How to Create a Homeschool Plan & Portfolio
When I first started homeschooling, I would create detailed and colour-coded plans for my lessons. However, after a few months, I would find myself revising those plans on the computer. I felt like I had failed because I didn’t accomplish everything I had hoped for. But as each year came to a close, I realised that I had actually made progress. Maybe not as much as I had wanted, but progress nonetheless.
I didn’t give up on planning just because I had unrealistic expectations. Instead, I became a more realistic planner. I started to understand the rhythm of our homeschool and the needs of my students and myself as a teacher. I worked with what I knew and adjusted my homeschool plans accordingly.
Homeschool Plan Requirements In Different Regions
- Australia requires homeschool plans as a part of the registration process.
- New Zealand home educators are required to submit an application with a plan.
- In the USA homeschool documentation requirements vary from state to state.
- UK families don’t need to provide any documentation.
- Malaysia and Singapore have various requirements as well.
When you homeschool you are required to do some homeschool record keeping. Keeping it simple is the key.
Simple Tips For Keeping A Record of Learning
Over many years of DIY homeschooling I developed techniques for record keeping that have helped me with planning and reporting our homeschool journey.
Here are a few ideas to help you maintain your records easily:
- Keep a list of books of books you read.
- Dating when you finish reading a book or a textbook.
- Use homeschool planner templates to keep organised.
- Keep a portfolio of children’s work.
- Take photos of art works, excursions and other achievements
- Make a basic schedule rather than a timetable for your weekly lessons.
- Record field trips and nature walks (and take a photo while you are there).
- Make a basic plan for the year.
- Write up a report quarterly or at the end of every term.
Writing Up Homeschool Plans Can Be Fun
Homeschool planning is fun for some people (I must admit I do like it) but for others it’s a great headache. But whether you like it or not homeschool plans are often required when you get registered to homeschool. And even though the prescriptive nature of the Australian Curriculum, NESA Syllabus and other state syllabi can feel very restrictive, homeschool planning can actually be quite liberating and stress relieving. Having a plan is like a compass for your homeschool year. It helps you prepare a homeschool program and it gives you a destination for your studies.
Some of us are natural planners and some of us are brilliant at the spontaneous. For me the plans weren’t the issue, it was my stamina to stay focused and motivated. And one of my downfalls in planning is that I never planned for the spontaneous. My plans were always hopeful that every day would be an interruption free good day and since those kind of days were the exception rather than the rule my optimism became my downfall.
Preparing A DIY Homeschool Plan
Homeschool planning is where many homeschoolers become unstuck and give up the idea of planning their own curriculum. It does require effort and commitment to sift through the options but don’t try to plan the perfect curriculum on your first attempt. Just get started and only try to plan one year and tweak it as you go. Your plans can be flexible. We all make mistakes and waste money homeschool planning.
Give yourself permission to make those mistakes and take the pressure off yourself.
Decide on Your Subjects
Firstly work out what subjects you plan on teaching. For example, the basic subjects for primary are:
- English/ Language Arts
- Science and Technology
- Social Studies or Human Society and its Environment (includes history, geography and civics)
- Creative and Practical Arts (includes visual arts, drama, dancing and music)
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education – PDHPE (includes health information and sport).
- Foreign Languages
In Year 7 to 10 English, Science, Maths, History and Geography are compulsory but other subjects are electives:
- Creative and Practical Arts
- Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE)
- Foreign Language (LOTE)
- Design and Technology
You can rotate these subjects around during the year but you need to be doing three extra subjects each year. You may have other subjects you want to include like Bible lessons, add these to your list.
Make a Student Planning Page for Each Subject
List your subjects and then begin filling in the resources that you plan on using for these subjects. Put all the children under one subject during this phase. Why? I think it helps you find crossover resources and books that can be used for multiple aged children.
Maths is probably the only subject that needs a separate curriculum for each child. In the early years science can often be grouped together.
English can have some crossover content (especially with read alouds) but the mechanics of writing will vary depending on the age and skills of your children.
Write Up Your Term Plans
I have found that the best way for me to do this is to write out a Term Plan at the beginning of each term with homeschool subjects and goals. It shows what we are hoping to achieve for each child. Although this is quite specific there is still ‘room to move’.
I try to estimate how long it will take for me to complete a resource and then I break down the resource into sections whilst considering my time frame. One resource may take a term, another may take a year, or longer.
I put this information into table so I can review it at the end of term. I reuse this document as the basis for my end of term report.
The term planner is the reference for planning our lessons for the week. We have a basic routine that the kids become familiar with and they are expected to accomplish their set work. Here are some tips on how many hours it usually takes to homeschool.
I have found that workboxes helped me greatly with scheduling work.
Here are some ideas for using loop scheduling for homeschooling.
End of Term Reports
This is completed at the end of each term. The electronic version of the term planner that was commenced at the beginning of the term is resurrected and filled in with what has actually been achieved.
Page numbers, chapters, specific book narrations, field trips and unit studies are added. A short assessment is added plus progress notes on specific key learning areas that may need attention or of interest.
At My Homeschool we’ve prefilled your end of term reports and given them to you as a word doc. All you need to do is adjust them to your requirements.
10 Tips For Homeschool Plan Prep
- Look at curriculum planning as a whole. Let all your subjects meld. Tie in your literature studies with all your subject.
- Use a teaching philosophy as your base for preparing your course of study rather than the newest curriculum out. This will tend to make your plans a lot more cohesive. For me it was always the Charlotte Mason Method.
- When I surveyed a group of homeschool mums nearly all of us said we only homeschooled four days per week. Day 5 was for all those out of home events that still were ‘educational’ but not necessarily academic. Plan for 3 days a week for Kindergarten to Year 2 and 4 days a week for Year 3 to Year 6. In high school many of us moved to a five day week because our teens were becoming more independent. Here is a realistic guide to homeschooling hours.
- Make it simple. Detailed lesson plans and specific time slots often make you feel stressed because you feel like you didn’t complete the lesson or you are running behind. And they are not required when applying for registration.
- Go with your heart. This may sound like a funny thing to say but it is actually quite an intuitive method. So often we have a gut feeling about how we want to teach and this can be right on target. But it may also be challenging but ultimately it will give you a greater sense of purpose and motivation when you believe in the way you are teaching
- Don’t try to do too much in your academic year. With so many good options it is tempting to try to squeeze too much into your curriculum. That usually leads to burnout. Be realistic with what you can actually achieve.
- Don’t attempt curriculum before your children are ready. I’ve made this mistake many times when my kids were little. I bought a history and science curriculum that was really high school level for my kids to use in primary. Consequently the content was mostly inappropriate for my children and I wasted my money.
- Don’t buy too much. My weakness is books. I have many that I bought to read to my children that are still sitting on the bookshelf. Over the past two years I’ve been going to my bookshelf FIRST for my read-alouds instead of the bookshops.
- Don’t be tempted to throw out something that works just because something else is newer or prettier. No curriculum is a perfect fit and you will always find that certain aspects don’t work. However, chopping and changing all the time can slow down progress in a subject. With one child I wasted a year changing math programs three times whilst looking for a good fit. In the end I went back to my original resource realising that the reason she was struggling was more about her and not the curriculum.
- Don’t ignore the failures that happened before. If you are finding aspects of your homeschool aren’t working such as: routine, time allocation, a particular curriculum, or your homeschool set up –examine them closely and see what improvements you can make. Remember the famous quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The Trap Of Over-Documentation
In my years of homeschooling I have seen many friends homeschool records and some of them look stupendous. They have scrapbooking pages, video recordings of narrations, pages of detailed moments in their homeschool day. They also tell me that the education application assessor loved their record keeping. I’m sure they did.
Whilst I commend their efforts and see that they have a great keepsake for their children I do wonder if they are making a rod-for-their back. Can they maintain this type of record keeping? Are they overdoing it?
Keep Your Homeschool Record Keeping Simple
When setting up a record keeping system for yourself, do yourself a favour, and keep it simple and easy to maintain.
Make sure you have the following elements in your program:
- Record of progress of work
- List of Achievements
- Assessment of Progress
- Assessment of future needs of child.
What To Put In A Homeschool Portfolio
A homeschool portfolio is an educational keepsake that your child can look over, show off and use to remember events from previous school years. My adult children still like looking at them. I also found them helpful for showing evidence of work achieved throughout the year.
How I Organised My Homeschool Portfolio
1. I buy a 20 page clear sleeve pocket file folder.
2. Then I get the kids to make their own cover page for the year.
3. Over the year I add to the portfolio relevant materials. The type of things we put in our portfolio are;
- Art in homeschool portfolio
- Learning plans for the year
- Samples of work including photographs and pictures
- Reading lists
- Assessment reports
At the end of the year, I go through all their work. I keep special pieces and add them to the portfolio and then I throw the rest of the work out. This keeps our records neat and compact.
Can I Get A Pre Done Homeschool Plan?
When it comes to homeschool plans, there are pre-done options available. However, it is important to note that these plans may not be suitable for every child as home education registration applications require individualisation.
While it may seem easier to use a pre-done plan, it is actually better to create your own or customise the one you purchase to ensure that it aligns with your child’s needs and to increase the chances of passing your registration. It is recommended to tweak a pre-purchased plan and put it into your own words. The assessors who approve your homeschool registration want to see that you understand your submitted plans, and there have been cases where complete planning services provided by homeschool providers have been rejected or only given short-term registrations.
At My Homeschool, we are dedicated to helping homeschoolers understand how to teach their children and what to teach them. While we don’t do the application for you, we provide a homeschool planning template with guidance and support to help you do your own plan. We have a 100% success rate for registration approval when people follow our guidelines for making a plan.
If you want to know more about how our homeschool programs work then order our prospectus for more information.