Friday, July 01, 2011

Back from the land of the 3-inch binder

My school district homeschool liaison - the person who reviews homeschool portfolios - called today to tell me mine were ready to be picked up.  I was surprised at the quick turnaround; the deadline was just yesterday and usually it's mid-July before the reviews are done.  Since I was going to be out driving all over town today anyway, I stopped right in to pick them up.

Good thing I did, too, because the office is small and there were a lot of portfolios in there.  As always, my 1-inch binders were a little hard to find in the midst of all the packed 3-inchers.  I admit that I gazed around in wonder at the huge binders, packed full.  I wanted to peruse them!  How do people generate so much paperwork?

The liaison interpreted my wonder as insecurity.  She reassured me that our portfolios were fine (though she will send the official approval letter later on) and that the big ones were... unnecessary.  She quickly added that she enjoys looking through them, even though they contain much more than they need to.  There was one binder that must have been at least 5, maybe 6 inches thick - probably the biggest binder I've ever seen.  It was so packed things were falling out.  She did sigh a little when she saw me staring at that one. 

I told her that the size and contents of the portfolio is a constant topic of discussion among homeschool moms. She just laughed, and said "well, some people do like to keep it all, like a scrapbook."

Yes, indeed.  I'd heard that before, from a very earnest mom who proclaimed "I can't bear to throw any of it out!"  She seemed unable to comprehend the plain fact that "not turning it all in" does not have to equal "throwing it all out."   I am not kidding.   

No doubt I have ranted about minimal compliance here before.  This is the concept that we give the state what the law requires of us; no more and no less.  It doesn't mean having an adversarial relationship with the school district; it just means we  know what we are required to do, and we do it.   Some people complain that over-achievers who turn in every math worksheet and composition make it harder for those of us who don't.  I don't usually get into that argument, but I understand it.  If it appears homeschoolers want to be give the school district everything, they may come to expect it, and then require it.   But, it doesn't really matter to me what other people do, as long as I am not required to follow suit. 

I also see the difference between a scrapbook full of keepsakes and a legal document, which is what the portfolio is while it is in the hands of the school district.  I will keep some of my kids' work samples, their book lists, and the photos they took to document trips and projects.  But the daily log proving we fulfilled our 180 days?  The daily checklist on which I dutifully marked off every subject we covered?  Who cares? 

As I was walking out, one last binder caught my eye.  The cover sported a photo of a cute smiling boy.  I recognized him from some homeschool activities; I don't really know his family but we have crossed paths a few times.   If I wanted to be a mean person, I would point out that that portfolio looked like the cover of the stereotypical homeschool magazines we all love to mock. If you are a homeschooler, you know what I'm talking about - the one with the child joyfully doing math or helping a younger sibling with a science experiment, maybe with a smiling mom in the background, all perfectly coiffed and wearing cute plaid shirts or jumpers.

(What do our covers look like? They bear the child's name, my name, and our home address and phone.  Last year Eleanor drew some flowers on hers; she was going to do a new cover this year but never got around to it.  James didn't decorate his.  He's into minimal compliance too.)  

At that I decided I was getting too close to invading someone's privacy and got out.  I would have enjoyed talking to the liaison about the finer points of portfolio construction.  But she was busy.  She had a lot of huge binders to get through.

I felt so light as I walked out the door.


christinethecurious said...

I used to do a portfolio for reporting in Mass - but now I'm down to a narrative, only 4 pages long (we have a variety of ways to report.)

I used to be afraid I wouldn't record precious memories if I didn't have to do it, or something. Maybe since I had to do it anyhow, I wanted it to be fun. Or killing two birds with one stone.

Or because brevity is difficult.

wayside wanderer said...

I probably could fit everything I have from all the years of homeschooling my now 21 year old into one 1 inch binder. And I home schooled him the longest because I was eager and he was brilliant and we started when he just turned 4.

You want to hear a true confession? I never finished putting his high school transcript together. And he is one year away from graduating college. I can't help but wonder what the point would be?