Recently I inherited a stack of treasures my husband’s mother had saved from his childhood school years. Artifacts included handwriting samples, artwork, and test scores. Although it was fun to see, my home was already bursting at the seams with collections of my own children’s past work. It piles up very quickly. That is why we decided to go digital with our homeschool portfolios.
Even though I don’t live in a state that requires me to turn in a portfolio each year, I do have an eleventh grader who will require a high school transcript. I am not as faithful at recording grades as I would like to be, but with an online collection of my son’s work, I have a convenient place to locate all the information I need to accurately assess his performance in a subject over the course of a year. Here’s how we manage our online portfolios.
Select An Online Storage Site
The single most important aspect of selecting where you want to store your information digitally is accessibility. When you store something on the cloud, it is automatically saved and can be accessed from any computer or device. Additionally, if your computer breaks down, you won’t lose all of your valuable records. The best part is that these options are all free! (Of course, there may be subscription costs once your data reaches a certain limit.)
My favorite online storage site is Google drive. I love it because it works similarly to my computer’s storage system, yet it is simple and easy to share with others. The subscription plans are incredibly affordable, too, in comparison to other cloud storage systems.
My son turns in his papers to me through a Google document which allows me to provide feedback on his paper using the comments feature. Gone are the days when I have to remind him five times to add punctuation in a particular place. When we use Google Drive for his writing assignments, he has to resolve each comment to make it disappear from the document.
Evernote or OneNote
If you like the feel of notebooks or binders, Evernote and OneNote provide online options that will feel more familiar to you. You can add layers of information into these digital notebooks, and it will still fit back on the shelf!
If you’re looking for something pretty, you will love OneNote. My husband, however, loves the way that Evernote functions, so he will always stick with that. It just depends on what you want out of your online storage site and which user interface clicks with the way your own mind works.
Upload Your Homeschool Content
Obviously not everything you create will be digital in nature. While storing typed papers is simple enough, math tests and artwork aren’t always completed on the computer. I use a simple mobile phone app called TurboScan to convert physical content into digital content.
The great part about having a digital homeschool portfolio is that you can include items that previously couldn’t be saved in a binder. You don’t have to be selective because there is room for all of it! Digital artifacts include:
Programs and video/audio clips from music recitals, speeches, and debates
Photos and video clips from sports competitions
Scans of oversized artwork
- Photos of large, three-dimensional projects
When you turn in this portfolio, the good news is that you are simply sharing it with the recipient, not giving them your only copies. If any files get lost in the shuffle, you can simply re-share them as opposed to recreating the entire year’s sampling of work.
Organize Your Content
Organization is key, but don’t stress about it. The beauty of storing your documents online is that you can still search for them if you misplaced a document. Evernote is particularly good about this. It will even search your images for the words or phrases you’re looking for.
Create a folder in Google Drive or a notebook in Evernote and OneNote for each of your students. Then you just need to add in sub-folders or tabs like you would in a regular binder. Create a separate space for each subject. Options might include:
Legal documents—letter of intent, attendance records, shot records, and/or standardized test results
Course of study
Field trip reports/journal
The great part about using an online storage site like one of the above is that you can adjust it to your needs. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. As my kids enter high school, they are the ones that take over this process. When they enter college, they will be required to turn in assignments and papers online, so why not have them start practicing now?
A digital homeschool portfolio might be the solution you’re looking for to free up precious space in your home and keep the homeschool clutter to a minimum.
About the Author
Betsy Strauss is a wife to a deep thinker and a homeschooling mom of three kids. When she stumbled into homeschooling, she thought it would just look like public school at home. Thankfully, she quickly learned that using a one-room schoolhouse model of teaching was a great way to unify the family, and enrich family life without going crazy! She shares her encouragement on Family Style Schooling Blog.