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Keeping a binder is a wonderful way to motivate your scholars to not only do their best work, but to showcase it.
From here on out, the binder will be referred to as a Portfolio. Why? The reasoning is quite simple. In many professional disciplines, future employers request a Portfolio documenting the capabilities, talents, and skills of a possible future employee. Why not start teaching this technique to your scholars now? Moreover, some universities request a sample of your scholar's education. By keeping a yearly Academic Portfolio, your scholar will be able to comply with this request on the same day (much to the astonishment of the university).
Daily your scholars place their dated work in their own Portfolio in the appropriate section. By the end of the year, it is quite simple to sit down and review how much your scholar has academically gained by looking at the work completed throughout the year in the Portfolio. The pride and boost to your scholar's self-esteem is invaluable. Your scholar will actually be able to point to, pick up and physically hand over to proud grandparents what they have accomplished for Christ.
Through Portfolios one can really SEE your scholar's academic progress since your scholar will date everything that is placed in the Portfolio. Even kindergartners have very impressive Portfolios when done this way. Moreover, if your scholar suspects that well-beloved grandparents, aunts/uncles, dance teachers, coaches, etc. will be looking at their Portfolio, they take the time needed to do their work well. Frequently, doctors will want to see samples of your scholar's work when checking for possible difficulties. When your scholar is able to present to the doctor their own work in a Portfolio the doctor will see how invested your scholar is in his/her education. Moreover, it makes it easier for the doctor.
Be sure to put as many things in your scholar's portfolio as possible. Why? This will become your scholar's teacher's manual for your grandchildren. This means that all the years of work and energy that you have invested in your scholar the good, the bad, the ugly will be modified, built upon, enhanced and tweaked by your children to educate your grandchildren. I know that my scholars will ask me in the future, "Ma, how did you teach such-and-such" and I will not have a clue. Yet, my daughters will not be left in the lurch. They will be able to look back at their own Portfolios for ideas, guidance, and direction.
In the future, your scholars will see the mistakes you made and correct them or try a different approach when teaching their children. Your scholars may hit a mental block of how to present something to your grandchildren and, yet, when they look at their own Portfolio, they will see that Mom did a great job on that particular issue. In like manner, your scholars will prepare Portfolios for your grandchildren and they, too, will enhance even further on their education to reach toward academic excellence for your great grandchildren. Think of the legacy that you are physically giving to your progeny!
As you will see, I attempt to have each scholars' Portfolio done in such a way that nothing will fall out of it. Moreover, the Portfolios are mobile meaning you may move them quickly, easily and store them away each day and not lose anything!
Your scholars will enjoy setting up these Portfolios with you yearly. From kindergarten on your children, without your help, will understand where to place their math papers, phonics papers, penmanship/cursive papers, art work, etc. Around age 11, I found my scholars were able to do most of the Portfolio set up by themselves. Not only is this an important organizational skill you are teaching your scholars, but it works great if your scholar would like to have their own business in the future as they are more than prepared to keep their own filing system.
Creating a Portfolio actually takes LESS effort, time, money than you may think. It is clutter free and neater. Time is saved on record keeping. The Portfolio is much easier to keep than a bunch of loose papers, spiral composition books, and used workbooks. Moreover, if the spiral composition books are 3 holed punched, they can go right into the Portfolio. Again, Portfolios looks impressive. A few pages taken out of a workbook look professional when slipped in a page protector in the Portfolio.
When graduation from homeschooling comes, you will be able to pull out all of your scholar's Portfolios and strategically place them so others that are visiting for graduation can see the progress made by your scholar from the time they were a kindergartner to graduation. It truly is impressive to see all those Portfolios lined up. It not only gives verification to the scholar for all the hard work and effort associated with academics, but it gives the parents verification too.
Have your scholars decorate their personal Portfolio as they wish. Use stickers like scrap bookers, clip art from old calendars, greeting cards, postcards, old books, etc. Use rubber cement to adhere the clip art, and laminate the cover with the sheets of clear laminate plastic to keep them from peeling off and protect it from spills.
Setting up the binder for your scholar's Portfolio usually only takes about 15-20 minutes (since I enjoy clowning around, it may take me longer to set it up). Have your scholar work with you in setting up the binder for their Portfolio. After all, this is your scholar's education and not yours.
We have found that a 3 inch to 5 inch D-ring binders work best for the Portfolio. The D-ring is the most important as it tends to not tear the holes in notebook paper.
Having a plastic cover on the outside and down the spine is VERY important. This is your scholar's opportunity to pick a picture of a well-loved family pet, or a family picture, or a recital/sports picture, or whatever on the cover sheet that you will be able to slide into the front of the binder. If you have more than one scholar in your home, you will immediately discover how important it is to be able to tell immediately whose Portfolio belongs to which scholar!
The Front Cover
The front cover to the Portfolio needs to include the scholar's name in a large font so it may be spotted from clear across the room, a picture your scholar has selected, and the years that particular Portfolio covers. You may want to use a fancy font, pretty inks, stamps, stickers, etc. The following will give you an example of how the front cover may look.
The spine of the Portfolio needs to simply have the scholar's name (e.g., Rachel Schmitt) along with the academic year (e.g., Academic Year 2003-2004). As your scholar gets older, they may need more than one or even two Portfolios to log their work. In that case, we tend to limit the academic year line to just the year (e.g., 2003-2004) and type in Volume 1, Volume 2, etc.
Setting Up the Portfolio
What you will physically need ...
|1) bigger than average, oversized dividers|
|2) regular dividers|
|3) 3-holed page protectors|
|4) 3-holed pocket folders|
|5) sturdy canvas pencil holders|
Bigger than average, oversized dividers
Make labels for each of the bigger than average, oversized dividers for each major academic discipline ...
|Misc. (this is where you put data for dance lessons, music lessons, field trips, sports, etc.)|
Regular sized divider
Make a label for each major text you use per academic subject and place it in the regular sized divider. Sometimes it helps to take the name of the text your scholar will use for each subject to make the label (e.g., Saxon Math). Now place that divider behind the oversized divider in the Portfolio binder (e.g., for Saxon Math ... you might have several dividers like Daily work, Quizzes, Tests, etc.)
Text Title Page/ Table of Contents
We photocopy off the title page and the table of contents for each text the scholar uses and place it behind the regular sized divider simply because I do not care to write any more than I have to.
This is where your scholar will file samples of work throughout the year appropriately.
3-Holed Page Protectors
We tend to use 3-holed page protectors for field trips and pictures. Anytime our scholars go on a field trip, we make sure to pick up 2 pamphlets from the where the outing occurred for each scholar. Upon returning home, the scholars tape one pamphlet frontwards and another pamphlet backwards on a colorful piece of paper. The date is written at the top of the colorful piece of paper as well as the name of the place (even if it is on the pamphlet). Then, this paper is placed in the page protector and filed under the "Misc." oversized divider and behind the regular sized divider that is labeled "Field Trips" in the Portfolio.
Page protectors are also helpful for pictures of field trips, recitals, dance lessons, lab experiments, etc. and can be filed appropriately throughout the Portfolio as appropriate.
Our family tends to keep a smaller binder with page protectors already loaded with colored paper in each page protector, and a canvas pencil holder containing scotch tape and a pen in the van. In that way, on the way home from a field trip, our scholars can put their pamphlets in them right then and there. Then, when we get home our scholar just takes out the used page protectors from the field trip and files them in their Portfolios. This is a great method for family vacations as well.
3-Holed Pocket Folders
My husband came home with these charming folders the first year I put together a Portfolio. At first I was put out, but shame on me. These 3-holed pocket folders are not only inexpensive, but are GREAT for placing birthday cards, letters from grandma, special notes, and other items that normally are thrown out but mean so much when you are an old lady like me and can look back and see your grandmother's birthday card to you. I had kept these mementos in my Bible; however, a Portfolio is much better as these mementos are preserved in a much better fashion.
Sturdy Canvas Pencil Holders
Pencil holders may be used for what they were manufactured for pencils, pens, protractors, etc.
Pencil holders are absolutely brilliant for storing flashcards for specific subjects. In this way, your scholar knows EXACTLY where those flashcards are and does not have to spend time hunting for them. Canvas pencil holders are especially invaluable for protecting flashcards from younger siblings ... uh, oh, er ... I mean scholars that idolize everything their older sibling does as it has been my experience younger scholars will want to imitate the older scholar and evaporate with the flashcards.
State Homeschooling Requirements
In the repressive homeschooling state of Pennsylvania, we are required to jump through many hoops (e.g., Affidavits, Educational Objectives, Academic Calendar, medical reports, etc.). I keep these state demanded pieces of documentation in each scholar's Portfolio in a 3-holed page protector in the very front of the Portfolio. In that way, all paperwork is kept where it is needed and is easily gotten a hold of if need be.
Each year my scholars keep a running list of each of the books read for that academic year in the computer. The list reads more like a bibliography except that we tack on the number of pages at the end. By keeping a running list, your scholar knows exactly how many books they have read for that academic year. What I have found interesting is that my scholars tend to look at the amount of books they read the previous year and try to beat that record. Rightly or wrongly, I encourage them to compete against themselves reaching for the prize.
|Books read by Kathleen Schmitt for the academic year 2003-2004.|
|1) The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt, G. A. Henty, PrestonSpeed Publications, 51 Ridge Road, Mill Hall, PA 17751 © 1998, 339 pages|
|2) At Agincourt: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris, G. A. Henty, PrestonSpeed Publications, 51 Ridge Road, Mill Hall, PA 17751 © 2001, 323 pages|
|3) The Little Duke, Charlotte M. Yonge, PrestonSpeed Publications, 51 Ridge Road, Mill Hall, PA 17751 © 2003, 143 pages|
|4) The List, C.D. Baker, PrestonSpeed Publications, 51 Ridge Road, Mill Hall, PA 17751 © 2002, 349 pages|
Video / Audio book / Music List
Under "Misc." my scholars make a label for a regular sized divider for both "Video/DVD List," "Audio books" and "Music." In the computer they make a running list of for each category and at the end of the academic year, this is printed off and placed in each scholars' respective Portfolio.
We purchase big, plastic tubs with lids (similar to the plastic Christmas storage boxes). At the end of each academic year, each scholar places her portfolio(s) in her own Portfolio tub. A label is created by typing it in the computer in large font and printed off. This label is laminated (otherwise the ink will flake off over time), and glued/taped to the big plastic tub.
When Christmas or other gift giving events come around, be sure to get the gel packs that are used to keep things dry inside these gift items. As you collect these gel packs, have your scholars toss them in their Portfolio plastic tub to help keep moisture down.
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