Buy-in from the people who care about Wanda is pretty important, since a potential weak point for homeschooling is the question of accountability. (But then, accountability and education in any setting is a big question, and the ways our educational system has tried to answer that question—focus on standardized testing results at the expense of less-easily-measured education outcomes—have been arguably a cure worse than the disease.)
To keep Wanda’s family members in the loop, I use an app called Seesaw—some of you may be familiar with it from use in your kids’ schools. It’s a bit like a locked-down Facebook for a classroom. I use it to capture all of the activities we do during a day, in the form of photos, web links, and documents.
Each activity can be tagged with multiple “folders.” Logging of the traditional stuff is pretty straightforward and goes in folders for Math, Language Arts, Handwriting, but it’s useful to prod my thinking about how much of our learning touches on multiple areas at once. For instance, we have an art history book that we read together, and that one activity might be tagged as Reading, History, Arts, and Geography & Cultures. A science lesson that I give during a nature walk might be tagged as both Science and PE. Last winter, Wanda and I took BART and rode on a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, while we talked about San Francisco’s history and how it became such a big city, and about genetics and inheritance, and about how different animals evolved different rods and cones in their eyes. That outing was tagged as Life Skills (getting around town), PE, History, and Science.
That simple, regular rhythm of capturing what we’re doing and assessing how it connects to learning objectives helps me see that yes, we are productive. Further, over time, it becomes clear from this portfolio that she’s demonstrating comprehension and retention of what she’s learning; I’m frequently able to call out in my own commentary on Seesaw when Wanda has brought up and used something she learned in an earlier activity.
Right from day one, it made allllll the difference for Rich that he was able to see what, exactly, this whole homeschool thing was going to look like. He’s able to see at a glance what’s being covered and how we’re covering it. He’s able to see photos of his kid actively engaged in learning. (He's working here at home until at least January, so now he's able to see a lot of it in person, which has been even better!) Wanda’s two grandmothers are also able to see and comment on what we’re up to. Everyone has reported feeling good (and honestly, relieved) about Wanda’s education, thanks to their being able to witness it in almost real time on Seesaw.
Wanda knows that there’s an audience for her work in Seesaw, and recently she’s been thinking about what they’ll be seeing, and has been more motivated to produce work that clearly demonstrates her learning to them. That perspective-taking, and thinking about what’s communicated to them and how, and how she can make it more clear—that’s gold! With time, this will probably morph into a portfolio of her own creation.