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keeping records without disturbing free learning?

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
At our recent review with the County the reviewer said I need to keep more records. She could see that dd was learning a lot and could express what she learned (I have no lesson plans, records of any kind so I jut took dd with me to the review) but they still need records - either work dd has done or my own records saying she learned spelling etc.

I have bought into unschooling hook line and sinker and am struggling to figure out how to make up stuff that meets their needs without disturbing our free flow. The only way is for me to take notes everytime she does / says something and then correlate that to the subject areas but this will be a LOT Of work. Is there a simpler way?
post #2 of 34
I have to start keeping records, next year. I'm contemplating starting a blog. That might be an easy way to keep tabs on what ds is up to. Then, I'd be able to reference it to compose something a little more specific in "educationalese".
post #3 of 34
I keep a blog, although our state doesn't require records.

If I was required to keep records and time spent learning, I think I'd create a record-keeping notebook for myself. I'd make a chart with several "schooly" subjects and a spot for jotting a quick two-sentence note and time spent doing it.

Then I'd print a page for each day of the week (note, weekends too) and put them all in a three-ring binder or coil bind it at a printshop.

That way I could take a quick minute at, say, lunch time and make notes like this:

Saturday, June 20th
Science:
We walked in the park and examined the inside of a pinecone. 20 minutes.

Reading/Writing/Math:
She wrote four items on the grocery list, went with me to the store and examined price tags and helped me count change. 2 hours.

Reading Comprehension/History:
I read aloud 2 chapters of "Little House". 40 minutes.

PE/Social Skills:
Played on the playgound at the park. 2 hours.


Total Learning time: 5 hours


Of course there was more learning going on than just those, but if you can fill up a quick record of hours in a week, it will satisfy the State and you can go on your merry way. When I was a public school teacher I had to jump through hoops like this all the time and it was a pain. But I learned to do it quickly and efficiently while still reassuring my boss that I was teaching meaningful items.
post #4 of 34
We're with an unschooling-friendly umbrella type program and they require me to do weekly anecdotal reporting. Much like a blog, but organized by "subjects." The program gives us subject areas as a guideline but they're broad and holistic, like "Languaging/Communication: Writing/Reading/Media/Conversations."

It's a terrific, robust record that is completely unobtrusive, though it does require some discipline on my part to keep consistent with it. They call it "Observing for Learning" and I not only find that it creates a satisfying and reassuring record, but it helps me become a more sensitive and appreciative observer of my kids' learning, thereby becoming a more useful facilitator. My kids appreciate the value of the documentation too. They enjoy reading through the old ones, realizing that I appreciate their natural learning and noticing how far they've come. I'd resent the whole process if it wasn't adding something to our family's experience -- which it is.

I include images and multimedia clips as appropriate. I don't "cover" every subject area with every report, but over the course of a couple of months I definitely touch on all areas. I find my camera to be my biggest ally in reporting. I don't jot down or remember every little thing, but by keeping my camera handy I can easily capture reminders for myself about what I'd like to put in my report. The reports take me 30-45 minutes a week.

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote one random week for my youngest:

Science/Naturalistic Understanding/Ecology: The "Nature Boy" Avalanche.

We went up the highway a couple of kilometres to see the remains of the big avalanche that had closed our highway for a week and a half earlier in the month. It was amazing for us to see the evidence of the raw power in true-to-life size. <image> This run-out is a ten-feet-deep gully that didn't exist until the avalanche came down. A couple of hundred trees were probably swept away by the snow here -- many of them piled up on the other side of the highway where workers had extracted them when clearing the highway itself.

We felt rather small.

Logic/Math/Analytical Thinking:

Fiona had fun experimenting with drawing fractals. The one with the four corner squares was a suggested function in the "G is for Googol" book. The others were Fiona's experiments. I especially like the houses with the litte houses on the roof. That was really cool!

The one in the lower left is a fractal, by the definition given (the rule she made up was "cut each square into four squares with a vertical and horizontal line") but simply results in a window screen pattern. Some fractals are NOT beautiful works of art! <image>

Lately Fiona has switched her formal math interest back to Singapore Math. She got to the middle of Level 2 in Hands-On Equations and lost some of her momentum. In the Singapore book she has been working on multiplication and division of the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10 timestables, and addition and subtraction with regrouping into the thousands as well as story problems utilizing all these skills. She really enjoys the puzzle aspects of the self-checking exercises (match each answer up with a letter, and the letters eventually spell a secret word) but she is keen to do the math even once she guesses the secret word, so the games aren't getting in the way of the math motivation.

Physical Activity/Nutrition/Wellness/Sports:

As I mentioned previously, Fiona has finally become what we can call a swimmer. By the final day at the pool in Calgary she managed to swim the entire length of the pool, about 25 feet, all the way to the wall at the deep end, on her own. She kept plugging away at her swimming when we were in the large spa / hot tub the night we went away to celebrate her birthday. (Ah, yes, she's six now!) She's also 'levelling up' a bit in Aikido. Marcia, one of the sensei, took me aside on the Sunday afterwards to let me know quietly that if Fiona would like to register for the spring Gasshuku (a day-long seminar intended to complement the big kids' regular classes) she would be welcome to participate. It's a long day, quite demanding of focus and energy, so it's a significant invitation not to be taken lightly.


Hope this model gives you some helpful ideas.

Edited to add: I just wanted to reassure you that the aim with this style is not to record all learning that happens, not by any stretch. The idea is to gradually accumulate a representative sample of the type of learning and growing my child has done over the course of a year. Recognizing that makes it far less onerous.

Miranda
post #5 of 34
Here's a great article on translating everyday activities into "educationese"
http://www.geocities.com/sablehs/Educationese.html
post #6 of 34
Just echoing some pp's, the camera is your friend. I take photos all the time and when I upload them I look through and am able to assign an academic label to the activity. I do blog as well but I don't keep up with it enough to be a great record of all our time spent.

I also have a planner and at the end of the day I write down notable things we did/looked up/talked about that I didn't take pictures of. There's no possible way to capture all the learning going on, but between the photos, blog, and planner I've got a pretty good record.

Honestly, for me, it does sort of interfere with the natural learning process. Maybe 'interfere' isn't the right word, but I do wish that I wasn't always analyzing and looking for the academic things. I value his time spent watching Star Wars just as much as his time spent figuring out math problems. But, its just the reality of our situation and perfectly manageable.
post #7 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoolyMittens View Post
Here's a great article on translating everyday activities into "educationese"
http://www.geocities.com/sablehs/Educationese.html
Thanks! That is great. I've bookmarked it and am going to pass it along to some friends.
post #8 of 34
Keeping a portfolio/journal does take time, but it gets easier with practice. I keep a 2" looseleaf notebook separated into various subjects and yes, I have been known to jump up and write something down that dd just said or did or asked about before I forget. And other times, I say, oh, never mind, I don't feel like writing anything down right now. She'll do something cool tomorrow, and I'll write that down. Often I try to take a few minutes in the evening to write up some of the day's activities. It definitely does accumulate into a good record as the months go by. And it will always be a nice journal that you and the kids can treasure later. But I confess, I do look forward to summer when the learning can go on unimpeded I don't have to be bothered with record-keeping.
post #9 of 34
Many of the things we do for record keeping are already mentioned here; we blog, photograph, have an observation journal and everything we do that happens to be on paper goes into a folder- every comic ds writes, every painting dd does, etc. spends some time on the clothes line type display in the playroom and then goes into a folder.

Our journal is designed to be a traditional plan book and has an entire week on two pages. I like this because the boxes are small and I don't have a lot of space for explanation. I simply write "gardening" under science and leave it at that. Of course it depends what your state requires but I have found that the less explanation I give the less it intrudes on my thoughts.

In addition to the things mentioned by PP we keep a list of every book we read, either on their own or together. I made a simple table that has a place to write the title, author, genre, and who read it. I have also started giving them "credit" for one hour every week for vocabulary because I figure we spend at least that amount of time each week with them asking me what words mean.

I agree with Serendipity that it can intrude on MY view of what is going on with the kids and I have to work really hard not to let it seep into their thoughts. They will sometimes say things like, "Is this science?" I don't want them to think in those terms so I explain to them that science is a study of nature, not a subject in school. I have started doing the journaling after they go to bed and it has helped keep it out of their thoughts.
post #10 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoolyMittens View Post
Here's a great article on translating everyday activities into "educationese"
http://www.geocities.com/sablehs/Educationese.html
:

This is great!

"Teachers in public schools were taught a method in college. They take a simple activity and turn it in to a something that sounds impressive. It is a language that educators understand."

SO true. As a former public schoolteacher I can verify this! As long as you make it sound impressive using descriptors of more than three syllables, it counts! I'm not sure any field uses more less-than-useful jargon than education.
post #11 of 34
I also blog and take a lot of photos. I do it more for myself, but it's also a written record I could refer to if/when we are reviewed (apparently every 3yrs where I live). I try not to break the typical "schooly" stuff from everyday living, so just try and present our day as it happens.
post #12 of 34
Thread Starter 
I do write a lot in a journal but that is not something i want to show a reviewer. so it means i need to write up something separately for them.
i thought of blog or twitter but i would just fall hopelessly behind and those things show the date and time of every entry!

well i am finally overcoming the inertia and i have opened a google spreadsheet with a sheet for each month. on each sheet, a column for every subject and a row for every day of the week. i hope this is easy.
post #13 of 34
I keep a running log for the school year. The first year and a half, I titled it "Learning with DD2" This year, I titled it "Learning with DD1 and DD2". Next year's will be "Learning with DS" (using their real first names.)

At the end of hte day, I spend a few minutes logging what we did that day, trying to catagorize it into something academic. Sometimes it's easy- playing with the USA map puzzle is obviously geography, MAd Libs is obviouisly Language Arts (specifically grammar), educational TV shows can easily be categorized by the subject matter (such as Magic School Bus for science.)

Some days there isn't much in the way of "academics" to write about, so I don't write anything for that day. That was something I did a lot of this year, since the girls WERE using actual textbooks for many things (their choice), so I didn't bother much with typing up the "non bookwork" they did. For DS next year, I imagine he'll do a lot more free play, and I'll try to type something up daily.

I have very specific guidelines in my state about what I need to present to the school district. I use my journal as a guideline when filling out the formal paperwork; I don't actually submit my daily journal to anybody.
post #14 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheery View Post
I do write a lot in a journal but that is not something i want to show a reviewer. so it means i need to write up something separately for them.
Right. My thinking with starting a blog is that it would be a resource to me when I tried to write up something official, not that I necessarily would show it to anyone outside of close friends and family. I get on the computer a lot throughout the day and jot little emails frequently about what ds is doing, anyway. So a blog would just be having all that in one place, easier to find than different emails, posts on MDC, posts on Facebook, etc.
post #15 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheery View Post
At our recent review with the County the reviewer said I need to keep more records. She could see that dd was learning a lot and could express what she learned (I have no lesson plans, records of any kind so I jut took dd with me to the review) but they still need records - either work dd has done or my own records saying she learned spelling etc.

I have bought into unschooling hook line and sinker and am struggling to figure out how to make up stuff that meets their needs without disturbing our free flow. The only way is for me to take notes everytime she does / says something and then correlate that to the subject areas but this will be a LOT Of work. Is there a simpler way?
Do you have some idea of how much detail they need? If they want a fair amount of detail, I'd be inclined to make up a form like Moominmama mentioned, and fill it out once a week. Otherwise, I think I'd make a point of picking up brochures when we went places (then date them and put them in a folder), keep occasional samples of "schooly" things your dd does (or photos if they're not flat or are too fragile), and keep a list of books you and your daughter have been using (I could get this pretty easily by going through our library records, available online).

ZM
post #16 of 34
Thread Starter 
I am not sure what they need - considering i took nothing at all except Exhibit A. Other moms say they dont even take their kids along, but then they have plenty of timetables and work samples to show. I showed some of hte books dd had read and she asked me if i had tested her comprehension. i was stunned - why would she read a book if she didn't like it and why would she like it if he didnt understand it? but this logic was lost on the reviewer. somehow me writing in a log that she read a book would have satisfiedher, though, i felt.

meanwhile i have succumbed to the idea of preparing a worksheet every day so that we have something in our folder to show. dd doesnt like this and i am not sure whether to keep at it or not. But it takes <10 min / day (sometimes 1 min) and then we're done and back to learning-anytime-doing-anything. I don't know. I guess I should be more creative and then we'd automatically be doing things which could go down in the journal. <sigh>
post #17 of 34
I really doubt they will want to see a worksheet for each day.

I'm in one of the stricter states (PA). I've heard it suggested to have a few pages from the beginning, middle, and end of the academic year. Just a few samples that show progression.

We also need a book list which can be books we read to the child or books they read. There is a requirement of a certain number of school days so people include a paper with 180 boxes with check marks. There are certain required subjects so a few sentences might need to be written in a summery that mentions how that subject was covered.

They ask if you tested for comprehension? Well, yes you did... by paying attention to whether it held her interest. And if she told you anything about the story, whether she liked it, etc, that's more demonstration. And you can use that phrase "demonstrated comprehension" rather than saying you tested her.

Required subjects like phys ed can be covered by a sentence or two about what activities dd did or borrow some of the language in that educationalese site to describe free play at the playground. I take my ds to a homeschool parkday once a week, plan to go roller skating next winter, maybe he'll start up karate again. All of that that will be listed as phys ed.

If ds writes a letter to his cousin, I can photocopy that and put it in for language arts. A few pieces of paper, a summary of subjects covered (keeping mindful to include any required ones), some photos of projects, pamphlets from outings, a book list, all of this can be done without sitting your child down to do worksheets.
post #18 of 34
Thread Starter 
yday i noticed dd was running a ribbon from her helium balloon through a clear plastic tube and then releasing it. sometimes the balloon didnt move right away so she would blow on it or wave a pillow at it.

can i write that "as is" or do i need to translate it. help?

we try to do gardening a few day every week. can i just write "gardening" under science or do i need to say "observed worms, learned how deep different seeds and sapling need to go ..."

what is actually the point of this?
post #19 of 34
Thread Starter 
and where would I put "doing jigaw puzzle"

math?

maybe i can add acolumn of my own called problem solving? but i am not going ot make a category for each thing ... so i'd rather stick to their format
adding more categories would probably just make more work for me.
post #20 of 34
I am in the same program as moominmamma. So great to see how others in the program do thier reporting. I end up doing mine slightly different as the years go by. I keep a binder in the living area and jot down things that I remember ( I use code so that I can keep track of both kids and do it all on the same paper at this point) When I bring it all together at the end of the week I slightly fit all of the same subject areas into paragraphs. Luckily for us, our learning consultant is the one that translates it all into educationese! This program has worked well for us as it has been more of a way to keep records than anything else... this doesn't disturb the kids learning process at all... just can be a bit tedious for me! At the end of the year we have a great online transcript of our learning year. I also take my binder pages and put them together in the filing cabinet. If I wasn't with the program, this is still what I would do. Point form reminders of what we did, physical/ emotional/ intellectual progress and an example of what I noticed. I wouldn't bother with organising it into subjects at all. If you ever need the documentation at some point I figure that it would be easy enough to slot things into subjects. The important thing is that the info is there.
Our government posts learning outcomes online like this one for grades two and three for math

http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/mathk7/gcmath23.pdf
If you can find something similar, it helps to see what categories they would use and what they would be looking for. It doesn't mean that you change anything for your unschooler at all, but becoming familiar with the terms helps you to fit in things like puzzle making, building things like lego/ knex/ building blocks/pattern making with beading/cooking etc.... things that unschoolers do in thier day... into the math slot!

Yes... I guess it all comes down to learning a bit of educationese yourself!
Seems like a lot of work to keep the records, but really it becomes smooth after a bit of practice.
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