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Keep Homeschooling Records without Losing Your Mind

You've got to do it. You've got to keep homeschooling records, for each of your kids, and make sure they're organized and up to date.

I know.

It's hard to find a system that works, that you can keep up with, that doesn't feel like drudgery and isn't super time consuming!

Simple Ideas for Homeschool Record Keeping

Most homeschooling moms I know kind of roll their eyes and look sheepish when a new homeschooler asks about how best to keep records. We all know we need to do it, and (ssshhh… homeschooling secret) most of us aren't doing it as well as we'd like.

Here are some simple ideas for keeping track of your children's learning that are quick and efficient and will keep you from the end-of-year portfolio panic.

Homeschool mom and son at a computer.
Homeschooling is awesome. Record keeping… not so much.

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End of the Year Portfolio Stress

I've totally been there. Maybe you have, too.

You keep telling yourself you'll keep better records, but suddenly it's May and your child's homeschool portfolio is bare and your deadline to turn it in is looming.

You spend a stressful couple of weeks pulling together all the homeschooling records you can find, finished work in all the subjects, searching your phone for photos, and compiling it all.

It feels awful, it's anxiety producing, and it rarely ends up being the best representation of the learning your kids did during the school year.

Why is homeschool record keeping so hard?

Let's make it easier! Read on.

Kids making colorful art outside.
Yep, art projects with friends in the garden counts!

Know Your State's Homeschool Laws

First, you really need to know your state's homeschooling laws inside and out.

Many states have a state homeschool organization (if you're in Washington state, we're lucky and have a great one: the Washington Homeschool Organization. Also follow them on FB for fantastic and funny updates.) – or tap in to your local homeschool community on FB to find the seasoned homeschoolers who know the law.

Here in Washington we are required to teach 11 subjects over the course of a child's education and test or assess annually. Those that choose testing in our state don't have to keep extensive records. Some states, however, have more requirements to show portfolios yearly or quarterly.

Even if your state doesn't require you to keep extensive records, getting in the habit of tracking your child's learning is a great idea simply for your own family. It's wonderful for kids to look back on all they've discovered and done — and it's honestly a great reminder for you, mama.

Homeschooling moms often feel like we aren't doing enough, but tracking that learning really shows what we've done over the course of a year!

Discover your Record Keeping Style

The truth is that keeping homeschooling records in a simple, efficient way really depends on what you find easiest, and how you like to interact with your kids' work.

Do you do everything on your phone? You might lean toward digital record keeping. Like spiral notebooks and glitter pens? Old school binders might be your style.

Keeping Digital Homeschooling Records

I find there are two kinds of people: people who love paper, writing, pens, pencils, written planners and all of the stationery goodness, and those that prefer to work 100% digitally. (Guess which one I am?)

Digital record keeping can be great. You can access your records anywhere you are, and add to them when you're out and about, having homeschool adventures. Obviously, it's space saving to do your homeschool tracking and record keeping online – so families who are short on space or have many kids to track learning for might choose an online option too.

The very best system I have ever come across for digital record keeping is from Sue at Stories of an Unschooling Family. Once she discovered Evernote, she leaned in and created a whole system for keeping records for her kids.

You can read about Sue's Evernote record keeping system here, and check out her videos about it below.

Even though I haven't succeeded at keeping digital records yet, I aspire to, and one day I will get the hang of Sue's system!

Here's another video she did on making her digital notebooks. She also uses Evernote to keep track of ideas, websites, and resources she thinks might interest her kids.

Making a Homeschool Binder (and Scrapbook!)

I'm a fan of three ring binders. And page protectors. And all kinds of office supplies. Who's with me?

For me, the easiest way to keep homeschool records is pen and paper, along with pictures from my phone. This is partially because I have a differently wired child and much of our learning is verbal, visual, and not written. So I log our educational conversations, field trips, our monthly subscriptions, her research online, educational app use… you get the picture.

I use a big 2-inch binder. Nothing fancy. I like using page protectors and sticky tabs as dividers. That way I can also use protectors for things like our Letters from Afar subscription, artwork and drawings, etc.

The picture below is my learning journal that I use daily. Each column is a day, and you write a learning moment in each box. Say we watched a documentary about the ocean, that goes in a box, and underneath I circle “S” for science. If we have a discussion about where a particular coral reef is and look it up on the map, that's another box and “H” for history and geography gets circled.

You can download my learning journal for free by signing up below. Get your pens and highlighters ready!

Keep homeschool records with my printable learning journal.

Kids are always learning, right? Often we only credit “book work” and things that look schoolish. This tracker is my simple way of capturing as many pieces of learning as I can.

I also use colored pens and highlighters and stickers, because your learning journals can become sort of a scrapbook – and why not make it fun?

Enlist Your Kids to Keep Homeschool Records

As your kids get older, they can start taking part in the record keeping (and make it a bit easier on you)!

Teen homeschooler at her desk with headphones and a notebook.
Keeping records can be part of everyday learning.

Whether it's digitally in Evernote or a notes app, or written with my learning journal or just a spiral notebook, as your kids grow into tweens and teens they can start keeping their own list of what was done that day.

It's a great habit to get into and a useful skill for college, or for whatever work they choose to go into in the future. I work part time as an admin assistant and keep track of what I do each day in a spiral notebook. It's integral to keeping track of details and a great reference for when questions come up.

Build record keeping into whatever curriculum or life-learning plan you have for your kids!

Make a Daily (or Weekly) Tiny Habit

There have been some great books out recently on the power of habits. I'm a big fan of B. J. Fogg's Tiny Habits framework, in which you build truly tiny habits into your days in order to create lasting change.

Some ideas to make keeping homeschooling records a tiny habit:

  • Take 5 minutes after dinner track the day's homeschool learning
  • Gathering the kids before bed and chatting about the day
  • Writing yesterday's discoveries down during that first cup of morning coffee

You could also build this habit into your weekly homeschool planning. Get your favorite drink and sit with your planner (online or digital) and jot down the week's activities. If you've got a memory like mine though (can I blame birthing a child?) it's hard to remember what I had for dinner yesterday, much less all the learning and conversations that happened during the week.

To Sum it All Up…

  • Know what your state says you need to track.
  • Choose whether you're going to keep homeschool records digitally or with pen and paper, or a combo of both.
  • Start by taking 5 minutes each evening to reflect on the day's learning and build the tiny habit of record keeping.
  • Educational conversations, apps, documentaries, and things that don't look like “school work” count, too.
  • Don't forget to download my free learning journal if you're a pen and paper (and sticker and stationery) girl like me.

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4 Comments

  1. This was very informative! My fiancé and I plan to have children after we’re married and have agreed we want to homeschool. I had no idea you had to keep records! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Hi Meghan! Homeschooling is an amazing choice for your family! Each state’s requirements are different, so when the time comes dig in and figure out what kinds of records your state wants you to keep.

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