Should you use grades and tests in your homeschool?

Should you use grades and tests in your homeschool?

student taking test
student taking test

The Power of a Gold Star

Back in the early days of our homeschool experience, I bought a sheet of shiny star stickers.

Whenever my sons solved all their math problems correctly, I’d peel a star from the sheet, stick it on the top of the page, and watch their little faces light up.

As my sons grew older, we thoughtfully considered the best way to inspire them to do excellent work.

Let’s Talk About Grade & Tests

To grade or not to grade?

That is a question only you can answer.

Although it can be helpful to learn what works well for others, no one knows your children like you do.

You know best what your children need.

  • Do your kids need the kind of feedback that grades provide?
  • Do you need to grade their work in order to assess their progress?
  • Or do you already know how well they are learning and have alternative ways to provide feedback and motivation?

As I explain a bit about how we handled grades and testing in our homeschool, keep in mind that your family’s needs may be entirely different.

What Worked for Us

Bible: We started each day with Bible reading and prayer. Of course, we didn’t grade our prayer and study time. However, when we incorporated Scripture memory into our studies, we made good use of recitation tests.

We used Philippians in 28 Weeks. My sons recited verses from memory while I checked their accuracy against a print copy.

Math: We consistently graded math assignments. However, after several years of grading my sons’ work for them, I realized it made more sense for them to grade their work (they had proven themselves trustworthy).

Grading helped them identify any errors in their understanding and allowed them to immediately rework problems until they grasped the solutions.

Science: When we studied biology, we used the CLEP test (College Level Examination Program) as our final exam.

Upon passing the Biology CLEP test, my sons earned six college credit hours to subsequently transfer into the university where they will earn their degrees.

Writing: We didn’t assign formal grades for writing. Instead, we worked through multiple drafts of major writing projects.

My sons were required to write, edit, and polish until the drafts they produced satisfied my requirements.

(I later formalized those requirements into the 7 Writing Checklists featured in Philosophy Adventure).

Speech and Debate: No grades or tests were needed for their speech and debate work. Tournament competitions and judges provided all the feedback my sons needed.

Speaking of Competitions…

Contests and competitions are a great way to add excitement to your homeschool and provide feedback on students’ work.

They can inspire students to work diligently, acquire new skills, and build character as they deal with the inevitable emotional highs and lows that accompany competition.

They also provide opportunities to refine social skills as students interact with judges and fellow competitors.

Be on the lookout for contests or competitions tailored to your students’ unique talents. Here are a few possibilities to get you started:

Don’t Undermine Your Educational Goals.

There is something surprisingly satisfying about receiving a gold star.

Perhaps it’s the recognition of a job well done.

When my sons were little, we had fun with gold stars. But I recognized that, if used improperly, grades and tests could undermine our educational goals.

It's easy to fall into the trap of memorizing information for the purpose of regurgitating correct answers on tests (rather than working to actually understand material).

We intentionally designed our home education with an emphasis on critical thinking and gaining a true understanding of the subjects we studied.

It’s your call.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your children’s education.

And you, alone, are best equipped to decide how to use grades and testing in your homeschool.

Exercise your freedom and authority. Custom design an education experience that will uniquely inspire your children to become lifelong learners and lovers of wisdom!

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