Imagine being called to court to testify that your homeschool is in accord with state laws. Or think of the mundane but more likely possibility of preparing a transcript for your high school student’s college admission. As I prepared to begin homeschooling, record-keeping intimidated me. Here are the steps I followed to get my record-keeping in order.
Identify Your State Laws Regulating Homeschooling
Home educators tend to be independent, and we work hard to maintain our freedom to teach our children without state intervention. Still, we are commanded to submit to governing authorities as ordained by God and to follow their laws unless doing so would violate God’s laws (Romans 13:1-7; Acts 5:29).
Find your state education website and read the laws regarding homeschooling. Or if you’re like I am and find that reading legal documents prompts a shut-down of your brain, it would be a good idea to go to the Home School Legal Defense Association website (HSLDA) to check out their state-specific legal analysis.
Thinking about relocating? One thing you should consider before moving to another state is that state’s laws regarding homeschooling. Some states give homeschools relative freedom, others have moderate requirements, and a handful closely regulate homeschools. Here’s a helpful map color coding the state differences.
Prepare Record-Keeping Documents
After figuring out the requirements of your state, decide which documents you need to keep. The following are the ones I need based on my state laws. Remember that your state’s record-keeping requirements may be different or more substantial.
- Daily log: This tracks the core and elective hours, description of curricula and activities, and required days in the school year. My husband created a handy spreadsheet that automatically calculates cumulative hours as I enter in the core subject and elective hours per student. It also tracks the number of days in school to verify that we meet our state requirement. I just have to fill in the daily hours, and at a glance I can see how many more hours my student will need to fulfill core and elective requirements. On this spreadsheet I can also keep track of the curricula used and activities engaged in, in accord with my state laws.
- Grade book: Personally, I’d prefer not keeping track of grades in the early years, but my state requires records of assessment results to show student progress. Again, my husband came up with a time-saving spreadsheet that automatically calculates percentages and cumulative grades.
- Portfolio: My state requires me to collect samples of each child’s work. An HSLDA legal assistant advised my family to keep all the workbook pages for the current year and the previous year. For students in high school, he recommended keeping all four years’ worth of records. These can be scanned in to create a digital record to save space.
Implement a plan to regularly update your record books. Your specially prepared documents do little good if you forget to regularly fill them out. My goal is to fill out my spreadsheets in the evening before I plan for the next school day.
Consider Joining HSLDA
While BJU Press doesn’t specifically endorse HSLDA, I have found it to be a helpful resource. Even if you don’t join, you will find that their website offers a wealth of information about homeschooling in general, not just the legal aspects. Joining gives you access to member-specific resources, personal consultation, and legal representation. If your oldest child is under the age of five, you can currently join for free. For me, one of the major benefits of membership is being able to email questions and hear back from a legal assistant.
Besides checking out HSLDA, look into local homeschool organizations. I’m considering joining my statewide homeschool organization that sponsors a registered lobbyist to advocate for homeschooling in our state legislature.
After taking these steps, I find that record-keeping no longer intimidates me. With the forms in place, I simply need to faithfully fill them out.
Editor’s note: You might also consider joining the Academy of Home Education (AHE), which is connected with BJU Press. It serves as an umbrella organization for homeschool families nationwide and offers report cards, official transcripts, homeschool consultants, testing, and a graduation ceremony. Because AHE is not a school, it cannot be accredited. Find out how you can get started with the Academy of Home Education.
How do you keep all of your homeschooling paperwork organized?