Record Keeping for Unschoolers   

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Whether you need to report to a board of education, are experiencing a time of doubt about your choices, or simply want a way to remember your journey together, record keeping can be an invaluable tool for the unschooling family.

Anecdotal Records

As unschoolers, our family finds keeping anecdotal records to be the easiest and best matched method to our lifestyle. But there are still many ways to accomplish this, such as:

  • journal keeping (adult and/or child)
  • creating a portfolio
  • blogging
  • goal setting and follow-up
  • scrapbooking
  • photo journalism
  • video taping
  • many others I'm not thinking of at the moment

Because most of us lead quite varied lifestyles, you may wish to use more than one of these methods.

If you live in an area that requires you to report to a board of education, you may find there are specific requirements in terms of record keeping. One trick to get a more clear idea of their expectations (if you do not have anyone with examples available to look at) is to check their online resources and see what different kinds of record keeping their classroom teachers are expected to use. Copy any forms you may need, and keep a current copy in a central location along with blanks. File the forms and any documentation as completed, replacing with a fresh form or record at the same time.

If you live in Ontario, (or most other Canadian provinces), you are not required to report to a board of education, although you may be asked to send a letter stating your intent to home educate your children. Any records you keep are for yourself and anyone you care to share them with.

So why would you bother to keep records?

You may decide to keep records for the same reasons you take pictures of your children: to record special moments, accomplishments and milestones, and to preserve memories.

I also find it a useful tool to evaluate how we are doing. Since few people we know unschool, I have been known to have "unschooling panic attacks". At first, I'd pull out seatwork and do "school at home" for a few days, but then I started just writing down the things we did each day. In doing this, it becomes much clearer just how much learning really is happening.

Making it Happen

The most important point is to have a place to keep all of your records; one that allows for growth, and is in a central area so that you will use it. If you live in a house infected with disappearing pen syndrome, tie (or duct tape) a pen to your book, or use your computer. Making it easy to find and record means you will be more likely to do it.

Since homeschoolers tend to have lower family incomes than those with two full-time financially employed adults, we also tend to have smaller houses with less storage. In our family, we find it useful to allow larger projects a set time for display, then photograph and/or video tape projects and pass on/disassemble etc. the original. We keep the pictures (usually as digital images on a cd), which tend to be much smaller than the original projects.

Another important tool is keeping an index. If you are like me, you tend to save files, then can't remember what you called them (and where you put them). If you keep an index in a central place, you will waste less time searching for them. Computer files can have their index with an icon you keep right on your desktop. Just be careful not to let your computer clear away unused icons on your desktop if you haven't updated for a while.

Don't panic if you haven't updated for a while, just go back and start from where you left off. This can be a nice review tool if you ask the kids to add their input. In fact, it is a good idea to sit down together every few months and review your records to celebrate how far you have come.