Grades

As a general rule in our homeschool, I don’t issue grades. I do keep a record of what we are learning, and I write progress reports when I see big jumps in skill. I just don’t see the need to keep formal grades. The truth is that grades do two things for students.  They define whether a student is learning the information at a passing level, and they develop a ranking system among the students in a school. Neither of these apply to my kids.

Pass or fail? Well, in homeschooling, we can stay on a lesson until they get it. Or we can move on and come back if it is fitting. The point is, there is never a “fail”. There is a “not yet”. Since we are not learning with a class of students all doing the same lessons, we don’t need to keep moving forward if we are not ready.

What about rank? There is no rank when you are the only student in that grade level. Sure, rank could be used in college admissions, but where we live, only an ACT or SAT score counts when applying for college. Anyway, when I graduated from a public high school with a 3.9 GPA and ranked 11th in my class, what did that mean? Did it mean that I was super duper smart or learned a whole lot? Nope. It meant I’d learned how to work the system and do well on tests.  I’m still amazed at the stuff I am reading with my kids in middle school that I’m sure I never really learned or understood when I was in high school. So what exactly did that GPA mean long term? Right. Nothing.

So I don’t usually give grades. But I do occasionally have the kids grade themselves. On effort. I ask them how much effort the have been putting into growing in specific subject areas, and they chose a grade. We do negotiate. Sometimes I can point out where I think they are doing more than they realize, and sometimes I have to remind them of how they often don’t get around to a task or don’t really pay attention. For the most part though, they are incredibly honest. They of course give great big As in the subject areas where they are passionate and naturally work harder. They also give themselves C’s in the subjects that they know they are not giving their best. Why give these grades? The are mostly a form of self evaluation. They really enjoy talking about what the are doing well, and they don’t mind admitting areas that need work. The benefit here is that once we talk constructively, they are more motivated and focused on what they ought to be doing. Self checks are good for all of us, and even young students benefit.

These grades are not for skill level. They are not for rank. The are not for pass or fail. They are for effort, because the big picture question is Am I putting forth my very best effort each day?  If the answer to this question is yes the rest will take care of itself.  We are life learners. We have our whole lives to learn, and we each will learn at a pace that works for us.

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