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If you are home schooling in the state of Maryland, like I am, then you will be assigned a Portfolio Reviewer that will review your children’s work at least twice a year. For many, these reviews are face-to-face meetings at a local library.

I have talked with many moms about how they feel being ‘reviewed’ and a lot of them were not thrilled with the process and feel like they (including their children) are being judged. One mother told me over coffee, “It’s none of their business and meeting with them is a complete waste of time!”

Walking into my review session in January I was determined to keep an ‘open mind’ and to get my needs met. After all, I was used to portfolio reviews, I was just used to being the reviewer. Professionally, I was the one (Instructional Coach) that teachers had to sit with so I could ‘review’ with them student’s work. I measured goals (oh, we all have such great intentions) to actual results and provided a plan and encouragement for teachers to meet and exceed goals. I sat at the table as a support to teachers and as an advocate for the children. I was very clear about my job.

My colleague and I had the same reputation from some of the teachers. They did not want us in ‘their business’, they questioned our true intentions, took criticism personally (oh, she doesn’t like me) and also questioned whether or not I was qualified to have an opinion. Teachers who approached our working relationship in this manner struggled through the process and did not, at the end of the day, increase student learning. Data is data. Now, keep in mind there are many factors that determine student growth, but failing to take ownership of your responsibility as teacher (“these kids can’t learn”) and refusing help is PART of the problem.

So, as a parent/teacher bringing binders to my own reviewer, I was determined to keep in mind all the lessons leaned when I was a reviewer.

Lesson One: Accountability, Everyone Needs It!

My children’s education is NOT just my business. I firmly believe this. We are raising our daughters so that they can make a meaningful contribution to society. We intend for our girls to attend a University and in that process alone their work will be reviewed and their intelligence demonstrated. As a home schooling mom, I am responsible for the construction and execution of our program and should be held accountable for that. My reviewer is not the only person that holds Chantel accountable for her goals. My husband, Khari, does this too. Actually, I told him if he does nothing else related to home school, he must hold both Lela and I accountable for our work. In that spirit we have developed Friday Meeting Dates with Daddy. He takes Lela off, just the two of them, and reviews her week’s work. His conversation is guided by a note’s page I update throughout the week indicating her Glows (things she excelled in) and her GROWS (things she needs more practice with) as well as specific questions I want him to ask her. Lela looks forward to this time every week and it helps me stay on track.

Lesson Two: Establish the Relationship You Desire

What I am seeking from my reviewer is a true partnership. I strongly believe that I will need it as I go along this journey. It was important for me to take some time to get to know my reviewer–her background and what lead her to this position. And in doing so I discovered she is a home schooling mom herself and has been home schooling for a long time. I said upfront that I was, “Excited to have an opportunity for someone outside of Khari and I to look over and provide feedback on Lela’s work.” Right there, I welcomed her into the process. She relaxed into her role because she knew she wasn’t sitting across from a person who ‘didn’t see value in the experience.’ This allowed her to share! She gave me a ton a tidbits and  hints that I have already put to good use and I pray she keeps it coming. She was so giving of herself and I truly enjoyed that.

Lesson Three: Be Transparent, We are NOT Perfect

Sadly, we are not perfect and that means that we are not going to role out the ‘perfect program’. So be sure to go to your reviewer (I think I like the title coach better) with your needs. Before the meeting, I sat down with Khari and came up with a list of problems/questions that I had. I wanted to be sure to ask her about those items on my list, to get help. My two biggest problems currently is developing a Chinese program, Science (not thrilled with the curriculum I have) and PE. I felt totally comfortable being truthful about my shortcomings in these areas and she gave me great advice, curriculum choice (for Science) and a ton of “you are doing a great job”.We are scheduled to meet again in May and I can’t wait!

If you have a reviewer really try to make it the best relationship you can. If it is not working for you, be honest and let them know how they can support you best– don’t suffer through it–nobody wins that way. Remember the purpose of the sessions: accountability and support and embrace both goals equally and with integrity. And most importantly, HAVE FUN during the process! Take the time to really soak in all the work that you and your little ones have accomplished!

Be encouraged!

Chantel ~ the Muse