It’s that time of year again.
Are you completely frazzled about having to put together an end of the school year homeschool portfolio for your kid?
Are your boots shaking just at the idea of a homeschool evaluator or certified teacher looking over her spectacles at your thrown together 3-ring binder?
First of all, I would like to say that I 100% relate, because I am a homeschool parent that has avoided putting a portfolio together for the last 5 years of my homeschool.
If there was any other option to evaluate my kids, I took it.
Second of all, I would like to say that it is 100% not as bad as you think it is, because I just finished putting together three of them…and it was kinda fun!
Yes, I’m being serious.
I am going to walk you through everything you need to know to make your own simple homeschool portfolio, so you can have a no stress (okay, low stress) experience too.
Here is what you will find in this post:
- Supplies You Will Need
- 6 Steps to Making an Awesome Homeschool Portfolio
- Portfolio Examples From My Own Kids
- FAQ – Including: When Do I Start?
Supplies Needed For A Perfect Homeschool Portfolio
- Three-Ring Binder With Pockets – yes you can use an accordion file, but it makes it harder on the evaluator to keep organized and see everything.
- Pack of 5-8 Dividers with Pockets (maybe more depending on your state)
- Plastic Page Protectors – you will need more than you think. This pack is a great deal at Amazon.
- Computer Paper
- Pictures of Your Kid Doing Life/Homeschool Stuff
How To Assemble The Perfect Homeschool Portfolio
1. Read Your State’s Homeschool Laws For What Must Be Included In Your Child’s Portfolio
The first step is find out what you legally must have in your child’s homeschool portfolio. And when/where it should be submitted.
Some state requirements are really vague about what they want. In the last state I lived in, the student would simply have to “show progress.”
My new state requires an attendance record of 180 days, samples of student work in required subject areas (PA history, civics, and fire safety among others), an immunization record, and standardized test results for 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 8th grade.
****If that is the case in your state too, a great way to stay organized is to see if there are any homeschool portfolio checklists available. If not, jot down a quick one for yourself based on the portfolio requirements in your state.
Regardless, there is rarely any step-by-step help on what in the world a correct portfolio is supposed to look like. No matter what state you live in.
How many samples of work? What should those samples include? Certain types of writing? Research papers? Poetry?
What if you don’t include a certain grade level math concept in those samples? Will your child “fail” the evaluation?
Yes, the vagueness can cause all kinds of homeschool mom freak attacks.
But, rest assured, the vagueness of the instructions actually protects you! Keep reading to embrace them and make your very best homeschool portfolio – with no fear!
****If you are having a difficult time finding your state law, the best way to sort it out is to check out HSLDA’s state law page. It is a great resource for homeschool families!
2. Label Your Subject Dividers
Check with your portfolio reviewer to see what subjects you have to include in your portfolio, but if there is no guidance, this is a great list to include:
- Language Arts (umbrella term for literature, reading, writing, grammar, handwriting, spelling)
- History (usually includes social studies)
- Physical Education/Health
- Fire Safety (required in my state)
Of course, you can also include any enrichment subjects you want to show off: foreign language, coding, life skills, computer science, typing, robotics, clubs, volunteering, 4H, or other extracurricular activities.
But it’s important to note that your school district does not have to see everything you did with your child during the homeschool year. Some might even say it’s a good idea to limit what you tell them so they don’t always expect that amount of access to your homeschool year.
Your child’s homeschool portfolio will still be perfectly appropriate if you only include the basic/required subjects for an academic year.
3. Gather Your Samples of Work
Start going through your child’s work from the past year and put together a collection of work samples from each subject.
The evaluators I have spoken with have all suggested three samples for each subject. One from the beginning of the school year, one from the middle, and one from the end of the year.
This should be a snapshot of the child’s progress – not a comprehensive deep dive into every concept your child learned this year.
The evaluators have said to me that they want to see evidence that you are working with your child and they are progressing – not every single thing they did.
Some common examples of “work” would be:
- Worksheet pages
- Samples of any writings (google drive is a great place to store these for older kids)
- Copy work/Dictation sheets
- Art projects/crafts (that can fit in a portfolio)
- Journal entries
- Syllabus of material covered from a co-op class
- Progress report print-outs from online programs/supplements
- History timeline pages
- Scientific method sheets the child used during their science projects
- Book log for what you used during the year
- List of books the student read during the year
- Lapbooks or other projects
- Photos (more about that in the next step)
I am sure there are other types of work you could use in a homeschool portfolio, but that list pretty much exhausts what I have used!
Please share in the comments if you have other ideas of what to include!
4. Type Up A Cover Page For Each Subject – Your Moment to Shine!
Do not be intimidated by this.
See this cover letter as your chance to brag about all your hard work!
****See customizations below
Here is an example of what goes into a cover letter:
(Child’s Name) (Subject) (School Year)
Curriculum Used: (List any and all curriculum, supplements, co-op classes, etc.)
Concepts the Curriculum Covered: (Make a bulleted list of the broad concepts that were covered. You can find this in the front of the teacher’s guide, by flipping through your child’s work, or by just searching your curriculum on Google.)
Lastly, list any extra things you may have done to support this subject – for example, journal entries, lap books, nature walks, field trips, favorite Youtube channels, discussions, etc.
Optional: Include a booklist of all the books you used for this subject. This is required by my state, but could just be a nice feature in your homeschool portfolio.
Feel free to customize this to your child’s age, your homeschool style, and age of your child.
For example, you may not have used an actual curriculum for a subject, so skip that part of the cover letter and just write about what you did to teach and how you taught it.
For example, I did not purchase P.E./Health curriculum, but I did spend a lot of time talking to my kids about health, exercise, nutrition, and cooking this year. So I just wrote a brief summary of those things and included a picture of my kids on a hike, at their sports event, and cooking.
5. Start Gathering Your Pictures
Pictures are a really nice touch in your portfolio, and they show your evaluator in living color what you’ve been up to.
Go to wherever you store photos – the cloud, Google photos, Facebook, your phone – and start scrolling from the start of your school year.
Download anything you took pictures of, such as field trips, science experiments, history costumes, library runs, baking together, hikes, etc.
Order pics from Walgreens, CVS, or your nearest picture printing place. This is much cheaper and more efficient than printing them at home. Well, unless you have the eco smart printer. That’s on my homeschool dream list.
6. Assemble Your Amazing Homeschool Portfolio!
You have all of the pieces to the puzzle now, and all you have to do is put them together!
Put the cover letters in the front of each of your portfolio’s dividers.
Place your samples of work in their appropriate sections in the sheet protectors.
Tape or glue your pictures to pieces of white computer paper. Write a short caption in pen to explain the photo, and place them in their appropriate section in a sheet protector.
In the front pocket of the portfolio, place any required documents (attendance sheet, standardized test results, etc.), so they are easy for your evaluator to locate right away.
And voila! You have an amazing, organized homeschool portfolio that will impress any evaluator.
And as an added bonus, you have a beautiful “homeschool yearbook” to show off to the grandparents and keep as a memento of all your hard work.
6th Grade Example Homeschool Portfolio
At the front of the portfolio, there is one book list that is organized by subjects and personal reading.
I included several writing assignments: creative writing, a poem, an informative paragraph, and three samples of her spelling dictation. All are in plastic sheet protectors for easy viewing, flip through. The literature she worked on and personal reading books are included in the main book list.
In addition to the cover page, I only included a handful of tests from throughout the school year. That was an easy way to show a variety of things she worked on and how she handled the material.
For history, I included an overview of the Early American history topics we covered with our curriculum. I also listed the discussion topics we regularly covered such as branches of government, how laws are made, how are government differs from other countries, etc. I added a page about an Oregon Trail co-op class she attended and two history essays she wrote. One was on the life of Christopher Columbus and the other was on a Native American tribe.
For science, I made a cover letter that showed an overview of the astronomy curriculum we used. It was a video based course, so I used the workbook pages as samples of work. I also added in a page of notes from her co-op botany class. The last pages had pictures from zoo field trips, nature hikes, and a co-op engineering project.
The below image shows the art/music cover letter that explains my daughter took a co-op music class and weekly guitar lessons. The following page has pictures of her doing small art projects at our co-op.
For this section, I detailed the sports my daughter is involved in, morning workouts, and family hikes. I also explained the discussions we’ve had about food and nutrition (processed food, protein sources, importance of hydration, etc.). I also included a picture of her playing her sport and the assessment we received from one of her coaches.
This is one of the subjects that did not have a set curriculum. I just wrote in the cover page that I wove geography into our history lessons, discussing continents, countries, etc. as the topics came up. We also used Letters From Afar for a fun dive into geography and culture during our morning time together.
For my state, this was required to include. I just wrote a short bit about a firefighter who came to speak at our co-op and some of the things that were discussed. I also explained that we discussed a fire safety plan for our house.
3rd Grade Example Homeschool Portfolio
The language arts section included a cover letter that stated the language arts and spelling curriculum we used. I made a bulleted list of the major topics that were covered throughout the year. I also included that we did regular journaling assignments and her current reading level – reading grade level appropriate chapter books independently for fun.
I also included workbook pages from her LA curriculum, a journaling page, and two pieces of creative writing that she also illustrated. Her book list also has the books I read to her and ones she read to me.
Math was probably the easiest subject to put together. I just ripped different pages out of the workbook from the beginning, middle, and end of the year. I tried to include the main topics a 3rd grader would be expected to cover – multiplication, division, fractions, graphs, etc.
I explained in the cover letter that my 3rd grader also did a 2nd grade math workbook as part of her continual review. And I included the math fact supplements we used, Multiplication Facts that Stick, Times Tales, and Reflex Math.
We had a science curriculum that really focused on me reading aloud to my kids and doing experiments together. There was a lab manual, but I just had my 3rd and 1st grader dictate their answers to me. This meant that the only “work” I could show was a book list, list of topics covered, and pictures of experiments, zoo field trips.
The same history cover sheet is in all my girls’ portfolios, just with the names changed. This cover sheet also mentions that my 3rd grader participated in a history fair as Beatrix Potter, watched Tuttle Twins for economics/civics lessons, and kept up with current events by watching World Watch.
The following pages include photos of her on a field trip to a historical site and the trifold she made for a co-op history fair.
As I said earlier, my kid’s all had the same cover letter for geography, but my third grader did attend a states/capitals co-op class. I included her end of year certificate and samples of work she did in class.
For Art/Music, I wrote up a cover page about the art/music classes my daughter attended at our co-op. I briefly wrote out the topics I could remember and I included samples of her sketching, painting, and even a picture of a puppet theatre she built herself out of a large cardboard box.
I made the same cover page for my 3rd and 1st grader for P.E./ health. I just talked about their outside play time, Cosmic Kids yoga, and weekly karate classes. I also briefly included some health discussions we’ve had about hygiene and nutrition. There is also a picture of my daughter independently making an omelet for breakfast and going on a weekend family hike.
I used the same cover page and picture as you saw in my 6th grader’s portfolio.
1st Grade Example Homeschool Portfolio
For first grade, the cover letter included information about our language arts, spelling, and reading curriculum. I made a bulleted list of all the LA concepts we covered (capitalization, punctuation, nouns, etc.), what types of spelling words she worked on, and the phonics concepts she learned.
I ended the cover letter by giving her current independent reading level – easy chapter books. The book list at the front of the binder includes a list of the books I have read to her and the books she has read to me.
Math again was pretty simple. I just ripped out workbook pages from her math curriculum from throughout the year. I also included her end of year assessment (included in the curriculum). The cover letter stated that she worked on Addition Facts That Stick, Reflex Math, and math board games.
As I said earlier, the history cover letters were all the same for my three kids because we did that subject together. I did include in my 1st grader’s section a picture of her next to her history fair tri-fold on Susan B. Anthony and her making candles on a field trip to a historical site.
Science was done together from my 1st and 3rd grader, so the cover letters were the same. I included pictures of her doing some experiments and at the zoo. She completed a botany class at our co-op, so I also included the syllabus for that class that the teacher emailed me.
Geography was also done as a group, so the only change here is that I included a cute project that she did in her World Geography co-op class and the syllabus for that class (the teacher emailed it to me). See the other grade levels above for more info on how I wrote a cover letter for geography without a curriculum.
My daughter took an art/music class at our co-op, attended arts & crafts classes at our library, and did some chalk pastel work with an online program.
I included some of her sketches from an Outschool art class and pictures of her working on her art projects.
My 3rd grader and 1st grader have the same cover letter for this subject (see above for more details). I did add in a picture of my daughter making zucchini fries (she loves to cook) and going on a family hike.
Same for all students. See the above sections for more details.
FAQ Homeschool Portfolios
1. Can I Have Identical Pages For Multiple Kids?
If your kids shared a subject, such as history, science, art, music, etc., then definitely just print two (or more!) cover letters with the names changed.
There is nothing wrong with that at all.
I even printed identical pictures for my kids if they were all in it.
2. What If I Didn’t Use Curriculum or Lesson Plans, And I Don’t Have Examples of Work?
Not a problem. You can simply explain that in your cover letter.
Explain that you taught with library books, field trips, discussions, movies, YouTube channels, or whatever you used.
And then provide a bulleted list of the topics you covered in that subject over the year.
Your examples of work could still be a book list, pictures, field trips, hikes, projects, etc.
3. When Should I Start Putting Together The Portfolio?
I wanted to get a head start, so I prepped my own kids’ binders at the beginning of the year.
And I didn’t touch them again until about a month before the portfolio reviews.
I would not advise doing that, but to be honest, it still worked out just fine.
Next year, I plan to stay on top of my homeschool record keeping by having a log of educational activities in a place other than my head – probably a notepad on my phone. I will also take more intentional photos during school days.
I might consider using an accordion folder to just store papers and projects as the year goes by.
But I don’t think I would start gathering and assembling the portfolio more than 2-3 weeks in advance of the portfolio assessment. I feel like that would make it a project that dragged on too long.
I much preferred to spend a couple hours on it over 3-4 days and be done with it. As it is, I have already gone back to edit our book lists several times as the evaluation draws closer.
4. I Feel Really Unsure About My Portfolio. What Should I Do?
I completely understand that, especially if this is your first year on the homeschool journey and you’re coming out of public school or private school.
A wonderful way to curb that anxiety is to talk, talk, talk, talk to your evaluator. Reach out to him/her and tell them that you want to make sure all your “ducks are in a row.”
They will likely appreciate that because they don’t want any surprises on the big day either.
If you’re a little too shy for that, I would recommend talking to the homeschool community around you. Those women are a rich resource of knowledge and experience that will go far to calm your nerves!
5. Why In The World Did You Say You Had Fun Making Yours?
I know, it surprised me too.
I guess I just realized that I had a chance to really go through each child’s journey for the year.
It was really gratifying to see all their work laid out, all the things they did, all the things we did as a family, and all the pictures.
I think we homeschool moms are always beating ourselves up about doing “enough.” And after looking at everything in one binder – it was so nice to really take stock of all that we did during our home schooling year!
And I also like that some woman is going to have to sit down and go through it and listen to all my homeschool things. When else have I ever had a chance to brag on my kids or hold up their work to someone?!
Homeschool Portfolio Made Easy Recap
I really hope this simple post helped to clear up any portfolio questions or anxiety you had!
I promise you that it really is more of an enjoyable experience than you realize.
Remember to keep lines of communication open with your evaluator, follow their guidance, and keep it simple with my easy steps above.
If you have any follow-up questions, I would be happy to answer them in the comments!
If you have any extra suggestions from your own portfolio experience, I’d love for you to drop that in the comments too!