The Value of Portfolio Reviews

imagesRarely did I finish a school year when I thought I had done enough. There always seemed to be one area of math we could have studied more completely or a slew of experiments we didn’t quite get around to doing. I think each one of us feels the weightiness of responsibility of being the one who is providing the education our children are receiving.

I believe this is where having a portfolio review (written narrative) is so encouraging. Preparing work samples for an assessor to review causes you to review the year and see what you have accomplished. It provides perspective as you see what has been accomplished. You see the progress that has been made and can celebrate your child’s (and your) successes.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of having a portfolio review done for your student(s).

  • Children who are just beginning to read or need extra time to read. The test is timed and students need to read quickly in order to finish on time.
  • Your curriculum does not coincide with the what is being tested. You have the choice to determine what curriculum is taught and it may not be the same as what the students have been taught that year. For instance, you have decided to do ancient history while students at that particular grade are learning American history. There may be questions on the test that your child could not answer because they have not studied that.
  • If your child has test anxiety a portfolio review is a terrific option. No testing is given while doing a portfolio review.
  • A test is just a snapshot of a week in a child’s life. The test does not always give a true representation of your student’s ability. your son or daughter may not have slept well, could be distracted, or has not taken formal tests before. each of these factors and many more can determine the outcome of a test.
  • You would like guidance for the upcoming school year. Do you need someone who has taught students and has experience give you some ideas and suggestions for instructing your child? Do you have concerns about a certain subject area? That is where a licensed teacher doing a portfolio for your pupil can help.

Have a great week and if you are interested in having me do a portfolio review for your family, please contact me. I will be happy to serve you.


Portfolio Review Giveaway

THE GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. Thank you to all who participated. 🙂

Congratulations to Lori L and Lisa W!  Please let me know you won when you schedule your portfolio review with me. 

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Hurray! It’s 2017 and that time of year for my annual portfolio review giveaway!   🙂

Two portfolios (each a $40.00 value) will be awarded and may be redeemed for the 2016-2017 school year. There are several ways to win for both my current blog subscribers and for people who wish to subscribe. See below for chances to win.

I will use a random number generator ( for each entry that you meet the criteria and submit your name. The contest ends on February 3, 2017. I will verify the winners and post the winner’s names on my blog. If your name happens to have been chosen twice, you will only be able to receive one free portfolio and I will have the number generator pick a new number to be the winner.

You may schedule your appointment  between March 1 and July 31. Best wishes!

Ways to enter the contest:

  • Subscribe to my blog. Please comment below and let me know you are new. (worth two entries)
  • Follow my SchoolMarmOhio facebook page (worth two entries)
  • Current subcribers- Leave a comment below about one thing you have enjoyed teaching this year. (worth one entry)
  • Pin one of my articles on Pinterest and let me know. (worth two entries)


Filing School Papers

f84c6308b877dacf70ce1522c1dc786bSchool has begun and I am already feeling the crush of paperwork bearing down upon me! Am I the only one  feeling this way?  Ugh! Are you feeling the crush too? How can you document your school year to be able to show me (an Ohio certified assessor) how much your student accomplished without feeling horrible about the lack of organization?

Now is the time to begin so that you are not overwhelmed in the spring by all of the paperwork that has been accumulating. You can organize papers so that all you have to do is contact me to set up your portfolio review. No wading through papers and workbooks, deciding on what to take. I am giving you a list of ideas to help organize and discard papers so that your house is not overrun by math papers, science labs, maps, and workbook pages.  Pick and choose from the items listed, but do not do every one of them! 🙂 Hopefully, one of these will work for you as your child finishes their school work.

Create a binder for each subject to put a sample in it. This can be done every Friday, or it can be collected once a month. If you are collecting samples monthly, just pick the same time each month; ideally, the beginning or end.

Use folders to place a work sample of each subject. Using different colors for subjects will help you to have an easy filing system. For instance, a yellow folder for language arts, a red folder for math, etc., that you can quickly drop a sample into the appropriate subject folder. At the end of the year you can grab the folders and put them in a cute school bag to take with you.

Accordion pleated file systems for each of your children keeps everything organized in one convenient location. You can label the tabs with subjects for filing. An assessor does not need to see every scrap of paper and doodle that your scholar has done. Trust yourself and choose paperwork and samples that represent the work being completed.


Hanging folders with labeled tabs of the subjects are an efficient and out-of- sight way to organize paperwork. I have a four drawer filing cabinet that I recently acquired and I wonder how I have lived without it for all of these years!

Binder Clips Gather each month’s samples of work and  clip them according to the subject. Place in a folder and label the month or the subject, whatever is best for you.

Systems that I have tried and do not work well in my opinion are:

baskets– everything falls to the bottom and nothing is organized. I just have to go through the heap at a later time!

rectangular plastic containers or filing boxes- the same as mentioned above. I just have more time to keep adding papers to the jumble that is collecting and multiplying. Now, if you actually use the file box and put folders in it, then it is a thing of beauty (sigh).

cloth bags– another collection sight that I never look at until I can’t find something. In fact, the other day I was trying to find some files that I thought were in my filing cabinet and I stumbled upon this bag that was filled to the brim with who-knows- what. I felt that I should look into it as it had been sitting near a bookshelf for several months. I was pleasantly surprised and quite relieved that is was the files for which I was looking! Needless to say, the cloth bag was a terrible filing system.

What, pray tell, do I keep when gathering samples?  I kept one page of a concept that had been introduced or mastered. If introduced, I added a paper later that showed progress (or not 😦 ) and then mastery or  continued help. I did not always follow through with the concept, but I tried to as much as possible. Allow your child to select samples to showcase too. Many children are interested in what I think of their work and are excited to show me things they have done. It can also help them to put forth their best and take pride in their work.

Throughout the year if my student had a difficult time with a concept, I would pick out that paper and write on a post-it note what was the difficulty. This helped me see progress that is made throughout the year or something I needed to evaluate or ask for help to have my student understand the concept.

If your student is doing schoolwork online, then see if there is a progress report, quiz or test that can be printed off to include in your files. If not, take pictures throughout the year of screenshots of work. You do not necessarily need to print off the pictures, but put them in a file that you back up regularly.

If you are using workbooks and don’t want to tear out papers until the end of the year you can use those cool skinny post-it note flags.  You can mark the pages throughout the year that  you want to take to your portfolio review appointment. It will take just a few minutes in the spring to remove the pages.

If you are going on field trips throughout the year, take pictures! I love seeing all of the places homeschool families visit. You can send pictures to me prior to your appointment or bring your camera along. One homeschool family makes a yearbook that I enjoy reviewing.

Do you have a project that is too big or a map or timeline you have created that is on the wall? You can snap a photograph of that too or create a video! No need to bring it with you. I understand the amount of time and hard work that has gone into projects.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have questions. I will be happy to address them.

Have a great week!




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.