Friday, March 7, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Home School Evaluations: Portfolio Assessment

Congratulations! You've had an another successful year of homeschooling. In just a few months, or weeks, it will be time to begin again. Now is the time to celebrate your journey and learning accomplishments! It is also time to file your compliance with your county according to the requirements of the Florida Department of Education.

How do you do this?
  • You can have your child tested using standardized tests, and mail test scores to the school board in the county you reside in, 
  • or you can choose to meet with an evaluator and for a portfolio assessment.
Get Ready: Gather papers, take photos of projects, and start sorting through the "learning evidence" you've accumulated over the past 7-8 months.   Make lists of books read, field trips taken and other learning experiences. (Think out of the box! Think of daily learning experiences beyond book work. Did you participate in Co-op, clubs, or P.E.?  Did your child cook a meal, learn how to change the oil in the car, film a YouTube video for their channel or start his own business?)

Set: Make sure that the papers and experiences you are going to share with the teacher for the evaluation have dates on them.  Unless you keep formal attendance records (highly suggested) this is good documentation for keeping track of school days.  Buy an organizer. Organizer meaning--big three ring binder or file system.  If you are working from workbooks, keep the pages in the books, no organizer needed.

Go:  Finish the required work for the year.  Put everything in order by date or by subject. Call  the certified teacher for the evaluation and schedule your end-of-the-year evaluation.

An evaluator may:

1- ask questions about the school year

2- document learning experiences

3- interview your child about the year, and ask your child to read 

4- give you a signed evaluation form with their teacher certification number on it. (Educator's credentials can be verified at

Last step: Mail the certificate and the evaluation form to the county where you live.  You should receive verification that they have received it within a couple of weeks.  If you don't receive verification, you should call the homeschool department and ask them if they have received it!

How to Assemble a Portfolio

During the past 20 years, I have had the privilege of evaluating for hundreds of homeschooling families. I have had the joy of seeing so many outstanding portfolio's and homeschool programs in action.  The same questions seem to be asked over and over. I will attempt to answer those questions. I will also include samples of how to put a portfolio together.  Keep in mind there is really no right or wrong way to put your portfolio together.  These are just ideas and suggestions for "how" to do it.

*The advantage of putting together a portfolio, is that all your important papers are organized for each year. If ever audited, you can easily show that you complied with the homeschooling laws. Your documented portfolio will speak louder than words.

# 1 Questions: 

What do I put in the portfolio? How do I do this? What do you look for?

Getting Started...

1. Buy a BIG notebook. I found several for $.99 at a thrift store.

Of course you can always find them at office supply stores.

2.Design a Cover Page. Usually on the outside of the portfolio.

Can include grade level or name, photos...

Note: Everyone's folders look different. Some even opt out of the folders and just gather workbooks for the evaluation.

3. Decide how you will divide the portfolio.  What subjects do you want to showcase first?  I usually start with labeling tabs and dividers. Then I arrange by subject. 

4. Documentation. My first section is always my documentation section.  This includes attendance, schedules, report cards, vision check-ups, doctor's visits, field trip lists or any other ways I chose to document the school year.

 In this section I usually include the Course of Study or curriculum list.

 After I mail the evaluation to the County, I receive
a confirmation letter that my child is ready to proceed to the next grade level. I place the letter in this section of the portfolio when I receive it.

Special Note:  Remember, you have options for homeschool assessment.  Your options include standardized testing.  If you decide on having your child tested, they have to show that they are on grade level in each portion of the test.  It raises "red flags" if the test scores aren't up to par. So my advice is if your child isn't great at taking tests, if they are highly creative individuals, or if they are "hands-on" learners, it may be wise to document your homeschool program with a portfolio assessment.

5. The "STUFF". You've divided your notebook by subject--now what?As an evaluator I look for progress.  It is not necessary to put every paper completed in the portfolio. (Preferably NOT.)  You should have a few (3-5) work samples or tests per subject per month.  If you are using a computer program such as Switched on Schoolhouse by Alpha Omega, all your records are on the computer.  You still need a documented record that your child completed the required work.  You can print out quizzes and tests, but it is also prudent to include some writing samples or whole lessons they completed as well.  Again, not required, but wise in case you decide to enroll your child in a private or public school. 

6. "A Picture is worth 1,000 words."  Include photos of your
school year. Field trips and hands-on learning experiences which may be time consuming to document with words are easy to record with a camera.

7. "Put your best foot forward."  Make sure your child's BEST samples are in the portfolio.  They may not all have the BEST grades but make sure they are done neatly and the pages are clean.

All of this makes a statement! You want to have a portfolio that you can look back on and know that you did your best.  This will be proof of the credibility and accountability of your child and family.

8. Include art, music lesson reports, P.E. records, any other community clubs, church or community service involvement. These are also learning experiences.  Awards, ribbons, trophies should be noted as well.

Contact me if you need a home school evaluation. I have been a State certified teacher since 1992 and can evaluate for any student in any county in Florida. My charge is $40 per student or $35 per student for families with 2 or more children.  Virtual/Email/Skype evaluations available at the same cost.

If I can help you please email me, Jennifer Jones at   If you request an evaluation, I will bring the required documents to make your evaluation as stress-free as possible.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Intentional Homeschooling Holidays

Ideas for Intentional Holidays
1. Joy Box. Decorate a shoebox with wrapping paper. Write ideas for a meaningful Christmas on 24 index cards or card stock. (See below for 24 ideas)
2. Focus on the Spiritual meaning of the holiday.
3. Center it around helping others. Volunteer in your community. Take goodies to community workers. (Police or Firefighters etc.)
4. Practice good deeds in your family.

24 ideas for the joy box...
1-Design a manger scene with poster board or Legos. Talk about the Nativity.
2- See a live Christmas Nativity.
3- Make hot cocoa, drive around check out Christmas lights.
4- Go to a Christmas parade.
5- Have a family Dollar Tree gift exchange.
6- Make homemade fudge.
7- Build a fire outside and tell stories of Christmas past.
8- Make s'mores at a campfire.
9- Watch a Christmas movie, eat popcorn, and candy canes.
10- Bake and decorate Christmas cookies together.
11- Paricipate in a Christmas Drama.
12- Watch the movie Elf and decorate the house with snowflakes.
13- Sing Christmas Carols.
14- Host a Christmas party.
15- Visit a bookstore and buy a Christmas book--read together as a family.
16- Visit a nursing home and sing Carols.
17-  Make homemade cards and treats and take them to neighbors.
18- Decorate the Christmas tree.
19-  Make a memory book with photos of Christmas past.
20- Make homemade gifts for family members.
21- String popcorn and hang outside for wildlife.
22- Take an evening walk and pay attention to the stars-- talk about the wisemen.
23- Have a family prayer time and offer God thanks for all the gifts God had given over the past years.
24-Light candles and have a moment of silence.  Sing Silent Night.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hands-On Learning Activities

"Hands-on" (Kinesthetic) learning activities are a great way to teach because...

1-Kids enjoy learning this way.
2-Parents enjoy teaching this way.
3-The WHOLE brain is involved in learning.
4-It's a more authentic way to learn.
5-More relationship oriented.

 2013 Learning Notebook

Field Trip Fun Wonderworks Florida

Wiggly friends.
Hands-on Gardening. It's fun to watch things grow.

Making the Nile River.  Overflow of the river to the "banks" made our seeds grow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

In the BEGINNING! Getting Started with Homeschooling!

13 years ago I made the decision.  I decided to homeschool my daughters.  I had experience as a public school teacher and a private school administrator.  However, I had no prior experience for my homeschool journey I was beginning.  Looking down the road, I wish I had known a few things before beginning.  In this blog post, my goal is to help you, as you start your journey.

Getting Started with Homeschooling 10 Steps:

Step 1:  BE LEGAL. Make sure your child is registered as a homeschooler with the school board of the county you are living in.

Step 2:  TRUST YOURSELF.  You can homeschool! You have made the decision. Commit to the decision you have made.

Step 3:  GET SET UP:  Set up your school room. Decide where you are going to have most of your learning experiences and get ready for it.  Currently we use a large dining room table that doubles as our formal dining room.  When we were starting out, we had a room that was the designated school room.  Don't get "hung up" on having school in one place. School work at home can be finished  outdoors, on the couch or on in another room. One of my favorite homeschooling moments includes reading aloud to my kids outside on a quilt under a tree.  An important organization plan is that you need to have one place for all your supplies. Make sure you have all the tools you need for learning. School books, computer programs, & school supplies that are organized and in one place make life much easier. Also make a daily schedule that fits your family's needs.

Step 4:  START SIMPLE:  The first year for homeschooling is the hardest.  The first year I spent learning my kid's learning styles. I started with a simple curriculum --like Abeka homeschool books, School of Tomorrow PACES, or AOP Life Pacs. This took the pressure off of me to come up with my own creative lessons while also balancing home responsibilities.  Since the first year, I have found curriculum that is more "tailor made" for my daughters.  I don't write the lessons, but I have researched what curriculum best fits their learning styles.

Step 5:  FOCUS ON PRIORITIES:  What are your family goals for the year?  Each year I have a list on a piece of paper that lists our family goals.  Under the family goals I have listed my learning goals for each of my children.  If you write down the goals you want to accomplish,  you will feel more satisfied with the progress you are making with homeschooling as you accomplish your goals.  If you start feeling overwhelmed look back over your goals.  Take it slow. One goal at a time. Remind yourself that you can do it!

                            example:  Jones' Family Goals

Start each day with family prayer and Bible Reading.
Go on 5 family field trips.
Build relationships at the dinner table.
Discuss High's and Low's of each day.

School Goals:
Focus on Reading.  Work with __________________ on reading fluency. Take trips to the Library.
Do at least 5 Science Experiments
Implement a structured P.E. program.  Go to gym and pool for daily exercise.

etc...... and so on....

Step 6: CONNECT WITH OTHERS: No man is an island.
Connect with other homeschooling families or your church community.  You will need emotional and academic support.  Options include Co-ops, umbrella schools, homeschool groups at church, community drama groups or friends who are also homeschooling.

Step 7:  GET RID 'OF PERFECTION: Pursue excellence but not perfection. 
In the beginning you are learning. Take each day as it comes.  Learn from your victories and mistakes.

Step 8:  LEARNING FOR LEARNING'S SAKE:  Focus on a love for learning and independent activities.

Step 9:  TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF:  Happy Mom/Dad--Happy Kids!
This one is hard for those of us who feel like we never have enough hours in a day for ourselves.  Sometimes just an hour out of the house for a coffee or a walk can work wonders. Don't forget to care for yourself while giving out to your family.


Some years have been smooth, while other years have been BUMPY! We've moved during some school years. I had two pregnancies, a miscarriage, family illness, operations, and hospitalizations. Sometimes life hits HARD! Just remember do the best you can.  If you aren't able to stay on course with book work, make sure you still document learning activities. Play educational games, watch educational movies, incorporate learning into the experiences that happen in your life. You can get caught up and survive the "low tide" moments.  Try to have fun. Take time to laugh. We only have one life, and one chance to give our kids the best education they need and deserve. Enjoy the journey.

Here's to a GREAT BEGINNING!!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Creative Home School Evaluations

I know that I recently posted about my ideal home school evaluation.  I must say however, the binder/folder method, may be the most institutional way to evaluate, but it is not the only way.  I recently evaluated portfolios for a homeschooling family that was extraordinary.  This family traveled the United States.  They visited Mount Rushmore, Oregon, California, and several national parks.  Their children started a home business, published brochures and were spotted by professional baseball teams and were invited to train with them.  There were no OCD folders with stamped dates, and a mile long paper trail for busy work.  Homeschooling was documented by real life experiences.  Rich, hands-on important "life" things.  The children had each published their own books (through the Apple company) about their schooling experiences.  What an awesome display of excellence and progress! To me this portfolio was a masterpiece.  The basics subjects were covered, but that wasn't the focus.  The focus was the rich learning experiences,and the priceless memories. Their goal was not just to complete school, their goal was to love learning and to realize that life was the prize.  To live a rich, full life is the ultimate goal.  Education is multifaceted and should not be limited to pencil and paper only.  Kudos to those who are bold and brave who educate and enjoy life in the process.  Creative home school evaluations are A+ also.