7 Days Until Portfolio Review: Summarizing and Educationese

You have your materials together. You’ve made a list of topics. You’re almost there!

Now you just take your lists of topics and join them together in a nice summary, sprinkling in educationy-sounding words.

Maybe for science you have the following:

  • density – and submarines, liquids, gases
  • flight — kites, airplanes, helicopters, future design
  • migration
  • food webs
  • life cycles & reproduction, genetics
  • geothermal processes, volcanoes, tsunami, plate tectonics, astronomy — comets, sun, stars, planets, constellations, satellites
  • some quantum mechanics
  • observing mantises, caterpillars, garden,
  • fixing things, watching things get fixed, building things (wooden car, bird house, soccer net, etc.)
  • garden and soil testing

You can join a few together and make it a shorter list:

  • Physics: flight, states of matter, astronomy
  • Biology: life cycles, food production,
  • Geology: soil, volcanoes
  • Engineering and materials science

Whatever makes you happy. The point isn’t to have an exhaustive list, or a list you’re going to turn in to someone. It’s just a quick list of things you can use to answer questions that the reviewer asks. And I highly recommend practicing your answers in your head, or even out loud.

Example Dialog

Reviewer: “What did Bobby do in science?”

Me: “He studied the physics of flight, astronomy and the states of matter… aspects of biology, including life cycles and food production.”

And what’s best is as you’re saying the words, pull out an example. You probably won’t even need to list all of your bullet points.

Example Dialog, Now With Samples!

Reviewer: “What did Bobby do in science?”

Me: “We studied the physics of flight, astronomy and the states of matter. Here’s a picture of Bobby being taught about the controls of an airplane at the Frederick airport.”

(I pull out the picture and hand it to the reviewer.)

Me: “He also studied aspects of biology, including life cycles and food production. Here’s a picture of him testing the garden soil’s pH.”

(Hands over picture of kid with pH meter.)

Reviewer: “Excellent! Now how about Social Studies?”

Does This Really Work?

Yes. Yes it does.

When you take a little time to organize ahead of time, you will look organized and put together. If you exude confidence and can state everything quickly and efficiently and hand over a sample, the reviewer will see that you’re doing a great job!

And it can be fun, too. One semester I made our summary for Language Arts and realized we’d read several books in the Harry Potter series, the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wee Free Men, and watched A Christmas Carol. Somehow I’d accidentally created a semester-long study of British Literature! You never know.

But Isn’t This A Lot of Work?

Honestly.. yes? Maybe? Just writing it up in this series of blog posts makes me feel like my method is a little complicated and I can just imagine everyone walking away thinking I’m a little overly list-obsessed.

You’d be right, actually. I do love lists.

But I do like to point out that one of the more annoying aspects (to me) of portfolio reviews is that it would actually be easier to make a really nice looking fake one. It would be easy as pie to have my kids fill out two worksheets per subject and back date them. I could bring in samples that have nothing to do with the way we really homeschool.

But that would make me feel bad — I’m an honest person. And it wouldn’t be teaching my kids how to be honest. But it sure would make my job a lot easier.


Prepare some nice lists and practice your answers — even if it’s for just a few minutes the day before — and you’ll exude confidence and competence.

Next, I’ll write about which samples work best!

Other posts in this series:

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