High School Helpline title

with Cheryl A. Bastian

Green cable phone
Green cable phone
High School Helpline title

with Cheryl A. Bastian

We’re tackling some of the most common questions parents ask and sharing simple action steps to make it easy.

How do we put together a high school portfolio?

utting together a high school portfolio isn’t as hard as it sounds. And whether it’s to meet state requirements, college requirements, or simply a tool to obtain scholarships or enter the workforce, preparing a portfolio is a great idea for high school students!

Step 1: Research the requirements of your state home education statute.
Generally, the purpose of keeping a portfolio is to verify the learner made educational progress at a level commensurate with his or her ability; however, the details will vary state-to-state. Rest assured, often the same types of samples kept in the earlier grades fulfill the statutory high school requirements. Should your teen be interested in majoring in creative arts or music, an additional portfolio may be required for college admission.

Some states require a compilation of work samples from specific subject areas. Others require samples and a list of books used for study or reading, while others don’t require anything. (But even in those states, portfolios can be invaluable for getting scholarships!) Knowing the requirements is the first step to ease stress and move forward.

Step 2: Collect materials to verify and validate the learning taking place in your home.
Our state requires a log of educational activities, list of resources used during the year, and work samples. Though we’ve tried different collection methods over the years, our most successful is a conveniently placed plastic tote where my children can put completed work, theater tickets, field trip brochures, photographs, or anything important to them. My high schoolers add their items to the tote unless they prefer to organize work independently or utilize notebooks. At the end of the school year, we celebrate with a compilation party, placing a box in the middle of the living room floor for sorting. Each child receives a three-ring binder and a handful of plastic sleeves for odd-shaped treasures not conducive to hole-punching. As we sort, we compliment one another’s accomplishments and reminisce about the highlights of our year—high schoolers included!

On any given year there may be:

  • a math notebook
  • writing samples—narratives, poetry, technical writing, article summaries, or correspondence
  • book list with titles and authors
  • documentary list
  • URLs from independent studies
  • lab reports
  • sketch books or nature journals
  • photographs of finished projects—artwork, displays, or woodworking
  • travel brochures
  • theater tickets
  • recital programs
  • fine arts samples
  • sports stats, videos, or newspaper clippings
  • community service logs or verification company letterheads
  • achievement award certificates or ceremony brochures

Each family has the freedom to choose which samples to collect based on statutory requirements and their own educational philosophy and learning methods.

Step 3: Collaborate with your high schooler to choose an organizational method.
Keeping work samples in one place is a good step toward alleviating the pressure of saving and organizing paperwork—straggler math papers tend to make their way under beds! In the younger years, we prefer organizing a three-ring binder according to subject. Most of my high schoolers have continued this method—except for my creatives who also compiled art or photography portfolios. Math and science lab work are tucked inside the binder so everything is in one place. Accordion files work well, too.

Some families happily eliminate paper, capturing everything digitally or stored on an online platform. High schoolers may choose to create PowerPoint presentations including photographs of work samples, projects, and video clips of events. Be creative! If your family is learning on the go or on the road, consider how you might take advantage of digital technology.

Step 4: Save documents as required by statute.
Some states mandate records be retained for specific amounts of time. For example, our state specifies two years. Refer to your state’s home education statute.

Parents often ask which work samples might be needed for college admission.

  • Reading: This is a running document of titles and authors read over the four years of high school. The contents of this document can easily be copied and pasted into other paperwork. For example, a comprehensive reading log may be requested by a college (though it is less common than in past years) or core-course worksheets for NCAA eligibility (for collegiate sports).
  • Writing: On rare occasions, a university may ask for a writing sample to assess the student’s ability. We found it helpful to keep two or three stellar pieces from the junior or senior year.
  • Creative arts: If the student applies to an art or music school, a portfolio may be required for admission. Research websites of any colleges of interest to ensure the student is creating and collecting what is required.
  • Service: Documenting hours when they are served (printed on company letterhead, if required) can save time in the junior and senior year when college admission paperwork is pressing.
Keeping a portfolio doesn’t have to be a full-time job or add weight and stress to the year. Take the first step—research. Know what’s required and start collecting. The year will pass quickly, and it will be time to thumb through the organized compilation and celebrate your high schooler’s accomplishments.
Cheryl Bastian headshot

heryl Bastian has been married to Mike for twenty-eight years and began homeschooling in 1993. A mother of eight children—toddler through adult—Cheryl knows the trials and triumphs of embracing each season of life and is passionate about equipping and inspiring parents who want to nurture a desire for lifelong learning in their children.