I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

In my humble opinion, creating an annual portfolio is a must whether you're legally required to do so by your state or not. But should you sift through all of my reasons and still disagree, feel free to give me the side-eye and keep on scrolling. No hard feelings.

If on the other hand, you've bought into the idea of saving-the-best-and-tossing-the-rest and want to compile an organized sampling of worksheets and projects to squirrel away for graduation day, here's a quick cheat sheet to get you started.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

How I create a homeschool portfolio

Throughout the year, I stash potential work away in accordion-style folders. The sections and tabs help me to organize the work from day-to-day so that I don't face a mountain of papers to sort at the end of the year. It acts as my first line of defense against hoarding. Since I color-code our school day, I keep a different colored folder for each child. If my kids complete a project that I think could potentially make the final cut for their portfolio, I toss it into their folder for safe-keeping until May.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

When the school year ends and the accordion files are bulging and ready to be emptied, it's time to actually create the portfolio. With files in one hand and finished workbooks in the other, I begin to sort through math sheets, creative writing assignments, handwriting practice pages, and the like. Obviously, not everything will be worth keeping. Some of it was just useful in the moment. It's up to me to separate the good from the best.

As I sort, I select three work samples from each subject. For objective subjects like math and language, I pick one sample from the beginning of the year, one from the middle of the year, and one from the end of the year. For subjective subjects like creative writing and art, I'm more purposeful in my selection and save work that was particularly important or that sufficiently shows my child's progress from the beginning of the year to the end of it.

After I've selected samples from every single subject, I toss all the rest of the work. (If it's not worthy of the portfolio, it's not worthy of prime shelf space in my house.)

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Then, I format my portfolio. I use a 3-ring binder with divider tabs, but a file folder, plastic bin, or banker's box would work just as well.  

Long ago, I had hoped to make separate binders for each one of my children every year, but since I now homeschool five kids, I don't have the time nor the space to make so many. Plus, because so much of our learning is done together as a group, it's difficult and redundant to compile it individually.  

Before inserting all the work samples that I've gathered, I create divider tabs within the binder to separate each child's papers from the others'. I divide the binder using the following sub-headings:

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Group Bibliography

This section contains the information for any subject or project that we completed together as a family like Bible, history, science, or art. Within this section, I insert the following:

A bibliography page listing the subjects we have done together as a group and every book that we have used for those subjects. Since our history curriculum consists of dozens and dozens of living books, I just note the bibliography info of the curriculum guide on the main bibliography page and then list the book titles on a separate sheet of paper. I keep a running list of these historical books all year long in my computer, print it off in the spring, and add it to the binder.

A photocopy of the Table of Contents page of any encyclopedic/spine type books that we read from for our group subjects. If we did not read through the entire book but hopped around to the portions that applied to certain units, I highlight the sections that we completed in order to show which areas of study we focused on and which ones we skipped.

A list of all the read alouds that we enjoyed together that year. Again, I keep a running list on my computer all year long so that I can just print it out when I'm compiling the portfolio.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Field Trips

Since so much of our learning happens on-the-go, I always create a field trip section in our portfolio. It includes the following:

A list of all the places we visited. I make a note of the date as well as a few specific points of interest we saw or experienced while we were there. I keep this running list on my computer and print it out at the end of the year.

A clear plastic sleeve filled with any ticket stubs, brochures, and printables from the field trip locations as proof of our visit.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Photo sleeves or digital files on CD to display pictures of our field trips.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Special Projects

Since I have a large age-span of kids, I don't often assign them to do projects together. But when I do, I include the following information in the portfolio:

A list of all non-book, non-worksheet related learning such as youtube videos we watched, audio programs we listened to, science projects we completed, etc. I make sure to record the date the project was completed and a short description (3-4 words) of what it entailed.

Photo sleeves or a CD of pictures of our completed projects. For lack of space, we cannot keep all the large crafts and displays, but the pictures help us to retain the memory of them.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Homeschool Co-op

Much of our enrichment learning happens at our co-op. Here's what I save and display in this section of our binder:

A hard copy of our co-op schedule that lists our basic units of study/book club lists for the year.

If we happen to do a group skit or performance at the end-of-the-year spring program, I include a copy of the script.

Photographs or photo CD of co-op pictures from the year.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Sample Work

After I've compiled all of our group work in the previous binder sections, I then create separate tabs for each of my kids. These sections will be used to display the samplings from their individual core subjects like math, language arts, writing, etc.

Within each child's section, I include the following:

A bibliography page for the books that he/she used for core subjects.

A copy of the Table of Contents of encyclopedic/spine-type books that each child read only portions from. I highlight the sections that he/she read.

Three individual work samples from each subject. These are the worksheets that I had previously culled from their workbooks or accordion files.

A clear plastic sleeve to hold any awards/certificates that he/she earned throughout the year from church, piano lessons, community sports, county fair, etc.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Project Packs

Some of the save-worthy projects like lapbooks, journals, or minibooks are awkwardly shaped, are too large for the 3-ring binder, or are too delicate to be 3-hole punched. Instead, these get placed inside large manila envelopes that get tucked behind the appropriate child's binder tab.

How to Create a Homeschool Portfolio

Before stashing the completed binder in the basement with all the previous years' portfolios, I label the spine with the school year and the initials and "grade levels" of each of the kids included.

Other items to include in a portfolio

report cards/high school credits
medical/immunization records
apprenticeship hour logs
extracurricular logs
leadership/volunteer logs
certifications/training received
employment experiences

More Resources for Creating Portfolios

5 Reasons You Should Create a Homeschool Portfolio
A Video Peek Inside Our Annual Portfolios
Homeschool Legal Defense Association
Donna Young
Oklahoma Homeschool
Homeschool Oasis


  1. You're so organized. Love it! Great tips. Thanks. :)

    1. Heidi,
      Contrary to what it might seem, I keep these binders because I am not by nature ORGANIZED. Thanks for your encouraging words!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It's great to see how other families make their portfolios. I think I'm going to have to pick up some of those accordion folders for next year. Right now I just have a huge jumbled stack of papers for each child.

    1. Paula, I bought them in the dollar section of Target a few Septembers ago, but have seen them there a few times since.

  3. I color code too! LOL I usually let the kids chose what color they would like for the school year. Last year my oldest was black, middle was blue and youngest was green. I get all their notebooks, binders and folders in that color! It does make things easier to find!

    1. Sure does. I think I'd lose my mind trying to remember whose is whose.

  4. I love the "freedom to toss the rest"! This is great system! I think it meets our needs perfectly and suits our limited space with moving with the military every 2-4 years. Good job!

    1. It's always hard to make the "toss" knowing how hard the kids worked all year. But, in the end, space is a hot commodity around our tiny house.

  5. I'm so excited to start keeping track of this. I think my main reason for doing it (since my state doesn't currently require it) would be to show it to my hubby. He has a tendency to wonder what we've done, and "how well homeschooling worked this year" all the time! I feel like I started my organizing a tad late this year, but I'll give all the ideas I've compiled the "trial run" this year, and hopefully we'll have a great plan of what works best for us by 2014-2015 school year!

    I also love your "freedom to toss" system. A few years back I had started taking digital pics of things I had kept, so I could toss them. I currently still have 3...maybe more? (gulp) BINS in my attic full of "keepsake" work and drawings and projects. My mom kept EVERYTHING my brother and I did in school, and when he unexpectedly passed away 8 years ago, it was neat to see the little things he wrote and colored. But as I have FIVE children, keeping it ALL doesn't work as well here. Plus I have tried to convince my mom that I can't use the fear of something happening to my kids as a reason to hoard everything. Digital pictures have been a great, space saving way to keep her happy, and my house a little more organized!

    Sorry for the digression! Thanks for sharing your organizing tips again! :D

    1. I love the digital picture idea. Sometimes I consider my blog "digital proof" that we homeschool.

  6. Question: What do you do with your homeschool lesson plans at the end of the year? Would it be easier to just keep that along with a selection of the student's work from the year? I really like your set up, however, as it makes sense & is neat and clean (i.e. no highlighting or scribbled teacher's notes ala MY lesson planner post school year).
    What are the keys to making this happen DURING the year? I mean, do you intentionally keep separate records of specific things while you are doing them or can you just use your stored student work and lesson planner as a reference at year end? (I'm a check-list kind of girl, so knowing what I need to keep track of specifically through the year would be helpful.)

    1. I would love to know the answers to Bethanys questions since I too have wondered if my planner and a few samples are enough to become the portfolio. I love what you have laid out and i plan to give something similar a try this year.

    2. I keep my planners from year-to-year. You could include them in your binder as most planners have been 3-ring punched. But, I do not. I keep all my old planners in one spot.

      For the most part, I record as I go. I keep running documents on my computer that I just add to every few days. You can find out more about that here>>http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2015/06/a-video-peek-inside-our-annual.html

    3. Thank you! I'll check out that video :-)

  7. Exactly what I needed to see, had it in my head, thanks for giving me a visual!