Portfolio Review Craziness

It’s that time of year again! The first homeschool portfolio reviews of the year and my Facebook homeschool groups are flooding with questions about what to bring. First-timers are afraid of flunking the review. I understand the fear. My first review was nerve-wracking and I spent weeks prepping my portfolio. However, I had the benefit of having been a public and private school teacher and knowing how administrative minds work. So, I followed their guidelines, along with some common sense. Worst case scenario, they would make me come back within 30 days to show them what they wanted to see. It turned out I worried for nothing, got done in 20 minutes, and got thanked profusely for being organized.
Seasoned veterans of the homeschool reviews are commenting on the Facebook posts, giving suggestions of what has worked for them.
  • “It’s not practical to document every single thing your kid has done.”
  • “Organize your stuff and be confident that you are educating your child well.”
  • “Lists, planners, and photos are all acceptable evidence; as are worksheets, tests, and writing.”
Then, there are the table-slappers. These folks always chime in with gems like:
  • “I start every review by putting copy of the state homeschool law on the table! Just so the reviewer knows to toe the line!
  • “Call HSDLA on them if the reviewer dares to to ask for anything that is not written in the law!”
  • Do not bring anything that the law doesn’t spell out! The county will start expecting that from everyone!
The problem is that the Maryland homeschool law does not clearly spell out what to bring, so parents and county homeschool offices are left to interpret what counts as evidence of “regular, thorough instruction.” Last fall, my district sent out helpful tips for the review that included the line, “one item per subject per day should be sufficient evidence”. Apparently, they are giving out similar advice in information sessions this year by telling parents to just bring everything. Well, one worksheet per subject per day in my homeschool would work out to 164 pieces of paper (figuring the 4 academic subject, 8 weeks of school, 5 days a week and 1 log for each of the 4 “specials” subjects) which the reviewer looks at during the 30 minute review. The next county over suggests just 3 pieces per subject, for a total of 24. So, what demonstrates “thorough instruction”, 24 items or 164?
Then, there is the often contested issue of writing dates on things. The law doesn’t specify dates, only evidence that instruction is taking place regularly. It seems to me that dates could indicate that the work was completed throughout the evaluation period. Of course, I could have my kid complete 3 worksheets for every subject the week before the review and then just backdate them. So, there has to be a certain amount to trust between the reviewer and the parent. That trust is probably undermined just a little if the parent starts the meeting by slapping the law on the table and waving the HSDLA flag at every question not written in the state law.
Below are related posts about my personal review experiences and my interpretation of Maryland homschool law: