Although every homeschool journey looks different, some things—like homeschool record keeping—are almost the same for everyone. Academic records are a critical component to homeschool life, but many parents struggle with this part of homeschooling because they simply aren’t sure what records to keep or how to accurately keep them.
Whether you’re brand new to homeschooling or have been teaching your children from home for several years, a quick refresher on homeschool record keeping never hurts, especially as states update their policies on what types of records homeschool parents are required to maintain.
Why Homeschool Record Keeping Matters
Regardless of what type of homeschool schedule you use or which curriculum guides you follow, homeschool record keeping is important because it provides concrete proof of your child’s learning. These records help you meet your state’s homeschooling data requirements and provide black-and-white evidence if you ever need it.
Furthermore, homeschool record keeping also helps you keep up with your child’s progress and what you’ve taught them over the years. This helps you avoid any duplication of instruction and ensures that you are meeting your child’s academic needs by helping them obtain mastery on each skill you teach. This can be especially important for parents who teach multiple children and may therefore go out of order when covering required grade-level standards for their kids.
Homeschool records can also help you document your child’s achievements and successes so that you’re ready for college admissions applications or any sort of entrance exams. Because college admissions are so competitive these days, you want to do everything you can to prepare your child for college as early as possible, and homeschool record keeping can help with that.
Without proper homeschool records, you could risk losing your ability to homeschool your child or other consequences based on your state’s homeschooling laws. Furthermore, inaccurate or incomplete academic records could jeopardize your child’s ability to participate in high school sports, earn their high school diploma, or attend college after graduation—and no parent wants that!
Types Of Homeschool Records
Records are obviously an important part of any student’s academic journey if you’re homeschooling. However, many first-time homeschool parents may not know what kinds of records and data to keep. If you’re in doubt, these are five of the most common types of homeschool records parents should maintain:
Just like public schools issue report cards and academic transcripts, you should maintain some form of grade records for your homeschool child. These records will make any transitions to traditional schools or different states much easier. Furthermore, high school students will need records of their grades for college or job applications, so it’s helpful to start maintaining these records early.
Some states require that parents maintain portfolios or work samples of your child’s academic progress. These samples help state officials see concrete evidence of your child’s educational progress, which can be important for maintaining your homeschool status.
Regardless, maintaining a portfolio of work samples can help you and your child see how much progress they make during the school year, and they also make fun mementos as your child grows older.
Just like work samples, some states require attendance records that show the days and times you and your child spent actively engaged in homeschool curriculum during the year. In fact, some states even want you to break down the instructional hours and independent work hours you and your child spend on homeschool materials each week. For this reason, it’s definitely worth maintaining some sort of attendance record (online or handwritten).
Like other types of records, check your state’s record requirements before you decide how to track attendance. Some may just need a breakdown of days and hours, whereas others may need more details.
Some states require that all homeschool students complete specific tests each year, whereas others just require you maintain recorded grades or other achievement measures. You may need to administer state-mandated tests each quarter or at the end of the school year to track your child’s overall achievement and mastery of state education standards.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to provide your child with regular tests throughout the year and keep some sort of record of their scores and progress.
One of the best parts of homeschooling your child is that you can choose any extracurricular activity you’d like for them, because you aren’t limited by what the school provides. Since extracurricular activities look great on college applications and other documentation, it’s a good idea to keep records of what extracurriculars your child does, along with any awards or achievements they accomplish while doing these activities.
Make Homeschool Record Keeping Easier
After reading about all of the types of homeschool record keeping parents should do, you may feel overwhelmed. Luckily, there are some great materials and hacks out there to help you make homeschool record keeping easy—you just need to know what to do.
Some parents enjoy using online homeschool record-keeping programs like Homeschool Tracker. These applications can help you keep attendance records, grades, and work samples all in one place. Many homeschool record-keeping apps also provide templates and documentation materials for specific lesson plans, tests, and projects too. Although these tools usually aren’t free, they do make record keeping easier and accessible from anywhere, anytime.
Also, records are much easier to maintain if you do them over time. For this reason, it may help you to build time into your schedule each day specifically dedicated to updating your homeschool records. This daily time can be spent entering attendance and instruction from the day, grading any tests or assignments that require it, and placing items into your child’s portfolio as needed. By taking just a few minutes each day to complete these tasks, you can maintain organized records without causing stress.
For parents who aren’t sure what to keep initially, accordion files can help you store assignments and other work until you determine what you’d like to genuinely keep. These types of files make it easy to store data by subject area and easily pull it out when needed (or purge it if you decide you don’t actually want to keep it). These are a great solution for parents of multiple kids who need compact ways to store tests and other sheets for the student’s portfolio or academic record.
Homeschool record keeping is essential for all homeschool parents regardless of your child’s age or long-term plans. By familiarizing yourself with your state’s homeschool laws and knowing what kinds of records are beneficial to maintain, you can stay organized and keep flawless academic records for your kids during their entire homeschool career.
Megan Glosson is a mother and freelance writer based Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys writing on a variety of parenting topics, but loves taking on anything with a personal connection to her own life. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Megan building Legos or playing board games with her two adorable daughters. To check out more of Megan’s work or to contact her about freelance opportunities, visit meganglosson.com