Determining Grade Level

Determining Grade LevelTalking with other homeschooling parents I have realized that not everyone determines grade level in the same way.    Some choose to determine grade level according to their child’s skill level and others equate the grade with the child’s age.

I think homeschooling provides a unique perspective on grade levels.  For one, we aren’t limited by grade levels.  It is common among homeschooled children to be working at several different grade levels at one time.  Some may need extra help in one subject and be advanced in another.

Also, because homeschooling is a totally different way to learn, the grade levels that schools use to group children don’t often fit too well.  Many homeschoolers don’t view learning in a way that fits into grade level designations either.

We have found that it works well to equate grade level with age.  This means that my 13 year old is in 8th grade.  However, this grade level has nothing to do with his level of learning.  His learning is personalized to him and not to what a group of kids are supposed to learn.  I see grade levels as just another way for me to state his age.

Young children are often asked how old they are by acquaintances.  But older children seem to get the question about what grade they are in.  When my children get asked the grade level question, they have no problem answering their grade age.  This is because in our home we use the term “8th grade” or “5th grade” to signify the number of years of schooling rather than the level of work the child is doing.

Asking a child’s grade is one of ways that people in our society make polite conversation and find out how old the child is.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen an occasion where the person really wanted to know the levels my children were attaining in their studies.

If the child has academic needs that require an early or late graduation, the age=grade choice might be more complicated though.  We are planning on the standard number of years of schooling before college so using the age=grade designation works quite well for us.

How do you handle the issue?


  1. I wish i could reason based on how many years we’ve homeschooled, but we’ve been homeschooling preschool for several years, so how do i count that?! I think our response to this may change with time, but as we unofficially do kindergarten, i say that, or that due to her late birthday, she doesn’t start kindergarten until next year, when our state requires registration ad homeschoolers. I decided against registering her early bc i wanted to delay state intervention and buy us wriggle room in expectations. We weren’t pushing early academics and i wasn’t sure how long it would take my daughter to learn to read, which seems to be all the state cares about in the easiest grades.
    But once we’re several years into it, if she’s working “above grade level” in most subjects, which i have reason to suspect she may, i might use the corresponding grade level then. Perhaps it will depend on to whom I’m speaking. For now I’m still not committed and sometimes i say she’s in kindergarten sometimes that not yet. Usually i add that we’re homeschooling bc our inquireres tend to want to know if she’s got school experiences yet, or if these are still ahead of her. I’m teaching her to say she is in school- Sunday school and Saturday Polish school! It helps her feel included 🙂

  2. We do our darnedest to not discuss grade level at all. When forced, I encourage the kids to discuss grades level commensurate with their skills. For my two cents, I don’t think it’s a conversation starter, I think it’s an auto-limiting societal construct.
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  3. I’m only on year two of homeschooling. My son is six so when someone asks what grade he is in I just respond “Grade 1” because like you said they are only asking to determine age or make polite conversation. Sometimes if I’m feeling… ambitious, lol, I’ll respond “Year 2”, because let’s face it, most homeschooled kids aren’t in any specific grade. My son is working in levels Grade 2 all the way to Grade 5. Saying he is in his second year pretty much sums it up. 😊

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