Skip to main content

8th Grade Binder Update: 8 weeks

8th grade is a test year for high school.  Together Grace and I designed her year, choose her math textbook, created an original study for history, picked her foreign language (found a teacher), registered for marine science, expanded on our writing group, found volunteer opportunities,  and set about to find a way to document it all.

As I have written before, Connecticut has no reporting mandates.  We do not have to keep track of how many days we “do school” and we don’t have to submit to portfolio reviews (unless we choose to), nor do we have to take yearly or bi-yearly standardized tests.  We do not have to submit curriculum plans, nor do we have to meet with the school board, or a teacher representative.  We do not have to ask permission to homeschool.  In effect, as I was told by a representative at HSLDA, in Connecticut the burden is not on the parents to prove that we are providing an equivalent education, but the burden would be on the school district to prove that we were not.  

I am not counting the hours she reads for Language Arts since they are being counted as history credit. I am currently researching if you can count the hours in both places since it is directly applicable to both subject areas.  

I have complete freedom in how we school, or unschool.....for that is pretty much what we do.  However, I never, ever, want my girls to feel unsure of their educational experience or feel that they were not given the opportunities necessary to pursue their dreams.  When I hand them a high school diploma, we both need to know what is behind that piece of paper.  

So I read.  And read and read.  In fact, I spent last summer reading and researching how I can fit my type A personality into an unschooling environment and not drive myself or my children insane.  I found what I was looking for in Barbara Edtl Shelton’s book - blog post here.  Call me old-fashioned, but I did not want to keep a binder of forms on the computer.  I wanted the ability to erase and add and highlight and flip through paper... real paper.   It took me weeks to complete the binder but once it was done, all that was left was to start filling it up.

This may be routine for many homeschooling families, especially those in states that have rigorous reporting directives.  For three years I have only kept lists in notebooks and this blog.  I was starting with a blank slate.  

Every day I take 10 minutes and record what Grace does during the day.  It is not time consuming, stressful, or a burden.  It has eliminated my lists and post-it notes.  Occasionally I post a picture (or two, or three...) of the binder or some of the work we are doing that eventually finds its way into the binder on Instagram.  I keep promising to sit down and write this post to share how the binder looks 8 weeks into the “school year”, although since we “school” July - June, the binder contains science trips we took in Maine and Cape Cod, music lessons and concerts we attended, and volunteering we did over the summer months.  Grace’s 9th grade binder will begin on July 1, 2014.

Categories:  Music, Language Arts, Bible Study, Science, Sign Language, Current Events, Art and Art Appreciation, Life Skills, History, Math, Volunteering, Physical Experiences, Field Trips, Scrapbook

I include items in the scrapbook section that may not be relevant to this academic year but are something she may want to reference in the future.  I don't want to lose these certificates/letters of recommendation/awards, etc.  Once they are placed in the scrapbook section, I know where to find them if needed.

This binder is truly a work in progress.  I need to spend some time updating the Basic Requirement List for each section.  I need to add texts, the syllabus from the Yale class and marine science class, as well as write descriptions of what she is learning and how she is learning it.  For example, math is a content based class, I do not count hours.  It is also important to note that she is learning this material for mastery.  Each grade is recorded but she has the opportunity to retake any quiz/test until she is satisfied with the grade she receives (which I hope is always an A).

The beauty of this is that everything we do has a place in the binder, whether it is a naturalist led whale watch, or a physics class at Yale, an algebra lesson or a Red Cross Babysitting Course.   I feel comfortable that Grace will meet or exceed a 120 hour credit, through a natural exploration of the community she resides in, through connecting with professionals in many different areas, though internships, through projects, and travel, through online pursuits, as well as classroom experiences, and all the while enjoying the comfort and support of her home and her family.  


  1. You inspired me to keep this for Keilee when you first posted. Now you have inspired me to keep it MORE UP TO DATE!! This is wonderful Jess.

    1. It just takes a few min here and there. If it were too time consuming, I would not do it. It is the first system that I have kept in place for more than a month. I am hoping to work on it a bit tonight so that I have it up to date for a meeting I am holding at my house tomorrow with some friends to talk about homeschooling high school. I will take notes….or you can Skype in if it goes well!

  2. So did you use Barbara Shelton's book A home Designed Form U La for the "design" of this binder??

    1. Yes I did. I have a previous blog post if you search the contents under her title or name. I found her book to be tremendously helpful in the approach to homeschooling high school in eclectic or unschooling way.

  3. Great job, mama! Record-keeping. I've totally dropped the ball on this in our homeschool journey. With my oldest in 8th this year, I really need to pick it back up! Eek! *rocking in corner* ;)

    1. Does CC keep records for you? I would think that being involved in a program like that would cover you. From what I see on Instagram they are doing amazing things!

  4. It looks like the binder will be a great momento of the year as well. So glad you've found a tool that lets you balance two seemingly contradictory needs.

  5. Hi, it's Jackie stopping by from your link-up at the November Let's Homeschool High School Blog Hop.

    I enjoyed your last post on 'binders' and found it very helpful and this one proves to be just as helpful to me. I only wish I was as organized as you are. LOL

    Sounds like you are doing great this year. We have used TT in the past and really liked it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to personally thank you for linking up with this month. I look forward to reading your post in next month's link up.



    Let's Homeschool High School Team Member


Post a Comment

Due to high levels of span, comment moderation is turned on for the time being. Thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment. I will return it shortly!

Popular posts from this blog

Defending Homeschooling

Yesterday I was called to defend my homeschooling to someone who did not know me well and does not understand the concept of homeschooling well.  Some of the questions that were asked included:

How do I grade?How do I know they are on track?How do I teach what I do not know?How do I have patience?How will they go to college?
These are fairly typical questions and I should have been able to answer them with ease and confidence but I sensed judgment and it shook me a bit.  After all these years, I thought I was beyond being shaken up by questions, especially when asked respectfully.  To be fair, the questioner has a very traditional outlook on education and has two children younger than mine, who already know which Ivy League schools they wish to attend.

So how did I respond?

Grades - we don't grade.  I have gone back and forth over 
the years about grading but I wrote a post a few days ago that sums up my thinking on grades.  It took Grace a year and a half to make it thought algebra an…

Art Journaling: Quotes

If you saw our group’s art journal pages on display, I wonder if you would be able to guess how old the artists are.

Their work is mature beyond their years.  

I wonder why this is...Is it talent?  It is interest?  Is it passion?  
I don’t know.  What I do know is that magic happens when they are together...  

...and that I love every single minute of it.  

Shelling in Coastal Connecticut, Rhode Island

It is a wise father that knows his own child. - William Shakespeare

Our family has always embraced each other’s interests.  We almost take them on as our own.  I have attended two weather conferences with Grace.  I have run a baking camp for Lilah.  It is truly wonderful when we discover an interest that we all share. For us, this interest is shelling.  
You can’t shell as home.  After a long and at times difficult week, Greg and I decided to skip our normal Saturday routine of food shopping, running errands and having a nice family dinner at home, in favor of exploring beaches in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  We threw food into a cooler, grabbed water bottles, our microscope, shelling bags (mesh laundry bags), and headed north.
Our first stop was Rocky Neck State Park.  We have mixed feelings about this beach.  We love the soft white sand and the glacier formations to climb on and the contrast of colors created by the water, the sand and the rock, but we disliked the Amtrack trains that…