I sit on the unpopular side of the fence in homeschooling in that I do believe that the work our children do should be graded. But, before you quit reading, hear me out for a moment because I don’t believe in traditional letter grades or percentages so we may not really be on opposite sides of the fence.
First things first, why grade work if you don’t have to report that information to anyone else? This, for me, is simple. If the work isn’t reviewed and marked, then how do our children know about making mistakes, fixing mistakes and growing as a result of our mistakes? In our house, grading isn’t done for the sake of a score. It is done to help us learn from the mistakes we have made. After a child finishes an assignment, he brings it to me for me to mark. After marking, which rarely takes me more than a minute or two, the child is responsible for fixing his mistakes. If these mistakes are something that he does not understand, we sit down together and work it through but more often than not we find that the marks come on things that were silly oversights or from rushing to finish the assignment and move on. This brings us to one of the auxiliary benefits marking work and having the students go back through to fix their mistakes – they quickly learn that taking their time the first time saves time in the long run.
If grading isn’t done for a score, what do you do with things that aren’t as simple as circle the wrong answer and have them fix it like in a workbook or on a worksheet? What about writing piece or a presentation of some sort? Great question. For assignments like these, we make sure to have created a rubric or checklist of what is expected before we get started. Most of the time, the boys are part of creating these for our family so that they are very aware of the requirements but the parent or teacher could create it on their own if they so chose. Then, once the assignment is turned in I read it through or listen to the presentation and see if the child fulfilled the rubric or if some part of the rubric is incomplete. I then hand the assignment back to them with an A or an I. Yes, an A or an I.
A is for accepted. Accepted because it is legal and fulfills all of the requirements set forth for the assignment before we began. An A does not mean that anything is perfect or nearly perfect or for that matter even good [though it ought to be well done if we created a decent rubric to start with]. We believe there is always room for improvement and growth and we frequently go back to assignments from the past and strengthen them but that is probably a topic for another blog post.
I is for incomplete. Incomplete because some part of the assignment does not fulfill the checklist / rubric we created. Something is missing and therefore it was not completed in a way that is acceptable. When I was teaching in the classroom, I saw many children who would complete an assignment well enough to get an okay grade but not in a way the fulfilled what the assignment was designed to help them learn. This A and I grading system allows us to avoid that problem in our home. Any work that is returned with an I must be redone before moving on to the next concept for that subject. I work is not accepted and therefore is not where we leave anything. More often than not work with an I can be quickly fixed and returned; however, on occasion we have to go back and really dig into a topic again before it is possible for the assignment to be done in a way that is accepted.
So, there you have it. What do you think about grading? Keep it smart. Keep it simple.