Over and again at conventions, through emails and phone calls homeschooling moms ask about grading their children’s work.  This blog is the first in a series focusing on giving letter grades.  Today we will begin a discussion on grading elementary level work.


Grades are an individual matter.  There is no single, absolute right way to grade students’ performance; therefore, my answers may not work for you.  That being said, as a homeschooling mom and co-op teacher, I’ve had to come up with a “philosophy” of grading that was fair and easy to apply.


Seeking a fair system forced me to consider why grades were important.  For my elementary level students, I realized they weren’t.  It was (and is) important to me to instill a love of learning in my children.  Letter grades are counter-productive to that.  When a grade is given, the focus shifts from “what did I learn?” to “what grade did I get?”


Another difficulty was finding any benefits to grading the learning process.  Walk through this with me:  your student does not know something; he takes steps to learn it; after the steps are completed, he knows the new information or skill.  What part of that process is improved by grading it?  The goal is to learn something.  Tools are provided to facilitate the learning. The “reward” is the mastering of the new skill or knowledge.  Should a child be penalized because he learns at a slow rate?  Should he be rewarded because he catches on quickly?  The way in which a child learns is important to me as his teacher because I want to provide tools useful to him, but how does grading his use of the tools assist actual learning?


If, after effort is expended to learn something, the final hurrah is the grade, then the real achievement becomes secondary to the all-important grade.  Yet, some want a measuring stick to finalize the process, such as the test at the end of the chapter.  Give the test, if you must, but remember that most of us love to learn, few like to be tested.  Most tests assess the ability of a student to take a test rather than gauge his knowledge.  As soon as the test becomes a focal point, the child will memorize facts to pass it, but real learning is side-lined.  We evaluate whether or not a skill has been mastered or knowledge acquired in order to know when to move on to the next skill, but grading the evaluation is pointless.


In my next blog, I will discuss alternatives to letter grades.