Tag Archives: review

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:

2 Days Until Portfolio Review: All About Samples

This post is filled with everything you wanted to know about portfolio review samples but were afraid to ask. Or maybe you did ask. Whatever. I’ll update this page as I find other questions that people ask — but I’ll warn you this is a meaty post already. Get some tea, kick back, and enjoy.

(It’s actually 17 days until our portfolio review now — it was postponed. But I figured if I titled this one “17 Days Until…” it would get confusing.)

So now we know the law, we’ve sorted through pictures and gathered other samples and notes, made a list of the topics we studied, and summarized them into handy notes for the portfolio review meeting.

Now we need to choose samples.

New homeschoolers usually have a lot of questions about samples:

And more!

How Many Samples Do I Have to Bring?

Some people want to do the bare minimum, other people like to bring an abundant number of samples because they like to share, they like external validation, or they are worried they will fail. I have a few recommendations.

Bring 2-4 samples per kid per subject

“Is that all?” Some people will ask. Yes. That’s all. But let’s do some quick math here — I have three kids and eight subjects. 3 x 8 x 2 = 48. 3 x 8 x 4 = 96. So I’m going to bring 48-96 samples to my review. That’s a lot of time to find them, list them, and organize them. Also, if I brought any more it would be really quite heavy!

Can’t I just bring more and be safe?

Well… I hope you won’t. Not just because I value your health and I think that more samples might cause a back-related injury, but because it can make reviewers start expecting it of all of us. The county reviewers in some counties really don’t seem to know the law or the culture of homeschooling and will ask for way, way more than the law allows. The more we let them get away with it, the more they will grow to expect it. Please — think of my bad back. Or the unschoolers. Or people who have children with learning disabilities or chronic illnesses. Some kids can just churn out samples like well-oiled machines — but some people homeschool because their kids cannot.

Also, if you bring 90 samples for one subject and only two for another, the reviewer will often tend to think you’re slacking in the subject you brought less of. It’s simple human nature. They’ll compare what you brought and assume it represents the way you homeschool — if you have 90 of one and two of the other subject, they will think you spend 45 times more of you time on one subject and maybe you’re not doing enough of the other subject. I’ve seen it happen.

But I love to share and hear how awesome I am or my kid is!

Yeah, I know. That why we made that list earlier of everything you covered, so you could feel awesome. So read off that list of topics you covered to your reviewer (but don’t give them the paper!), share with grandma, make a blog post, put it all in Pintrest, give yourself an M&M for every awesome thing you and your kids did… but don’t look for validation from the public schools just to feel like you’re doing the right thing.

Maybe your reviewer will love what you did. But maybe they won’t. Why leave your self-esteem in their hands?

What Counts as a Sample?

Almost anything! Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • Your child’s hand written note.
  • Your child’s typed story.
  • A picture your child drew of unicorns.
  • A picture your child drew of how distillation works.
  • A diagram your child made of how telescopes work.
  • A picture of your kids playing baseball in the backyard.
  • A pamphlet from the Air and Space Museum.
  • A picture of your kids enjoying their cousin’s rock concert.
  • A picture of your kids standing around in historic ruins.
  • A test paper.
  • A workbook.
  • A puzzle book.
  • A worksheet.
  • A picture your child took with a camera.
  • A blog post your child wrote.
  • A picture of something your child built out of tangrams.
  • A paper towel artistically colored with red cabbage indicator in various colors.
  • A sample of non-fiction your child read.
  • A list of books your child read.
  • A note about a conversation you and your kids had.
  • A certificate your child earned.
  • A map from a state park.
  • An MP3 of a song your child wrote.
  • An MP3 of a poem your children collaborated on and set to creepy music.
  • Notes you jotted down about what your kids asked or noticed during a history reading.
  • A video of your child doing gymnastics.
  • A program from a play or musical.
  • Scraps of paper your children wrote on for a word game.
  • Pictures of your children playing a math game. (Or a social studies game or…)
  • Pictures of kids trying out instruments or learning how to play them.
  • Pictures of writing, math, or drawing on a white board (good for kids with poor fine motor skills).
  • Pictures of kids playing “educational” video games — and I don’t just mean the ones that are supposed to be educational
  • Pictures of a robot they made, or kids using a telescope, or kids soldering circuits or…
  • A list of types of music they listened to.
  • Artwork they viewed — don’t forget this includes ancient sculptures and architecture!

I think the real question is what *can’t* you bring as a sample. So far the one thing I’ve thought of and discarded was “a sweaty shirt that the kid ran around in” as a sample for PE.

What Makes a Good Sample?

Now you have to start thinking strategically. If I’m only bringing 2-4 samples, I don’t want them all to be the same. I won’t bring four spelling tests, for example.

Usually, the “core” subjects are the ones I’ll bring 3-4 samples for: math, language arts, social studies, and science. In some counties they even recognize those as the core subjects, but not in all counties. For the other subjects (art, health, PE, and music), I usually bring two samples, unless the kids insist I bring others.

Language Arts

For language arts, I admit that I bring more samples and choose more carefully than I used to. I mentioned earlier that I did once fail a review. Yes, it was in language arts. I’ll tell that story soon… but it did affect the samples I bring for language arts, which irritates me. I don’t like to change how I homeschool to please people who don’t know much about homeschooling, me, or my kids. But I do get stressed out by portfolio reviews and, considering all angles, adding one sample per kid is easier than dealing with the extra anxiety.

Anyway, for language arts I try to bring:

  • At least one sample that shows my child’s handwriting — it might be a book they wrote, freewriting, or a spelling “test” (the kids sort of insisted on them? They’re weird.)
  • At least one sample that shows their reading ability — this might be a printout of a challenging science or history reading, a list of books they read on their own, or an example of phonics lessons we’re currently doing (depending on age and ability).
  • At least one sample that shows some kind of reasoning ability — they don’t just do copywork or spelling or reading, but they can form ideas of their own in their heads and somehow turn it into coherent English words.
  • Often I bring one sample that shows some sort of grammar or editing ability.
  • If we went to one, a pamphlet from a play or musical, historic writer’s house, etc.. Field trip!

Some of those could be combined in a sample. And sometimes I don’t manage to bring all of those. But it’s what I generally aim to look for in our samples — a wide variety of samples that display different language-related skills.


I tend towards three math samples, usually. I try to show samples from different math topics. I wouldn’t bring three samples of the same sort of subtraction problems, for example.

I attempt to have at least one sample that isn’t from a workbook or worksheet if I have them (the kids sometimes demand math worksheets, so we usually have them). A non-worksheet sample might be a picture of the kids playing chess or mastermind, or a picture of the kids using french toast as tangrams. Maybe even a math-related book they read, such as the Sir Cumference series, the Number Devil, etc.. It could be a picture of a hands-on math activity, such as measuring a circle’s circumference and diameter to show what pi means. Or a historic math method or technology we made*, such as a quipu (recording device made of knots) or a papercraft enigma machine (I still need to post about that, too!). Or even just a math puzzle from a puzzle book.

(*For subjects the kids show less passion towards, I like to combine activities with a subject they like. So a lot of our learning is about history or science, with a math or English tie-in.)

Social Studies

The social studies samples vary greatly depending on age. For the little ones, it could be a map or coloring page based on the reading we’re doing. My middle kid likes to make crafts, models, and art about historical times.

For my middle schooler, I once brought in a map we made in Google Maps of all the places we called on our amateur radio. As we contact someone, we look them up to see where they live — geography! I also brought in his amateur radio license as a sample that could easily cover a semester of social studies (you don’t just need to know geography, but learn many US and international laws), math, and science.

This time I’m bringing in pictures from Chichen Itza, a Mayan ruins we visited in Mexico.


We live, eat, and breathe science here at Dragon Academy. I never bring in worksheets for science. We don’t do them. I almost always bring in pictures of the kids doing science, diagrams they drew of how things work, books they read, and pamphlets (or pictures) of museums and events we visited.

The year we failed language arts (everything turned out fine! I promise!), the same reviewer passed us for science because I showed ONE picture of my garden. I don’t even think the children were in the picture and she never looked at the rest of the samples I brought. That one picture of a garden was plenty. You really never know what you’re going to get as far as reviewers go.


Music is usually two samples — one that shows them learning about music and another that shows them doing music.

Learning about music could be going to a show, listening to a type of music (jazz, bluegrass, etc), learning the sounds instruments make, music theory of some kind, etc..

Doing music is often a picture of them playing a music instrument, performing music, dancing to music, or an MP3 of the music they made.


Art is another subject where I bring two samples, one about learning art and the other about doing art.

Doing art could be either art they made or a picture of art they made (my son is into making glass art and there is no way I’m carrying that and 100 pieces of weird papers and pictures with me). It might be movies they made or pictures they took on a camera. Or drawings, pixel art, painting, chalk on the sidewalk, sculptures, dioramas, and a billion other things.

The other sample might be a pamphlet from a museum, thoughts they had while viewing famous art, artists or periods we studied, a list of art they looked at, art techniques, graphic design information, color theory lessons, etc..


PE is usually two samples — pictures or videos of the kids engaged in something physical: soccer, ballet, gymnastics, a wall climb at the renaissance fair, playing baseball in the back yard, an obstacle course they made, nature hikes, riding their bikes, playing in the pool, etc..

I think you could make a case for bringing in tickets from a game the kids watched. I know that after seeing a Real Live hockey game, the kids are more interested in watching and doing sports. Maybe an example of learning sports rules would work, too. Or learning about warming up and cooling down, how muscles and tendons and things work, how to properly lift weights, or how to design a healthy workout program… but maybe that would fall under Health, instead. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).


This is the question people have so often, especially for little kids. What counts as health?

When I first moved to Maryland, I couldn’t figure it out on my own, so I googled the local school’s information for parents, to see what the schools consider health, especially in the lower grade.

Things that count as health for a kindergartener in Maryland (from Montgomery County’s website):

In later grades they keep those seven basic categories, but add age-appropriate topics, such as: bullying, online safety, first aid, stress management, peer pressure, depression, illegal drugs, OTC medications, pregnancy, body image, eating disorders, information about food borne illnesses, self-esteem, conflict resolution, communicable diseases, decision-making, goal setting, health care products, verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, health resources, sexual harassment, puberty, weight management, modes of disease, respect, drug laws, nutrients, caloric intake, risk, gun safety, emergency response, telling vs tattling, family traits, the process of growing, the process of food production, senses and food, food animals, mental illnesses, addiction, dating, parenting, and so on.

So any two samples from that wide variety of health-related concepts would work fine! Scouting organizations often include plenty of health-related information, since much of what they do is about hygiene, camping, and helping in emergencies.

Some samples I’ve brought (or will bring this month) include:

  • a daily food chart (how many of each food group the kids ate at each meal).
  • pictures of children cooking meals for themselves.
  • pages from a safety curriculum coloring book (Kidpower).
  • an elementary school anxiety workbook.
  • vaccination pamphlets.
  • typed notes from a conversation we had about vaccinations, diseases and safety when travelling abroad.
  • drawings from an art lesson about how faces look for different feelings.
  • pictures of grandpa showing the oldest how to properly shoot a gun and about range safety (perfect veteran’s day activity).
  • pictures of children learning how to build a fire.
  • a paper where the child wrote their name, address, and phone number.
  • a picture of visit to a farm and/or farm animals.

Can I use (whatever) as a sample?

Probably, yes.

If your kid did it in this time period (semester or whatever you’re being reviewed on) and it’s an example of something that has to do with this subject…. then yeah.

However, I’d aim to have different types of samples, because variety will give the impression that you did more things than if all of your samples look similar or are about only one topic.

How can I make sure the reviewers will like my samples?

You can’t make them. Some people will just be difficult. But there are things that, while not legally required, can help influence reviewers to favor you:

  • Be organized (see below).
  • Date the samples if you can — some people will say it is unnecessary and not part of the law. But… well, I’ll fight over a lot of things… but for me it’s just easier to put dates on my samples. The stupid thing is that the reviewers have no idea if you dated them honestly as you went or just back-dated your favorite samples the day before the review. Once again it would be so much easier to lie than to just date everything as you go. I don’t recommend lying. I’m just saying that when reviewers require things that are hard to do honestly but are easy to cheat at, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
  • Bring a variety of types of samples about a variety of topics. The more varied things are, the more it shows that you did a lot of stuff over time. (Also it helps reviewers see that everything doesn’t have to be tests and worksheets).
  • Make sure your samples aren’t all pamphlets. I love bringing those in, but make sure some of your samples show your kids actually doing some sort of output. It will keep the reviewers from doubting you.

Do I have to organize my samples?

Well, the law doesn’t say you have to, but it’s more persuasive if you do. You see, most of portfolio reviews are social engineering — persuading people to do what you want them to do.

You want to persuade the reviewer that you are a good homeschooler who offers through instruction to their children. What would prove this? They don’t get to see you teach your kids, they don’t get to spy on you or make you sign in every day to a learning log on their web page, and they don’t even get to see or talk to your kids if you don’t bring them (hint: don’t bring your kids).

So the way you prove it is by bringing some nice, varied samples. Dates help them see that it occurred over time… and other than that you convince them by looking competent.

I bring my samples with one folder for each child. Each folder has a divider for each subject. If I know the order that the reviewers will ask for samples (for example, Montgomery County has a standard form for reviews) I put the samples in that same order.

Then I have my overview sheet of bullet points of topics we covered in each subject and a list of each sample I’m bringing for each kid in that subject, so I can glance at my notes and easily make smart, coherent sentences with more information than the reviewer can write down in the little box on the form, showing each sample as I mention the topic.

I make sure to sound happy and excited about the wonderful things we did that year. I might share an amusing anecdote if time allows or it seems like a nice time to add one. I paint a picture with words about the lovely wholesome time we have. I share some of our favorite resources (I had a reviewer once go look up Kidpower because I gushed about it so much — which is good, because I love what they make).

Be easygoing. Be enthusiastic. Be organized.

Do I have to have tests/worksheets/whatever?


“But my county sent out a letter that said…”


“But how can I show that…”


“Wouldn’t it be easier to just make my kids do a couple of tests and bring them in?”

Gosh no.

Bring in your legitimate work. Don’t use your kid’s compliance with your requests to make it easier on you. Don’t let the reviewer push you around and demand tests if you don’t want to do them.

If you want to do them or your kids do, by all means go for it. Some kids even ask for them — I’m not saying say no to your kids because tests are evil or anything like that. Just don’t change what you’re doing for the school system. Do your thing. Show it off. Be persuasive!


There are a lot of ways to bring in portfolio review samples.

Don’t feel like you have to do what I do. I’m just laying out my own techniques and strategy so other homeschoolers can take or leave what they think will help them. I won’t be offended, I promise.

Other posts in this series:

Gaining Confidence Through Failing Our Portfolio Review

Failing our homeschool portfolio review gave me the confidence to keep homeschooling my kids my way.

What? Failing made you confident? Are you insane?

Nope. I’m not. I’m just weird and unorthodox. But that’s sort of required in order to be a homeschooler, isn’t it?

Fear and the Portfolio Review

When faced with a portfolio review, most parents are not excited. You don’t feel like you won a ticket to Disney World. You feel like you have to open yourself to disapproval of your teaching methods, criticism of your children, and the possibility of having to send your kids back to school against your (and the kids’) will.

So of course homeschoolers are afraid of portfolio reviews! The entire point of it is that someone who doesn’t know you or your children is going to decide whether you are a bad parent and shouldn’t be allowed to make educational decisions for your kids.

This fear results in homeschoolers lying on their reviews, forcing their kids to do worksheets that both parents and child know are stupid, causing parents to change their homeschooling activities in other ways, and forcing moms and dads to pay money to umbrella groups just to save them from their own government’s interference.

All because of this fear.

Portfolio Reviews Are Not Valid

Let’s step back a second here — In what universe can you ascertain if a parent is teaching their child just by looking at a stack of papers for half an hour twice a year?

I don’t care how amazing a reviewer is, this is an impossible task.

Because it’s impossible to do any other way, they are mostly using intuition to determine if you are doing a good job. They use cues, such as seeing if you have a wide range of types of learning, if you sound confident, if it looks like genuine work, if you are organized, if you show up to the meeting on time, and other personality “tells”.

They could not write a paper or publish a study proving your worth as a homeschooler using this stuff as evidence. It’s not possible.

Fake Portfolio Reviews Would Be More Convincing

However… strong, solid “evidence” is pretty easy to fake.

You can always make a list of topics you studied that simply isn’t real. You could show a list of books that no one really read. You could write papers for them. You could grab pamphlets from museums that your kids never paid any attention to.  You can fake a multiple choice test.

You can be pretty confident-sounding that you taught a kid everything they need to know if the list is just one you got from the local school’s web page.

It’s a real review that’s a lot of hard work. I often wonder how many honest portfolio reviews the reviewers see.

I mean, I bring the “good” word samples, not the things the kids got wrong, or never finished, or dropped food on, or just wrote the word “poop” on a million times. But that’s not what I mean. I mean the people who embellish what the kids learned… or presented last minute worksheets that look nothing like what the kids actually did all year. Or straight out lies.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

I’ve done my best to convince you that portfolio reviews are more easy to fake than do honestly and that the entire premise behind them is basically impossible.

Portfolio reviewers are going to compare you to school kids. And they will compare you to people with fake portfolios. So why do you care what they think? They have a pretty skewed idea of what homeschooling really is, simply because (unless they homeschool their own kids) it’s not something they have very much to do with.

So, remember: your goal in the portfolio review is just to get through it and continue to homeschool, not convince someone that you’re the best homeschooler ever. They really don’t have the evidence or ability to tell you that one way or another.

But What if I Fail?!

That’s the biggest fear of all. That you’ll fail, it will go on your permanent record, you’ll be arrested, there will be a huge “FAIL” sign stapled to your forehead, and your kids will grow up to never hold a job above minimum wage or have happiness ever again in their lives.

Guess what?

I’ve failed — and we’ve thrived.

The Story of How We Failed Portfolio Review

This happened several years ago, when my son was younger and more hyper, my daughter was younger and a little more clingy, and the youngest was just an older infant or young toddler. They weren’t very independent people because they were so young.

Usually I drop the kids of with my parents for reviews, but this time my parents were sick. I didn’t have enough time to find anyone else to watch them, so the kids came with me.

By the time we got to the building where reviews are done, I had a migraine. I’ve gotten them for about thirty years now. They don’t just hurt a lot, but they also cause me to be more clumsy, more easily confused, and I tend to have more trouble forming thoughts into sentences. It’s basically the opposite of looking organized or confident.

We settled in for the interview. I had my papers in folders, my topics listed, and I practiced what I was going to say the day before. But I had trouble remembering words. The toddler kept grabbing my papers and my folders and throwing them on the floor. The kids were trying to quietly color, but they seemed to need to ask me something about every 27 milliseconds, breaking any concentration I might have managed to muster.

I sounded like a frazzled, confused person with no business teaching anyone anything, particularly writing.

As it turns out, my random reviewer’s personal issue was Language Arts. A lot of times reviewers will, of course, be more particular about their favorite subject — maybe they teach it, or they think it’s more important for some reason. And hers was Language Arts, and I already sound like English is my second language and I didn’t even have a first.

So she asks me, “Did you do reading comprehension worksheets?”

Me: “No… we don’t do those.”

Her: “You have to do reading comprehension worksheets in the third grade. Otherwise how are they going to be able to handle fourth?”

Me, picking up papers the baby dropped on the floor: “… What?”

Her: “Third grade is reading comprehension worksheets. Didn’t you do any?”

Me, waving off confused child with broken crayon, “Um, no, we don’t do those. But we do talk about stories and things we read during and afterwards, so I know they understand what they read.”

Her, shaking her head disapprovingly, “They need reading comprehension worksheets. That’s how they…” (And she listed some things that they “prove”.)

I then offered many examples of how we handle those things. I think one of them was being able to predict how a story will go, so I pointed out that we do that in History lessons. That as we read the history chapter, we notice things repeating that happened before, and make prediction about how it will turn out.

Apparently that wasn’t good enough. Even though I gave examples of all of the ways we handle the same things she says reading comprehension worksheets do, she shook her head… and failed us.

Now think about this — what if I had said, “Sure, we do reading comprehension worksheets, I just didn’t happen to bring one.”

What would have happened? Would be believe me, and let us pass, showing that it’s all just an invitation to lie? Or would she fail us anyway, indicating that homeschoolers are supposed to be mind readers and bring the “correct” samples, even though reading comprehension worksheets isn’t listed in the law?

It was a lose-lose situation.

The very same reviewer only looked at one thing for our science portfolio. I showed one picture of our vegetable garden and barely said one sentence about it before she stopped me and made a big checkmark in the “science” column of her review sheet. Yep. She was that thorough.


I was angry when I left. I think I cried on the way to the car, I was so upset. I ended up with a speeding camera ticket a few weeks later, just to add insult to injury.

I was marked on the forehead with the dreaded metaphorical FAIL stamp.

How would I ever show my face in the world of homeschooling again? What if they made the kids go to school? What would I do now?? 

I went home and I ranted at anyone who would listen.

What Actually Happens When You Fail

There really isn’t a stamp. Other homeschoolers didn’t care. As it turns out, sane people don’t blame you for not doing reading comprehension worksheets for just one kid who you talk to every day.

Good. I didn’t want to change how we homeschooled. It was working just fine the way it was!

As it turns out, when you fail, they don’t just grab your kids off of the street and throw them into the nearest school. You have thirty days to prove you’re actually doing what you’re supposed to be doing. In our county, it wasn’t even with our original reviewer! It was with the head of the homeschool program. And instead of being in person, I could just scan things in and email it.

So, I scanned the same samples. I added an extra Language Arts sample — back then I only brought two samples in the portfolio, so this brought it up to three total.

Then I wrote an email, explaining what we did and a little about our Language Arts philosophy, explaining my samples a little better. I’m much better in print with time to think, instead of in person with a migraine and children climbing all over me. I appealed to the authority of our curriculum, an excellent one actually used in some public schools’ gifted programs. His philosophy of writing instruction was to make sure children could write a good sentence before you start having them write long, bad paragraphs.

I toiled over word choice, correct punctuation, and sounding confident and just plain awesome. And unemotional, not angry. And finally, I clicked send, while my stomach attempted to eat itself alive from the stress of not knowing.

This was our last shot before we had to go to drastic measures.

I got an answer in about an hour. Pass. The review form was scanned in and attached to the email. It was not just easy, it was easier than the original review!


Once you experience one of your worst fears, a strange thing happens. You become less afraid of it. The worst thing about fear is the unknown. Your imagination goes crazy and thinks of the worst things that could happen. But the worst almost never happens.

I have the confidence of a person who has failed and survived. I can go into the review knowing that it isn’t the end and nothing bad can happen that day, unless I let it get to me. (And speed. And get a stupid ticket.)

Without the fear eating at me, I look pretty darn amazing. I bring our weird samples. I don’t do reading comprehension worksheets. I bring what I want to bring: 2-4 samples, per subject, per kid.

If I fail, I’ll just send those samples again. If I fail that, I’ll pay my protection money to an umbrella.

And we’ll thrive.

Other posts in this series: