Should You Grade Your Child's School Work?


Charlotte Mason said that if we should not grade our children, but if we had to give them a grade, then it should be for conduct not cleverness.

Some things come easier for some children than others; not every child knows how to get an “A” on a math exam. Some children have to work harder than others.

Sometimes there is a significant difference in the ages of children in the same classroom, so expecting them to do the same level work is unreasonable.

As Charlotte Mason pointed out, to grade one child above another when they have both tried equally hard is unjust. Maybe the child with the lower grade tried even harder!  

When a child tries so hard, but he's punished with a low grade, he may not try as hard next time. Motivation is what propels a child to apply effort, and when you grade unfairly, you rob him of his motivation too.

There's no reason to grade a child, especially if you're homeschooling. Sometimes you may want to test your child for math or spelling or grammar to make sure he understands the material, but that's all. You do need to find out if he needs more practice, but you don't need to grade him.

Grading is for the classroom; it's not for the homeschool room.

Marks of any sort, even for conduct, distract the attention of children from their proper work, which is in itself interesting enough to secure good behavior as well as attention.
— Charlotte Mason

The bell curve is designed for classroom use. It is used to determine where each student ranks with the rest of the class. That's why we have a bell curve. It only shows us how one child compares to another child.

Each child has a unique mind that is developing at its own rate. His mind understands things in its own time, and therefore, to compare a child's ability to those of his peers defies common sense. 

Would we punish a baby for walking later than another baby of the same age? No, it would be considered a cruel act if we did, because a child can only walk when he is ready to walk and not a minute sooner.

But, when it comes to testing a six-year-old child for his academic abilities, we see no harm in punishing the child in the form of low grades. And he's not even fully developed and ready for academic learning yet. He's a loser before he even makes it to the starting line.

Grades do affect a child's level of self-confidence; and how he views his ability to learn. Therefore, the low grades, if they continue, may eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What if our otherwise perfectly intelligent but young child gets one of the worst scores in his reading class? 

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Studies such as Double Jeopardy by Donald J. Hernandez, show that poor reading in the early grades is a prime indicator for the likelihood of the child becoming a high school drop-out.

However, science has proven what common sense has always known: that children develop at their own pace and not according to an arbitrary schedule set by educational bureaucrats. For some children learning to read will happen sooner. But for other children it will happen later according to the ripening of their minds.

Some children may be able to ace the reading test, but some won't. 

Many children will give up when they are discouraged. We have the statistics to prove this is what is happening to a significant number of our children today. 

I was teaching English grammar to a young boy once. I was explaining a new concept to him, but he was having difficulty grasping it. What struck me then is that this boy was brilliant. He has one of the quickest, sharpest minds I've encountered, and I would have expected him to find the lesson easy, but he didn't.

In his case, with a little more time, he was able to understand it. I found myself wondering about the thousands of intelligent children who have been doomed by low grades for failing to learn something.

According to what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers: The Story of Success, many students that do poorly in school may do poorly because of their birth date. 

They happened to be born in the second half of the year, which would put them amongst the youngest children in their class. In other words, it's not their fault; they're just too young!

We make rules that frustrate achievement. We prematurely write off people as failure.
— Malcolm Gladwell

The surest road to academic success, then, would be to establish schools that will allow our children to learn at their own pace or to homeschool our children where this happens naturally.

Please join the Smart Homeschooler Academy waiting list to be notified when enrollment opens again for its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home.

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, “Love and Leadership” parenting coach certificate, plus 17+ years working in education to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college.