To grade or not to grade? That is one of a hundred questions that homeschool parents will ask! While answers will vary—depending on whether a family is relaxed with school or highly structured—all families can benefit from developing a philosophy toward grade keeping that grows with them over the years. Simply put, if you grade a little, or grade a lot, grades can help you manage, measure, and motivate your students when properly handled. Here are a few thoughts for establishing your philosophy on keeping grades.
To properly manage students with grades, let’s start with a biblical worldview of authority. You see, in God’s grand scheme of the universe, there exists hierarchy, order, and a chain of command. He is the righteous loving Father (Eph 4:4-6); we [in Christ] are His beloved adopted heirs (Gal 4:5-7); and our children are our responsibility to lead, train, and teach (Deut 6:6-7). In practical terms, this means that you as the parent have the God-given authority to manage your home, teach your children, and issue academic grades for their education.
While this may seem an obvious point to bring up, let’s acknowledge that the right to homeschool and manage your children’s grades will always be threatened by those who don’t hold to a biblical worldview or don’t agree on the value of home education! So, please hold the right to teach your children close to your heart. Value the right to use grades when and if you desire. Handle the right to manage grades with integrity and in accordance with your state standards. And practice these rights with confidence because your authority comes from God! Now, let’s get a bit more practical.
Consider Age of Child When Grading
To properly measure students with grades, always consider what is age appropriate. For example, there is little need to measure learning via grades with younger students (those K-3rd grade), because parents are so highly involved in the teaching process. Sitting side by side a little one, you know what they’re learning or not learning. What younger students need most is acknowledgement, which can be offered through hugs, praise, and stickers—or whatever reward is needed!
Middle students (those 4th-8th grade) are a different story. Once a child is able to read and write, the parent is usually less involved in the teaching process. For this reason, grades for independent work on a few subjects can be incredibly valuable in determining what students are capable of learning without assistance. Quizzes, tests, and homework grades, written or oral, can tell you what the student really understands, or doesn’t understand and needs more attention. Generally speaking, this age group—in the throes of puberty and self-absorption—still needs praise and acknowledge, but additionally needs pushing in some areas and pulling in others. Grades can be especially useful at this age to leverage hard work from students who are prone to test authority.
Older students (those in high school) come with a new set of issues because most homeschool parents are “required” to count high school credits with grades. (Rare is the family that will be exempt from state requirements.) The path to success with this age group is developing a clear purpose for their education (determining if a student is college bound, heading into the work force, or starting a family); establishing a plan to reach that purpose (learning subjects at home or taking outside classes); and creating accountability (deciding who grades the work, keeps the records, and creates a transcript). With a purpose, a plan, and accountability, you can use a few grades or an abundance of grades to document the fulfillment of credits and measure academic success. Of course this exciting time requires prayer, wisdom, and some letting go as you are ultimately moving your student to the next station in life. (And yes, there will be tears as you let go, but they’re good tears.)Test grades don’t always reflect true learning. #homeschool Click To Tweet
Last, to properly motivate students with grades, we should first agree that grades might fail us in one of two ways. First, because of stress, learning disabilities, or a lack of test taking skills, quiz and test grades don’t always reflect true learning. There, I said it! High grades or low grades aren’t the end all of home education. A student’s final GPA doesn’t define the worth of that student, or of you! But this doesn’t mean we can’t use grades along the way to help us find problems that need to be solved. It may be that poor grades alert us to anxiety issues, special needs, or the unfortunate reality that we’re not doing our job well. (Spoiler alert! Poor grades in our students may be a reflection of our own shortcomings and we’re the ones in need of help!)
Second, another way grades may fail us is the fact that “good” grades won’t inspire all personality types! Naturally, grades may mean more to highly driven overachievers and less to creative free spirits. (They have other things on their mind.) So, when considering whether or not you will keep a few grades or a lot of grades on your students, please consider their God-given personalities. When grades matter to a student, you know what to do! Keep up with them and do it. When grades don’t seem to matter much, be creative with self-paced courses, pass/fail options, credit for mentoring positions, and work-grade contracts (ie. earn grades based on work and effort rather than final test scores.)
In summary, homeschool families will vary on how, when, and why they keep grades. However, all families can benefit from formulating a philosophy of grading that evolves with the needs of the family. At the right age, the right time, and in proper context, grades can help most of us manage, measure, and motivate our students. So, use them wisely!
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