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As I began to homeschool my first grader over the last few months, I felt encouraged by the local homeschooling groups I joined on social media. Just today, one of the other new homeschool moms posted a question I continue to try and figure out “what records do we keep???” Lots of other parents weighed in with what they keep for different grade levels and where and when to send records when they are requested by a local school group.

This has taken some time for me to figure out! When I first began homeschooling, my family told me that I would have to be super organized, very diligent, and keep close of all my son’s school work daily. This seemed overwhelming; did I need to keep every handwriting worksheet? Every drawing for art? Every science experiment? I was told I would need to be much more organized than I usually am! Because we live in a state that does require us to keep some records and give quarterly progress reports on our homeschoolers, just as a traditional school would, I took this advice to heart and for a few weeks I was a little stressed about what to plan and how far in advance should I look at the curriculum and finding storage cubbies for all the hundreds of handouts it felt like we were doing and marble notebooks we were filling.

Over this first quarter, which is now coming to a close, I have been able to figure out what to save and what doesn’t need saving. I have found ways to track my son’s progress that work for me – I do weekly reports on what material we covered in each subject, and I jot it down on a whiteboard each day in case I forget. I only do a summary, and while I save some of the bigger projects or important assignments, I do not save every piece of paper my son’s pencil touches.

One of the joys of homeschooling is having more freedom in curriculum and what my student is learning than in traditional classrooms, so if it takes an extra day to really digest the sight words for the week, it is OK. It won’t derail the whole progress report. And just as a classroom teacher does not keep every single assignment the students do all year, I get to decide what material to put in a portfolio of work to reflect on the major themes we have covered in school and what materials we can say goodbye to as time goes on. Plus, I highly doubt school administrators will ask for every single assignment we have worked on throughout our quarter of homeschooling.

It takes some getting into the groove to decide what records to keep, how to keep them, and what to submit. Even though my state does require progress reports, some parents in my local homeschooling group submit incredibly detailed reports to their school districts and others submit single paragraphs that state the student’s attendance and whether they have satisfactorily covered grade appropriate material. It depends on the school district, the individual administrators going over the report, and what works best for your family to decide how to keep track of a homeschooler’s progress. I am sure that as time goes on, I may tweak how I keep a record of what we do in school each day and what I hold onto. But for now, our system works, and we are learning how to figure this whole homeschooling journey out – with the help of our local community!

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Melanie Ollett is a mom of one joyful little boy whom she adopted from foster care in 2018. She lives on Long Island with her son, dog, and two cats who all insist on sleeping in her bed more nights than she really prefers. Melanie is the solo pastor of a United Methodist Church in the New York Annual Conference and loves working back home close to where she grew up with the support of friends and family to help support her crazy schedule.