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  1. #1

    Default do you give "grades"

    This probably sounds like a ridiculous question, especially coming from someone in a state with virtually no regulations on homeschooling - I don't have to submit any proof of learning/portfolio/etc. Nobody's looking over my shoulder here.

    But... do you give your kids grades?

    I wasn't intending to grade anything in particular, except tests. And that was just to ensure my son (age 11, 5th grade) had reached mastery of the topics we're working on, so I'd know if we needed to circle back to a topic again.

    But my kiddo loves the affirmation of a good grade. When he finishes an end-of-unit test, I need to mark it on the spot, and translate the # correct into a % grade immediately. When he hands me a written assignment, he wants to know "do I get 100?"

    I've been going over his work and giving him verbal feedback, focusing on praise for his effort to learn new things, and explanations of how to get things right when I come across something he got wrong. Should I be giving him grades on a regular basis, because it's something he expects/wants? Or should I try to pull him back from that expectation?

    For what it's worth, the current expectation is that he'll return to public school, which had been a good fit for him previously. Thanks to Covid, I just don't know when that will be...

    Thanks

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  3. #2

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    If it was me, I would see my child having their happiness with their work so closely linked to a grade as an unhealthy thing and I would be trying to get them to see value in other things.Because you know, there are going to be times in life when they will get a low grade or "bad" feedback and they need to be able to take that in their stride and not get depressed/upset about it.

    Even if he is returning to school, I would use this time to redirect to other rewards than a grade. In fact, I would even go in the other direction and have regular little chats about how it is not so healthy to focus on such things. There is so much more to focus on like enjoying the actual learning, a sense of achievement for finishing and following something through to hand it in on time, and so forth. There is plenty to read on the internet about how a focus on grades is not healthy and causes issues, particularly with the transition from school to university education. My DH is an associate professor and they get very tired of the first and second year students who expect to get the highest possible grade for the lowest possible effort and don't actually invest themselves in the learning.

    And no, we do not give grades. The only things I mark are math tests. Otherwise, I do a portfolio for each child at the end of the year to show what they have been learning. Maybe your son might like helping collect things over the year to put in his portfolio. Edited to add: I know portfolios are not required where you are (they are not for us either) but it might be something to do as an alternative to grades that focuses more on the joy of learning than a mark.
    Last edited by NZ_Mama; 09-14-2020 at 03:58 AM.
    NZ homeschoolers (school year runs start Feb to mid Dec).
    DD 12 (year 7) and DD 7 (year 2).
    Fourth year homeschooling.
    Part-time freelance science copyeditor.

  4. #3

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    Ive never given my kids “grades”.... and I think NZ brought up all the reasons to not rely on them.

    But. You said your son loves the validation. If he is putting “extra” effort into assuring that he is completing his assignments and mastering the material, taking away the recognition and replacing it with “you did fine, we are going on to the next thing now” might not keep his motivation high. If he is getting there through hard work, reward that! Thats what will get him through high school, college, and holding down a job, right?

    When it comes to “grading” writing, make sure you have a clear rubrik of what you want, so that he could even grade his papers. What are your expectations for his grammar, punctuation, spelling, handwriting, organization, and vocabulary?

    To shift the emphasis off of percentages, could you redefine “grading” into broader categories, such as “outstanding, satisfactory, or needs review”?

    My youngest (who is very praise driven) likes to grade his own handwriting work - a suggestion from his therapist. (He puts a dot above each word he writes to his standard of ‘perfectly’. He loves having a whole sentence of dots, and that is enough self-motivation for him.)

    I guess my point is, encourage the hard work, and if he has been trained to that being validated by 100% circled at the top of his math work with a smiley face, theres no reason to stop doing it. As long as he understands thats not the end-all be-all of learning.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  5. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by alexsmom View Post

    My youngest (who is very praise driven) likes to grade his own handwriting work - a suggestion from his therapist. (He puts a dot above each word he writes to his standard of ‘perfectly’. He loves having a whole sentence of dots, and that is enough self-motivation for him.)
    That's a form of intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic like a grade given by someone else. Intrinsic is good, extrinsic is not.
    NZ homeschoolers (school year runs start Feb to mid Dec).
    DD 12 (year 7) and DD 7 (year 2).
    Fourth year homeschooling.
    Part-time freelance science copyeditor.

  6. #5

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by alexsmom View Post
    But. You said your son loves the validation. If he is putting “extra” effort into assuring that he is completing his assignments and mastering the material, taking away the recognition and replacing it with “you did fine, we are going on to the next thing now” might not keep his motivation high. If he is getting there through hard work, reward that! Thats what will get him through high school, college, and holding down a job, right?

    I guess my point is, encourage the hard work, and if he has been trained to that being validated by 100% circled at the top of his math work with a smiley face, theres no reason to stop doing it. As long as he understands thats not the end-all be-all of learning.
    I don't often disagree with AM, but I have to respectfully 100% disagree here. I think there are all the reasons in the world to stop grading, and that they have next to nothing to do with actual learning. Being dependent on extrinsic motivation is not what will get your child through college or a job. Maybe highschool because they wrongly have a focus on grades, but the rest of life, it won't help. If you focus on the love of learning and intrinsic motivation the grades that are needed will come anyway.

    OP, you do not have to have do grades for this year, so why do it? You have obviously put a lot of research into the curricula you want to use. There is also a lot of research out there about alternatives to grades that encourage intrinsic motivation, a love of actual learning and hard work, and allow children to develop a growth mindset with regards to "bad grades" or constructive criticism. There are many alternatives to grading than "you did fine, let's move on to the next thing". Even one of the math curricula my daughter uses (Jousting Armadillos) has an alternative to grading (in addition to mini-tests) in that it gets them to do regular "notes to self" to reflect on their learning.

    There are just so many issues with grading, and I don't have time to comment on them all, but just for one, I like this quote from this article:
    "Focusing on the measurement of our performance reinforces what researcher Carol Dweck calls a fixed mind-set. If students believe that how they perform at one moment in time exposes the limits of their potential rather than serving merely as a snapshot of where they are in the process of growing their abilities, feelings of struggle and uncertainty become threatening rather than an opportunity to grow."

    I see this every year in my daughter's ballet class after exam time. My DD is fine because we have never focused on grades and have always had discussions about how they are not a good measure of performance. So if she gets a merit instead of a distinction, she is still proud and happy, can see that she worked really hard all year and see her own progress, and see the constructive criticism and lower grades in certain areas as what they should be (an opportunity to improve). Other girls who have a family focus on grades get really upset and even though they are good dancers and have improved over the year, they cannot see that.
    NZ homeschoolers (school year runs start Feb to mid Dec).
    DD 12 (year 7) and DD 7 (year 2).
    Fourth year homeschooling.
    Part-time freelance science copyeditor.

  7. #6

    Default

    Interesting discussion. This is a massive topic, but I have had some experience with both and hopefully lend a perspective that helps...

    In my experience, I have seen both types of motivation and their respective limitations/benefits.

    When I was teaching Grade 1 in Japan (many, many years ago now...) there was a considerable amount of pressure to achieve academically. Of course this was measured by grades, and you can imagine the pressure.

    Recently I was teaching in a system that never graded students in primary, yet when students passed from middle school, they were required to take national exams which were graded.

    The students in the latter example were definitely more at ease in the classroom. However it was interesting to see the level of anxiety and "sunday night freakout" coming from the kids who had never been graded. Many of them just could not cope with the idea that they were going to be sat down in front of a paper that would determine their "level" because they had never been subjected to it. Of course, as you might imagine it was a disaster- traumatic even.

    Essays could be written on the topic, but in my experience there is nothing good in adopting either exclusively graded or non-graded approaches.

    Students who are never graded will have to come to terms with being subjected to the idea that one day they will be judged (possibly harshly) based on something they produce.
    Students who are constantly graded will have to realize that life is about more than just tests and memorizing a bunch of stuff to regurgitate later.

    Life is not black and white, so why should our grading choices be?

    .02


  8. #7
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    Default

    I also live in a low regulation state (basically no regulation) and I don't do grades for the younger years, but have started in high school. My DS swims for the local high school and they have grade checks to be able to compete in meets.

    Last year, I made myself about crazy grading and keeping grades, because I felt I had to start keeping grades for high school. This year it is mastery or bust, so all grades will be an A, or pass, or mastery. This is working much better. It keeps it simple for me and forces DS to work harder / smarter so he's not revising a paper or assignment a million times. The only non-mastery grades he will have (from homeschool) will be from dual enrollment with the local community college.

    Every so often my DD will ask for grades, and we'll talk more about the concept of mastery. I think it's more realistic for the real world vs. grades. Either you are doing your best, putting in quality work, and clearly understand the concept or you don't. If you don't feel like dealing with grades maybe your son would benefit from working toward mastery.
    Rebecca
    DS 15, DD 13
    Year 9

  9. #8

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    I suppose you could also tell him that grades are a way for public school teachers to see at a glance how well any of their multitude of students are doing. Just having one student, you dont really need that sort of paperwork, and you always know how well he is doing.

    Our public charter school is required to give grades - and all through elementary and middle school, it has been a matter of “if the paperwork is turned in, it’s an A”. I suspect the school is in the “grades dont matter” category of pedagogical philosophy. Ive never been asked to give my kids grades based on tests or to grade any of their work.

    What I read from OP was a kid looking for recognition and approval of a job well done. Getting a gold sticker, or 100% on the top of the page, both seem harmless and encouraging to me. But that also assumes he has it in perspective, and doesnt feel discouraged when he doesnt do as well, and doesnt feel entitled that everything he does warrants a parade.

    Then again, I also havent personally seen the situations where kids are crazy addicted to over-achieving.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  10. #9

    Default

    I live in a no regulation state so I do not have to give grades, but I am also a professor at a local college where I am required to give final, semester grades.

    I do not give grades to my 12 year old, we work for mastery. Grades frequently mean one and done. Take a quiz, get a grade, and move on is what frequently happens in school. I do not support that at all. At home work until something is understood.

    And I do this in the collge classroom. Students are allowed to work on things until they are done. (It is a little more nuanced then that simplistic statement, but it essentailly is what it looks like.)

    Grades do not encourage learning in the long run. Many times students remember a spelling word long enough to get a good grade on the quiz, but did not truly learn how to spell the word. Or the math concept or anything else.

    I know there are lots of debates on this, but all of the studies and research say that grades are not helpful and in fact are frequently harmful to learning.

    In high school, I know this will change, as students will need grades to move forward to apply to colleges. But I do not see grades as necessary until then. (I don't see them necessary at all, but they are only because that is how our society works.)

  11. #10

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    I stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest with this one. Sorry!

    I grew up with a mom who viewed anything less than 100 as not good enough. "If you could get 97%, why couldn't you get them all right, huh?" The pressure to get good grades was high, and I hated it, even though I've always enjoyed learning and good grades came (relatively) easy.

    So I am totally the opposite as a parent. I tell my kiddo it's all about expanding his knowledge and growing his skills. We focus on improvement, not perfection. I don't know that I've used the word "mastery" with him, but that's my focus as I'm teaching him this year. Not perfect recall of small details, but a demonstration that he gets the concepts and can apply them as necessary.

    Now that we're homeschooling, we display work well-done on the fridge (without grades), I make a big fuss of telling my husband about a cool thing kiddo realized/talked about while we were learning that day when my son can "overhear," I talk with my son about mistakes I make and times I've had to adjust my thinking because I've learned a new thing. (Easy to do when we're talking about science - new discoveries happen all the time.) If I have to say "I don't know" to something my son asks, I offer to look it up with him so we can both learn something. I also talk about how I learn new things all the time and how exciting I find that... I try to make our home a place of curiosity and exploration and ideas. We even changed the phrase "practice makes perfect" to "practice makes better" and use that instead. We do celebrate his report cards, but never with an "Ooh, all A's" reaction - more like, "Look, your report card shows me you're learning a lot this year, and your teacher sees how much you're growing in class. I'm so proud of you for putting in the effort to learn new things."

    When I taught public school, the bulk of my grade book was simply check marks. If an assignment was completed, the kids got credit. I gave extensive rubrics for essays and big projects so the kids could see for themselves how to improve the quality of their work, and I always allowed them to revise for a higher grade. If you showed up and put in effort on your work, you were going to succeed in my class. Some of my kids were used to grades being used almost punitively, and they were amazed when report cards came out and they saw 80 or higher where they usually squeaked by with a No Child Left Behind 65.

    And when I was teaching at the college level, I absolutely had students who felt entitled to certain grades, regardless of whether they earned them or not. (In fact, the ones with the greatest sense of entitlement put in the least effort.) So I understand what your husband must go through, NZ_Mama. So frustrating.

    And yet, in spite of all this, my son is an anxiety-driven perfectionist who wants to see a high grade at the top of his page to have tangible proof that he's succeeded. He is absolutely his own worst critic and will fall apart when he gets a grade he considers too low. I'm so perplexed by this, because it's not what we've always stressed in our family. That's why I came here wondering how other parents handled grading in homeschool.

    I really appreciated reading the different perspectives - thank you all for weighing in and making such good points. Definitely have some more food for thought here on how to move forward with a kiddo who *wants* grades....

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