Homeschool Tidbits: Homeschooling High School and Assigning Grades

September 22, 2023

Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 59 – Homeschooling High School and How to Assign Grades. In this weekly video series, I will briefly delve into a homeschooling topic. I will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school, and one who is a college graduate!

I am asked about grading frequently, so I wanted to address it in a tidbit. I think we tend to overcomplicate many things when it comes to homeschooling high school. And grading is definitely one of them. In the world of traditional schooling, grades are this all important thing, but when you homeschool, they become far less critical. We know how our child is doing because we are with them all the way through their lessons. We can assess far more easily than a classroom teacher because we are only focusing on one or a few students rather than a room of 20 – 30 children. So we don’t need to worry about grading for most of their education.

But then high school comes along, and suddenly, we need to write transcripts. And those transcripts require grades. What do we do now? How do we give our children accurate grades?

What are grades even for, anyway?

First, we should consider what the purpose of grades is. Grading is just a way of communicating what your child has learned. They tell whoever sees their transcripts what courses they took and the level of effort they put into them.

In my experience, when your child reaches high school, they want to be graded. They love the idea of seeing how they compare with their peers, especially if they have friends who are traditionally schooled. Kids who have always been school-curious find this to be an exciting new addition to their homeschool experience.

This is also a great way to give them feedback on their learning and how they can improve. For some children, it can even be motivational. Having something to work towards and seeing how they can improve can be motivating. They only have themselves to compete within a homeschool setting, but self-improvement is the best kind of competition.

How do you give grades?

There are many schools of thought on this, and there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Grading is very subjective, and different courses will be graded in different ways.

The first step is to figure out your grading scale. You can use Google, or find out what your local schools use and find one that makes the most sense to you.  I wanted to keep it simple, so this is the scale I use:

  • A (90 – 100)
  • B (80 – 89)
  • C (75 – 79)
  • D (74 – 70)
  • F (69 or below)

I don’t worry about + and – grades.  An A is an A because I like to keep things simple. You will include your grading scale in your child’s transcript so they can see how your letter grades work.

Some courses are more straightforward to grade than others. Math, for example, is pretty cut and dry. Some online courses, like Teaching Textbooks, will even grade for you.

To give you an example of how grading can work – we are using Denison Algebra this year. They give you a helpful grading system to follow. Each chapter contains several sections with assignments plus a test. Each assignment completed is worth 10 points. Then, the test is worth 100 points. To find their average, you would add the points, divide the points earned by the total possible points, and then multiply by 100.

So, if they did eight assignments (worth 80 points) and scored 90 out of a possible 100 points on the test, their average would be 94.

But what if a course doesn’t have daily work like that? Or it is mostly project or discussion-based?

You can still accurately represent how much of the material your child learned and understood. Are they participating in discussions, or are you having to do most of the talking? Can they explain what they learned through narration? Can they write a coherent essay or research paper showing what they learned? Are they putting in reasonable effort on their projects?

If you feel that they get it and have mastered the material, that’s an A. If you feel like they need to work harder and aren’t applying themselves, but they do understand most of it, that’s a B. If they are phoning it in, that’s a C.

If they aren’t getting it at all I back up and look at it differently. Maybe we are approaching it wrong or need to try a different curriculum. I don’t fail my kids – there’s no point to that. If they don’t understand, we’ll start over and work at it until they do.

You can use the same system I shared above for math, just adjusted for any other course. For something like history, where there is a lot of discussion, a handful of writing assignments, and projects, you could grant 10 points for discussion participation, 30 points for writing assignments, and 60 points for projects and then average them.

For a course like Art, I don’t worry about averages – I look at their work, and if they are putting in effort and progressing, they get an A. In this type of course, where the work is creative, I’m looking at what the goal of the course is and check to see if they are meeting that goal.

The key takeaway is that grading doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s really just about ensuring your child understands the material. Choose a grading scale, determine how you want to average your grades, and then keep track of their progress. It can feel complicated initially, but I promise that the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Coming up next…

I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!

Until then, happy reading!

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Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves sharing her love of literature. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on YouTube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

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Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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