Attendance, Records, & Grades ... Oh my!
As many different homeschooling families that there are, there are that many different opinions about what is best when it comes to things like lesson planning, record keeping, grading, and curriculum pacing. What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for all homeschool families. That’s the beauty of homeschooling! We try different things and we stick with what works best for us.
Please, always know that as I’m sharing what works for us, I am not speaking from a place of perfection, or with a voice of authority. My heart is for you and your family. I only want to share my experiences as an encouragement and at the same time empower you to find the best fit for your family. Also, please always become familiar with what records your state and school district require you to keep and if there is a process for submitting those items.
Long story short - I keep an attendance record, store the highest quality work, and workbooks for each child, and I certainly don’t keep a grade book anymore. You can read on for more details.
In the state that I live in, homeschools are required to keep attendance records. At the beginning of each year, I print this page out and track all of the days that we are actively learning (spoiler alert: It’s all of the days!). It’s not cute but it’s a super easy form that I just fill out throughout the year and file away at the end.
Keeping Record of Student Work
When we start homeschooling through the High School years, I’m sure there will be transcripts, hours, and credits to learn about and keep track of. I’m going to enjoy the simplicity of the elementary years, and I have a very simple system for keeping records of their work. Once we have finished a unit, I take all of the pages out of their binder and put them into one of these 3-prong folders, then file them into the crate for the current school year. At the end of each year, I move the Attendance Record, my planning sheets, all of the folders from “this year’s crate” and place them into a plastic storage tote. You can see the pictures below.
I know it’s simple but it works for me and I do my best to not overcomplicate things that don’t matter as much.
Grading Papers & Keeping a Grade Book
When I started homeschooling, Bubba was halfway through his 1st grade year of school. We were both used to a public school setting so, naturally, I started out with spreadsheets for grade books and a rapidly growing pile of papers to grade. Sure I only had one student, but I also had a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old I was keeping alive.
This was one of the (many) ways that we almost killed homeschool when we first started out. I was behind, overwhelmed, and frustrated and he wasn’t getting immediate (or any) feedback on his assignments because I was so backed up on grading. Not to mention, I realized very quickly that he and I were both putting too much emphasis on the final grade and not enough on the process of learning and assessing as he worked.
Spelling tests, math fact “blasters”, and memorization exercises are still easily “graded” as soon as I give them. Writing projects, art projects, reading comprehension activities, and any other learning assignments, we talk about as we go or when he shows me the finished product. We discuss together the quality of the work, sometimes I’ll point out any mistakes and give the opportunity to correct them, and sometimes I just let him decide if the quality of the work is something that he’s proud of. Since we started doing things this way, he takes more ownership of the quality of his work. He knows that I keep his big assignments filed away in that fancy plastic tub, and he wants to be proud of his work. The pride that he takes in his finished work OR the regret he feels when he sees a past assignment that he knows wasn’t his best work, is much more effective than any number I could mark on a page in red pen.
*I have to share this little hack for grading papers before we move on. I read this somewhere early on in my homeschooling journey and I wish I had thought of it when I was in the classroom! Circle the answers that your child got right, leave the ones that need to be corrected unmarked. When I’m checking Bubba’s multiplication drills for example, I circle the answers that he got correct! Then at the top, I record the number that he got RIGHT! It’s naturally a lot easier to celebrate the successes instead of being discouraged by the failures. It also makes it easier for him to erase and correct the answers that he got wrong before we move on. I do the same thing with spelling and memorization drills.
One more thought ...
As a student, it meant a lot to me that my teachers appreciated my work.
I lived for the reward of a good grade and an encouraging note on my paper as it was passed back to me.
But what about when my work wasn’t appreciated by my teachers? Or what about the tests that I completely failed.
I was crushed.
From a very young age, I was a “people pleaser” and my son has that inclination as well. I’m certainly not the homeschool mama that doesn’t let her students fail. I tend to be more critical than I should be most of the time. But I’m thankful for these opportunities to have conversations with my kids about what God’s unconditional love has given us freedom for.
We are free to do our best work and in this season of life, God has called them to be excellent students. We talk about how important it is that we prepare well, execute with our best efforts, and pursue excellence in all that we do, but we are not defined by a finished product. When we can look back at what we have accomplished with pride, we praise God for great success and when we need to scratch everything and start all over, we praise God for His love and grace that doesn’t depend on our performance.