Homeschooling & Grades

by Cheryl Demas

Like everything else in homeschooling, the subject of grades seems to have as many variations as there are people who homeschool: from those who choose to eliminate grades entirely, to those who give A's arbitrarily and everything in between.

I know of families who simulate a classroom environment, giving quizzes, tests and grading on a strict 90%=A, 80%=B, etc. formula. Others are less strict but still favor more traditional approaches to grading.

For those of you who are unschooling, or are anxious to give up grades all together, you will find many advocates of your choice. Many homeschooling parents find it comforting to read about the success of others who have chosen this route. There are several good unschooling books, including "Deschooling Our Lives" edited by Matt Hern and the classic "Homeschooling for Excellence" by David and Micki Colfax.

For us, we've decided to make a contract at the beginning of the year, mutually deciding on the level of work required to earn an A in each of my daughter's subjects.

Then we use one of the suggestions of author Alfie Kohn, from his book "Punished by Rewards." He suggests: "Reduce the number of possible grades to two: A and incomplete. The theory here is that any work that does not merit an A isn't finished yet. Anyone concerned about educational excellence should adopt this suggestion enthusiastically because its premise is that students should be doing their very best."

We've found this to be an especially useful recommendation for us. After all, one of the advantages we have over traditional schooling, is time. We aren't held to rigid grading periods and semesters. If it takes longer to master a subject, we devote the time needed. Our goal after all, is to learn the subjects, not just get through the material. Actually, I recommend the "Punished by Rewards" book to everyone. It's challenging and thought provoking and especially relevant to anyone who homeschools.

So whatever method you choose, you will find many others who share your grading philosopohy. Read the available literature and find the philosophy that meets your needs, and works best for you and your family.

Cheryl is the founder and publisher of She lives and works at her home in California with her husband and two daughters. She is also the author of It's a Jungle Out There and a Zoo in Here and The Work-at-Home Mom's Guide to Home Business.

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