Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Electronic Portfolios and Keeping Promises

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on "How Do You Know When You Are Done?"  It is a larger philosophical question (you all do know that I was a philosophy major for my undergraduate degree, don't you?), but for our homeschool, the practical answer is "The Cary Homeschoolers Student Showcase," which occurs on the first Saturday in June.  So this week--the week before the Student Showcase--is always kind of a crunch week for us.  Not only are we preparing our display for the Showcase, but I actually coordinate the whole event, so there are all those last-minute administrative details to take care of.  Plus, we try to get our annual required testing done before then (which we actually completed a couple of weeks ago, thank goodness) and any last minute curricula that aren't totally complete (for example, being the total grammar Nazi that I am, I am trying to get him to do over any grammar unit that he didn't score at least 90% on the online test for that competency).

Our big project this week, however, is producing an electronic portfolio of the past 12 months of his work. I really think that is a better way of capturing his growth over the past year than grades or test scores can ever do.  But like many things, it is something that I LOVE to have once it is done, but struggle through in actually doing.

This year, however, I'm doing something different.  Whereas for his elementary school years, I produced the entire portfolio (that is, I recorded a soundtrack of him talking about his favorite things in math, science, history, art, literature, and the like, then edited it, then found graphics to go along with the soundtrack),  this year I am sharing the load with my first-year-of-middle-schooler.  So we are recording the soundtrack together, then I am editing it, but he is the one adding the pictures to the soundtrack (with some fine-tuning from Mama, of course).  My goal is for him to be doing this on his own by high school

So today was a really heavy portfolio day.  We worked on our two heaviest curricular areas this year--History/Social Studies and Language Arts.  We finished the History part his morning, then worked away this afternoon and evening on Language Arts.  I had edited that soundtrack, then spent at least an hour getting it fixed after the computer suddenly didn't recognize the file type (don't you love computers?), then turned it over to him for graphics while I cooked dinner.

So for the entire time I was cooking dinner, there were literally screams coming from upstairs at the computer.  The language arts portfolio can be challenging, because it is about reading and writing, which aren't really very photographic activities.  But I kept sauteing my onions and boiling my pasta and calling up to my son, "You can figure it out."

And you know what?  He did.  He downloaded some screen capture software, installed it, learned how to use it, and captured screen shots of my blog and his, all while I was making the sauce.

But after dinner, it still wasn't finished, and he didn't know what to do about this part and that part, etc.  So you know what I did?  I went and took a bath.  If you were reading my blog at the beginning of the year, you will know I wrote a post about how taking more baths would make me a better mom, person, teacher, whatever.   It's when things are stressful and time is tight that you really need to take some self-care measures, which for me is taking a bath.  Plus, it removes me from the temptation of swooping in and taking over for my son, who I know that, no matter how much he complains, can get this thing done.

So I took a bath and read some fluffy chic lit book, and lo and behold, the thing got done while I was relaxing.

What a great lesson and accomplishment for both of us!

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