Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evaluation and Portfolios

Yesterday I delivered the boys' portfolios to our school district office. It was a little like the first time I dropped one of my babies off with a sitter...separation anxiety was setting in. I watched as the secretary walked back the hallway to deliver my creations to the superintendent's office. During the day, I would occasionally think about them and wonder if they would be returned to me intact. It's going to be a L-O-N-G month or two until they are returned.

Let me tell you a little about our portfolios. I spent far more time worrying about what to put in these portfolios than I spent actually putting them together. There were many reasons I worried, but the number one reason was because of a warning I received from nearly every veteran homeschooling mom:

Don't put TOO much in there.

This was most often followed by the advice to include only three samples per required subject, one from the beginning, one from the middle and one from the end of the year. I was warned that if I included too much, I would set a dangerous precedent.

My problem was that I couldn't decide which three samples would be the best possible demonstration of what we did for each subject. I finally ended up with three samples in everything except writing, history and science. In those, I had a little bit more. My completed portfolio looked like this:

I had a cover page, which I found on AskPauline. The next page was the evaluator's report, followed by our calendar showing that we schooled for 180 days. The next pages consisted of our book log. This particular part of the portfolio had me a bit worried. I read many different interpretations of exactly what the book log should be. My log ended up being a list split up by subject of all the books the boys read this year. I did not date the entries. Next year, I think I will. I'm not 100% sure I need to, but I would feel better if I did. The next part of the portfolio was the actual samples of work. I made up pages with the names of each subject to use as dividers. Then I included work for each subject. All samples included a name and date. For some of the trickier subjects, art, music and PE, I wrote up a short summary explaining how we handled our learning and then included pictures. For art, I laid out the boys' art work three different times this year and took a picture. I included each of those photos. For PE I included a picture of their Upward basketball team. Finally, I included a section I called supplemental. I listed all of our field trips this year. I also included a copy of their Mavis Beacon reports and their participation awards for the LEGO building contest. In JT's, I needed to include his standardized test results, as required for fifth grade. All together, JT's consisted of 93 pages and EM's had 77. I felt like that might be too much, but I was happy with what I had, so I decided to go with it.

Last Friday, we met with our evaluator to go over the portfolios and discuss our year. It was a positive experience for all of us. She told me I didn't have the dreaded too much in my portfolio, so I was happy. She looked through each binder and asked each boy to tell her something they really wanted her to see in there. Then she asked questions about their favorite books and subjects. She asked me where I saw the most growth in each boy this year. That wasn't a question I had expected, so I really had to think for a few minutes. I finally decided that JT had grown in two ways. First of all, his knowledge of Greek and Latin roots has really grown this year. I regularly see him applying his knowledge to discover the meaning of an unknown word. He has also started spending more time looking for ways to learn new things on his own. The answer for EM was easier. He has greatly improved his reading ability this year. For years I worried about him because he never seemed to love reading the way my other two children had. I was concerned that his vision problems and his auditory processing disorder were hampering a potential joy. But now I see him reading chapter books with great intensity. He also has taken off in his math skills this year. I'm hoping that continues through the rest of his school years.

Now that the stressful part of the school year has ended, I'm ready for my vacation. I am very nearly finished with my grand cleaning project. At this point, I only have one large bin full of math papers to sort through. I also have two piles of things to sell online and one stack of books I must return to the school district. Then I will close up my classroom for at least a month and focus on the rest of my house. It needs attention! I will probably take a week or two off from blogging, but after that, plan to keep a fairly regular schedule throughout the summer beginning with July. I will be working out some ideas for the fall and hope to get all of your input.

Finally, I want to thank you for following our journey here. When I first started my blog, I did it as a way to record for myself what we were doing. Every now and then, when we are having an especially bad day, I can come here and read about some of the successes I have forgotten. So in that way alone, writing has been a success for me. But it's also been a joy to meet so many other moms who are on the same journey, struggling with the same kinds of doubts and insecurities, and rejoicing in the same victories. Thank you for all of the encouragement you regularly offer to me.

1 comment:

Monica said...

Thank you for letting me live vicariously through you. :D