Grading is a topic that generates a whole range of emotions among homeschoolers.
- Some folks began homeschooling to get away from the stigma of grades.
- Others just want an easy way to assign a grade and be done with it.
- Still others are uncertain how to navigate the maze of grading and high school transcripts.
Homeschooling allows us the freedom to ensure mastery. In other words, there is never a reason for a homeschool student to fail a subject. You simply move at your child’s pace and help them reach their best potential. Thus, if one of my children does not meet the expectation I've set for a particular assignment, she has the privilege of working on it again until the assignment is mastered.
Although the pass/fail concept is good, for many students, when they reach high school and are thinking about college you may need to create an official transcript. At that point more detailed or specific grading becomes necessary.
1. Educate Yourself with a Guide
We recommend ordering Cafi Cohen's book Homeschooler's College Admissions Handbook while your children are in middle school or as soon as you can when they have entered high school. This is one of the most practical and easy to read resources on the whole topic of homeschooling high school, writing transcripts, and preparing for post-high school options. You might also find our high school webinar (embedded below) to be a good resource. And we also have a free guide if you prefer a print format.
2. Set Clear Expectations for Your Teen
Each time I began a new college class, the professor handed out a syllabus on the first day. It listed the titles of the books required for the course, an outline of what to expect during the course, and what it would take to pass the course. I have found it helpful to provide the same details for my high school students.
A possible syllabus for Sonlight Level 400 - American Government / Civics and Economics might look something like this:
- Passing this course requires you to read 14 of the 24 American Literature titles included in this program. You must read Moby Dick, but you may choose any other 13 titles.
- Passing this course requires you to read the following History/Civics titles: Basic American Government by Carson, Never Before in History by Amos and Gardiner, and Emancipating Slaves by Hummel.
- Passing this course requires you to read 6 of the 8 biographies/historical fiction titles included in this program.
- Passing this course requires you to complete the writing assignments associated with the 14 American Literature titles you choose.
- Passing this course requires your comprehension of the History/Civics titles you are required to read. This will be determined by verbal discussion with me, and occasional writing assignments (simple chapter or section reviews).
[I am not saying that a student should not read all the books in 400, or that these titles are better than those not listed. This outline is purely for the sake of demonstrating a possible syllabus.]
A similar approach can be taken with math, science, or any other subject assigned for a given high school year.
Though it will take you some time at the beginning of the year, there's a huge value in creating a written syllabus. All players are aware of the rules and expectations from the start. You as the parent are not stuck making up requirements as the year progresses, and the student begins the course with a thorough understanding of what is expected.
3. Create a Grading Chart for the Transcript
Determine ahead of time what level of work earns what grade and how that will ultimately translate to a high school transcript. Cohen's book is a good resource for how to grade and determine grade point equivalents for a transcript. Here's a suggested grading chart:
Completion of all assigned work with exemplary output
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 4.0
Completion of all assigned work with outstanding output
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 3.7
Completion of all assigned work with good output
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 3.3
Completion of all assigned work with average output
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 3.0
Completion of all assigned work with a struggle
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 2.3
Completion of all assigned work—just squeaking by
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 2.0
It will be up to you as the parent/teacher to define exemplary output or with a struggle, but once you have that foundation, your grade equivalency chart will save you much time and effort.
The bottom line is you as the parent will determine what grading you will use for your high school students. You determine the standard by which your student is evaluated. And the amazing blessing of homeschooling is that you can set that standard based on what you know about your student. The trick is to spend some time well before the school year begins to establish expectations for every course, create a grade equivalency chart, and communicate these with your teens.
This level of grading detail is far less necessary (if at all) in the lower grades where there is no need for creating a transcript. Creating a much simpler pass/fail scale or grade range expectation works just fine.
Homeschooling high school is an exciting challenge. You will encounter all sorts of life-changing experiences with your students and build memories that will last a lifetime. Don't let grading become a roadblock to your high school journey.