Posts tagged ‘record keeping’

August 5, 2013

Homeschool Records – Keeping a Diary

by Belinda Letchford

journal diary ID-10022750

I think keeping a diary is one of the best ways to keep a record of your homeschool endeavours.  It can be an involved journal or it can be simply a list kept daily – the real benefit of keeping a diary is daily reflection.

When we stop and think through our day the first thing we’ll probably do is list all the academic work that we achieved – math, tick; phonics, tick; art, tick; read aloud, tick.  But the diary comes into its own when you look further than those intentional structured lessons and think about what else you did in your day.

  • Are you in teaching/training phase of a particular chore – this is learning so it goes in the diary
  • Did your kids explore in the sandpit, at the playground?  These activities are learning, for a season.  Sandpits are the best place to practice out problem solving, engineering and inventions.  Imagination play is a part of learning.
  • Did your kids play with Lego, create a story with their dolls, or have an adventure in the tree house?  It is learning.
  • Did they have piano lessons, go to a sport practice or game?
  • Did they read a book all afternoon?
  • Did they cook, paint, take photos?
  • Did they play a board game?
  • Did they make a phone call (this is learning for the season of time it takes for them to become familiar with this skill), organise a cupboard, design a cushion or book-bag?
  • Did they go with Dad to his work?

These are all learning activities. They need to be recorded as such.

Even Saturday family day activities can count:

  • Go shopping  – especially if you give them the shopping list and money
  • Go camping  - especially if they learnt something like how to light a fire, or tell directions from the stars
  • Set up for a party – especially if they created the decorations, or cooked the food, or planned the entertainment

Some of the things we do on Sunday at Church can also count as learning:

  • Play a musical instrument
  • Learn to manage the sound equipment
  • Read the Scriptures

If you believe that everyday life offers learning experiences you need to be recording them.  Make them count.  If you need to give more formal reporting to the government department, then simply use Education Speak.  That is, identify the skill behind the activity, and label it as if they were in school.

For example

  • cooking, sewing, hospitality is “Home Economics”
  • playing in the sandpit is Math, or Science, depending on what game they played.  Maybe geography if they created hills, valleys, rivers, towns etc.
  • board games often have a specific skill behind the fun – Monopoly of course is easy – money – math and business, Othello – thinking skills, Rummikub – Math, Scrabble –language, Trouble – character (handling the disappointments),

It has been important to me to find a way that I can be true to my philosophy and yet responsible in monitoring the kids’ education – writing a diary has helped.

There are a few different forms of writing in a diary

  • Journal – either traditional pen and paper or a digital version ( or check out Microsoft Onenote)
  • Blog – a blog has the added benefit of either encouraging other homeschoolers or keeping extended family up to date with your learning activities
  • Photo album or Instagram – If you already take photos of everyday life then this type of recording makes sense.

The purpose of creating a journal/diary isn’t for the benefit of other people (though they may well benefit) but to help you see that though you may have many interruptions and distractions learning is happening.

Linking with:

hip homeschool hopcourtship connection

May 1, 2013

There needs to be Evidence of their Learning

by Belinda Letchford
photo credits:  Panpote at

photo credits: Panpote at

If we are to be responsible homeschoolers we need to know that our kids are learning.  We can’t just hope for it, or presume it – we need to know.  

Are our kids slipping through the system?  I don’t mean the government regulated testing etc but do we know that our kids are learning?  How can we be sure?

Unfortunately completed work doesn’t necessarily mean learning has taken place.  We are all familiar with cramming for a test, passing it and forgetting everything to do with it.  So how do we know that our kids have learnt something?

To start with, what do we mean by ‘learn’?  The dictionary defines learn as:

  • Acquiring knowledge of or skill in – by study, instruction or experience
  • To become informed of or acquainted with
  • To memorize
  • To gain (a habit, mannerism) by experience, exposure to example

When we test our children’s learning we are hoping that they have recall on the things that they’ve memorised.  And yet from the definition above we can see learning is more than memory.

Learning happens in two places – in the head, which we can’t really see, and in our actions/words which of course we can see.  We need to give credence to the hands on projects/activities that our kids do, and we need to find ways for our kids to express what is going on in their heads so we know what learning is taking place there too.

The only way we can fairly look for evidence of learning is to know what we are looking for.  We cannot assess on something we haven’t set out to teach.  This is one reason why we don’t do the Naplan Testing (government testing which is optional for homeschoolers in my State ).  I don’t want my kids tested for something that I haven’t taught (my main concern is that I teach these things in a difference sequence than the schools do).    So if we want to be sure of learning we need to know what we want our kids to learn.

Though I’m very big on taking every opportunity that comes your way as a learning experience I am also a big believer in being intentional and planning learning experiences as well.  Our homeschool is about walking the balance between these two.   We must have goals or objectives, if we are to assess wisely.

Do you know what you want your child to achieve?  Or are you stabbing in the dark.

The thing is, I know my kids are learning – they live in an idea rich family, they are involved with other people, they read books, we talk  and do stuff – they are learning.  But what are they learning and are they learning what they need to learn right now?

At the beginning of each year I consider where my kids are at.  I consider all aspects of their life:

Then I set some goals – sometimes these goals cover all the kids and we learn together, other goals are for the individual.  Then I find the teaching resources I need to reach those goals.  Then throughout the year, I pause and reflect back on how we are going?  Is it working?  Are they learning?  I don’t always have a rubric that outlines progressive growth or learning – I must admit sometimes there is a degree of mother-heart in my assessment – but I know what I’m looking for.

I have my goals, and I can observe how my children are going with that.

I can see learning by

  • How they talk about the subject, or integrate that subject matter into other topics of conversation
  • How they write or create using that information
  • How they ask questions to further their learning
  • How they are changed in their responses to life, that is how they use it
  • If they can teach someone else (help others to understand – by their words or demonstration)
  • Self assessment – if they can express how they have learnt something

Are you seeing learning happening in your home?

Is it happening for the important areas?

If so, are you keeping a record of it?

If not, what are you doing to address it?

December 14, 2012

Homeschool Review the family friendly way

by Belinda Letchford


It is coming to the end of the year where we start to wonder where the year has gone and if we have used it wisely concerning the teaching and training of our children.  I like to write a report for each of my kids (I don’t get to it every year but I wish I did).  This is often used as a part of my reporting to the moderator (Education Department) next year.  I used to use the government’s curriculum framework but found myself checking boxes and doing things that I didn’t really want to do.  These days I use my own outline for my report which covers all areas of our life, not just the academic.

As I write my report I use the same categories as I list on my website:

Relationships – what activities have happened throughout the year that has enhanced or built relationships with God and man (family, friends and acquaintances?)

Responsibilities – what has happened in our family life that has helped my children grow in the areas of responsibility with time, money, and possessions?

Intrapersonal – how have my children grown as a person – their inner self

Talents – what talents have been developed over the year – what activities or opportunities have they had to stretch and improve

Academics – where are they at, in terms of the 3 R’s, thinking, history, geography, science etc.  What has been their strengths and their weaknesses.

The key to writing a good report but still using all of family life is to use education speak; that is to use the language of educators to describe the learning going on in everyday activities.  For example:

When considering the area of talents Naomi has joined a community drama group which I list as her art programme for this year.  Daniel though has been interested in drawing and has used ‘learn to draw’ books in his free time – which is his Art, as is his interest in stop-motion animation and movie making though that also covers Technology!  Both these forms of art have helped my kids understand different ways of communicating ideas, they have both learnt different techniques and skills, and they reflect on their own work and think of ways to improve.  These are the aspects of art that are important in education speak.  For me, I use the curriculum framework though this is now a mostly outdated document officially, it still provides education speak; it still breaks down what the kids are doing and gives us the formal words to explain.

This may go deeper than you want to report – if so, then simply use the learning areas and categorise the activities accordingly:  Art, Language Arts (English), Health and Physical Education (which also includes personal values and development), LOTE (Language other than English – 2nd language), Mathematics, Science, Society and Environment, Technology and Enterprise.   I am sure that every family has activities that support most of those distinctions.

I then write a comment or two about their involvement in that activity. As I reflect on what they have done the skills and lessons learnt become apparent.

Three family friendly ways to keep records that will help you compile such a report are

  1.  Your family diary – as you flip back through the year you will see the commitments and activities your kids were involved in.  A dress-up party (Art, History, Technology), dinner with a missionary or grandad who talked about their life (Society and Environment), sport commitments (Physical Ed, Health), community dance (Physical Ed, Society), maybe your older kids organised and hosted a birthday party for their younger sibling (English, Health, Technology, Art),  cooking (Health, Technology, Society),
  2. Your family photo albums serve as another memory jogger – maybe you have photos of the kids working in the veggie patch (Science, Health), blogging (English, Technology), maybe you see your child has taken a lot of photos themselves and have improved (Art, Technology, maybe even Science if they are interested in nature photography), trips that you have made (Society and Environment, Science, Health, Art, Language, Math….all depending on the flavour of your travels!), family gatherings (Society and Environment),
  3. A book list of the books, and even movies that you read/watch as a family will give you clues to topics discussed.  These things can be counted as a lesson/unit.  For example if you read Winnie the Pooh, you are covering language as you enjoy prose and clever use of words. As you read Do Hard Things you are covering Health topics such as inter and intrapersonal skills and values.  As you read Treasures in the Snow you are discussing geography and cultures which is Society and Environment.

When we start to include all of family life in our homeschool review we find ourselves looking at a very full year indeed.  We can also begin to see the gaps in our family life, and can plan to fill those with lessons.  For example I don’t do much in our family life that covers science – so that is something that I look for formal studies, but values and intrapersonal development (health) is strong so we don’t need a formal curriculum to cover these things.

As you start to reflect on the year gone, don’t just look at the formal lessons you’ve sat down with your kids – look at your whole of life, and enjoy the richness of the learning experiences your kids have had this year.

June 29, 2012

Putting together a Discipleship Homeschool Programme

by Belinda Letchford

Q.  How do you plan / organise your homeschool – especially those who put together their own curriculum (eclectic style)?

Q. How do you document and plan your learning?

A.  When I start to plan my homeschool year I look at each of my children individually to assess their needs.  I consider each of these areas:

  • Their relationship with God, with us as their parents, with their siblings and their friends.
  • How they are developing in their responsibilities: time, money and possessions
  • How they are growing as individuals – their intrapersonal skills
  • How they are pursuing their talents
  • Academic areas they need to focus on.

This is a priority list.  (You can read more about each aspect on my website).  I look at where their strengths and weaknesses are and what we can do to help them grow in each of those areas.  Sometimes this means we need to make time in our week for these activities (like music lessons, netball/cricket, or community projects), other times it means I need to find a resource that will teach them and encourage them to learn more (like math, tech-drawing, Bible study or creative writing).  There have been times where a child is doing very well and I have not planned anything for the next season in that particular area.

Read more about finding a curriculum to suit your family in an earlier post.

Read more about what my week looks like in an earlier post.

My website outlines these few principles that help me keep relationships first, see my children as individuals and make room for everyday living and at the same time deliver a high quality education:

  1.  My priorities as I look at my dar are relationships first, then skills and then academics.
  2. I set goals for each of my children that are guided by these developmental phases – character, love of learning, study skills and then we reach the stage of the independent learner.
  3. I recognise that every day activities that happen in our family are opportunities to learn.  The challenge is not to squeeze in more ‘school’ but to relax in knowing that they are learning.
  4. Most of our learning is achieved through good books – either read aloud to the whole family or as individual reading lists.
  5. We read to be inspired – to be inspired not only to knowledge but to be inspired to Wisdom (practical application of knowing Jesus).
  6. We read, research, and then respond.  Responding can be oral, written or creative projects as we interact with the things that we learn.

(this list is taken from my website)

As far as planning what to actually study in the area of academics – Read My Choice, Their Choice.

I have two aspects of recording our discipleship homeschool.

  • List all activities, programmes, projects that fit into the priorities of relationships, responsibilities, intrapersonal skill, talents, academics.  I write this as a report – using paragraphs not a chart.  I take about one page per area per child.
  • List all the curriculum framework subjects – Art, English, Health and Physical Ed, LOTE, Math, Science, Society & Environment, Technology & Enterprise  (as required by the government)  and cross reference major focus, projects or resources.

I would like to write my report as I go through the year, but that rarely happens.  Instead at the end of the year (or whenever I write my report)  I refer to my diary, my blog and my photos to help me remember lifestyle learning, and then I refer to the actual lesson plans and resources we’ve used for any formal lessons.

This post is a part of a series springing from the Q&A session at the Mum Heart Conference.  I’m taking time to answer these questions this week as I think they are helpful questions for most homeschooling mums at some time in their journey….

January 3, 2012

Setting goals and plans for 2012

by Belinda Letchford

The time has come for us to look at the new year and set some goals.  The new year brings a tension for me.  On the one hand I don’t want to be dictated to by a ‘new year’ and just change things just because.   I know in the school system everything is new – new grade levels, new classroom, new timetable.  But this is where the other side of the conflict comes in – it needn’t be that way for a homeschool family.  If the child hasn’t completed a level they don’t have to move on, and if they completed it middle of last year they moved on then.  I don’t have a new classroom for them to move into, though it would be nice to put a few new posters around.  And why change a timetable if it was working, incorporating all the facets of family life.  So we have the tension between a clean slate and going with what is working!

So setting goals for the coming year isn’t a presumption that everything needs to be new, but rather a time of reflection to consider what was working, what wasn’t, where the children are at now, and do I have lessons and projects that are going to meet their current needs.

Last year I wrote  Making Plans – my Motivation for Setting Goals.  This is a good reminder as I set out to write this year’s goals too – making sure that any goal I set is in keeping with God’s values.

I also wrote: Involving your Teens – it is important that we bring our older children into our plan making.  This helps them not only take ownership of their efforts for the coming year but it is also a teaching opportunity as we show them and help them set realistic goals which is a skill needed for life.

This year I have set myself “One Word” which encompasses what I’d like to grow in for the coming year.  My word is “Balance”.  This is a challenge for me, and at the same time, the word is a reward in and of itself.  I am praying for a similar word for each of my children.

In looking at the academic training of our children (Nomi and Daniel) my overarching focus will be to learn study skills – reading, writing, thinking.   My main goal for Jess is to identify key skills she wants to master and help her complete those in 6 months (she’ll ‘graduate’ middle of the year  - this is the plan at this stage).

This week I’ll be posting other thoughts that have helped me pull together our plans for 2012

  • Family Seasons – an outline of our year
  • Specific Goals – taking into account the whole child
  • Study Routines – just a little tweak from 2011
  • Reading lists – 12 books for each child to read in a year
  • Curriculum choices for 2012

Can I just encourage you before you go and set too many goals for 2012 to keep in mind that what was happening last year may serve you well this year – you may not need much change.  Then again, you may.  You cannot set goals without reflecting back and assessing where things where at last year.


You might like to read my goals from last year




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