There are a million articles out there touting the importance of education. They begin at birth with readying your life by preparing for a stress-free environment, go on to advise you in ways of finding the best preschools, and recommend the best ways to prepare for college applications all aimed at securing the best jobs for your child.
Slow down, people.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this rush is an actual child in an actual family with actual needs, actual strengths and weaknesses, and actual ideas of his/her own. That child is often the child who throws a wrench in those well-laid-out plans. That child is often a gifted child. Add homeschooling to the mix and you’ve got a whole new brew.
Face it, as a homeschooler you add a pinch of this and leave out that. As a parent of a gifted child, you turn up the heat some days and turn it down on others. Following a recipe is a good idea, but you always have to add your own flavor!
So, you’re thinking ahead, which is good, but you also want that flexibility, want to appeal to the fixed mindset of education, and still want your child’s assets to be understood and valued. You want your non-traditional child to appeal to a mostly traditional system. If you’re looking forward to perhaps sending your child back to a more brick and mortar high school or onto college, here goes:
As a former veteran classroom teacher, I understand how education works. While I’ve been out for several years, I know how to play the game. It IS a game, so you may as well have fun with it and play so you can win. You need to find a way to show and tell about your child.
1. How will you showcase your child’s talents and strengths while downplaying his needs and weaknesses?
2. What kind of format will showcase a flexible, yet accelerated instructional plan?
3. How might you give evidence of your child’s level of competency?
How about a portfolio?
What do you put into the portfolio?
Anything you need to.
Portfolios come in many forms, from notebooks filled with documents, notes, and graphics to online digital archives and student-created websites, and they may be used at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Portfolios can be a physical collection of student work that includes materials such as written assignments, journal entries, completed tests, artwork, lab reports, physical projects (such as dioramas or models), and other material evidence of learning progress and academic accomplishment, including awards, honors, certifications, recommendations, written evaluations by teachers or peers, and self-reflections written by students. Portfolios may also be digital archives, presentations, blogs, or websites that feature the same materials as physical portfolios, but that may also include content such as student-created videos, multimedia presentations, spreadsheets, websites, photographs, or other digital artifacts of learning. ~The Glossary of Education Reform
Portfolios are basically showcases of student abilities and work. They offer insights into a student’s capabilities. Keep in mind that portfolios do NOT showcase “perfect” work. They may not even include totally complete work.
Portfolios are a nightmare idea for a classroom teacher because though they are extremely valuable, they are not always feasible to maintain in a classroom of 25 or when a teacher teaches more than 100 students in a subject-specific role. That said, they are a wonderful and insightful tool that most teachers appreciate because it offers valuable insights into the abilities of a student.
YOU have an opportunity to do this. As a homeschooler, you have 1 or just a few children to manage. You have the ability to pick and choose content, ability levels, and subject matter that matches your child. All you do is save it.
Well, in all honesty, it’s not all you do. But, it’s a good start and one that over a summer you can pull together in a format that suits your needs.
Keep in mind that some states already require a portfolio to be in compliance with state regulations for homeschooling. If so, you may want to use this as an opportunity to build on your child’s accomplishments too.
Start collecting today.
Take a photo of your child building that invention, or reading that book, or sorting those objects. Keep that copy of the wonderful story your child wrote. As your child grows, add performances attended, groups he found valuable, and any kind of reference letters from adults other than you. Be sure to choose the best reflections of your child’s interests and abilities.
As your child ages, weed out some of the earlier attempts unless they were truly remarkable. Date everything. If your child keeps a notebook, consider tabbing insightful pages or rip them out when the year is over. If your child is doing higher level math work, that Pythagorean Proof will fit nicely as a work sample, as will an artistic sketch, or diagram of a future invention. Add them into a binder as a portfolio (clear sleeves work well) or scan them in for an online version.You can intersperse photos with samples of best work. Keep it short, but showcase a variety of interests and talents.
Add a report card.
What do teachers really want to see on a report card?
A concise, yet descriptive summary.
This is a sample page or two from a report card that my son actually requested for his homeschooling school year. I summarized some of the work he’s done this year and my intentions for an upcoming school year. While it definitely wouldn’t be needed at the college level, even a high school teacher might find it useful. A K-8 teacher would find it unbelievably insightful.
Create your own report card highlighting celebratory and momentous academic and intellectual achievements. Less is more, depending upon the age/grade the child will be entering. The point is to draw attention to strengths and use terminology that will appeal to and support understanding with teachers.
I’ve seen many report cards from transfer students while teaching. All of those As always made me leery since I understand how different an A can be. Grading a child doing above level work is always tricky. Should he receive an A for his grade level work or is grading at his level more appropriate? Any anecdotal comments always carried more weight with me when teachers were specific and offered insights. I decided to also attach my own grading scale to help a reader understand my own personal homeschool grading system better. What is an A in someone else’s class may not be in mine.
Lastly, keep in mind that you’re preparing your child for his future. We really have no idea which skills and knowledge will be of utmost importance in the coming years so don’t shortchange your child by neglecting these:
Don’t forget the “soft skills”.
Critical thinking skills, study skills, logic & reasoning, analysis & synthesis, creation.
Social skills, the value of real collaboration, leadership skills, & life skills.
Compassion & understanding.
These are the unspoken skills, the ones that most teachers cut back on when they’re pressed for time. Our kids have different needs. While logic and reasoning may come more naturally for our kids as they mature, social skills may need additional practice and support. Include these “soft skills” in your daily lessons, throw them in with your field trips, and remind your children about them as you see the need. We have a better chance of supporting a well-rounded child because we have extra time with our kids. Use that time to look towards your child’s future to prepare him to be his best self.