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Writing an Annual Homeschool Review Report
by Beverley Paine, 2023
I am helping to write my grandkids home ed review reports. I have five grandkids, 3 homeschooled, 2 unschooled. I home educated their parents.
We take photos throughout the year of the different things the kids do and produce. It can be anything, from turning over rocks at the beach looking for tiny crabs, to baking a cake, to dribbling paint over paper, to reading interpretative signs in a conservation park. It can be a photo of something they've written, a series of maths sums on a test from a game of pretend school with cousins, a list of Pokemon characters, a scene from Minecraft, or learning how to use an SLR camera to take a photo of the lunar eclipse. Lots of photos of excursions, homeschool meet ups and camps.
There is usually a hundred or so photos by the end of the year, sometimes more. I arrange these in a pub file (as that's the program I've always used and I am slow to learn better ones!), a page for each curriculum subject. Throughout the year I try to remember to take photos of the kids measuring stuff (for maths), doing puzzles, geometric designed artwork, etc as maths is the hardest subject to illustrate with photos, unless it is boring pages of workbook sums!
We (the parents and I) also jot down notes in a shared private FB group - interesting comments the kids have made, milestones reached, resources used, things they've done, games they've played, books read, etc. The notes and photos make it easy to recall how and what the kids have learned in each subject area.
I then go to the Australian Curriculum website and read through the Achievement Standard for the year the child would be in if they were at school. I'm working with Year 1 and Year 3 review reports at the moment. The Achievement Standard is usually 2-3 paragraphs that gives an overview of what is expected. It's easy to see at a glance that the kids home ed has covered most of what is expected at that year level.
I commence to write my own paragraphs, talking about what the child has done and can do, working off the points in the achievement standard. If there is anything I am uncertain about I scroll down to the Content Descriptions (outcomes) and from there, open the link to the Elaborations. These are examples of how the outcomes can be met. It's important to remember this isn't prescriptive, you don't have to do these things, they're there to give you an idea of what is meant by the content description.
But its obvious to me, reading through the elaborations, that the grandkids know and can do this stuff, usually without having done any specific activities or tasks relating to learning in that area, simply by living. And occasionally, an elaboration will remind me that yeah, the kids did that too, so I add that to our review report.
It's not difficult to pull together a description of the child's learning in each subject area, usually half a page. The photos fill up the rest of the page. It's not comprehensive and it's not detailed - it's an overview, a summary. That's all it is meant to be.
The last bit I do is list the resources used for each subject area. Again, it's not comprehensive, doesn't list everything, but gives an idea of the range of people, places and things accessed. We usually include the name of any specific resources, eg learning app, program or workbook, classes the child attended, etc.
All up, it's about 10 pages, half of that photographs. The review report gives a snapshot of the child's previous 12 months and at a glance its obvious that the child does interesting things, hangs out with lots of people of different ages, visits lots of interesting places, is busy and creative. We mention in the introduction that we use the Australian Curriculum as a guide.
The review report is mainly to reassure us, and the kids, that education is happening, albeit differently to what you'd find in a classroom; that educational and developmental goals and objectives are being met; that life is fun and busy and awesome. That home ed life is on track, purring along. It's a personal home ed year book. But it also never fails to impress the home ed registration officer.
How long does this take? It is time consuming. Collating and arranging the photos on each page takes as long as writing the blurb that goes with them. All up I spend about an hour per subject. So that's a day's work, usually spread over a week. The thing I takeaway from this exercise is that homeschooling and unschooling definitely ticks the curriculum boxes - it affirms in my mind that it doesn't matter how we do this gig, whatever approach or method to home educating we adopt, our kids are learning. They may not be learning in step with their schooled peers, we may need to look at other year levels to find descriptions of what our kids have done and learned this past year, but our notes and photos show that they are learning so much across so many different areas of their lives.
Writing up an annual review report in this way isn't necessary - there are other ways to do it, and your local state home ed group will have templates and examples you can use and follow. Everyone records in their own way, what works for them. The whole point of recording is to help us reflect, see what worked and what didn't work, where our kids needs are and how we can work to meet them, what resources suit our situation best, etc.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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