Many parents new to homeschooling question how to one-grade homeschool assignments, keep track of those grades, issue report cards, and/or issue transcripts if they are graduating a homeschool student. The first thing any homeschool parent should do if they have questions about homeschool and grading is research what the requirements are for their state or country. Some locations require you to maintain more detailed records, while others may request a portfolio examination once a year.
Research the laws that apply to what grades you need to keep in your homeschool.
What Age Is Your Child?
After you discover just how detailed you need to be in grading and record-keeping for your homeschool, think about the age of your child and what grade they are in this homeschool year. For younger children—unless you are required to by law, you do not need to have detailed grades. If you remember seeing an elementary report card, many of them list the subjects, objectives, or areas of study/growth and then 'grade' using satisfactory, unsatisfactory, needs improvement, or not observed (usually meaning they did not look for that objective during that marking period).
For younger homeschooled children, it is important to mark work for accuracy and go over any wrong answers. But you do not necessarily need to take these 'grades' and input them into a spreadsheet to calculate a grade point average (GPA) or marking period grade. For example, I mark our second grader's math worksheets to check to see if he answered the questions correctly. If he missed one, we go over how to get the correct answer. I may put a stamp or sticker on the page or even write down a letter grade (he has seen his brother's high school grades) but I do not track these grades in an online program or spreadsheet.
For elementary-aged children (and even for middle school-aged children), check for accuracy of assignments to review concepts they do not understand.
When it comes to high school, it is important to continue to check for accuracy and understanding, but also to grade assignments as you will need to create report cards or transcripts if you are graduating your homeschooled child. There are many different ways to go about doing this. If you are proficient with Excel or another spreadsheet program, you could create a spreadsheet that helps you maintain (and even calculate) grades for each course that your homeschooled high school student takes. For our oldest son, I use Excel to track his grades throughout the year. Each course has one sheet in the document. I then calculate those grades together (weighing quizzes and tests more than 'homework' or 'classwork' assignments). I input these final grades into a system called Applecore that I have access to, thanks to my membership with SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I can then use Applecore to create report cards and a transcript for our son.
For high school-aged children, check for accuracy, but also maintain records of grades to help you produce report cards and a transcript.
How Do You Grade in Your Homeschool?
As a former high school teacher, I have a system that works for me when it comes to grading a high school student. I assign labels to the work as classwork (things that might be completed with me), homework (assignments that will be completed independently), quizzes (assessments on small pieces of information for the courses), and tests or exams (a large assessment). Research papers or essays might be weighted the same as a quiz or test, depending on how much time was necessary to write it.
Personally, I use a point system rather than a percent system. This makes it easier for me to track information and grades. All graded assignments are worth anywhere from 5 to 200 points. Smaller assignments like classwork or homework would be worth 5 to 45 points, quizzes are worth 50 points, tests are worth 100 points, and projects, exams, or research papers may be worth 100 to 200 points. So, if our son got two questions wrong on a quiz, he would score 40/50 which would be 80%, if you wanted to calculate it that way.
Would You Like to Do More Research into Grading? Check out These Resources and References:
Read my review of Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler's Guide to High-School Paperwork to see if this resource might help your family during the high school years.
You might find useful information on The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine Resource Guide page. They have resources to help you with many homeschooling decisions.
In the Homeschooling with Heart blog, you can read how to create a transcript in five easy steps. How awesome is that!
And if you are looking for some inspiration regarding grading, read this excellent poem from A Net in Time called Keep Track of Grades.