We are discussing in this series of articles how important records are in the high school years.  Now we will turn to a very simple idea that we call “the file,” and then follow that with a frank discussion of two of the most misunderstood aspects of record keeping.  Hopefully by the time we have finished, you will be much more comfortable in handling either portfolio assessments or putting together a transcript for your high schooler.  So, here goes. . .

·        Documentation of Extracurricular Activities - The File

In the home-school situation, it is especially important to keep and document any awards or special notices your child receives.  This is accomplished quite simply by keeping a file folder in a secure but accessible place to which you add any certificates, newspaper notices, prize ribbons, and photographs of trophies or ceremonies.  You will probably never need to show the actual awards to anyone, but keeping the file will allow you to record a list of awards and accomplishments on college or job applications.  At commencement time, it is nice to prepare a special album for the graduate.  Simply decorate the exterior of a three-ring notebook with a portrait or decorations, and then insert the awards into clear plastic protector sheets and slip into the notebook.  This keepsake will be a special possession for the young person and a reminder of his/her home-school accomplishments.

·        Portfolios 

Some home-school parents start to sweat when they hear portfolios mentioned.  It sounds like so much work!  Actually, portfolios are not that hard to maintain if you have an overall plan.  They can be very persuasive tools when put before a college admissions board (those that request them). 

Keeping a portfolio is actually a good habit to get into that could be a useful skill in adult life.  Artists, writers, architects, designers, even engineers keep a portfolio of their accomplishments to show the overall scope of their work and abilities. 

We would suggest that you start collecting entries when you begin high school studies.  Put away samples of essays, artwork, math work, book reports, test scores, anything on paper, (or floppy disk, or CD, or videotape, for that matter).  We do mean samples, though.  Do not try to keep everything - you will drown!  Go through the portfolio yearly and choose representative pieces of work, discard the rest.  Take pictures of presentations given through the years, drama, and musical performances, and add those with some descriptions of the activities (written by the student).  Include reference letters, your personal evaluations, any outside evaluations you may have.  We would also suggest the student write a self-evaluation of hie/her work and learning yearly for the portfolio.

At the end of high school studies, finalize a permanent portfolio of the best samples from high school.  You will be amazed how well it will come together.  The student will also be able to use the portfolio as a gauge of his/her progress through the years.  It will be apparent what areas are strong and what areas need more work.