Many long years ago, when I first started my homeschooling journey, our homeschool looked very much like “school at home”. I used a textbook-style boxed curriculum, I graded every page of written work and kept meticulous records. I assigned grades and issued a report card every 9 weeks. I put a lot of pressure on my kids (and myself) to make sure they were doing things on the typical public school timeline, and keeping grades helped to show they were jumping through all those hoops.
We schooled this way for a few years. As I became more comfortable with home education and more knowledgeable about learning styles, educational methods, and how to foster real learning – our homeschool evolved. The way we “do school” now couldn’t be further from the way things were done at the beginning of our journey! One thing I stopped doing was tracking and assigning grades.
Why not keep homeschool grades?
I have taught two children now who have slight perfectionistic tendencies. And two children that haven’t always done things on the “public school” timeline. Learning in a school at home environment can easily spell disaster for these types of learners. Let me share with you what my experience has been.
For the perfectionist learner, their driving force is to get it right. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it can be a huge source of frustration and cause a blow to their confidence. When they make mistakes, or don’t catch on to something easily, meltdowns often ensue. This is not an attitude that lends itself to real learning, as the child is so focused on what they “can’t” do that they become afraid to try anything that is challenging. They are disabled by their own fear of failure.
In this situation, assigning a letter grade to an assignment the child struggled with can make the child feel worse. Sure, those big red A grades are great! But no one is right all the time. The child’s last memory of that concept is marred by what they got wrong and they have trouble moving on.
For the child that doesn’t learn to read until 8 years old or struggles to learn their basic math facts, a grade can be a constant reminder of how they don’t “measure up” to worldly expectations. A struggling learner needs to have positive learning experiences in order to keep trying and not shut down completely. A long list of less than great marks can be extremely discouraging and can cause the child to question their own intelligence and ability to learn.
What do I do instead of assigning homeschool grades?
I have a long list of goals for my children, what parent doesn’t? Those goals have shifted dramatically over the years and are a part of our homeschool mission statement. I have learned to measure everything we do against that vision or mission statement and if something doesn’t help accomplish our goals, we don’t do it!! One example from our homeschool mission statement is to “develop a love of learning and equip our children with the means and methods to learn anything they want or need to learn over their lifetime”. Another is “to instill the value of the learning process and to encourage perseverance in developing skills and abilities”.
In our family, we place a huge emphasis on the fact that you can often learn more from making a mistake than you do from always knowing the right answer. Making a mistake and then going through a process to figure out why and how to get it right next time requires owning that mistake and owning the knowledge required to make it right (this concept applies to so much more than education).
So this is the way we approach our learning. Yes, I still look over their written work and mark things that are incorrect, but not to assign a grade! It’s to evaluate the effectiveness of their learning process. If I look over a math assignment and a good portion of the answers are wrong, I will circle those and we will go over them and correct them together. If they are still not grasping that concept then I know we need to spend more time reinforcing it until it is mastered before moving on to the next new thing. No matter what, that child’s last experience with that concept or skill is a positive one. The final result is the right answer and the process required to get there instead of a wrong answer and a sense of “I don’t know how to do this”. My goal is mastery of new concepts rather than a “satisfactory” letter grade on a report card. My goal is for my children to feel confident that with persistence and practice, they can develop any skill or own whatever knowledge they attempt to make their own.
But what about high school transcripts?
I do realize that keeping grades are an important part of being able to produce a transcript for high school graduates. I do evaluate high school work and assign a grade to accomplish this end, but that final grade is not completely dependent on what they got right and what they didn’t. Furthermore, I almost always give my children an opportunity to correct a test or assignment in order to reinforce learning.
When assigning a final grade to a course (for transcripts), I use my own evaluation form that is different for each course. Homework and test grades are only a small portion of calculating that final grade. I will share another post in the future on what exactly goes into that final grade evaluation, so I won’t share that here. But I do consider promptness, neatness, organization, participation, etc when assigning a final grade.
I hope what I’ve shared with you in this post has at least prompted some thought and you begin to ask yourself the reasons behind why you have chosen wether or not to track grades in your homeschool! It may not be something you actually need to do. And every homeschool parent I know could always use a little more time in their days 😊
Check out more posts on homeschooling HERE!