Let’s be honest, keeping track of homeschool records is probably our least favorite part of homeschooling. Organizing and filing worksheets, handouts, tests, grade reports, and forms isn’t as enjoyable as teaching our children, learning with them, exploring new places, and trying new experiments. But record keeping is just as important in homeschooling as the actual schooling and requires just as much care and attention. Homeschool record keeping can be a daunting task for even the most organized parent. But thanks to several tools and resources, it doesn’t have to be a frustrating, tedious job. In this post, we explain how to keep record keeping simple by knowing which records to keep, for how long, and the most efficient ways to organize them.
Why is homeschool record keeping important?
The biggest reason record keeping is important for homeschooling is because it’s legally required in most states. As Christians, we should follow the laws our government has instituted as much as possible, as long as they do not contradict scripture. Keeping careful homeschool records is one way we can “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).”
Another reason to keep homeschool records is that you will need them if your child plans to attend college. Certain universities and colleges have specific requirements students must meet to enroll; so the more detailed your records, the better chance your children will have to attend the college of their choice.
One more reason for homeschool record keeping is to ensure that their children are on track academically and learning what they’re supposed to be learning. Record keeping is a helpful way to gauge homeschoolers’ progress from year to year. It’s also a secure way to prove that your children are being sufficiently educated and reaching important academic goals throughout their schooling. It’s important to keep homeschool records as evidence, not just for your own peace of mind but also for any assessments your state may require. And you will be confident that you have adequate information should you ever need to prove the worth and genuineness of your child’s schoolwork.
What homeschool records do you need to keep?
This depends on the requirements of your state. Some states are more relaxed and require only an attendance record, an Intent to Homeschool Notice, and proof that you belong to a homeschool association. Other states expect you to also include a portfolio of progress throughout the year (completed tests, quizzes, assignments), a report card, immunization records, placement test scores, and a high-school transcript. If you’re not sure what your state requires, do some research so you know exactly what is required by your state’s homeschool laws. Education professionals advise that you create a homeschool portfolio for each child. This should include your curriculum plan, homeschool goals for the year, report card, attendance record, and transcript. Throughout the school year you can add things to your portfolio such as completed essays, tests, worksheets, and research reports.
How to Keep Homeschool Records
It’s best to keep your homeschooling records in one place where you can easily locate everything. There are two main organization methods for homeschool record keeping.
- Use a physical filing system, such as a 3-ring binder or file folders, for each school year. You can store both original documents and copies for the sake of convenience and peace of mind. Many parents prefer a physical filing system so they can keep up with records more consistently. For example, as soon as they grade a test or paper, they can add it to their files. Or if they need to refer to a past report card or assignment, they can find it quickly. Another advantage of keeping physical records is that parents don’t have to worry about losing important papers due to a computer crash or virus.
- Use a digital organization method. Two of the most popular digital organizational tools for homeschool record keeping are Google Sheets and Trello. Users like both platforms for their efficiency and ease of use. The benefits of a paperless system include the following:
- Fewer papers to keep track of
- Ease of sharing records
- Ease of locating records
- Extra storage space
- Ease of making physical copies if needed
- Files preserved during a move, fire or other disaster
How to Keep Track of Grades for Homeschooling
On paper: Create or download a simple grade form for each child. Every time you grade a test, quiz, or paper, write down the final grade on the corresponding subject tab on the sheet. Then, once you have completed 9 weeks of school, all you need to do is look at your grade form and tally up the totals. By the end of the school year, you will have each quarter’s grades, and you can add them up for a cumulative grade. Storing these grade forms inside your 3-ring binder or file folders will make it much easier to keep up with grades throughout the school year.
Digitally: You can also create your own grade form and report card on Google Sheets. Simply enter the grades for tests and assignments and tally total grades on the report card form.
How to Keep Track of Homeschool Hours
- An easy way to record attendance, especially if you’re homeschooling only one child, is to mark a calendar. Write the hours per day of school you check off; then add them up at the end of each month.
- Another simple method is using a homeschool planner that includes attendance records.
- Google Sheets is a great way to keep track of homeschool hours, because you can access it from anywhere on any device. Create a sheet titled Homeschool Attendance Records with tabs for each month you plan to homeschool. For example, if you homeschool year-round, set up 12 tabs for 12 months. Put your child’s name in the top row and the days and dates of each month in left-hand columns. With Google Sheets, you can insert a checkbox into any cell in three simple steps:
- Choose the cell where you want to include a checkbox.
- Select “Insert” from the menu.
- Click on “Checkbox.”
- Another digital option for recording homeschool attendance is to create a simple Excel spreadsheet or Word document to tally your days and hours of homeschooling.
How Long to Keep Homeschool Records
- Temporary records. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) recommends you keep the following records on a three-year cycle for pre-high school documents:
- Attendance records
- Test scores
- Grade records
- Hours of instruction
- Work samples
- Achievement records and awards
- Permanent records. The HSLDA also recommends that you keep the following high school documents permanently. Never throw these records away!
- Portfolios of work samples
- Test scores
- State-required end-of-year assessments
- All correspondence with any school officials
Helpful Homeschool Record Keeping Tools
The Homeschool Hub
BJU Press Homeschool Hub is an all-in-one learning management tool, assignment scheduler, and planner. It’s free to BJU Press curriculum users, and there is also a limited version free to anyone. Whether they use the online, DVD, or textbook homeschool format, all BJU Press curriculum users have access to the following:
- Complete schedule of assignments (and video lessons for online/DVD)
- Adjustable calendar for convenient scheduling
- Gradebook with reporting options
- Access to additional support materials for your homeschool journey
- Student handouts plus answer keys
Filing cabinets provide a secure, convenient method of storing and organizing all your school-related papers and documents, such as work samples, attendance records, grade reports, report cards, tests, quizzes, and art projects. It’s simple to file papers according to year, subject, child, and grade thanks to hanging folders and dividers you can label. Filing cabinets are also a great option for homeschool record keeping since they can hold a large amount of paperwork. And since many are made of metal, you can be sure your documents will be protected from fire and water damage.
Many moms have found this system to be helpful for homeschool record keeping. They recommend using at least 3 or 4 plastic stackable crates and as many hanging file folders as you think you’ll need. One mom suggests 144 hanging folders to use for 36 weeks of school for the four core subjects: language arts, science, math, and social science. If you want to add a fifth subject such as “art,” “language,” or “electives,” you would need 36 more file folders. She prefers using a week/subject format for labeling and filing purposes. For example, you would write your labels as follows:
- Week 1 – Language Arts
- Week 1 – Math
- Week 1 – Social Science
- Week 1 – Science
After you have labeled your file folders, divide them evenly among your crates. For example, if you use 3 crates, place weeks 1–12 in the first crate, weeks 13–24 in the second, and weeks 25–36 in the third. She also encourages creating a file folder for each of your children per hanging folder. The final steps are simple: put your file folders into the corresponding hanging folders; then store your stackable crates in a place you can conveniently access throughout the year.
While homeschool record keeping may not be the most enjoyable part of homeschooling, it is an important part. The task may seem daunting, but the above-mentioned tools and resources can make it less frustrating and more efficient. With proper organization and attention, you can maintain and organize records of worksheets, handouts, tests, grade reports, and forms.
• • • • •Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and mom of two young girls and loves homeschooling them. During her own twelve years of being homeschooled, Jennifer developed a passion for reading and writing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and relishes writing during her free time.