Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Record Keeping With a Natural Learner

I know one of the things I really struggle with when I let my kids take the lead is dealing with my own fear. Are they learning everything they need to learn? Are we 'keeping up' with whatever imaginary goals I have set - whether that's state curriculum outlines, or some hybrid of that and what I think they are ready and able to learn? But in reality, it is my fear, not their progress that is really getting in the way.

This post is about how I manage my record-keeping, which I have found to be one of the most important ways to calm down the nagging fear that we aren't doing 'enough', whatever nebulous form that 'enough' takes.


Record-keeping could be very time consuming, if I let it. With a toddler who is prone to destructive outbursts if she is left alone for any length of time, my record keeping has to be organic, quick and easy. I have flirted with trying to keep a daily diary - which quickly morphed into a weekly, then monthly diary, until I realised it had been months since I updated it, and I had no memory of what we had done.

I struggle to remember anything at the best of times - something that can be both a source of familial humour and frustration. Over the years I have built up mini-routines to help me remember simple tasks like 'have I locked the front door?' or 'did we clean our teeth before bed?' and I have been working on finding simple ways to keep track of our daily routines by building the record-keeping into the routine. Having a separate diary that I have to remember to fill in didn't work in the long-term, though it was a great idea while it lasted.

This is what I have done instead:

  • Keep a folder of physical work completed. When the work (whether painting, writing or maths) goes into the folder, I date it and put their name on the back. Sometimes the date might be a bit hazy if it's been a few days, but I can usually narrow it down to the last month or so. If I can't remember when the work was completed, it get's the filing date instead.
  • Take photos. If it's a physical activity, I'll take photos of them in the middle of it, as well as any completed projects. 
  • Scan things into the computer. This is a rarer activity, but if it's a particularly special piece of work, I scan it in and save it into a special kids-work folder on the computer.
  • Worksheets or stories competed on the computer get saved to their folders (this is a bit of a work in progress, as the kids will generally use the program's default location, but at least it is saved.)
  • Any websites visited by the kids that has an educational component get pinned onto my Pinterest board - that way I have a record of what activities they have completed online. 
  • All of the electronic recording methods are naturally time-stamped, so I don't have to remember when we completed them - I can look it up.
  • Library-card borrowing records can be pulled from our library system, and I try to remember to take photos of books that the kids have read. I am considering using a barcode scanning app on my phone to keep a more useful record, but I haven't figured out how to separate it yet from our (ongoing) scanning of our books. But I think this maybe a better way to go in the future.
  • I keep a large folder where all medical records go straight away. This is necessary, as many of C's therapies are designed to help with gross and fine-motor deficits and have a direct impact on his education - such as handwriting practice or close-reading of texts for emotional and informational content.
  • All our games are through Steam - which keeps a track of the amount of hours each game has been played. If the game isn't on Steam, it gets pinned to the Pinterest board.

When I am able to look back on what my kids have been doing, with a visual record to prompt my own memory, I am more able to kill the fear-monsters and focus on looking for more great educational content for my kids that piques their interest. I am also better able to gauge what we have covered, and how that might fit into the key learning areas that our state curriculum recommends. Thankfully I live in a state where I am not required to create curriculum plans or have inspections. So I haven't had to turn my own personal record keeping into edu-speak, yet. But by keeping a solid record of what my kids have covered, I am able to make sure that I am able to answer the critics - in my head or not - about what and how my kids are learning.

If you want to read more about record keeping:

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