Homeschool record keeping is one of those requirements that can be slightly confounding. The Minnesota statute is fairly vague and everyone seems to do it differently. Here are the basics of what you need to know about meeting the MN requirements for keeping records and some ideas to get you started on finding your own groove with tracking your family’s progress.
What the Law Requires
First, you should know that the law is pretty non-specific about documentation. The statute that applies, Minn. Stat. 120A.24 subd. 2, basically states that homeschoolers need to maintain records that show that all of the “required subjects are being taught and proof that the yearly tests are being administered.”
The required subjects (Minn. Stat. 120A.22 subd. 9) include:
- basic communication skills (including reading, writing, literature, and fine arts)
- mathematics and science
- social studies (including history, geography and government)
- health and physical education
The statute indicates that records must include: “class schedules, copies of materials used for instruction, and descriptions of methods used to assess student achievement.” Ultimately, all this record-keeping is required to show that you’ve met the requirements if–worst case scenario–you are ever questioned by the state about your homeschooling methods or results. Please note that this is a very rare occurrence in Minnesota.
What does that really mean?
This may seem very daunting and as though every moment of learning must be recorded, but it is important to remember the spirit of the law. What does the state really want? They want to know that you are including those areas noted above in your child’s homeschool learning and how you are accomplishing that. Note, though, that there is no required amount of time spent on each subject or direction in how they must be covered or recorded.
Suggestions on Record Keeping
Often, the way you choose to keep records will mimic the way that you homeschool. If you plan ahead and keep a strict adherence to a schedule, you will have those records of what you’ve done. For some, though, it is easier to record in retrospect what they’ve accomplished, either by keeping a journal or using a teacher’s plan book, but recording what you’ve done instead of what you’re planning to do. Any of these methods will also help meet the requirement of including class schedules, as you will be noting the number of days that you worked in different subject areas.
For families who work in a more cross-curricular way, such as with a unit study focus where the subjects may blend together, you can identify and record within your child’s projects how various subjects are being learned and practiced. For example, making maps about the geology of the United States would fit in both the science and social studies categories. And, almost any unit study or project will include reading and writing. The learning isn’t any less legitimate just because it’s not it’s own specific subject, so definitely be sure to give your child credit for the learning that takes place along the way to a greater goal.
If your child reads a lot or you read a lot together with your children, a reading list can be an essential part of your record-keeping. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but do find a place where you can quickly and easily add books to your list as you go. Many homeschoolers are voracious readers and it can be hard to keep up, so try to make your reading list as simple to update as possible.
However you homeschool, it’s good to keep work samples as you go along, both for record-keeping and for looking back on in future years. Most people do this, just keeping special projects or papers that demonstrate their child’s growth as the year progresses.
It’s also good to keep a calendar or note in your journal days that your child attends any classes or activities you sign up for. Often, homeschoolers try to expand on those experiences, such as reading the book before you see the play, or reading about a composer before a concert. Be sure to record those activities, as well. And, just because you’re having fun doesn’t mean learning isn’t happening! So when you do things like go for a nature walk or play a game where there’s word or number play involved, make sure to take note of those things, too. There’s science and physical education on that nature walk and math or spelling/reading practiced during those games.
Testing and Assessment
If you give your children tests throughout the year in subject areas or give grades on assignments, certainly keep those records as proof of assessment. Some families choose not to do written assessment (outside of the yearly testing requirement), but instead work alongside their children and assess a child’s abilities as they go–by watching them work through their math problems or by discussing scientific concepts with them to see if they understand, for example. In that case, the assessment would just be considered verbal and children could be considered as “passing” at 100%, provided you are moving at their pace and waiting until they grasp a concept before moving ahead.
This requirement also refers to keeping a copy of the receipt from your required annual standardized testing for all students ages 7-16. You are never required to share the scores with the state unless there is an actual action taken against you for alleged educational neglect (again, very rare.) But, your receipt serves as preliminary proof and keeping the scores in case of that rare instance is still recommended. Also, if you might later want to enroll your child back in school, please note that standardized test scores are sometimes requested to help determine grade placement.