Tackling the Portfolio Chaos

/ / - Planning and Organization, Blog

Neat piles of paper. Everything perfectly alphabetized. I once went into a bead store that had everything perfectly organized in rows, sorted by every color. Oh, it was heaven.

Honestly…though…that isn’t me. At least, my mind does not naturally work in a way that can keep everything in order in a way that really makes sense. In reality, all of our minds work differently so what we deem as organized may be different from another person.

When it comes to homeschooling, keeping things organized, especially our documentation for our child’s portfolio, is critical. Not just because some states require submitting documents (Check your state laws!), but because having measurable information to see where our children are at really helps us do what homeschooling was made for: individualizing learning in a perfectly matched way for our students. I would like to share some tools that have helped me: a self-professed, naturally non-organized person.

Hard Copy Chaos

About ten years ago, I had started a new job as a teacher. I was a bit out of my element. To say I struggled with keeping papers organized is an understatement. The custodian even came in one day and made a comment after I had filed everything away. Apparently, she noticed this was an area I struggled in.

There are a few ways that you can deal with hard copy clutter, but one thing remains certain: everything needs a home.

One thing I do when I am rushing, or as a way for kids to manage their own finished work, is I have a cubby or a tray for my kids to keep their journals or finished documents in. Then, after your school week, have a home for each student in a way that works best for your family. This could be a file cabinet, a small file folder, or just a box. You can also have your trays already separated by child, subject, etc. Then your child can self-sort them as they finish. This really depends on the age and capability of your child.

At some point, observe your child’s work and make some notes on your computer, phone, or planner to have just some quick notes for quick ways to check back if needed without having to constantly look through documents. If you have a smaller family, you may be able just to keep track in your head, but for larger families, keeping good, concise notes to check can save time and keep you organized.

Then, I like to gather all the documentation for the year and put it in a tote box in a separate area. This could be your attic, garage, etc. Somewhere you can go if you need to access it but likely won’t need access to regularly, especially if you have taken good notes.

So, that is all well and good, right? Reality? Most homeschool students may not do worksheets or traditional work for their learning, so then what?

That’s where my favorite tools come in to play because I hate paper clutter!

Digital Tools

Saving different mediums of learning is so important. The thing is, the best documentation is those real- life samples, such as pictures or video. Photographs of going to the zoo, pictures of them working a problem out on a dry-erase board, or even using Play-Doh to learn about fractions.

One of my favorite online tools for documenting digital is called Seesaw. It basically organizes everything for you, and it is free. It also allows your child to take charge and document their own learning. You can print out a QR code for your class (You can kind of choose how to format your class in a way that works best for your family. Sometimes I do this by student, sometimes by subject.), and your child can scan the QR code, take a picture of their work, even make notes on it, and then save it to your folder. You can also post activities on here for them to respond in different mediums, like doing a voice over, making a video, doing some notes on a note pad, etc. The wonderful thing I love is you can actually download and save a PDF of all the work in a folder and download the portfolio into one file so you can save it to your computer or print it out if you would like a hard copy. It really helps bridge a gap in my organization incapabilities in many ways but also allows my children to be a leader in their own learning and holds them accountable.

Of course, there are many other tools that have similar options, that just document in different ways. There are online forums such as Flipgrid, Class Dojo, and, of course, Google Classroom. It is important to research these digital tools, see if its capabilities fit your family, and also check out privacy and settings just to be sure you are comfortable with all that.

If you would rather not have your children’s work stored somewhere online, of course, you can create folders on your computer, take pictures, and organize them into separate folders however you see fit. There may be additional steps, but this does allow you to know that your work is in a safe place. I have transferred even my hard copies into a digital file, just because it gets rid of the clutter, and I am able to easily find information if need be.

There are really so many ways to create a portfolio of your student’s work. These tools and suggestions are not the end all, be all of the help out there for you. Take some time to research, find something that works for you, and reach out to others to see what they have done that works for their family. Keeping organized portfolios can help save time and ultimately help you lead your children to success!

Editor’s Note: If you are a member, you receive a free SmartMama Schoolhouse Planner, as well as access to Applecore, the site’s recordkeeping system at

Candice Parks is a mother of four and a wife of a wonderful husband. She is a former special education teacher who is passionate about discussing the benefits and the blessings of homeschooling your children. The Parks enjoy learning about life, playing games, baking, and reading together as a family.  Check out her family’s journey and curriculum reviews on (

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).