Mom-to-Mom Support/How do parents know that they are grading their high schooler’s work properly?

How do parents know that they are grading their high schooler’s work properly?

Teen girl helps a veterinary as a volunteer by holding a dog


My daughter currently uses [structured, pre-packaged curriculum] for ninth grade. I’m interested in CHC, but wonder how I can grade research reports, etc. How do parents know that they are grading their high schooler’s work properly?

Dear Mom,

The CHC high school program differs greatly from [pre-packaged curriculum], and grading is a key factor. Your current curriculum offers a textbook graded approach to high school, which suits some students very well. CHC’s High School of Your Dreams Guidebook is not graded and offers alternatives to the textbook approach. Some parents do not grade their high schoolers. I was one of those parents. Others grade selectively, choosing not to grade each assignment, but looking at the big picture of how their children are doing. So how do we know our children are learning?

Since you specifically mention research reports, let’s consider written papers first. Sometimes, my basic program for grading a written report would be grammar and spelling, neatness, organization of thought, and extent and use of research. Sometimes, I might be more interested in the question: does this writing show an improvement over the last paper? Is the student’s writing ability progressing? Or instead of grading the paper, I might ask a high schooler to read the paper aloud and critique her own work. What does she think needs improvement? What are the strong areas? What did she do well? Then I would allow her to rewrite the paper and save the revision as an example of her best work. When a professional writer applies for a position, whoever is hiring is not interested in grades, but in examples of past work. The college admission essay will probably be more important than your daughter’s high school English grade. Colleges understand that grading is subjective and varies from teacher to teacher. How you choose to grade depends upon the purpose of the assignment and your child’s ability.

Those of us who did not grade our children in high school found proof of our children’s learning in their conversations and in their projects. My family talked a lot about what we were doing, reading, drawing, and so on. I also observed my children at play and at work. My children worked for a few years as backstage technicians and actors for a local playhouse. The directors would tell me what a great job they were doing, and I could see this for myself during their performances. They were even given free acting lessons because the acting coach wanted them to assist him with the younger children. A key moment was when they concluded that acting careers were not going to be their goal. They enjoyed acting and learned a great deal but could see that this was not what they wanted.

High school is a productive time for many homeschoolers. They can produce works of quality and continue improving their skills. Their work can go well beyond grades. Students may enter art, photography, quilt, woodcarving, or cooking competitions. They may submit writing for publication. They may redecorate your house, plant a butterfly garden, write computer programs, repair appliances, write and act in plays, volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers, animal shelters, political headquarters, and so on. These projects and productions will generate lots of discussion. By listening to your child, you will develop an awareness of what her weaknesses and strengths are. In fact, you may need to prevent her from evaluating herself and her work too harshly, reminding her that she is still learning and that gaining competency takes time.

If you feel uncomfortable about not grading or if your state requires grading, you may wish to continue with a textbook based curriculum. If your state requires regular grading and you are willing to grade selectively, then ask your daughter to self-evaluate her work and discuss weekly or monthly grades based upon completion of projects and papers. Before beginning a project or paper, decide why you are grading and use that as a basis for giving a grade to major works.

Please do not feel overwhelmed by grading. Veteran teachers will tell you that there is no one right way to grade. Discussing how you will grade work with your daughter will benefit both of you, and at different times, you may choose different ways or reasons for grading.

If you have not already done so, read the key points of High School of Your Dreams Guidebook carefully. The online description will give you an idea if this program will fit your comfort level.

May God be with you as you contemplate the right course for your daughter.

Sandra Garant

About Sandra Garant

Sandra Garant is a veteran homeschooling mom, certified teacher, writer, attorney, and administrative law judge. She taught her three children at home until they were ready for college. She tutored students in writing for many years and is the author of Language of God, Level F and Language of God, Level G.