Every family that decides to homeschool must tackle the issue of grading. Do grades help you assess your child’s progress? Or is the whole reason for grading a throwback to a content standard in public schools that is not really relevant to homeschoolers? Every state has content standards that can be obtained from your local superintendent’s office.
These describe what should be taught in a given year and a grade. And in public schools, standardized testing measures how well a child meets those standards. Are those the standards you want to use to evaluate your child, or do you want to use those standards as a guide or not at all? The answers to these questions go to the heart of why you homeschool in the first place and how you see your homeschooling relationship with your child. Your own core beliefs and values will dictate some of your answers to these questions along with the legal requirements for homeschooling in your state.
Listed below are some of the options for you to consider in grading or not in your homeschooling family.
No Grading: (at least through elementary school). This is an option that can be pursued by families who do not have state assessment standards for homeschoolers. If you are not required by law to send in yearly graded reports or to do yearly testing with your child, then you have the freedom to decide for yourself whether you think that grading is a helpful assessment tool with your child. If you choose not to grade your child, you will still want to keep a good portfolio of their work and track their progress through the year in some kind of planner.
You will also probably want to commemorate your child’s achievements in some way unless you are a firm believer that a job well done is reward enough. Many parents who do not grade at all in the elementary years find that they need to do so in high school in order to create an acceptable portfolio for a college-bound student. Philosphically speaking, parents who do not grade are focusing on the individual child learning from within and working to a standard that is family-related but not state-related.
Limited Grading: Some parents do not want to get bogged down in grading every bit of written work, so they simply give a numeric score for work in math and do not grade written work at all. They may insist that a child rewrite an essay or report if they either have not understood the material or not given their best effort. Once a good and consistent writing effort has been made, then the parent is satisfied that the material has been mastered or the skill acquired and no grade is needed. The idea here is that children do not need that external grade system if they are not comparing themselves to others and are doing their best.
Consistent Grading System: Parents who decide to grade their children consistently whether from choice or state requirements can document their chid’s progress in a number of ways. If you need to review some of these ways in more detail, you can print out a grading chart or different grading rubrics free from the internet by doing a Google search under Grades or Grading Charts or Grading Rubrics for homeschoolers. A worksheet can be graded by simply dividing the number of problems correct by the total number of problems to receive a percentage that translates to a grade on the grading chart. An essay can be graded based on the standards that you have explained to your child for excellence.
You can break these down into elements especially for older children and you can either create your own rubric or follow one printed from the internet. For end of the year grades, you will have to tally up all the grades and divide by the total number of assignments to get a final grade. Be aware that this system does not reflect improvement or distinguish between assignments that are more or less important. To do that you will have to give some work a greater weight in order to have it count more towards a final grade.
Regardless of what grading system you use, if any, remember that it is important to keep track of your child’s lessons and work in a planner/journal that details your weekly progress with the child. You need this to assess your own progress in teaching and it is very handy to have good teaching notes when you have multiple children that you homeschool. You will also want to keep representative papers, art work and photos in some sort of portfolio you can store in a large binder, a file cabinet, or a box. You will want to review this yearly work yourself as you plan your next homeschooling year.
At the heart of homeschooling is the loving guidance that you provide a child that you know well. If you do your best to prepare your child’s lessons so that they love learning and grow in understanding and wisdom, then they will develop interests and skills that will serve them for a lifetime. They will then truly achieve mastery regardless of what grading system you choose.