5 Tricks for Unschooling Record Keeping

5 Tricks for Unschooling Record Keeping

Record keeping is not an enjoyable task, and many unschoolers find this process difficult. Stopping to take records does interrupt the flow of natural learning and discovery.  Unfortunately not all unschoolers are flying under the radar. Some are registered with the education department in their respective areas, and need to submit reports.  Here are 5 tricks for unschooling record keeping for all of these unschoolers out there!

  1. Photo folder with dated photos
  2. A blog, facebook page, or other online medium for posting updates
  3. A storage system such as folders, boxes, or a filing cabinet
  4. Observation notes
  5. Rubrics

Let’s look at this in more detail!


1. Photo Folder Records

This one is easy once you set up the organisational structure. For example, you could set up a folder for each “school term”, or a month by month folder system. Each photo is named by the date it was taken on. That way, you can just dump relevant photos in your photo folder system for review and comments later on. Alternatively, you could set up a term system with sub-folders within labelled by the projects your child does. For example Term 1 > Gingerbread House / Visit to Crater Lakes / Homeschool Craft Day and so on. When it comes to report writing, you can refresh your memories immediately browsing through photos. Certain photos you can attach to your report and accompany them with annotations and/or student work. Sometimes you will have photos from an early project that is comparable to a later project and the progress is visible. Use these photos for sure – you can show proof of progress.


2. Online Medium for Record Keeping

This is a favourite way of mine to keep records. Having an online medium for casual updates on unschooling is a fantastic resource when it comes to report writing. You can use the observations, or refer to your posts in your report writing. As the updates are dated automatically by the medium you are posting in, there is no need to keep track of dates. All you have to do is log in and post. I also like linking photos with posts for visual memory.

Another useful advantage of this system of record keeping is you can get feedback. Having feedback on what your family has been doing is really helpful. This feedback can be an invaluable tool if you have a child with special needs or some problems with learning. By posting about this, you are sharing experience with other unschooling families too!


3. Storage System

Having a dumping ground for any work samples, projects, papers and so on is essential. I currently use a filing cabinet, but in the past have used storage boxes as this allowed for storage of bigger craftsy projects. Like with the photo storage system, this works best if you set up an organisational structure in the beginning. I used to just dump stuff in boxes helter skelter and this made going through the volumes of material unwieldy for report writing. It sucked!

Being organised takes away the stress at report writing time, and makes it easier to find samples to refer to or use.


4. Observation Notes

This is another useful record keeping and analysis tool. For unschoolers, you can just jot down observations on your phone without needing to interrupt the flow of learning. Later on when your child is occupied, you can hop on the computer or grab a journal or template and write the notes up. An observation note should have the following information on it:

  • Date
  • Activity (name of activity / explanation of activity)
  • Observations (your observations of what happened during activity)
  • Results (the outcomes of the activity, were goals met, what was achieved or learnt?)
  • Future Planning (shorthand notes or a list of future strategies or goals related to the activity/learning that took place)

I use these notes to plan how to address weak areas and to look back on historical activities to see what was accomplished over a larger amount of time – eg. a year. These notes are a casual way to keep track of observations which is more formal and concrete than keeping track in your head. When it comes to report writing, having observation notes to photocopy and include in your report is fantastic. Immediate stress reduction, and less writing up of a formal report.



Rubric sketch
A Rubric Sketch by Cleonard1973. License: CC BY-SA 4.0

Rubrics are sooooo schooly. Rubrics are how school teachers assess and evaluate progress of children on a mass scale.  I mention rubrics here because they are a quick and easy way to provide assessment in report writing. The rubric layout is also familiar for the people reviewing your reports as they are a teacher tool. The only reason rubrics work for unschooling is they have nothing to do with giving your child “schooly” tasks.

You can find free rubrics online that equate to what project your unschooled child is doing. It is then a simple matter of ticking off each area you feel your child has accomplished. At the end you have a nice number or percentage to demonstrate learning outcomes. I make extra notes on my rubrics to mention areas of strength and weakness.

Give those things a go! Do you have any other neat ideas for record keeping while unschooling? Please post below!

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