When we started our homeschooling journey 6 years ago, we didn’t know a homeschooler and had no idea what our plans were. But, when it came to grades, I had a clean picture – what was the point of giving them.
My husband even asked me about her grades that first year and I asked him, “What are grades really? Aren’t they just a way to show a parent where their student is in comparison to the rest of the class?” We agreed that there was no need for grades. We would work to mastery so, if I were giving grades, wouldn’t they all be “A’s?”
So fast forward Kindergarten to 5th grade. My cute little rhyme reciter, A-B-C singer is a 5th/6th grader with reports and comprehension and math problems – and little motivation to keep moving forward. She doesn’t necessary dislike school; she just doesn’t like it if it takes too long and isn’t easy. We tried making the schedule on her terms, starting at times she preferred, assigning a weeks of assignments (read about when we decided to “Scrap the Schedule,” which we are still doing, just with grades) and letting her go at her own pace, and me sitting with her for everything I could. But nothing was motivating her to do anything outside the bare minimum to get by.
The beginning of the year my husband and I determined that maybe if she received a grade for her work, there would be something to work for. Her ‘type A’ personality, competitive nature would kick in and she would want to achieve something so, we decided to give grades this year. Now, we don’t have a lot of busy-work to grade but there are things we can grade. Math worksheets, papers, workbook assignments, etc. So, we determined that giving grades would be the course of action for the year.
And guess what?
She started doing her work!
Now, not that it happened overnight. She had to get some not-so-great grades to get her motivated, but once she realized what that meant, she jumped into action. It was very nice to see. We did have a system that she could improve a grade to an “A” if she didn’t get that the first time but an “A+” could only be earned on the first time through. So, say she got 100% on a math worksheet then she would earn an A+. However, if she missed 2 or 3 problems and received a B, she had the opportunity to redo the worksheet to earn an “A” but even if she missed none the second time around she still couldn’t get more than an “A,” no “A+” available for second time through. This was motivating. After she received a couple of “A’s” instead of “A+’s” because she skipped a problem, she started checking over her work before asking for it to be graded. This, in and of itself, was an improvement.
In fact, we are very thankful for the change and are going to continue to use it with her. She will be getting her first year-end report card, which she is looking forward to receiving. You can find programs both for cost or for free available online to make a report card. I just made my own. There are a lot of movie rental places and restaurants that reward good grades in our city and this will also give the kids a chance to participate in these so that is a reward they are shooting for.
Either way, we feel that using grades in our homeschool has really changes our homeschool. Our daughter is more motivated and learning to pay attention to detail. She reads the directions, checks to make sure she didn’t skip a question and slows down a little on working through things. We use a rubric for her papers and she has parameters to meet in order to score a passing grade on her papers. Obviously, papers are subjective but I look for following the rubric and outline and improvement, including following suggestions for improvement and change. She is doing better at, again, slowing down and making sure she has met the requirements.
Now, we are NOT doing grades with our 1st grade boy this year. He is still in the learning phase and gets VERY frustrated when he isn’t getting everything right and then shuts down. Therefore, adding this element, we feel, would hinder him at this point. That doesn’t mean we might not use it at a later date however. We will see how it goes. But overall, we are happy for the changes that grades have brought to our homeschool
Do you grade your students’ work in your homeschool?
Thank you to Tawnee from Adventures in Homeschooling for writing this guest article.