Grading is a controversial subject.  This is true in homeschool, public school, and even in colleges.  When discussing grades, there could be and are, many books on the subject.  The trend in some schools (K-12) is to not use letter grades.  This can also be seen now amongst homeschoolers.  Colleges may argue over grade inflation.


Some have said that grades were invented in America, based on the grading-scale of products in factories.  But, examinations of students goes far back in history.  In 413 BC, Athenian soldiers were thrown into quarries.  They, supposedly, were able to be freed, if they could recite verses of Euripedes. (Kelly, 1927).  All through history, students have had exams to prove they had learned.  Whether students were given oral exams or written, accountability for learning has always been important.

Without grades, there is little motivation for students to learn and excel in a subject.  When homeschooling, you don’t have the problem of your child feeling compared to their peers.  They’re only graded on how well they know the subject.  On some subjects, it’s easy to offer a variety of testing methods.  Students like this, and it can be more challenging and fun.  Why do 5 fill-in-the-blank quizzes?  I prefer to use essays, book reports, oral narration, matching, speed-tests, etc…

Children may not care about grades at an early age, and I wouldn’t promote an emphasis on grades then.  By junior high and high school, students should be good at test-taking because they will use these skills in college.  A child should want to do their best and grades help to promote diligence.  These traits need to be developed to prepare them for becoming an adult.  Employers don’t expect their workers to try over and over to complete a task.  Testing and grading teaches children that they must learn things that they find boring.  Life isn’t going to give them only fun and interesting things to do.  Learning to be accountable, diligent and a hard-worker are life skills that should start early.


As adults spend much of their time doing things that aren’t “fun”, it would be unfair to let children think that their life should always be centered on their feelings and self-worth.  Because life isn’t fair, we as parents would do our children a disservice to make things too easy for them.  That doesn’t mean your homeschool needs to be run like a school classroom.  There are so many curriculum methods to choose from, and even these can be customized for your children.

Laws for homeschooling vary from state to state.  But, by the time students are in high school, careful records and grades need to be posted.  College classes may have only a few grades to show the student’s knowledge in the class.  High-importance of grades in college shouldn’t be a shock to a homeschool graduate.  Testing doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking thing for children.  It’s important that homeschool moms keep a positive and upbeat attitude about testing.

Homeschool moms may want to shield their children from the stress of grades.  Very young children don’t need to even know about grades, but they can be introduced gradually over the years.  Some homeschooling methods have a built-in emphasis on grades.  Big-box curriculum (A Beka, BJU, etc) have quizzes and tests built-in to the program.  The amount of quizzes can be overwhelming for young children.  But, because homeschooling is so flexible, moms can substitute some quizzes with an oral discussion or another creative idea.  Homeschool moms should use the curriculum to work for their unique family and circumstances.  Customizing any curriculum to fit your needs, is easy to do.

Let children make a movie about their study topic, in place of a quiz.

So, whether you are using Charlotte Mason or Classical methods, accountability is extremely important.  Grades are a huge part of learning and life.


Cureton, L.W.The history of grading practices, National Council on Measurement in Education, 1971, Vol 2, No.4

@2017, copyright Lisa Ehrman

Homeschool: To Grade, Or Not To Grade

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