6 Things to know about Portfolio Reviews

A portfolio review, also known as a written narrative, is one option to meet the homeschool requirements in Ohio. As the end of the school year approaches, I have families contact me about what a portfolio review entails. Below you will find six questions that I am asked frequently by homeschool families.

1.Does a state certified teacher need to look at my child’s work? Yes, this is one of the requirements and the teacher must be licensed in Ohio, not another state.

2. What is the assessor looking for when they review my student’s work? They are looking to see that progress has been made for the academic work that is in accordance with their abilities. No other test is given nor is your child compared to other students.

3. What subjects will I need to show samples of to the assessor?  The following are requirements that the state says we must cover each year according to the Home Education Notification Form.

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Heath
  • Fine Arts (music, art)
  • Health
  • First Aid, Safety, Fire Prevention

4. What kinds of work samples do I include for a written narrative? Here are some ways that you can document work that has been completed:

  • Workbooks or workbook pages
  • Projects- Whether that is for science, social studies, art,etc.,  these would all be acceptable for samples. If projects are too large to take with you to your appointment, you can always take photos of what your student has done to show your assessor.
  • Writing samples of your pupil help the teacher see the progress that has been made throughout the year in the area of language arts. Cards, journal entries, poems, reports, outlines and essays are all considered examples of writing for language arts. If your little one is just beginning to write, then show samples of letter formation and printing.
  • Reading lists of book titles help a teacher to see the progress that has been made if you have an early reader (grades K-3).  If you don’t have a complete list, that is fine, just write ten titles of books that have been read from the beginning of the year to the end. For instance, they began with Bob Books and are now reading easy readers. What level are they currently reading and can you list several titles?
  • Field trips are great ways to show fine arts, science and social studies because many of the places visited are related in some aspect to these academic areas. You can include the program from the play you saw, a map of the zoo, or pictures of the activity your child was participating in when you went to the museum or attended a community program.

5. We did quite a bit of our schoolwork orally, how do I show that? You can write a list of what topics you studied and how you determined  understanding/ mastery of what you taught. If you use a whiteboard for school, take some pictures of the work so you have documentation to show.

6. We use a curriculum that is on the computer, how do I show my student’s progress? Can you print off grades or did your student receive a certificate of accomplishment for the course or activity? This will show that your child has completed the work.

Do you have a question that I didn’t address about portfolio reviews? Please write a comment and I will be glad to answer it.

If you are in need of an assessor, I will be happy to review your student’s work. Please email me,  so we can set up an appointment. If you do not live in Greater Cincinnati, I can still meet with you via Skype. Just let me know you are in need of this option. 



High School: Testing vs. Portfolio Reviews

Bubble Sheet Test

Last year I received this question about testing and thought I’d share it and my response in case you had the same question.

Hi Lisa,

Hope you’ve had a great year. Before deciding to schedule an assessment, I’d like your opinion on a portfolio review verses testing, particularly for my student who is going into 10th grade. My daughter hasn’t tested since 2nd grade and it didn’t go well.  If we test, the CAT online test looks like the best option.  But I have concerns.  The time clock remains on the screen the whole time and my daughter isn’t accustomed to standardized tests, and I’m not a big believer in them.  In your opinion, do you think it hurts her academically by not having her tested?

Thanks so much for your opinion and advice.

Happy Homeschool Mom (alias)

Here is my response to her that I thought might help some of you determine whether you’d like to test or choose a portfolio review for your high school student. 


No, I do not think it will hurt your daughter not to take the test, but you can prepare her for future test-taking if you so desire. I know some families that never had their students test and the did very well on the college entrance exam without prior test-taking experience. I personally would do a portfolio review and submit the paperwork to the superintendent while having your daughter practice taking the tests. You can count that test taking as a ACT/SAT Prep class for high school if you do it throughout the year. How awesome is that? I will list pro’s and con’s to consider what you’d like to do. 

The pros for testing:

– Students need to take a nationally-normed college entrance test such as the ACT or SAT and this is a way for them to learn how to do it.

– The test gives you an idea of how your student is doing in comparison to other students. 

– The test can show you areas that she may need help and you could add these in your studies for next year.

The cons for testing:

– Your daughter has not taken a timed test in a long time and may not perform as well as what she is capable of doing.

– It is a snapshot of one day and not a true indication of academic performance or what a student did for the entire year. There are so many variables involved, some being that there is the clock on the screen and could be a distraction or make her nervous; she doesn’t feel well or the lighting is not the best; there are distractions (people talking, dogs barking, cell phones ringing, etc.); she did she understand what is being asked, etc. 

– Your daughter may not have studied the same types of subjects as what the test is asking, such as in history or science. My understanding at this time is that the ACT and SAT are being correlated with Common Core. 

Here are some ideas to consider:

– Create tests at home that are similar to a standardized test. There is a test answer form that you can create and you can get her used to filling in bubbles by using this customizable program by a website called catpin productions.  You can give a donation to thank him if you like his site.

– Have her practice taking the ACT and/or SAT this year and then take the test next fall.  She can take it multiple times to better her score. There is Khan Academy that offers free online SAT tests and if you want her to practice the ACT, you can go to the ACT website. You can also purchase a book that gives you tips for the tests as well as practice tests. You can order these through Barnes and Noble or Amazon. You can submit one of those scores the following year to the superintendent instead of a portfolio review, or the CAT, or any other test.

-Have her take the CAT test for practice, but do not submit the scores; have a portfolio review and submit that to the superintendent.

Have a good day and I’ll be glad to help if you’d like a portfolio review for your student.


Portfolio Review Giveaway

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Congratulations to Brittanynicolemu and Jill Birmingham! Please contact me to schedule your portfolio review. Thank you to all of you who entered my giveaway. I appreciate you anad look forward to seeing you this year.


It’s that of year time of year my annual giveaway of  TWO free portfolio reviews (also known as homeschool assessments). Each portfolio review is a $40.00 value.

Here are several different ways to have a chance to win:

Subscribe to my blog.

  • This is for someone new that is not currently subscribed to my blog. 🙂 Please write a comment to let me know you have done so in order to enter your name in the giveaway.

Tell a Friend

  • If you recommended my blog or me as an assessor to a friend, please leave me a comment. I will enter your name for each recommendation.

Leave a Comment 

  • For you who have had a portfolio review before, please let others know why you choose to have a portfolio review for your student. It’s nice to hear the reasons and will help others with their decision-making process.

The contest will end at midnight on January 31, 2016. Winners will be selected via a random generator ( and will be notified via the announcement on my blog, on February 1, 2016.

If you do not live in the greater Cincinnati area, but are living in Ohio and are in need of a portfolio review, I can do a Skype call or Google Groups. 

If you win, you will need to redeem your free review this year (March 1- August 5, 2016 ).   Thank you to each and every one of you who has subscribed to my blog or have chosen me to assess your student. I am greatly honored and look forward to seeing you this year.

I hope you win!


Writing a Cover Letter for Homeschooling


A cover letter is optional for sending your notification letter to the superintendent when you are notifying. However, it is a nice idea and the person who is receiving your papers can see what you have included in your packet of information. Here is a sample of what that might look like.

Homeschool Family

123 Street Name

Anytown, OH 45000

Superintendent Smith

123 Street Name

Anytown, OH 45000


Dear Superintendent Smith,

This is to inform you that we will be homeschooling our child___name of student____, for the 20__-20__ school year. Attached are the following documents: the Home Notification Form, a list of the intended textbooks and curricula we are using, and list of the intended topics we will be studying.


Your Name

No other information is needed to send to the superintendent unless you homeschooled last year. Which in that case, you will need to either send in test results from a nationally standardized test, or have a written portfolio form signed by an Ohio certified teacher (such as myself), or some other option that has already been approved by the superintendent. An example of that would be a certified teacher from a different state.

Have a terrific school year!


Notifying your School District


Notifying the school district is quickly approaching! Here is an explanation from Home School Legal Defense in regards to notifying the school district. Please read carefully since the law changed in 2014.

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends,

We have received numerous inquiries related to a recent homeschool law change in Ohio. Although you are not required to send your notice of intent over the summer we know many do, since, while there is no deadline for notification, we generally suggest that the notification be submitted by the start of school in your district.

Ohio homeschool law (Revised Code Section 3321.04) formerly required homeschool families to notify the “city or exempted village school district or the educational service center.” However, the law has been amended to read that the notification should be sent to the “superintendent of the school district in which the child resides.”

This means that homeschool families who previously notified their educational service centers or county superintendent must now notify their local school district’s superintendent instead. Please ensure you are sending your notification and assessments to the correct address for this coming year.

If you need help with filling out the Home Education Notification Form, please see my post called Filling Out the Notification Form.

This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play the part of a lawyer in any capacity. 🙂 If in doubt or you have a legal question, contact Home School Legal Defense.