Unless you’re one of those super-conscientious homeschool parents who keep all your homeschool records up to date, you probably need to spend a little time catching up on record keeping. Grading, filing, and planning are all important, especially in the high school years!
If any of this feels intimidating to you, let me encourage you that you’re not alone. Many parents feel unsure of themselves, especially when it comes to grading high school work, because it seems so ... subjective! While grading subjects such as math or science can be done objectively if you use tests, there are many courses that aren’t nearly so easy to grade, such as creative writing, culinary arts, speech, or logic. How do you evaluate these types of courses?
Although grades are a very important tool to evaluate your student’s work, there are other equally useful and valid methods you can use for courses that aren’t easily gradeable. In our homeschool, we used the idea of mastery to evaluate courses. Mastery simply means that your student has mastered a subject and learned what you expected them to learn. I’ve found that homeschool parents tend to have high expectations for their children, so using this method is an effective way to evaluate your student’s work.
Here’s an example of mastery: suppose your child is studying something unusual such as culinary arts. You could evaluate their work based on what they produced - how it tasted, its appearance, and overall presentation. You could evaluate your child's attention to detail and organizational skills, economic performance (budgeting), and even marketing efforts. All of these factors could be considered in a final grade.
Mastery vs. Perfection
Keep in mind that there is a difference between mastery and perfection. You need only examine my checkbook to learn the difference! While I have mastered the simple skills of addition and subtraction, I am not perfect, and have made errors in my check book on occasion! In the same way, whether you grade with or without tests, a grade of 100% mastery does not necessarily mean perfection. When you have high expectations, and your children meet your expectations, it’s fine to give them 100% on their work, even if it takes a few tries. I gave my sons 100% when I knew they had mastered the concepts I wanted them to learn, even when they weren’t perfect.
Including Intangible Tasks
Grades can be given for intangible tasks, such as oral presentations, classroom discussions, class participation, or completed homework. When my sons completed a chapter of math, or finished a chapter test, they earned 100%. They worked hard and spent a lot of time on their assignments, so I believed they deserved to have intangible work included in their grade.
If your child achieves mastery, meets your high expectations (especially when their work is corroborated with good standardized test scores), and they love the subject, by and large they will probably achieve a grade of A or 4.0. If they did fairly well but their work wasn’t worth an A, they will probably earn a grade of B or 3.0. If they didn’t do well at all but kept doing on to the next level, they might earn a grade of C or 2.0. But in the end, mastery is what you want to encourage your children to strive for.