As homeschool parents, we know that it’s important to keep records for our high school students so that we can create a spectacular transcript for them. But we also know that record-keeping can be a tedious and confusing process.

What’s the best way forward?

Another concern I often hear from homeschool parents is whether a report card is needed. There are situations where that’s definitely useful as well.

So how do you know if your situation fits the bill?

We’ll tackle the answers to both of these questions in this blog post. Let’s get started!

Five records to keep

It’s good practice to start record keeping well before high school, even if it isn’t required in your state. In some situations it’s for your own protection to keep records before high school (for more on this topic, check out: The best and worst states for homeschooling in 2021).

When you begin the process of record-keeping, here are five “must have” components:

1. Attendance log

Create using Excel or you can find lots of nice ones by searching for homeschool attendance sheets online.

2. Grades

A report card is a concise way to keep this information and it’s useful to have handy if your kids participate in extracurricular activities such as 4-H that have a no-pass, no-play requirement. More on report cards later in this blog post.

3. Samples of work

You don’t have to keep every worksheet, drawing, or paper, but keep a good sampling that shows your child’s progress over each school year.

4. Book lists

Keeping a list of the books used and read each year is also a good idea.

5. Awards, achievements, and exam grades

Keeping exam grades is pretty much a no-brainer, but it’s also important to list awards—such as Eagle Scout, Gold Star in 4-H, etc.—because they show that your student is well-rounded and involved outside of academics. Ditto for any achievements that your student has earned.

Special situations where record keeping is helpful

1. Divorced or not married

If you are a divorced homeschool parent, or you were never married to your child’s other parent, keeping good homeschooling records will be helpful if your ex decides to make an issue of homeschooling. 

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has a homeschooling grant that members can apply for to help them continue homeschooling under a variety of challenging circumstances, such as being a single parent. Click here for more.

2. Social Security or governmental agencies

If your child receives a monthly Social Security payment or you receive any type of assistance, you may be asked for proof that you are homeschooling—such as an attendance log, a report card, or a transcript. 

When my husband suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2002, we received financial assistance and food stamps to help meet our needs during his recovery. My state doesn’t require that we keep records and I was quite surprised to be asked for my attendance records and my children’s grades. 

After having to scramble to pull this information together, I decided that it would be much easier to just keep homeschool records on an ongoing basis, though I wasn’t required to do so.

3. Issues with family or neighbors

Many times when a homeschool family is reported for not having their children in school, it’s a family member who doesn’t agree with homeschooling who files a report or a disgruntled neighbor. Being able to prove quickly and definitively that you are homeschooling in a bona fide manner will help to put baseless claims against you to rest promptly.

It’s a good idea to keep at least three years of records for each student prior to their high school years. Heading into high school, you can start fresh, unless your child took high school level courses in eighth grade. If this is your situation, then keep track of those early high school credits to add to their high school transcript.

Report cards for homeschoolers

You’re probably thinking, “Why on earth would a home educator want to issue report cards to their kids?” Part of our reason for homeschooling is to ditch the public school trappings, one of which are report cards. See below for some compelling reasons to use report cards in your homeschool.

1. Extracurricular competitions

My children all participated in extracurricular activities such as Scouts and 4-H, both of which had competitions. I had to prove that my kids were passing their courses in order for them to participate in the competitions. Report cards were an easy way to do that.

2. UIL participation

Many states allow homeschoolers to participate in University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions and require proof that the student is passing to participate. This is another reason that homeschoolers might issue report cards to their kids.

3. Track your student’s progress

It’s kind of a joke among homeschoolers that our kids don’t know what grade they are in, and often it’s because they are working on a variety of grade levels. But one of the things that well-meaning family members often ask our children is, “What grade are you in?” or “How are you doing in math?”

If we issue a report card to our students, they will know what grade they are in and they will know how they are progressing in a particular subject area. Generally, once kids are in fourth grade or higher, I recommend handing out a report card. My high school students really seemed to like knowing how they were progressing in their studies by being able to compare how they did from one term to the next.

You can create your own report card, buy pre-made report cards from curriculum suppliers, or do a search online for report cards to purchase. One site I particularly like is Teachers Pay Teachers.