Grading and assessment is fairly simple in the public school system. You complete a standardized assignment with a specific universal goal/answer key. The teacher grades the work, records it in their book, and returns it to the student. These numbers get processed in the database and a report card is generated. Simple right?
However in the homeschool world, the teacher (mom or dad) has greater flexibility in assignments and assessment, so grading becomes tricky. I've been contemplating this challenge recently as I've been asked for report cards by my daughter's orthodontist and my son's car insurance company. The world still functions off of the modern educational system, so should homeschool parents do the same?
Why Teachers Grade Work
Report cards are simply a communication tool from teacher to parent about quality of learning. While public school teachers might be overseeing up to thirty students, they need a good way to see if their students are grasping the material presented. This requires pop quizzes, daily work, and tests to assess progress. This progress gets transformed into a number and it helps the teacher communicate to the student or parent if additional study should be prescribed.
When a Grade is Just a Number
It looks a little different in a homeschool situation. If you're observing all of the work your student completes, you might know how they're doing. Putting a grade on it is simple: well done or do it again. There isn't the pressure to keep the conveyor belt moving. You can spend longer on a difficult concept and then speed through easier material. Grading isn't as valuable of a tool in these situations.
So when my daughter's orthodontist said she'd get points for every "A" on her report card, I just kinda chuckled. It's not going to look like a public school report card no matter how I try. Do I put grades on her memory work? She's got it memorized, that amounts to seven "A's." What other subject do I add on? Reading, math, writing, swim, guitar, piano, etc. We have quite a unique lineup of subjects, I know we'd make the orthodontist do a double take! I'm sure I'll try to make it look as normal as possible for this situation, but it still makes me giggle a little.
When Grading Matters
However, I can't not put a number grade on everything that my students do. There are some situations in which a number can really become a practical tool even in a homeschool situation.
When You are Building a Transcript
As my son nears graduation, the homeschool transcript is going to be required for scholarship applications, school applications, and more. While this can be manipulated in many ways and ultimately gets outweighed by the SAT, it is important to build your transcript with accuracy and integrity. I'm using HSLDA's Fast Transcript service to keep up with this information. I signed up for a lifetime subscription so that I can manage all of my kids throughout their high school years. It keeps things very simple.
When Your Student is an Independent Learner
If you have an independent learner, grading work can be a really helpful tool for keeping track of how their doing. It's easy to lose track of where your student really stands when they're not working with you. Even though they might look really productive, grading can be a great way to hold you both accountable to continuing to progress in their learning.
Don't give them too much power in their education yet. If they plan on going to college, they will have to submit to accountability and authority at that point. Mentoring your independent learners can help them reach further than they could on their own. It takes some work, but not nearly as much as directly teaching them. They are still under your supervision, so supervise them!
As you navigate the challenges of grading in your homeschool, always keep your vision and purpose before you. You don't need to mimic the public school system because their purpose in grading solves a problem that homeschoolers don't experience. If you're going to grade, make sure you know your purpose in doing it. It will really help simplify your homeschool and bring peace to a sometimes stressful concept!
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.