When my oldest child was in 3rd grade, he was begging me to give him some grades. He wanted to get a little report card that told him what letter grades he was receiving for each subject. My kids have always been homeschooled so it was something that he had never experienced. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but decided to give it a try.
I bought one of those grade books and figured out how I was going to record his grades. At least I thought I had figured it out. I quickly realized that keeping grades was not working well. Most of our subjects involved reading and discussion and not some type of objective method to determine a grade. I wasn’t willing to change how we were approaching a subject in order to have something to grade either.
Then there was the issue of having to remember to write down grades. Even though I had an actual thing to grade, I would often forget to record anything down in the handy-dandy little gradebook I had purchased. Still I continued on attempting to record my son’s performance.
When it came time to issue his first report card, it became quite clear to me that letter grades are pretty useless in a homeschool setting. In a classroom, grades are a way that a classroom teacher can determine the child’s mastery of a subject. They are also a way to compare a child’s performance to his peers. In a homeschool setting, I know my child has mastered something because I am right there with him as he masters it.
Homeschoolers tend to customize a child’s education so the child is working at the appropriate level for each subject. For some kids this means that they are working on multiple grade levels at the same time.
As I made out my son’s grades, I realized that mommy grades can’t compare to grades you would get in the classroom because homeschooled children are working at the right level and are working toward mastery. Because of that, mommy grades tend to be good.
So if a child was doing 2nd grade handwriting, 5th grade science, and 3rd grade reading, how would you record that grade-wise? In a standard 3rd grade classroom a child showing mastery of 5th grade science would score very high in science, but if that same child showed mastery of only 2nd grade handwriting then the handwriting grade would be poor.
It led me to wonder about the snarky comments about mommy grades from those outside homeschooling. The statements expressed by others seem to shout that the parent is just giving the child all good grades because that is what the parent wants the child to get. On the contrary, I discovered that the good grades are because the child is working to master material at his current level, whatever that is.
Homeschooling is a totally different way to view education! We don’t compare them to peers. Instead, they work at the level they are at and work on gaining more skills. That, in my ever so humble opinion, is how education should work. Mommy grades can’t be compared with classroom grades because the approach to education is vastly different.
Even though I realized that grades in a homeschool setting were quite useless at my son’s age, I gave my boys a couple report cards before I told them that we wouldn’t be doing it anymore. They actually loved getting the report cards. I even wrote positive teacher comments on their cards for them.
Now, my oldest child is in 8th grade and it has come time to revisit grades for transcript purposes. While grades are pretty meaningless in a homeschool setting, they are the language that a college admissions office understands. So this year I’m attempting to do grades again. I’m hoping to get in the habit of recording grades this year. So far it has been a little hit and miss, but we are getting there. I’m also attempting to figure out how to keep grades for subjects where most of the work involved is reading and discussion. It is currently a work in progress.
Do you keep grades for your homeschooled kids? Please share in the comments.