The freedom we enjoy as homeschoolers is great, but it comes with a host of decisions to make. One of the most common is the decision to keep a gradebook or not. The answer to that question is not a straightforward one, and that’s a good thing.
Unlike some states, Florida does not require homeschoolers to keep a gradebook, so the choice to use one is up to you. Some families find them tedious and stressful for kids if they emphasize grades over learning. Others find them helpful to ensure that kids are on the right track, progressing and preparing for the future.
ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL
If your kids are in elementary or middle school, keeping a gradebook is only necessary if it benefits your family. Are your kids motivated by getting good grades? If so, then a gradebook may be helpful. If you plan to enroll your students in a public or private school, then a gradebook helps to document what your student has done and how well they’ve done it. Some families like keeping grades to see kids’ progress in a more formal fashion or because parents found it helpful when they were students. The bottom line for elementary and middle school parents is to ask yourself why you might keep a gradebook. If you can’t answer that question with something meaningful, then don’t put yourself through the added demands of keeping one. But if you have a reason that is meaningful to you or your family, then go ahead!
High school is different. Most homeschooling families do keep a gradebook for high school students. Many colleges and universities will ask for a transcript, and they’ll expect (and often require) traditional letter grades on those transcripts. Feel free to select your own grading scale, but don’t make it vary too widely from what traditional schools use.
HOW TO GRADE
You have a lot of flexibility on how you choose to grade your students if you choose to keep a gradebook. Among the most common tools to use to help grading are checklists and rubrics.
You can find or create a list of skills that you want your students to possess. You may choose Florida standards (google CPALMS), character traits or skills that are important to you or your student. Many curricula include a scope and sequence of skills that you can use as a checklist.
Rubrics are structured ways to evaluate something that doesn’t clearly have a right or wrong answer, like writing, a presentation or a project. You can find many sample rubrics online, but you can also create your own or modify others to meet your child’s needs. Rubrics help students and parents to see where a project or writing sample is strong and where improvements may be made.
When grading assignments, consider ahead of time how you want each item considered. For example, you may want multiple choice problems to be worth less than essay questions. Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) recommends grading on a mixture of assignments, including high-pressure (tests, essays, papers, projects), medium pressure (discussions, quizzes, in-class activities) and low-pressure (notes, outlines, comprehension questions) assignments. Consider how much each assignment will be worth. As you compile those scores, you’ll find your final grade for the course.
So, should you keep a gradebook? If it helps you or your family now or in the future, then yes. But keep one that makes sense to you and is useful to you and your kids as they focus on learning and growing.