Keeping Score

by Andrea Black


What do the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, a Grade 8 piano exam, and Saxon math all have in common? They are each a form of learning, and can be entered into your child’s educational portfolio.

It is vital for homeschool parents to be able to recognize what constitutes learning, and to carefully record it, especially if you, like me, are not connected with a structured homeschool organization that keeps a transcript for you.

Many homeschoolers understand that STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), while essential, are not the only areas in which education must be acquired. Nor are textbooks the only way to learn. Nor are grades the only indication of information retention.

Unfortunately, our homeschools are somewhat confined by a system that demands grades and transcripts, which theoretically prove our children are sufficiently intelligent.

As parents, therefore, we have an obligation to retain good details about their education. This protects our homeschools should school officials ask to see proof of learning, and also aids our children if they wish to apply to post-secondary institutions.

Of course, it’s easy to keep track of test scores when our children are in regular courses. But what about when they venture outside the norm? 

One of our sons built a moderately comfortable Adirondack chair, without any plans, blueprints, or assistance. Obviously, this is learning, so I will take a photo and attach it to the portfolio as evidence, in case he wants to go into the trades. I may even assign a number grade to it. One of our daughters worked at a berry farm, which is valuable training if she wants to enter the hospitality industry, so it will also be documented.

Sometimes the lesson learned is not as important as the grade received. Last year, I walked my 14- and 15-year-old kids through The Accounting Game, which was supposed to be an easy introductory course. It does not matter to me whether they passed any tests, because the crucial lesson they derived was that they do not want to become accountants. However, since a university wants to see numbers, I’ll assign them a 70%.

A babysitting course. Volunteer work. Church involvement. A book club with friends. Swim lessons. Music lessons. Cooking. Hobbies. Gardening. We need to document these things because we have a narrow system that decides whether our children are educated.

I know three families who have effectively launched their many children into the world after homeschooling them without structured courses. What the parents had in common was well-documented education.

The kids have been accepted at places like Oxford University in England, PhD programs at University of Waterloo, colleges such as Algonquin, Fleming, Niagara, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Thomas More in New Hampshire, and Christendom in Virginia, as well as universities like Queen’s, Trent, Trinity Western, Tyndale and Redeemer. These young adults have become spouses, parents, teachers, small business owners, and firefighters, among other things. One was even a Vatican envoy to the UN.

Success with homeschooling is definitely attainable, if parents support their children by carefully chronicling what they learn.