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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What, if anything, do you do to document your unschooling?

To what extent is this to satisfy legal requirements in your jurisdiction, or to satisfy yourself?

What is your organizational system? Do you separate things by child, "subject," project, month, year?

How has your documentation evolved over time?

Have you noticed any unexpected drawbacks or benefits of your documentation process?

Any tools, tricks or approaches that you'd like to share?

Miranda
 

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I'm interested to read the answers to these questions. Right now I do no documentation because 1) I don't have to, 2) I haven't really felt inclined to, and 3) I would want a way to do it that didn't feel like it added to my work load and I haven't figured that out. Hoping for some inspiration!
 

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I document a little bit. Sometimes I take pictures of things the kids are doing (very occasionally videos). Usually I forget to do anything with them. Occasionally I go through spurts of writing daily or weekly notes in a document on my computer. All mixed together by child and "subject." (the only exception is our family wilderness expeditions which are very well documented in multiple ways and fairly organized as well).

Reporting requirements are not an issue for me (I have some, but they're laughably minimal), but I wish I did more documentation. The kids like looking at the pictures, and I like looking back at those and the notes to remind me of what they've been doing. I never really remember as much as I think I will.
 

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I have a folder for each child per grade level. Each year, as they complete something (a story they wrote, math problems on scrap paper...) I ask them to place it in their folders. We take pictures of projects that they're working on and our time in nature. Because we are involved in community activism, I have a separate folder that I document any events in which the kids participate (title of event, date and what they did). If they make a sign or write a letter I take a picture of it and add it to the folder.
 

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I don't need to document, since we choose the standardized test option for our state. But, when ds was learning to read, I kept a list of all of the books that he read to me over a 6 month period.
Now, 5 years later, I've asked him to keep a list of all the books that he reads on his own. He really likes seeing his list grow, and it helps me to find new books for him based on looking over the list with him & discussing his favorites, and what might appeal to him next.

I also try to keep a list of books we read together, but I'm not very consistent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
What, if anything, do you do to document your unschooling?

Currently Fiona (12) is pretty much documenting her own, though with a bit of loose scaffolding from me and the facilitation of a supervising "learning consultant" (LC). She writes a biweekly "reflection" on her learning, highlighting 2-3 areas of learning that have been important to her recently. On the in-between weeks she chats via Skype with her LC, and the LC writes that week's report. Occasionally I will contribute one week of parental observations just to give Fiona a break. Everything is collated in the umbrella program's online system week by week and entries are tagged to subject areas by the LC.

To what extent is this to satisfy legal requirements in your jurisdiction, or to satisfy yourself?

The above is to satisfy the requirements of the program we are voluntarily involved in. In the past, when we didn't have such requirements, I kept a private blog for each of my kids that functioned similarly but my contributions were more capricious, sometimes several a month, sometimes none.

What is your organizational system? Do you separate things by child, "subject," project, month, year?

My organizational system was to keep separate blogs for each child, and to do two types of posts. One type would be a reflective longer post, either describing a typical day or reflecting on big-picture shifts I saw in my child's growth and learning. The other type would be short and specific to a particular learning activity: an update on gymnastics, or talking about a new interest in cell biology, or portraying the range of reading that my child had been doing lately. I would tag the particular posts according to broad school-style subjects (Wellness, Language Arts, Science) and additionally, if relevant with narrower tags denoting specific interests and longer-term projects (eg. violin, photography, baking, survival skills)

How has your documentation evolved over time?

As mentioned there's been a shift towards my kids doing their own documentation. Other than that the tools have changed (Wordpress rather than Blogger or manual HTML for my blog, smartphone for photos, etc.) but my basic approach has stayed the same.

Have you noticed any unexpected drawbacks or benefits of your documentation process?

The one drawback is that because my kids are extremely sensitive and private by temperament, sometimes even the suspicion that I might be documenting (and, in their minds, judging) their natural learning has led them to self-consciousness that has interfered with their interest. I've had to be extremely low-key and casual in my documentation, and to avoid even that when my kids are struggling and already feeling insecure about their efforts. It's the observer effect in action: the mere fact of observing my kids' learning changes (and diminishes) the learning.

The unexpected benefits have been four-fold. First, having the documentation of the somewhat-recent past has really helped boost my confidence. On days when the kids were squabbling and sitting in front of screens and I was despairing of anything fruitful ever happening, I could rest assured that there was a comprehensive record that proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they were leading rich, educationally productive lives overall. Next, the nostalgia effect cannot be under-estimated, not the unsurprising nostalgia I experience, but the effect on my kids. They love reading through old documentation, looking at all the photos, remembering all the interesting moments of their younger years, laughing over things. It has really helped them appreciate the freedom they grew up with and all that we did together. They have a lovely comfort with all this clear evidence of their own, and their family's, quirkiness. Thirdly, looking back on past documentation often re-ignites an interest that I thought was no longer relevant but it turned out it was just temporarily misplaced. "Hey look, remember the scarf I knitted? I'd love to do more of that, and I need a hat to match my new jacket..." Finally, in the early years sharing my online documentation with extended family was an incredibly effective way of winning them over to unschooling.

Any tools, tricks or approaches that you'd like to share?

Photos are incredibly useful as memory-joggers for later documentation, and often tell a good bit of the story on their own. This is how I'd recommend that someone who wants to begin documenting get their feet wet: use a smartphone or similar, aim to take several photos a day, and store them in a separate folder. Once in a while (maybe once a week or once a month), go through the folder, upload to somewhere like Flickr, add captions to the photos that still seem meaningful, delete the ones that don't. I'd bet this would take no more than 3 minutes a day on average.

Private blogs are super easy to set up and have all sorts of tagging/sorting options that make them useful for documentation.

I currently use Evernote on my phone as a place to keep notes and photos that might -- or might not -- end up getting fleshed out as more lasting observations of learning. I can write a couple of quick words, or record a voice memo, or shoot a few seconds of video, or a series of photos, or link to or embed a webpage. All on my phone in the space of a few seconds. I put those multimedia notes in a Notebook that can then be combed through (via a desktop computer app or in a browser window) when it's time for me or Fiona to do up a reflective report. Right now I have a file for this week that includes a photo of yesterday's Christmas baking, a short audio clip of the two of us running through the final Chorus of the Messiah together, and a text note that says "nitrogen cycle; first Star Wars; library trip." When she chats with her LC or writes a report, she'll open up that note for ideas of things she wants to talk about. If it was me doing the reporting I'd use it in the same way, pulling out the stuff that, with a few days' perspective, seems meaningful. Once that report is done, I delete all the notes and start afresh with an empty notebook.

Miranda
 

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A bit of all of the above.
I keep a file folder of all and anything he produces, birthday card, pictures, letters he exchanges with my sister, I had one for last year, and I will probably have one for this year.
I journal, observations,sometimes frequently, sometimes not, but that is usually a list of things we've done, or social emotional milestones and progress.
I have a file on my computer of photos-that's pretty project based.

But a lot of it is in my head. A long time ago Miranda talked about how homeschool kids are observed by their parents, so we have an ever changing knowledge of where they are and therefore don't need to assess their knowledge with testing and such. So pretty much that is how I track, I know what he can do because we are together everyday.
Lastly probably reading throu my old posts on this board would provide a lot of information ;)
 

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I used to write little notes on a homemade "homeschooling calendar, from when my oldest was 4-ish to about 8. I stopped doing that. I tended to internalize the process. It's something I can always go back to if I feel the need.

Our state requires very little if any documentation. We need to keep "records", but that legally entails Letter of Intent and any vaccination records.

The drawbacks? While at first it helped me look critically at our day to satisfy my school-centered adult self, I wound up appreciating what was happening with my girls' development because *they were learning* and even though, yes, I value that, I wanted to let go of that. I'm still in the process of detangling math and spelling "deficiencies" from my sense of peace that all is fine. Maybe returning to some documentation again will ease that. (???) Huh.

I don't know any tricks or tips except this: training your mind to see the developmental value in the everyday. It becomes second nature.
 
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