In homeschooling circles, a lot is made about following your own plan and your students’ leads. We’re in this to be different, everyone tells you. Stop paying attention to what the schools are doing. Do your own thing!
I firmly believe all that. However, I know that, for a whole bunch of reasons, sometimes you can’t do whatever you like. Sometimes you have to satisfy the powers that be.
Some states require that homeschoolers provide a portfolio of their work or take standardized tests. In other states, homeschoolers may have to jump through various hoops when they join charter schools to access money. Sometimes homeschool parents have to provide proof of what they’re doing to a partner who is unsure about homeschooling. Other times, students are preparing to re-enter school and need to prove that they’re ready for a certain level of work.
Regardless of why you need to prove yourself, sometimes you just do. Below are some tips for satisfying those pesky outside requirements.
Think Positive and Don’t Let It Change You
First of all, approach requirements with a can do attitude. While you shouldn’t have to justify yourself or your kids, and while it isn’t fair, don’t dwell on it negatively. Assume that what you’re doing is basically going to be fine. After all, you’re probably doing a great job homeschooling! You almost certainly don’t need to change anything fundamental. Homeschool how you want to homeschool and make the requirements fit into your education vision, not the other way around.
Be Creative and Use What You Have
You don’t want to make any big changes just to satisfy requirements. That means be creative in how you think about what you’re already doing. That day at the creek splashing around was nature studies. That afternoon sledding was P.E. The thank you notes the kids wrote after their birthday party was English class.
Document Creatively, Too
Worksheets aren’t the only way to document that your kids are learning. Take photos of what they’re doing and call that documentation. If you have to show that you did P.E., you don’t need a worksheet about the rules of basketball. Snap photos when the kids actually play ball instead. That can apply to work you do in any subject. If you usually do math on a whiteboard, take a photo of it every couple of weeks. If you have to cover health, take a photo of the dentist chatting with your student. Save programs from the performances you attend for proof that you covered fine arts. Toss in the scavenger hunt from the museum. Make lists of books read or places visited. Your lists can absolutely serve as documentation.
It’s Okay to Just Do a Few Worksheets
I don’t think you have to change what you’re doing radically, but if there are areas where you’ve run out of creative juices to prove that you did something but you don’t have other written work, it’s okay to get a few worksheets just for the purpose of proving to others that you checked off some boxes.
Don’t Let Kids Take Tests Without Prep
We all know that schools spend way too much time on test prep and teaching to make or break standardized tests. You don’t want your homeschool to become like that. On the other hand, it’s no fair to a student to pull out a two day standardized test and say, “Surprise!” If you have to test, spend at least a couple of days to a week on test prep before you administer the test. You can spread it out and make it a game if you need to. However, it’s important to give kids a small leg up. Even a few hours of prep will raise scores.
A Few Big Projects Can Be Good for Your Homeschool
One of the wonderful things about homeschooling can be not having to worry about producing “pretty” work just for the sake of showing off. However, preparing a big, final project can actually be a positive thing to take on every once in awhile. As long as they have ownership, big projects can make kids feel proud of their work. As a bonus, a big science fair project or a first big research paper is exactly the sort of proof that the powers that be often want to see. Don’t feel like you need to do these sorts of things for every subject all the time. However, picking a couple of carefully chosen projects every year can be a positive thing for both showing off and for your kids’ learning process.
Organization is Key
If you have to prove yourselves for some reason, then having a way to organize your kids’ work and your documentation is important. If you keep a blog, that can be a good way to keep track of what you’re doing. However, there are many other ways. At our house, we have finished work boxes and portfolios. Other people have apps like One Note that help them track what’s going on. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. What’s important is that you have a method that’s easy for you and will give you the documentation you need when it’s time to put things together.