Creating Homeschool Report Cards
Keeping track of your child's progress when you're homeschooling can be one of the things that causes a great amount of stress for many homeschooling families and they end up asking, "how do I create a homeschool report card?" If you’re just getting started, you might wonder what grading scale to use, whether to ‘grade on the curve’ (and what does that even mean?) or simply to allow a portfolio to stand as proof of progress.
I will stop here and say that you should, first and foremost, find out what your specific state homeschooling laws and regulations have to say about this. If your state demands that record-keeping be done in a specific way, then that's the way you must do it, regardless of my examples here in this article.
It's important to note that in the early years, you might not be as interested in assigning grades, but instead just moving along and instilling a love of learning. In fact, in the homeschooling environment, it really makes no sense simply to assign a bad grade and go on to the next thing. One of the reasons many of us homeschool is to assure that our children actually grasp and understand the information we are teaching. If a grade shows that they don’t comprehend the information, we should certainly give them a chance to practice, then reteach the most important aspects and re-evaluate the results. Isn’t that what homeschooling is really about? Seeing a bad grade from your child in a particular subject can also give you insights into the successful nature of your lesson plans. Giving your child a chance to relearn, and you a chance to reteach, can be valuable for both of you.
However, there are many reasons to include report cards, as well as a time to review these evaluations with our child to see what needs improvement, as well as what they’re really good at. Here are some ideas about that.
Creating Homeschool Report Cards
Why are Homeschool Grades Important?
In the government-run public school system, grades help compare children not only to one another but to a standard set in place at local, state, and federal levels. In the public-school system, this is almost a necessary component of education. However, in-home education, our standards are strikingly different.
If your homeschooling goal is 'mastery' then you’re going to want your child to have complete mastery over the material they cover. If they miss a certain number of math problems, you don’t simply grade, move on, and forget it. You go back, work the problems together, and find out if it was a particular concept that your child didn’t understand or just a simple miscalculation for some reason.
When you aren’t particularly comparing your child with anyone else, grades could seem a bit overwhelming. But they always serve a purpose if we’re willing to see the positive. Especially in states that demand a grade record.
If we are to provide a reasonable education that prepares our child for grown-up life, we must include constructive criticism. This is a reality, not just in school, but also in their college career and future job choice. The sooner your child learns that not everything is going to be perfect, the sooner they will be able to learn how to take what’s not perfect and make it better.
It could be considered a life skill to listen to such criticism in order to make necessary improvements in important areas of life. Of course, some will be subjective, where changes are not utterly necessary, and it’s also a part of the skill to know when changes need not be made as well.
Finding Out Your Child’s Strengths
Report cards can also bring attention to the things your child is really good at, like art or writing. If math and science are not strong points, that’s not always a bad thing. A passing homeschool grade is acceptable so long as it’s the best your child can do. And you’ll know if that’s the case. The fact is, not every child is going to grow up to be a brain surgeon, or a chemist, or a fortune 500 CEO. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
If we don’t point out that our children can excel in what they’re good at, we may have missed one of the most important aspects of home education. Each child is different and learns differently. What God means for them to excel in is likely the area in which they will find their life calling. And a report card can help to find their strengths.
Homeschool Report Cards Help Us Track Their Progress
Even if you are not required by law to create homeschool report cards, it can be a great way to keep an eye on the progress your child is, or isn't, making. However, you don’t have to give a lot of weight to the actual grades themselves. The information those grades give you is far more important, especially if 'mastery' is something you’re working towards each school year.
Collecting grades through a progress report is a good way to find out which subjects your child has a good grasp of, and which ones still need work. It can be incredibly satisfying for your child to see their progress recorded on paper or to give them a little encouragement if they are having trouble in some area. Taking the focus off the bad grade and taking a look at how well they’re doing in another area could be the very thing that helps give them that extra push for the harder subject (and give them motivation!).
Conventional Grading for Homeschool Report Cards
Your child's homeschool records will be especially important when they get to the high school level. Conventional, also known as traditional, grading is what most of us think of when we think about report cards, but more importantly, high school transcripts. It can look a little something like this:
- Science – A
- Math – C
- Reading – B+
- Social Studies – A-
It’s true that this is the most common report card style, especially in the early years, but you have to admit, it doesn’t say much about why that math score is a “C” or what might have brought the reading score down to a “B”.
Another form of convention grading looks like this:
- Science – 96
- Math – 71
- Reading – 89
- Social Studies – 92
Assigning grade numbers does leave some room for interpretation as well, however. For some homeschool students, a 95 to 100 is an “A”, whereas other families loosen the belt a little, allowing anything from a 90 and up to result in an “A”. Sometimes, homeschooling parents take their cues from the local public school, a homeschooling friend, or even a downloadable and editable template that already had the grading scale in place. Unless the law specifically states one way or another as correct, this is completely at your discretion.
Once you decide how to assign grades in your homeschool, you'll want to note that on the high school transcript, so be sure to keep good homeschool records throughout high school!
Narrative Grading for Homeschool Report Cards
This alternate form of grading is practically unheard of but serves an excellent purpose in many ways. For instance, it truly offers an in-depth look at what your child has both learned and struggled with for the duration of the grading period covered. It does take more time, but the results are, for many parents, well worth it.
In addition to listing an actual grade, the narrative grading report allows for entry of the actual details of each subject. This can help by encouraging moms who might be having a rough day, to see that their child has actually come farther than they thought. It provides a great way to celebrate all that’s been learned, accomplished, and dealt with, especially as you see true progress playing out in a difficult season.
To create the actual report, start by determining your categories. These are usually the specific subjects required by your local homeschooling law, such as math, science, history, etc. You can sometimes combine categories, as well, helping to keep information more readily available. For instance, you might combine spelling, writing, grammar, and reading under the blanket category of language arts. Or, if you teach both history and geography, you can often put them together as social studies.
If you utilize the Unschooling teaching method, this is the perfect grading style to use. It can also be useful for eclectic homeschooling families who might not adhere to a specific homeschool curriculum or teaching style. It makes it much easier to talk about what has been learned, and the progress made in those areas, rather than just a simple mark, score, or letter grade.
Report Card Templates for Homeschool Report Cards
Even the simplest Google search for a report card template will yield tons of results. There are various templates available with diverse means of recording grades. Some will have prefilled spaces for you to record grades, as well as a preset grading scale, while others will simply leave blanks for you to fill in subjects and come up with your own grading scale. Almost all of the online templates will be downloadable, editable, and printable.
There are plenty of options, so don’t feel overwhelmed. If you’re going to choose one of these types of grades templates, then give yourself plenty of time to search through the extensive results. If you feel rushed or feel like you have to choose one of the first results because it’s the “most popular”, you might actually miss the one that’s just perfect for you.
However, do not let the fact that we live in a deeply digital age make you feel as though you must use a template for your child’s report card. You can just as easily create one yourself with a simple pen and paper. Some people use 4 x 6 index cards, a sharpie marker, and a small filing box to keep them manageable and on-hand at all times. Or, and this is especially true and an easy-to-use method if you have a large family, use a traditional educator grade book. There's plenty of space for multiple homeschool students, as well as multiple subjects.
Grade Books for Homeschoolers
If you’ll also be keeping a grade book, in addition to individual report cards, again, your options are varied. If you’re using a prepackaged curriculum, grade books often come with the complete set. If not, there are plenty of templates, programs, and apps for digital recording, as noted above, that make it very easy to simply print out a report card.
On the other hand, traditionalists will prefer an actual paper grade book in which they can write to record grades with dates and other pertinent information. The good news is that all these methods work, so long as they are in line with specific local homeschooling laws.
Creating a homeschool report card is not nearly the daunting task that it appears to be at first. Even if you’re not sure what type of scale or plan is going to work best for your child, there’s still nothing to worry about. Just as with choosing a homeschool curriculum, you can always feel free to drop anything that isn’t working and pick up something that is different, which might work much better after all. Remember to tailor your homeschool to your child! It isn't a one-size-fits-all situation.
Remember that, as homeschoolers, we should never let the grading process rule us, or our children. If you aim for mastery, that’s great, but don’t let that overshadow the reason you started homeschooling in the first place. On the other hand, if you take an extremely relaxed approach to homeschooling, don’t let it be so relaxed that you aren’t paying attention to grades, i.e. student progress, at all. Both ends of the spectrum can be detrimental, for various reasons.