Easy 10 Step – Homeschooling Portfolio Review in Ohio

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If you have been homeschooling in Ohio, you are required to have your student’s work assessed to verify that you did indeed educate your little darling(s) in the previous school year.

The first option is to have Junior tested using a standardized test at the completion of your school year and give a copy of the results to your school district.The second option, and the one we have used for our 7 years of homeschooling, is to have a licensed teacher review a portfolio of your school materials to assess that they worked according to their ability this past year. The third option is to have your school superintendent agree to some alternative form of testing/assessment if your situation requires something more creative than the first two options.

It is September 13…and I just had my children’s work assessed by a teacher  a couple of days ago…for the 2013-2014 year!  Yes, it should have been turned in already and yes I’m running behind. Summer slipped between my fingers like some illusive dream and now here we are…almost fall, back to school…time to get it together.

When we first started homeschooling, I had no idea what one of these reviews should include…did I need several 3″ binders filled with coloring pages, handwriting worksheets and craft projects. Did I need actual projects…you know that volcano we made or leaves sandwiched between wax paper? What did I need exactly. Well I’m not super organized. I think I lose brain cells by the end of spring…I’m SO READY to be done with school. So my 1st…2nd..3rd…. portfolios were pretty much the same. I would throw all their half-finished notebooks, textbooks, folders etc into a tote and haul it off to the library or wherever I was meeting our teacher to “assess” our portfolio. All the while, I was saying a little prayer that they would find our pile of papers acceptable and “pass” us! Now thankfully, the teacher’s that have reviewed our portfolios have all been homeschool moms themselves..so they get it. They get the mess, disorganization, the whole learning curve that never ends with homeschooling.

That said, we have been having our “portfolio” reviewed for 6 years or so and here are a few tips for putting one together that you can feel confident showing your teacher and not break your back hauling every scrap of their work. I myself am going to refer back to my own list as I tend to start pitching things before I really think about whether I might need to show it to someone for our review.

Ten Tips for a Successful Homeschool Portfolio Review

  1. Make a list of every subject your child did for the year.
  2. Under each subject, list your textbooks or other books you used.
  3. Write down any field trips, museum and zoo visits and travel or vacations you took.
  4. Write down a list of literature or enjoyment books your student read or listened to.(This does not have to be a complete list and gives an idea your child’s reading level and interests)One of my sons loves audio books and listens to many so we include those too. (scroll down to find an example of what I wrote out for my son’s portfolio)**
  5. Add activities your child participated in: music lesson, co-op classes, sports, online classes….pretty much any learning experience not covered by the previous lists.
  6. Add a few notes about your child’s hobbies or current interests. (I’m always so blessed when someone takes the time to ask my kids about their interests and by adding these things in, it both keeps a memory for me and gives the reviewer something to jumpstart friendly conversation).
  7. Set aside your math workbook or a few pages of math done. We don’t test but you could add math tests or whatever you like here. (Our teacher was looking to see if they completed pages or if they skipped a lot etc)
  8.  Pull out a writing sample or two. (I had thrown away a lot of my kids things from last year before this review so I went ahead and had one or two of them do a page of copywork to include).
  9. Bring a book your child knows so your reviewer can hear them read aloud.
  10. Lastly but most important…DON’T STRESS! It’s really not worth it. You did your best. If it wasn’t a great year, let it go. If it was, enjoy your moment. Having an organized portfolio helps me feel less stressed since I have so many to get done but I’ve literally thrown each kids stuff in their own old milk crates and let the teachers flip through that too.

 

When you meet with your reviewing teacher, separate each child’s work and you are ready to go. At the completion of your review, he/she will give you a signed form to turn to your school. In case you need to bring a copy (because not all teachers are familiar with this), you can find a copy HERE.

 

**Below is a sample of the sheet I used to put together our basic portfolio for each child. I added their writing sample, math workbook and  reading book to this sheet and had a manageable overview of what we had done for each child for the year.

 Ian's Work 2013-2014 001

 

 

 

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Boxes of Bananas – God’s Provision.

I’ll admit I’m a fan of stories…the ones where God uses unfortunate situations to bless other people. A few days ago, my dad walked in my house holding a 40 pound box of GREEN bananas…yummy!  He set them down and I noticed that there were a few very YELLOW bananas in the green ones. It was odd as they were clearly ready to be eaten and the others were no where near ripe.

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I had to know the story…because we don’t get deliveries of 40 pounds of bananas walking through our door often! Our friend Tim at Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard runs a food pantry. He just had a truck come in that had 5000 pounds of these green bananas. But that was only part of the original load of 120,000 pounds. A shipment had arrived in New York and been completely rejected because these bananas were ripening very unevenly. Can you imagine…all those bananas rejected because a few were riper than the others.

What I love is that rather than waste the whole lot, they were donated to a food ministry in Pennsylvania called Blessings of Hope. From there these green (now turning yellow) bananas made there way to various smaller food ministries where they will bless many families. Having been around food bank organizations for several years now, I will tell you that produce is gold. Most donations are canned or boxed dry goods. Quality fruits and vegetables have a much shorter shelf life so they are in more limited supply.

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Yesterday my husband stopped by the Cupboard to load up our van with bananas. Today and tomorrow we will be handing them off to several families. Hopefully these will bless them and their freezers. I am thankful on many levels. I’m thankful for the company that donated and for laws that make it beneficial to do so. I’m thankful for the good people at these ministries who work long hours with limited resources, and I’m ultimately thankful to God from whom all blessing flow.

Snow Painting – Cheap Winter Fun!

If you are anything like me, the snowy winter days can last F-O-R-E-V-E-R! The winter of 2014 was one of the coldest in the last 100 years and one of the snowiest in the past few years. While my older kids know how to entertain themselves pretty well, the younger ones get bored easily and run from one activity to another. No I mean it…THEY RUN…back and forth stampeding across the wood floors (who thought wood over carpet was a good idea anyway!)

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Ok…moving on. I actually had a moment of clarity which was rare. I spent too many days in a fog this year. But when my 5 year old son Bennett grabbed a spray bottle to do who knows what (probably something dangerous or destructive) I remembered my stash of food dye sequestered to the back of the cupboard since we gave up food dyes. And what happened next was magical. He proceeded to be entertained for at least a half hour…maybe more. If you have little boys, you know that is magic!

So here is what we did that was SO MUCH FUN!

Step 1: Find an empty spray bottle

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Step 2: Fill with water AND one color of food coloring.

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Step 3: Recap the bottle and shake gently to mix the dye

Step 4: Hand it over to your child. (Yes, I did go out and do this some myself because it is really fun!)

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Step 5: Send your kiddo outside to spray paint the snow.

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As you can see, mine had a blast. We did this several times and changed the food coloring each time. Of course it would be even better to have separate bottles for each color all at once but my little boys would have used that to start a water fight and dye would end up all over. I love this activity because it uses things I have on hand all the time and the kids love it too. Next year, I think I’ll save up bottles so we can do this in a grander fashion next year!

 

Foster Care: It’s Not a Grocery Store

 

The phone rang. A quick glance at the caller ID said Children’s Services was calling. Not thinking it was one of  THOSE calls…where they ask you to step in on behalf of a child….I answered.

 

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The worker on the other end told me a story of a boy who needed to be moved out of a home where his siblings would continue staying. Age 4. Trouble listening. Wets the bed. Poor speech. In Therapy and Counseling.  I asked a few questions trying to root out if this was a situation we could handle. And then the call was over. But in a house like ours, there are lots of ears. So the conversation wasn’t really over. There were lots of questions. “What’s his name?” ” Is he black or white?” “No, not a boy! Can’t we GET a girl?”  There were more questions but during the course of the conversation, I was hearing my kids say – “Why can’t we pick what we want about the next kid who might live here?” My response: “Foster Care is not a Grocery Store – You can’t pick.”

Don’t get me wrong, we filled out an enormous checklist for our license. It asked what kind of child our family would be willing to consider. It factored in age, gender, race, physical or learning disabilities, history of abuse or abusing. You name it, the survey covered it. But when the phone rings and a child needs a home for awhile, there aren’t choices. In that moment, you can’t pick like you do at the store with 10 brands of pasta sauce or fifty kinds of cereal. Each case must be accepted or passed over as is–and that is hard.

Like the conversation with the worker, my mind easily dwells on the worst “what ifs.” Can I handle this if we do this? Will I be able to sleep at night? My immediate concerns are usually for the safety or well being of my own kids and my own stress level. Initially I have trouble seeing the potential redemption. It is easy to get weighed down, become frozen with fear and do nothing.

But our family has been down this path before and Redemption is the most beautiful part of the equation. God can take the broken pieces of a troubled life and put them back together in a way that is surprising and truly beautiful. 

 

Notgrass America the Beautiful History Curriculum Review

Every once in awhile, I stumble on a book or curriculum that is truly special. You know the kind I mean. Its like the author climbed inside your brain and read your thoughts and then wrote a curriculum just for you. I’ve alluded to my obsession with curriculum and last school year was no different. I had an amazing array of books and resources already but was waiting for Notgrass to release the new edition of this history book. So, it arrived in June and wow…amazing. If I had bought this first, my curriculum purchases would have been much less!

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Whats Included:

If you buy the package like I did, it includes the America the Beautiful text books (2 of them), We the People, a timeline book, a map book and an answer key. It targets 5th to 8th grade.

What I Love!

At first glance, spending about $100 for history seems a bit pricey. However, the part that I liked (as a mother of 7 who never has enough hours to plan everything) is the way the lessons are set up. Each lesson is relatively short…a few pages, followed by 4-6 assignments that cover Geography of the US (maps), Timeline, Bible, Creative Writing, Vocabulary, and Literature. As a parent, you can have your child do some or all of it. My 5th grade son read all the lessons and did the mapwork and timeline. If I hadn’t purchased other curriculum, he could have done the rest of the lessons and had a fairly complete school year with the addition of math.

My son enjoys history but doesn’t stick with a boring book. He loved this and never complained about history (well almost never 😉

This curriculum was very easy to use. It was self explanatory so I didn’t have to spend a lot of time helping him. We may use this same textbook again in 8th grade and do all the extra assignments we missed this time. We will be using other Notgrass texts in the future!

I would share any dislikes but this time there aren’t any.

Five stars
Find out more about this great curriculum here!