Evaluating Work and Giving Grades

As the year winds down we are approaching report card season. Just as there are many different approaches to homeschooling there are many different approaches to report cards and how work is evaluated.  Be sure you are familiar with the legalities of documentation regarding homeschooling in your state, providence, or country. It may also depend on if you are an independent homeschooler, with a Private School Satellite Program (Like the Happy Hive) or under a Charter Umbrella.

With that said… even if you are required to keep and record the most traditional of grades and assign report cards, that doesn’t mean you have to show them to your children…but I’ve rushed to the end.

What is the purpose of grades in a school setting? Grades give students feedback about their progress and provide them with motivation. Grades give teachers feedback to plan instruction. It also provided teachers with insight into a student’s strengths and weaknesses.  On an administrative level, Grades provide information about placement and skill level.

I hope we can agree that grades are only one small peek into the whole learner, yet they are given 100% of the decision making weight in a “Traditional School” setting.

These grades get placed onto a report card that then “follows” a learner from grade level to grade level and from school to school.

What is the purpose of a report card? The purpose on the most basic level is to record growth and track a student’s progress. Schools want “proof” of learning. Parents who send their children to school want proof of learning. A report card is a tool that can provide that proof. Parents are not in the classroom all day… but parents ARE in the home school all day… So are grades and report cards needed in a home school setting? You can see the learning and the progress first hand day after day, year after year.

Homeschooling with a PSA here at the Happy Hive, in order to evaluate learning, I asked each child one simple question: Is this your best work? If the answer was yes, I took the work and we moved on. If the answer was no, the work was returned and completed again until it was “best work”. We did not use grades or report cards – ever.

You might wonder what would prompt a child to say no… this isn’t my best work…after all, they  were self evaluating without a word from me as I never contradicted their evaluation even when I was dying on the inside.

This is what I did instead:  “Great sweetheart, what EXACTLY makes this BEST WORK?” Sometimes they take the work back without another word, and other times they find some little thing on the page. Kids are harder on themselves than we would ever be most of the time.

Beginning this from day one was natural. I just told them everything we do, chores, schoolwork, family games, cooking dinner, we always do our best….

Eventually, as they get older, “Best Work” turns into time management and decision making. My children learned to say: “Mom, I didn’t color my picture for History because I really wanted to put extra effort into Science today. I couldn’t do both. But my Science is my best work and I’m really proud of it. I didn’t think my time was best spent just coloring.” – My response was always one laced with positivity, even if I needed to give correction.

For example: “Your Science is in fact Best work, I can tell you are enjoying the study of weather. I also notice you have not submitted a best work sample for History in 3 days. How can I help change that?” (No criticism, just fact based statement, with an offer of help)

Working with a Charter school as your “homeschool” is another legal option of homeschooling. You are however technically enrolled in a public school and that is why they ask for work samples, grades, etc. The funds you receive for curriculum and classes come from the funding Charter schools receive from the state for enrollment. Many who choose this route simply don’t show their learners the report cards that are issued if  that’s not in alignment with their educational style. That’s the beauty of Homeschooling, we get to choose.

If you are under a Private School Satellite Program(PSP), Like the Happy Hive, you will follow their requirements, much like a Charter school. Happy Hive offers Report Cards as an additional service to their program to those families that want them, but they are not required.

You can implement the “best work” strategy at any time. Just at your next learner/teacher meeting, explain you want to try something new, For each item of work turned in you will ask if it is “Best Work” and what makes it Best Work. As the teacher, you only accept BEST WORK…

Or, Summer is a good time with less pressure to make this kind of adjustment. As we head into summer, if you need any support for your schooling, feel free to reach out. The Happy Hive has many options for families.

May your educational Journey Be Blessed!

Mrs. Crabtree

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