Status Report! Record-keeping recommendations for military homeschoolers
One of the most common concerns for any homeschooling parent is how to comply with the laws. For most families this is typically limited to one state/location.
Military families, however, often find this topic much more complex due to frequent moves every few years.
Military families must comply with the homeschooling laws of the state in which they currently reside (i.e. where you actually live vs. whatever may be your ‘home’ state of record.) As homeschooling laws vary greatly from state to state – and are non-existent for those living OCONUS – it can become difficult to know what type of homeschooling records to keep.
One tidbit which can bring a bit of relief: Keep in mind you are not required to follow the rules of any particular state until you actually live there! You cannot be forced to comply retroactively (with the exception of fulfilling the requirements for high school transcript/credits needed for graduation.)
Take this scenario:
The Smith Family has been living in Texas – known as a homeschool-friendly state. During their homeschooling years they were stationed there, they did not have to maintain portfolios or submit to standardized testing. Mid-year, they will PCS to New York. The family is concerned they will be asked to submit a portfolio covering their time in Texas. They also did not complete certain subjects required by New York during their previous homeschooling years. While they will have to comply with New York homeschooling laws going forward from the point they are registered in the state, they are not expected to provide portfolios and testing for their time in Texas.
What’s a homeschool portfolio?
I think of a homeschool portfolio as a scrapbook of sorts – offering a wonderful ‘year in review’ glimpse for each child. Even if not required by state law, you may find the process worthwhile. Many families even turn this into a homeschool project… working together to select and compile things to save!
Homeschooling portfolios mandated by law vary by the individual state’s requirements.
Storage methods vary. They may be in a binder, an accordion style folder or even in digital storage on your computer.
- Any legal documents required by state
- List of subjects, curriculum / publishers used
- Test scores / progress reports (When using an online curriculum, these are available for review/printing anytime.)
- Writing samples (essays; poetry or other assignments)
- Ticket stubs and/or pictures from field trips
- Pictures of art or science projects
- Special awards
- Extracurricular activities (pictures, videos, etc.)
During our years without portfolio requirements, I admittedly enjoyed pouring the time into other activities. Still – we continued to pull together a more general version for our family’s homeschooling journey over the past year. I’ve even pulled these out as a reminder and means of encouragement for a child struggling. We look back and remember when faced with a similar challenge, he overcame! (Plus we can laugh at how things were – way back when – in the LAST grade! Ha!)
High School Records
High school is a bit trickier. At this level, in addition to meeting state requirements you also must think about future plans. Transcripts are mandatory nearly across the board – for college admission, trade school and more. Word to the wise – keep track of credits, subjects, curriculum used, etc. as you go along versus trying to compile in a rush Senior year! LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com is a terrific resource for this age group.
As a military family, you’re already familiar with the phrase… umm… LIFE HAPPENS. For your own peace of mind, whatever records you keep – whether required or not – please back them up! Scan in and save to an external drive or upload to your account on private DropBox, Google Drive or similar.
The Home School Association for Military Families, HSLDA and more are striving to create a much more uniform policy for military homeschoolers. A key element will be to allow families to choose either their ‘home’ state or one they currently reside in… and KEEP the same state as the one governing their homeschool throughout their military career. Keep an eye on the news! (I can’t wait!)
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