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No-Stress Homeschool Record Keeping

6 Easy Ways to Keep Track of What You Do

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Many parents find the thought of record keeping intimidating. It doesn't have to be. Here are some shortcuts that will cut the time spent on paperwork to a minimum. Try them and you'll have more time and energy to actually help your kids learn.

1. Keep it on Your Calendar

Desk Calendars
Kathy Ceceri

As a work-at-home mom, I've always had a weekly calendar on my desk to tell me where I have to be, what I have to do, and when. Once I started homeschooling, I found that just the notes on my calendar were enough to help me fill out the quarterly reports required in my home state (New York).

Everything I needed was right there: regularly scheduled classes, music lessons, special workshops, field trips, even dentist's visits (which counts as health) and trips to the park (which count as physical education). The only thing I need to remind myself to make special note of on my calendar: what book was read for the monthly book club meeting. And to help find things later, I color-code my notes with highlighter pens.

2. Make Your Own Forms and Keep Them on the Computer

Although my state requires school districts to send out homeschooling forms, I've always found it much easier to use my own. That way, I can make them exactly as long as I need. Plus, I simply update the form from one reporting period to the next, and copy shared family activities from one child's report to the next.

3. Stick to Short and Sweet (and Keep Double Books if it Makes You Feel Better)

In my state, it really doesn't make a difference if you submit a five page report instead of one. So I always stick to the "one page rule" -- everything they require gets compressed into just a line or two per subject. If I feel I want to have more detail for future reference, I make a separate record of my own.

4. Keep a Reading (and Watching) List

Something kids can do themselves is keep a list of the books they've read. It's a helpful reminder of what your kid has been studying and dabbling in. It's also really useful when your child is getting ready for college.

My younger son the film buff, on the other hand, keeps a journal of movies watched and what he thought of them. I know that will be useful when he's ready to write his application for film school.

5. Build a Student Portfolio

Portfolios are all the rage (and required in some states). They are collections of work that show a student's progress and achievements throughout the year.

That doesn't mean you have to hold onto every sheet of paper and art project your child has produced. The quickest way to build a portfolio is to choose representative samples of your children's work and store them in a folder, box or drawer. To save space and make it easier to organize, you can also make copies or take photos of portfolio-worthy creations.

6. Take Photos, Make Videos, Create a Blog

When my kids and I started a year of chemistry experiments, I had them take photos and write up their lab reports online. Seeing their work "published" on a blog was a great motivation, and it was easy to share our work with friends and family. As an added bonus, we got to hear from homeschoolers and teachers around the world -- and saw our experiments featured in newspapers and magazines as well!

If your kids are comfortable in front of a camera, they can even produce their own how-to videos and upload them to their own YouTube channel. You can also design your own online photo album and print out bound copies as permanent keepsakes.

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