Making the Grades

In our state, we were required to keep track of and report our students' grades annually. Of course, this was especially important during their high school years with the need for transcripts, class ranking, etc. for college acceptance. I was not terribly fond of assigning grades, but for us and many of you it was a necessary part of our homeschooling days. Having some kind of rubric helped make grading my kids' work a little easier but we also included other methods for determining final grades.

Curriculum that included tests seemed a good indicator that my children were understanding the material but for us it was not the only factor. And while the curriculum score key helped make checking work simpler, I also chose to be flexible in scoring. My children did not do well with testing of any kind and we did not "teach-to-the-test," so quite often their scores did not provide an accurate picture of their knowledge of the material.

For math and science, it was our practice that my kids always showed all of their work when solving problems. This way, if the final answer was wrong, we could figure out what went wrong. Quite often, the error was a flipping of a number or miscalculation that resulted in the getting the final answer wrong. If it was clear that the correct process was followed, I would give them partial credit for the problem.

Also, in our homeschool, my children were always required to correct all their work, whether it was on a test or not. While this did not typically change the final grade, it did help them understand their errors and have a better understanding of the material. If they all-out failed a test and could not show they understood the concept, we would redo the unit and try again, sometimes multiple times, to be sure the concept was mastered prior to moving on. I would factor this additional effort into their final overall grade for the subject.

Determining a grade for things that did not have keys such as writing assignments and projects proved to be a little more challenging. These types of schoolwork tend to be more subjective depending on who is reviewing it. In order for my children to know what I expected, they had guidelines as to how I would be determining the final grade and specific instructions on what I would be looking for in the paper or project. For example, when grading written work, I would typically use the following weights:

Content: 65% - Did they stick to the topic? Was the information presented well thought out and unique to their style? Did they show an understanding of what they were writing about?

Mechanics/Grammar: 20% - Were the paragraphs formed correctly? Were punctuation, grammar and spelling rules applied? Was word choice appropriate?

Effort: 15% - Did their work reflect how much thought was put into the paper or did it appear that they rushed through it? Did they do any needed research and incorporate it into the work? Did they have a plan and follow through with it?

Another factoring ingredient in our home for determining grades was that all work was to be turned in on time. In elementary school, I had all their assignments planned out, but for their high school years I wanted them to learn time-management skills and take more responsibility for their schoolwork. They helped with the planning of their courses and scheduling. While we did allow some flexibility for unforeseen circumstances, for the most part they were expected to adhere to their schedule.

Other things that we included in figuring out course grades were the day-to-day work, oral exams, presentations and outside projects.

I probably was pretty tough on my kids when it came to the grading of their work as I expected them to always do their best and had a pretty good idea of what their capabilities were. When they truly exhibited effort and did their best, I took this into consideration when assigning a grade. But if they were lazy and were just trying to get something done, this too was reflected in their scores. And even though we did not focus solely on grades, by implementing some kind of academic measurement, everyone had a good idea of how they were progressing and what needed work.