These days, there are many ways you can “read” a book, depending on your preferences.
You can listen to it as an audiobook. You can read it on an electronic device. Then, of course, you can buy an app that will allow you to turn your e-book into an audiobook. Or you can read a book online (would that be called an o-book?).
But wait—there’s still one more way. If you really want to, you can read a book printed on bound paper, as in the olden days!
Just for fun, this is how you can think about homeschool recordkeeping. It’s basically different ways to present the story of your child’s life and education.
Some of the types of records described below might seem dry . . . boring. Others might get your creative juices flowing! In many cases, you have leeway in deciding what records to keep. Of course, you’ll need to find out if your state homeschool law has any homeschool documentation requirements. But no matter the format, you can tell your child’s story with pride and a sense of accomplishment!
Report cards and transcripts are records of your student’s grades. If you are homeschooling a high schooler, then creating a transcript is non-optional—read more about that in Why Every Teen Needs a Transcript. Some teens need report cards as well. See The Essentials of High School Recordkeeping for information about documentation during these years.
For students younger than high school age, keeping grading records is still a good idea. These records may be required if you move to another state or school district, if your child joins a sports program, or if you decide to send your child to a traditional school.
Wondering whether and how to grade? Read our grading series.
Work samples and book lists
Schoolwork samples (often kept in portfolios) and lists of curriculum and books used to teach your child may be required by your state law. Even if your state doesn’t require work samples, they are very helpful if you ever need to substantiate your child’s educational progress for government officials.
They are also great ways to tell the unfolding story of your child’s progress. Reviewing them can give you a sense of accomplishment—and make school planning for younger siblings easier!
“Seriously?” you might be thinking. “My child lives here! Aren’t all days attendance days?” Yep, we know. This one’s weird.
Attendance days are the actual days your child is schooling, not just living in your home. Some states require homeschool attendance records, and some parents like to keep track of attendance for their own reference.
Thankfully, there are many tools and websites that can help you do this. Here's an article with a great overview of attendance tracking and several links that can help you come up with a method that works for you. And this article describes a simple, flexible approach.
Hours of instruction
If you live in a state that requires your child to receive schooling for a certain number of hours per year, make sure you understand how your state defines those hours and how you are required to record them. (Look up your state law here.) You can find many books, forms, and online tools for hours tracking by searching online.
And don’t forget—if you’re an HSLDA member, you can contact our Legal Department for help understanding your state’s attendance or hours requirements (if any) and how to comply with them!
Retain the score records from all required tests your child takes. (Find out if your state has testing requirements.)If your child takes any other tests or assessments, it’s a good idea to keep those results, too. Want to find out more about testing or evaluating your homeschooled child? Check out our testing information!
Awards and achievement records
Achievement records provide evidence of your child’s most shining accomplishments. These records can take the form of pictures, certificates, narratives, and other creative captures. In your student’s story, here is where drama, emotion, and suspense unfold, so have fun!
Here’s where the exciting parts of your child’s story are told! This recordkeeping shows how interesting and unique he or she is by documenting music lessons, sports, speech and debate, Scouts, hobbies, leadership activities, volunteering, and . . . hey! You’re homeschoolers! The sky’s the limit! (Wondering what this might look like? See the Sample Extracurricular Activities Resume download below.)
Homeschooled kids and graduates sometimes need additional documentation to demonstrate the credibility of their unconventional (and amazing!) education. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep certain additional records, even if your state law does not require them—because you never know when your student might need them. (Is this drill starting to sound familiar? J)
- Copies of birth certificates
- Immunization records or waivers
- Records from previous schools attended
- Copies of all correspondence with school officials, including notices of intent
- Copy of your degree or diploma, or teaching certificate, if applicable
- Receipts for educational materials
- List of in-service trainings you have completed (homeschool workshops, books read, support group topical studies, etc.)
- Any photos you’ve taken of your family’s homeschool
- Key to your evaluation or grading system
- Your philosophy of education or educational goals list
How long should I keep my student’s records?
If your child is not yet in high school, most of the records described above can be kept at your discretion. When it comes to work samples, we encourage you to keep them on a three-year cycle: the current year’s work, plus samples from the previous two years.
HSLDA recommends that you keep the following records permanently (yes, that means forever!): any test scores or portfolios from state-required end-of-year assessments, and all correspondence with school officials.
Once your child reaches high school, you’ll have additional records to add to your permanent file—see our high school records article for specifics.
Pro tip: It’s much easier to keep records as you go along than try to construct them later when you realize you need them. (Now, that’s a plot for a horror story!) Be sure you know what your state law requires and organize as you go.
The HSLDA Educational Consultants are here for you! If you’re a member, contact us anytime for help writing the records that tell your child’s educational story.