For many families regardless of how they choose to home school their children, documentation is a reality that parents need to deal with. We are very blessed to live in a province (yup we are in Canada) that does not require us to check in other than a letter of intent each year. So why do I keep track of what we are doing? There are several reasons why I document our learning. I want to remember: We do so many interesting things and have so much fun. Like most families we take photos, keep mementos, and remember important events. Since I spend all day with our children we have so much more that I want to remember. I also like to keep track of the children’s interests so that I can see patterns or recurring topics. I can go deeper: During the day we are so busy with living life that it is often difficult to take time to reflect. In journeying about certain things that come up I can ponder them, go back and see things from a different angle. Perhaps my child is struggling with something, this is my time to see if there is another angle we could approach it with. I often discover that I reflect a lot on my parenting, which makes sense because we are not separating school from family life. I can see if we are on track: Okay so I did say that we aren’t required to report for our area. Many families do need to actually keep track of certain subjects/topics covered. This of course is a very good reason to journal. I like to see if we are missing anything major incase our financial situation changes and the children do have to attend school. It is also very encouraging to me when I discover we are ahead!! It helps to keep me going: There are days when I question why we are unschooling. I worry, I wonder, I panic. Then I look back on how far we have come and I am motivated to keep on going. I read about those aha moments that I was blessed to be part of and I cannot wait to jump back in for more. Write down why you are unschooling and what your goals are. It will help you through those not so great days. Perhaps you need to make some changes to how things are going at home. Do you need to slow down? Have some kind of schedule? Etc… Reflecting on the past can give you some clarity. So now that I have told you about the whys, lets talk a little about some different options for documentation and journeying. Photos: I love to take pictures throughout the day of whatever we happen to be doing. Not all of these pictures are Facebook or blog worthy, but I love to look back on the action shots of our week. My favorites are the surprise photos I discover when one of the children has gotten a hold of my camera or phone. Depending on the situation we do take some videos too. My camera and phone can both do this. At the end of each year I also make a photo book (there are many companies that do this online). We honestly don’t print our photos anymore and I can fit multiple photos on one page in a little yearbook. Blog: Another way to record what you are up to is in a blog. We have grandparents who live farther away and want to keep up on what the kids have been doing. Each week I download our photos as a reminder for me of what we did and I write about it. I do extra blog posts when I feel I have more to say. At the moment I do not have a huge following, as making money from my blog wasn’t my motivation. But there are many options for blogging out there and it is very simple to do. It is a great way to connect with others and look back on where you’ve been. Social Media: There are lots of ways to connect with others and keep track of what your family is doing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr are just a few of the options you could look into. Perhaps your family could make a special Facebook page to record your unschooling journey. Evernote: Again there are several programs that are similar to Evernote like OneNote. I happen to like Evernote because it synchronizes to all my devices. I have a folder for homeschooling where I can add photos and a description instantly on any device that I am close to. Many families use Evernote for planning and keep their lessons on the program. I like to keep a list of strewing ideas or provocations (discovery activities) that I’d like to leave out for the children. Journal: There is something about good old paper and pencil that typing just can’t give you. I find that I am better able to clear my mind through the process of actually forming the letters as I’m thinking and getting it all out. This is where I do my best reflecting, pondering and journeying. It is also a good for children to see their parents writing on paper. I know this sounds ridiculous but with all the technology and devices available, I really don’t need to reach for paper and pencil as often as I used to. A while back I brought out my pretty journal and began pouring my thoughts out into it. My older son asked what I was doing and then took a small notebook to make a diary for his new stuffed bunny. He asked me to write about his bunny’s first few days in the world as it was a new toy that we sewed together. Forms: For those of you who do report to your local school board or state, there are many forms and checklists available online. You may need to look into your local home school laws to see if there are any special forms to fill out. Some families choose to divide their notebook into subjects. You could then jot down the date and activity that each child is doing that corresponds to core subjects required. Although unschooling is living life as if school doesn’t exist, we still live in a society that does have schools. So reporting is something that many families need to consider. At the end of each year I also make a photo book (there are many companies that do this online). We honestly don’t print our photos anymore and I can fit multiple photos on one page in a little yearbook.
Meaghan Jackson lives in Ontario Canada with her two young boys and husband. She spends her days at home living life, learning, exploring, playing and creating with her children. She also works closely with her husband to operate a fire alarm and electrical company. In her free time Meaghan usually has a crafty project on the go and blogs over at Joyful Mud Puddles (http://joyfulmudpuddles.blogspot.ca). You can also connect with Joyful Mud Puddles on her new Facebook page HERE. Don’t forget to tell her Unschooling Momma and Poppy sent you!