Thursday, May 10, 2012

Showing My Work

Today I spent quite a few hours sitting on the floor sifting through papers and feeling frustrated. As a homeschooling parent in PA, I am required to submit a portfolio to the district at the conclusion of our year of schooling, described this way by state regulations:

"The portfolio shall consist of a log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used,samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student and in grades three, five and eight results of nationally normed standardized achievement tests in reading/language arts and mathematics or the results of Statewide tests administered in these grade levels."

All through the year, I place completed work into a binder. Three times a year I further winnow the papers down by subject. At the end of the least the theory is...I should have everything mostly ready to put into my portfolios. Last year the plan worked fairly well. After printing out a few pictures to show some of the less paper-oriented work the boys had done and copying fliers from programs we had attended throughout the year, I only needed to compose short descriptions for certain subjects like art, music and physical education.

This year it seems there is not enough to really show the extent of what we have done. Our move towards more hands-on activities may be contributing to the shortage. Employing more online math and computer programming for JT has also slimmed down the pile for that subject. Ultimately this isn't a huge problem. Our evaluator will talk with each of the boys as she goes through their portfolios. She will know that they have made progress based on their ability to share the things we have been doing. The school district will look at our work, see if we have something for each check box they must mark, read the evaluator's approval, and be happy that my boys are learning.

But I want there to be more. I want to look at the pile of paper in my classroom and feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I have to accept that there is no easy way to measure learning. That has always been true, whether in public, private, cyber or homeschool environments. There are so many lessons we learn that are not tangible, not provable, not measurable.

I guess I'm my own worst critic.


Annie said...

There is a full proof way to measure learning. I don't mean this to sound flippant, but I often get so close to the boys that I miss the obvious.

Listen to your boys. And not just when they are talking to you. Listen when they are playing and see what themes show up. Listen when they are building their latest Lego creation. Listen when they are talking to other adults.

I'll bet you will hear curriculum showing up in all sorts of interesting ways, because they are really making it their own.

And what is more important: seeing it on a paper in a portfolio or knowing that it is in their minds?

Cyber Momma said...

Annie-I know that somewhere inside...but after the wrestling match with paper-proof's hard to grasp.

Maybe I'll be fine when they graduate from college. Or at the very least, get accepted. :-)

Ingi Mc said...

We will be dealing with the same issue at the end of this year. And we have significantly less "paper" to show this year than last. Frustrating because I know they are learning, they are ahead in many areas, and doing better than their peers in school. What a pain that we have to jump through the same crappy hoops!