Homeschooling: Record Keeping
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When you consider record keeping first consider what you want to get out of it.
Keep in mind that while you may not be living in an area that requires records institutions of higher learning that your children may have to deal with will expect to see some kind of bureaucratic-style documentation of how your children passed the years of their lives between fourteen and eighteen. There are many opinions on why these gatekeepers of these institutions require this historical information when a simple specialized placement exam would give them a good idea of whether or not the applicant is suitable for admission to their organization (read down to the part of where graduate schools originated) (John Taylor Gatto has many opinions). The reality of gaining entrance to an organization is that, for the most part, if you want to be a part of it you have to jump through the hoops it sets up. If your child’s ambition is to join one of these organizations then it will save wear and tear on your life and emotions if you structure your records so that the organization is comfortable with them.
After you figure out what it is that will satisfy your needs concerning record keeping then consider the legal requirements of where you’re living. It may be that your idiosyncratic needs or desires concerning your child's 'permanent record' will be greater than that of the state you're living in but usually it is the other way around. Because of this you may need documentation that ‘demonstrates’ that your children are learning at a suitable rate of speed and in line with the expectations either of the people in charge of 21st century American bureaucracies or with the organizations into which they’ve programmed their parameters of what is acceptable or what is not. Once you know what they who must be obeyed expect, you can provide them with what they want to see. This does not mean you have to live your life according to a curriculum, only that you interpret your life on paper through a curricular lens.
Military families cannot know where they will be stationed but there is no need to think you must prepare for all eventualities. State school systems do not have any educational say-so concerning standards outside their jurisdictional limits, a situation that has plagued military children moving between school systems for decades. Concern yourself only with the state in which you are now living and deal with any new regulations when the time comes.
A thought to keep in mind before you set yourself a record keeping task is to make sure it is needed. For example, even though your child is now five-years old do the compulsory attendance statutes of the state you are now living in include five-year old children? If not then the educational statutes do not now apply to you. This may also apply on the ‘other end’ for older teens so check the compulsory attendance laws of the state in which you are living.
For those parents who find a ‘set curriculum’ the most comfortable homeschooling framework the decision as to what to call their children’s activities is easy.
All you need do is write down the times for the ‘subjects,’ list the titles of activities of incrementally increasing difficulty, append test scores and you’re done. During the years between ages fourteen and eighteen you may want to keep a running tab of ‘grades’ for the final GPA (I find grading artificial, hence the quotation marks). For people who love forms and are happiest when life and the results of living are logically laid out in black and white, there are websites that spell it all out for you. A websearch of ‘homeschool (or home school), records, GPA’ should provide you with more information than you can use. Scan a few sites whose descriptions appeal to you, pick one and you’re on your way.
For those parents who find a ‘set curriculum’ a strait jacket, the process doesn’t seem as simple. A more free-spirited family may find that even the mere process of keeping records is constricting because of the need to track Life.
When our children were toddlers we didn’t scamper after them noting how many books they ‘read,’ how many blocks they stacked, how far they pedaled their trikes, or whether or not the mudpies were made in accordance with mudpie construction 'best practices.' But when the children grow older (and presumably have more competence at going about their affairs than do babies) we become concerned with whether or not they are ‘ready to learn.’ Infants are learning sponges but yet older children must be made ‘ready.’ Curious how we came to that conclusion. At times it’s as if all Big Mother wants to know is, “What did you do today that was educational?”
Each of us is all learning all the time (today’s lesson for me is that heather plants have chop-resistant and exceedingly thorough root systems – they must be wonderful for erosion control in areas where they are hardy, something that doesn't help with putting petunias into the planter the dead heather was in) but because of the modeling our society gives us we think that Learning must come packaged in books or lectures and that the Learning doesn’t happen unless an allegedly objective third party checks to ensure that we weren’t just sitting there thinking thoughts other than the ones we were supposed to be thinking. How did homo sapiens make it to the point of space travel, for goodness sake, what with all those millennia without pandemic schools? But I digress.
How does one quantify everyday life? How does a parent who is more freely spirited translate what, at times, appears to be ‘doing nothing’ into a record that is understandable not only by a third-party but by a third-party whose paradigm is bureaucratic? As with other endeavors, practice. Break the mold of your school-model and watch what the kids are doing, invariably it's something that can be educationally quantified. Think back to classic books. What did Huck Finn learn? Wilbur the pig? Scout Finch? Caddie Woodlawn? Marly from Miracles on Maple Hill? Gerry Durrell?
A quickie example of Watching Living might be:
(given the increasingly high price of this out-of-print book, check with your library about borrowing the book on an inter-library loan until it is again in print)
Some tips for documenting 'unschooling' might be:
The following websites have examples of how to translate your everyday life into educationally understandable categories.
As for 'grades,' just parent the kids
You can see from this parody of grading that I consider parental involvement to be a main factor in the children's 'grades.' Children are growing beings and without support and guidance their projects and undertakings may not be the success they or their parents (or perhaps the neighbors) envisioned.
AP listings on high school
Driving in the car (during field trips; PCSing; vacations)
Hobby Horse Stable: Op/ed
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Regarding any legal opinions expressed, I am not a lawyer. If you have a legal problem, check with JAG or retain your own legal counsel.
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This site was last updated: Wednesday, 10 March 2010