stated above, how you choose to represent them is up to you-be as creative as you want! Just remember to document and keep all records of your entire homeschool learning experience. The key to a successful portfolio is proper record keeping. Today's work is tomorrow's portfolio!

Learn More!
General Resources about Home Portfolios

Online Resources


  • Heur, Loretta. Arco the Homeschooler's Guide to Portfolios and Transcripts. Arco Pub. ISBN: 0028637380

  • Hebert, Elizabeth A. The Power of Portfolios: What Children Can Teach Us About Learning and Assessment. Jossey-Bass. ISBN: 0787958719

  • Fiderer, Adele. 40 Rubrics & Checklists to Assess Reading and Writing (Grades 3-6). Scholastic Prof Book Div. ISBN: 059001787X

  • Martin-Kniep, Giselle O. Cunnigham, Diane (Contributor), Feige, Diana, Vall, Hudson, Why Am I Doing This?: Purposeful Teaching Through Portfolio Assessment. Heinemann (Txt). ISBN: 0325000107

  • Sullivan, Mary. Making Portfolio Assessment Easy: Reproducible Forms and Checklists and Strategies for Using Them. Scholastic Trade. ISBN: 0590245074

  • Leppert, Mary, Leppert, Michael, Miller, Jamie (Editor). Homeschooling Almanac, 2002-2003: How to Start, What to Do, Where to Go, Who to Call, Web Sites, Products, Catalogs, Teaching Supplies, Support Groups, Conferences, and More! Prima Publishing. ISBN: 0761528563


My First Portfolio!

You will learn how to make a simple portfolio about yourself.

A portfolio is a representation of you. It can be an assessment of what you have learned or it can be a step-by-step explanation of a study. The portfolio you will be making for this lesson will be a portfolio that describes you! It will be as individualized as you are. It can take any form--electronic or paper. It can have music, pictures, words and even essays. Have fun completing this project and remember there is no wrong way to do this!

Make a Presentation Board Portfolio
This portfolio will be all about you. You want people who look at it to automatically know a lot of things about you. It could be the kind of music and food that you like. It could also include your favorite vacation spots or your favorite pet. It could include a hobby or a favorite movie or book. The possibilities are endless!

Materials Needed:

  • Presentation board or a large piece of poster board in your favorite color
  • Magazines, catalogs, photographs, postcards, and anything else that might have pictures on it that you will want to use.
  • Scissors, glue, and colored pens
  • The Internet and/or your computer to locate pictures (if desired)

Once you have put gathered your materials and favorite things, look through your pictures. Sort through them and take out the things you want to use. If you need to, put them in piles according to categories. This will help you to decide on the form your portfolio will take. Once you have chosen your initial pictures, go through the piles again and make sure you really want to use them. Ask yourself do these really represent what I am trying to tell people about myself? Are they the best ones available so that other people will be able to understand what I am trying to say?

Now that you have that part of the job done, it is time to lay them out on the board. Make your unique design. Do you want to include words, sentences, quotes? What kind of type font would you use?

You are almost done. Step back and look at your work. Does it make the statement you want it to? If not, repeat the above process until you find exactly what you want. If you just adore what you are looking at and know that it really represents you and the meanings and feelings you are trying to portray, glue the pieces to the board and finish your project!

Proudly display your creation for everyone to see!
Congratulations you just completed our very 1st portfolio!

If you want try creating one in another format, you can:

  • Create a web site
  • Put your portfolio into a PowerPoint or other multimedia format
  • Make a book about yourself


It's Never Too Early To Begin Record Keeping.

Parents and students will learn how to keep records of homeschooling activities.

It is very important to keep track of daily, weekly and monthly activities during the time that you homeschool. How should you do it, and what is important to keep? There are many options available as far as what type of forms to use, what you should keep, and ultimately how you store the records.

Many people use day planners to plan what they will be covering from day to day, week to week, and month to month. What one plans to do during the course of the day, the week, and even the month may change on a daily basis.

It is imperative that a daily record should be kept of all activities. Both parent and child can keep this record. You can record the date, the time that was spent on the lesson, the books and other materials that were used, and other areas of the curriculum that these topics could cover. You can use the following HLN's worksheets for record keeping.


Reading List

Educational Record for all students

Course of Study Record by topic for all students

Field Trip Sheet

Vacation Log

Movie Log

Physical Education Journal

Musical and other Performance Log

Unit Study Journal

Blank Log

Web-Site Bookmarks

Reference Materials Log

Use the blank log to fill in activities which may include:

  • Volunteer work


  • Courses taken outside of your homeschool, such as courses taken at a high school, college, art school etc. Remember to copy and attach any transcripts or certificates. NOTE: If you take courses outside of the home, get your instructor to write a letter stating that you were in the class, what the class covered, and how you did in the class. Provide the instructor with a self addressed stamped envelope. Remember to ask for this midway through the course. This will provide your instructor with time to observe you within the setting.


  • Extra-curricular activities


  • Any jobs that you have held


  • Any other information on activities that you have participated in.
Now that you have the forms you need, to decide how to organize them. The best bet is to use:
  • A large 3 ringed binder (The kind that has the clear pocket in the front)
  • Plastic sheets (to place your papers in)
  • Dividers
Make a cover page and place it in the front pocket. On this cover place the title and the year of the binder so it will be easily identified in later years. Place an Identification label on the side as well.

Make up a table of contents for your binder, which has now become your portfolio! Then set up the dividers into the sections you need. If it is easier, you can color code your logs to go with the divider tabs. (you can even use colored paper)

Keep up with the logs. Although it is easy to think you won't forget that exciting performance, book, film, or topic that you learned about, it is easy to do! You are making a handy reference book that will help you to make any kind of portfolio that you want.

Throughout the year, your record-keeping journal may be accompanied by other binders that hold the body of your work, projects and learning. Don't forget to take photos of three-dimensional projects, and keep a box of brochures, books, maps, reference materials, large art projects or artifacts that you have worked with throughout the year.

As you go through this process, it will become easier for you. For young homeschoolers, both the child and the parent should complete this project together. If you are new to homeschooling this will save you a lot of time later on when putting together an assessment portfolio that may be required by your state.

For older students middle school through high school age, this will be the foundation by which you will put together a college portfolio and transcript, so be sure to include all information about courses attended outside of the home!

Additional Resources:


Ordering a Portfolio

Parents and students will learn about the different parts that make up a portfolio.

A portfolio tells a story, and every story should be concise and flow well. In order to accomplish this, every portfolio should have a specific set of parts that allow for this continuity. Try putting your portfolio together in the following order:


  • Cover letters should provide the reviewer with a clear understanding of who you are, what your portfolio contains, and what projects, papers, or other documents you have to support your theme.


  • Cover letters should be no longer than one page.


  • Include the following in your cover letter:
    1. Identify who you are, that you are homeschooled, and why you are presenting your portfolio for review.
    2. Identify what type of portfolio you are presenting. (descriptive, assessment, unit based)
    3. Identify what kinds of evidence you are including in your portfolio.
    4. Identify 1-2 exceptional pieces of work that you want to highlight in your portfolio.
    5. If you want your portfolio returned to you, include a self addressed stamped envelope.
  • The title page should be only one page.


  • It should include:
    1. The name of your portfolio.
    2. Your name and the date you completed your portfolio
    3. Any other brief statements that you feel need to be made.
  • Use high quality paper or a paper with a nice border.


  • Use any font that you want but make sure that it is consistent. Do not mix bold, italicized, or underlined words together.


  • Use a desktop publishing or word processor program.


  • Keep it simple and clean! (Not busy)


  • Remember that this is your audience's first impression of your portfolio. You want them to be impressed with it. Have family, friends, mentors, and anyone else look at it and tell you what they think about it. Have them check it for errors as well. TABLE OF CONTENTS
    • The Table of Contents is an outline that explains how you organized your portfolio, and where items are located within it. Make sure that it lists the contents of your portfolio in a sequential order.


    • Include subheadings. List any documents or examples of work underneath the subheadings.
    • The narritive summary is a 1-2 page summary of your portfolio.


    • You will want to write about:
      1. What is in the portfolio.
      2. What topic(s) you studied.
      3. What experiences you had during this learning process. ( hands on learning, field trips, how did you learn?)
      4. What you wanted to learn.
      5. What you did learn.
      6. What you used as a basis to demonstrate the skill or knowledge that you did gain.
    • You can write a reflection for each body of work in your portfolio. This would include statements on what you feel you learned by completing it, or the skill that you attained.


    • To show higher level thinking, you might include what other learning adventures this particular work provided you insight on.


    • Think about what kind of discoveries your work led you to. Would you want to learn more? Did you attain the information you wanted? Did you learn the skill?
    • Make sure that the documents you have chosen accurately represent what you are trying to demonstrate, and accurately demonstrate your learning process.


    • Make sure that you have all the documents that you need, that they are in a sequential order, and that they are high quality.
    • Only include these if the reviewer has requested them.
    Experiment with putting together a small portfolio of work from last year's studies. In doing so, you will have a great idea of what you will need as you head into next year!


    LESSON 4:
    A Personal Porfolio

    Parents and students will learn about the steps involved in choosing documents and evidence to put in a personal portfolio.

    This is a great way to tell the story of your yearlong learning experience. This kind of portfolio highlights what you feel is important to you, and what you want to represent about your overall learning to your family and friends. It is not to be used as an assessment tool for your local and state requirements.

    Take your time completing this portfolio. Gather the work that you would want to exhibit. Place it in a pile. Lay it out. See if the materials included (art and science projects, papers, any writing exhibits, photos, awards, transcripts, letters) represent the story you are trying to tell. Would anyone be able to tell and understand the story without you present? Do the representations of your work really show the kind of work you are able to accomplish? Are they clear and concise?

    You can use photographs to represent larger work items that you cannot fit into your portfolio or to represent volunteer work.

    Decide how you will present your portfolio. It can be in a 3 ring binder, in a scrapbook, on a CD, on video, the possibilities are endless! Just remember that whatever format you choose, all parts of the portfolio need to be the same size, neatly put together and accurate. This is a formal representation of you and your story.

    Remember that any kind of portfolio needs:

    • A cover letter


    • A title page


    • A table of contents


    • A Narrative summary


    • Documents and evidence to support your portfolio


    • Brief annotations on the work showcased.
    Where to begin? The first thing you need to do is to decide what story you want to tell. This is where your records come in.

    You will need:

    1. Large note pad (used for presentations)


    2. Small sticky notes (various colors)


    3. Your Document binder and document box.
    • Tear off 10- 12 pieces of large post it note paper.


    • Label them with the names of the months


    • Decide on a color coded system for your portfolio, for example, yellow notes =math; red notes= writing; blue = reading; green = history; etc.Try to match any color coding you have already used.


    • List all the activities you participated in and what documentation you have.


    • Choose which items best represent your accomplishments. Make sure that the work you have chosen is of high quality, that they accurately indicate your achievements, skill level, and knowledge of that content area, and that they show a real purpose as indicated by your portfolio. Make sure that you are clearly identifying what you want to say!


    • Do the items help to tell your story?


    • Have you included dated information to support the documentation of a skill developed over time?


    • Are the documents you want to include clear and consice?


    • Will anyone who picks up you portfolio be able to read and understand your story?
    Other activities to help brainstorm ideas for portfolios include: Once you have gathered the information and work you would like to include in your portfolio, its time to assemble it. Have fun reminiscing about all that you have learned and accomplished!


    LESSON 5:
    Assessment Portfolio

    Parents and students will learn about Assessment portfolios

    This kind of portfolio is used to present your work to an outside source and is used to present to local school authorities your chart of progress during the school year. Every state has different requirements, so be sure to check them to see how often they will need to meet with you or see your work.

    Look at your state requirements. Check for what they are asking for. Use the state requirement form to write a list of what you need to put together.

    Using your portfolio sequence, find the documentation that is available. Local and state authorities are mostly interested in competency. Make sure that you include your best work!

    Design your portfolio cover sheet at the end of the process. You may find it best to write your cover letter and narrative summary at the end as well. Any annotations on documents and evidence can be written up when you decide to use a given work.

    Make sure that you have someone outside of your family check for continuity, flow, understanding, quality and conciseness of the portfolio. Is the reviewer able to understand what you are saying?

    Fix any problems that may exist. Check with your table of contents to make sure you have everything that was requested.


    LESSON 6:
    What is a Rubric?

    Parents and students will learn about how to make and use a rubric to evaluate work completed.

    What is a rubric? A rubric is an assessment tool that aids teachers in scoring and grading a given work. Homeschoolers do not necessarily use a rubrics to give points, however they use them to see if a given topic was covered completely. You can judge organization of a given work, the quality of written work, clarity of speech, or almost any aspect of a topic.

    In designing a rubric you must first decide what you are assessing. The first column lists the individual aspects of what you will be assessing.

    The columns to the left represent how you will judge the work. They start with qualities that would be judged perfect to those that need help.

    A rubric can be designed to set new learning goals as well.

    A rubric looks something like this:


    Use the following links to learn more about rubrics. Parents should go over these with students of all ages. Older students can help write the conditions required for the quality of learned skills with their parents.

    Additional Resources:


    LESSON 7:
    Technology and Portfolios: A Virtual Portfolio-Out of This World!

    Parents and students will learn how to use technology in portfolio design.

    Technology covers many facets of the digitalized world. Additions to portfolios can be from photographs, videos, and even voice recordings. More and more colleges are requiring applicants to send in their portfolios in digital form. They can be on diskettes, CD ROM, or they can even be a student-built Web site.

    If you do use a technology-based portfolio, make sure you know how to do everything correctly. You want your presentation to be of high quality. You will want to include as many forms of technology as possible. This will show the reviewer of your portfolio that you are able to use many facets of technology.

    What are some forms of technology that you can integrate into or use when developing your portfolio?

    Digital photography
    Digital Video
    Digital Audio
    Recorded music
    Word processing and desktop publishing
    Databases and Spreadsheets
    Clip Art
    Educational software
    Web Sites

    The list is full of possibilities! It is up to you how you want to incorporate these technologies into your portfolio. Remember that any materials that you use in this portfolio needs to be as high quality as that in paper form. Make sure that you do not use too much of one kind of technology and that the presentation is not too busy.

    You can also add a CD ROM or diskette with information in addition to the paper portfolio. Remember to check that your college portfolio reviewer or review team will have access to a computer.

    Another alternative is to simply put your portfolio online! What a great way to reach many college representatives. Just remember that you have to put in your college portfolio what is required by the college you want to attend.

    You should make sure that your web-based portfolio is easily accessed, that the links are updated on a continuing basis, and that the site is attractive and greets the reader with the desire to continue to explore the site. It should also contain only your best work. Most important, your online portfolio should be organized with the same elements that are needed for a traditional portfolio, including narratives and reflections.

    Learn how to design a web page!

    Younger children can be taught how to use a digital camera and how to download then use the photographs in a digital presentation. They can also be taught how to use a scanner or a video camera. Their abilities are endless, and the earlier technology is introduced to them, the easier they will adapt to it and use it in their ongoing studies. Additional Resources:

    Article by Virginia Hertz Curriculum Development
    Article © Homeschool Learning Network, All Rights Reserved.


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