When people find out that I’m a former public school principal turned home school mom I get lots of questions. Grades and report cards are subjects that come up often in those conversations. People always want to know how I grade the children and if they get report cards.
The second question is the easiest to answer so I’ll answer it first. No, they do not get report cards. The purpose of report cards is to share student performance with their parents and in the case of the last report card of the year, the teacher for the following year. There really is no need for me to create a document to share information with myself. I do know parents that choose to create a report card for their child/ren for various reasons and it is certainly an option, but for our family it would just be an extra piece of paperwork on my already cluttered desk.
The first question is a little more complicated. At the elementary and middle school level, our family chooses not to do grading in the traditional sense, i.e. grade every assignment and average it out for a final grade. This does not mean that I do not check assignments for accuracy or that they have never received a score on an assignment. It looks different for various subjects and at various times. For example, in spelling they take a test each week and either it is scored with a 100% or the incorrect ones are marked and the work corrected. They really enjoy the chance to earn that 100 or maybe just the small treat that sometimes accompanies the perfect score.
My son uses a computer based math program for his seventh grade math and it gives him a score for every lesson. For him I require 80% accuracy or he has to re-do the lesson. My daughter is in fifth grade and is still using a book based math. For her math I mark the incorrect problems and she fixes each one that is incorrect but does not receive a numerical score.
In writing, they have assignments and I will help them proofread and edit but no numerical score is given. We use real life writing opportunities like our North Carolina Junior Historians projects, NC State Fair essays, letters to our elected officials, etc. In general, our science and history lessons are done together and they do projects or oral discussion to share what they have learned and show master of the content.
In a public school setting grades are important because they share how much content is mastered by a particular student in a particular subject with parents and other stakeholders. Grades also give a quantitative measure of achievement. In the home school setting I have the ability to continue to work on a topic until mastery is achieved and because we are all here together, I do not need to worry about using that information to share progress with the stakeholders.
I first talked about elementary and middle school grading because those are the ages which I am currently homeschooling. However, beginning as early as next year I will have a child taking high school level courses that will be included on a transcript. For these courses I personally believe that grading is more important. The transcript will share his accomplishments with outside stake holders who will need more quantitative data. Therefore, while I will still work with him to mastery of those subjects I will use a quantitative grading scale for each course.
There is no one right way to handle grades in your home school. The freedom to do what works best for your family is one of the many benefits to homeschooling. Some children might really enjoy getting a report card and others may not care. I would love for you to share how you handle grades in your home school!
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