Do all homeschool parents grade student papers? Not really. Though many parents grade each and every paper their students turn in, some homeschoolers do not grade papers at all.
There are several good reasons — some very important reasons – to grade papers.
And then, there are reasons not to bother grading at all.
Let me share with you the WHENs, HOWs, and WHYs of grading, so you can decide for yourself.
But first, a story.
My children are older now — teens and up. For those that are still homeschooling, I grade most everything they do (you’ll see why in a minute). But when my kids were younger, I didn’t always grade their papers. Sometimes I did. But many times, I did not.
When I graded, it was because grades provided the clues I needed to choose subsequent work. When I graded, it was because a curriculum or software program demanded it. When I graded, it was because that particular child liked to get grades on his papers.
When I didn’t, it was because grades would not have helped me (or my child). When I didn’t, it was because grading was just a waste of my time. When I didn’t, it was because grades where unnecessary at that stage of that child’s education. I knew my kids so well. I didn’t always need grades to tell me how they were doing.
Does this make any sense? You can operate the way I did, too.
WHEN to grade should be based on several things. I mentioned some of these in my story. ALWAYS grade papers:
- when you need a grade to keep making progress (like when choosing the next book, moving up a level, closing out a school year)
- when you need to enter a grade to unlock future assignments (like in some software and apps)
- when you need a grade to help diagnose a problem, bug or error in student understanding, so you can fix it
- when the grade can help customize lessons, like with intelligent interactive software
- when the grade is required for record-keeping, such as on a student transcript or by some states/school districts
- when the grade is needed for eligibility for something, like a scholarship or admittance to a selective program
HOW to grade should be based on your criteria and homeschooling philosophy. Every parent must decide what grades should include, and may grade some courses differently than others, too. Generally, I suggest grades be based on a composite of many things – not just test performance. I recommend including everything on this list when awarding a grade:
- time spent on lesson material (reading, writing, studying research and completion of chapters)
- performance on tests, quizzes, and other assessments
- performance on labs, projects, and tangible things students were asked to do
- completion of homework, if any, completed during class time, or assigned before/after
- time spent actively thinking about, or discussing topics from the course
- time spent on activities related to the course, such as field trips, watching videos, building things, or browsing library books
- attitude, participation and effort during the semester/session/year
- “extra credit” readings, projects and activities students do on their own
- a parent’s own instinct and recognition of general course mastery
WHY to grade is different for every family. I recommend grading in these instances:
- when a grade yields true information about student performance
- when grades are legally required
- when a grade would motivate or make that student happy
- when the grade is used as a lesson for the student (when teaching the value or hard work or perseverance, for example)
- when no other measures of performance are available
The bottom line on grading is this: Grading is time-consuming work. Do it for a reason.
Homeschool parents need to understand how their children are doing at all times. If grading papers is the best way to generate this information, it should absolutely continue. But if other means assessment are already in place AND grades aren’t needed for any other reason, grading papers is less important.
Back to my story.
When my kids were little, for obvious reasons, I worked very closely with them. I observed them all day long, so I graded their papers only when I needed the grades, or when one of the kids seemed to enjoy it. Some of them thrived on getting letter grades and receiving comments written across their papers, so that’s what I did. On the other hand, some of them were completely unaffected whether I graded their papers or not. In those cases, I didn’t waste my time. Why spend valuable hours marking papers and tossing them in a box, when we could be doing something awesome instead?
As my kids matured and worked more independently, I communicated with them on a daily basis. We held daily meetings and talked about their progress a lot. None cared much about grades by then, but unbeknownst to them, I actually began grading their work more and more. Anticipating high school, I began making sure all of my grading practices were in place. By the time each entered 9th grade, I had prepared a detailed portfolio for that child, which included my grading philosophy and grading scale, all of their grades, and which I continued throughout their high school years (see how I do it HERE).
This method worked very well for me, because it gave me the freedom to grade papers only when necessary while they were young, yet still meant each of my kids would have valid high school transcripts and be ready for college when he needed it. I highly recommend this method to you, too.
Overall, whether or not to grade papers is up to parents. Bu,t I hope I have influenced you into understanding that grades should be meaningful, or they’re not worth assigning at all.
You might also like:
Did this post resonate with you? Leave a COMMENT telling me how!