Dear Channie

Dear Channie: To Grade or Not to Grade…

That is my question.

I have been homeschooling for the past three years. My children are in grades 4, 7, and 9. My oldest child was in public school until 4th grade (which is when I pulled him out and started teaching him at home). My youngest children have only been home schooled. When I started this journey I decided to not make grades (letters and numbers) apart of our experience. He (my oldest) came from an environment where there was such a focus on grades and test–I wanted to be free of all that, as I really didn’t think it helped him. Instead of grades we discuss his work–but I have never assigned any of the work with a letter or number value.

Over the years, my thought are shifting. My children participated in a learning camp (which was great) but they were totally thrown off when they got grades on their papers. Now I am not sure excluding grades is what is best. I am confused–and have spoken to other homeschooling families about the issue. It seems to be a pretty hot topic, one that people have very strong views on. What do you think? To Grade or Not to Grade?

Thanks for reading and responding. Thanks also for this blog–and for creating a space where folks like me can ask questions like this!

-Georgina, Alabama

Georgina,

Wow, you have hit upon a very hot topic within the homeschooling community.

You have been homeschooling for some time now and can probably better understand that each home school, each family, has a different way of approaching and rolling out ‘school’. That is one of the wonderful aspects about homeschooling, but I also believe it presents challenges as well because it doesn’t provide clear-cut instructions on how to do things. Each family creates their own schooling culture based on their values, goals, and attributes. I say this to make it clear that you won’t find the ‘best’ answer to this question. Your quest is finding what fits best within your homeschooling culture.

Know your why.

We do use grades in our home school. We believe grades are just another vehicle to provide feedback about a performance. The reason why we use grades is because we know that at some point people will assign a value to our children’s and we don’t want them to be shocked by the experience. We want to equip them as best we can to expect it and to manage it in a healthy manner. When they go to college they will experience this and in the workforce (even if they are their own boss) they will have to deal with people giving them feedback about their work. Sometimes that feedback will be via conversation and sometimes it will be through a mark. We want them to be comfortable with both. So that is our why.

I see grades as a tool and I teach my girls to view them as a tool as well. Kindergarten through third grade I spend a lot of time making them feel totally comfortable when they have a quiz or test (you know that spelling test, math test). I explain to them each time (until they can finish my sentences) that the work I am about to give them is an ASSESSMENT. Some people call assessments tests and quizzes, they mean the same thing. The purpose of an assessment is to let me know (or whoever is working with them) what they understood about the lesson and what they need more practice with. It also lets me know how well I did my job in teaching them the information (they love this part). After they take the test we correct the work, noting what they got right and wrong and we have discussions about it–or what I call ‘think-it-through’ sessions. During these sessions I lead the ‘think-it-through’ by asking questions like “What do you think happened in this problem? You got this type of problem wrong the other day, what do you think is in the way of you arriving at the right answer? What do you think you may need to do to help?”. That is that. I do not assign a letter grade.

Forth grade things change. Princess Bella will be starting 4th grade in the fall (we are both very excited) and I have been preparing her for changes she will encounter, one of which is grades. By now, because it has been so ingrained, she knows what an assessment is and is not fearful of them. We will still have our ‘think-it-through’ talks about her work but she will lead the discussions so they should be more like, “Mom, I think the reason why I got this answer wrong is because I didn’t line up my facts the right way when I copied the problem down, etc.” and she will assign herself a grade based on the matrix assigned to the work (grading scale, rubric, etc.). She will also be instructed how to manage her grades by adding grades in the grading system (click here for the FREE online grade book we use) and printing out bi-weekly reports.

When I taught public school I lead with the belief that I didn’t give my students grades, they earned it. And the other thing I said was that their grades belonged to them. They could have access to them anytime (this was before all the technology we have now so it made it a little challenging but luckily I had an extra computer I set up as the ATM or GTM–Grade Teller Machine–as I called it). I said that just like I know how much money is in my account, they should always have a sense of where they stand grade wise. I still believe those things and it is apart of my home schooling environment.

I think that when you empower children in this way it helps them own their performance and they learn the skill set of looking at themselves objectively. Very valuable skill set I believe.

First thing first, find your why. Understand why you want to add grades or why you do not. Remember, you are already assessing and providing feedback to your children. You have to decide if you want to incorporate a more traditional method. If you do decide to use a more traditional grading system, craft it in a way that empowers your children and aides you in teaching them.

I hope this helps.

Thanks for the question and the feedback!

Have a question for me? Need some advice? PleaseEMAIL ME at Chantellavonne@gmail.com. In the subject line put ‘Dear Channie‘. Please allow 48 hours for me to respond, as I try very hard to respond to ALL questions.THANKS forYOUR support! And remember to…

Be Encouraged! Spread the Word!

Channie

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