Charlotte Mason Method and Grades

Van Gogh, Fishing in the Spring (Wikimedia Commons)

Question from reader:
What about when you need to set up grades for a transcript? There, say for history in 9th grade, the student writes several essays on the topics, makes a timeline project, gives a speech on a book he’s read. That is the output you have for a history class that they (independently?) are learning from. But, for college, they need a letter grade. What criteria have you come up with to evaluate their output and give them a grade?

I’ve read several articles and threads (at Sonlight) about this and many people set up their own criteria for assigning grades. How do you do this when there aren’t percentages from tests taken?

It seems that we have to/are trying to fit together two different systems (CM) and the traditional system to when we have to give grades. But that is the reality of it, and I wonder how you have decided on what to grade with subjects that are more relative.

My reply:
I don’t think I have talked about grades on my blog before. Just for the record, I hate grades.

We have weekly work that is assigned and I give them a grading rubric. I use rubrics for writing, history, literature, robotics, art skills, and geography. The rubric will show the assignments and then how many points are assigned to each activity. (See the end of this post for links on what a rubric is and how to make one.)

For many of the Charlotte Mason sorts of activities that I blend into their other subjects, the assignments are part of the grading rubrics for that particular subject. For instance, their nature journals are part of their science assignments each week. Their Shakespeare and poetry assignments are included on their literature rubrics. Their artist and composer study assignments are part of their fine arts rubric. I think you get the idea.

Another example might be history. The rubric covers things like maps, notebook pages, commonplace book, timelines, biographies to read, speeches read, etc. I assign them their weekly work and then on Fridays we meet together in the morning and go over that week’s work. I use Homeschool Tracker so I just plug in their scores each Friday from their weekly work and then at the end of the term it generates a grade for me after I plug in their Term Exam results.

For subjects like science, spanish, auto shop, and math where we are using the chapter tests during the term as part of their grade that is easy to score and record. Then when I assign an exam question at the end of the term, it is only part of the grade. There again, the boys know in advance what is expected and it is more of a pass/fail situation.

Grades don’t mean that much to my boys. They like the written evaluations I give them with personal comments on their Term Exams. I take a few minutes and write out where I saw improvement during the term and what I think they can work on for the next term. It is very informal and I try to find something positive to say to encourage them in their schoolwork.

I also keep track on Homeschool Tracker of any additional activities for their transcripts. I record things like volunteer work, projects they complete like RC airplanes and special Lego projects, extra PE items like snowboarding and snorkeling, and field trips we have taken. These are the things that make our transcripts unique and special.

Our goals may be different than yours for your children. We are not looking for our children to go to upper end universities or colleges. My older two have used the local community college for their first two years and then moved on from there. It was a great choice for our family since it allowed them to live at home and still stay under our watchful eye. They were both happy with their experiences at college. I am assuming my younger two will do the same route. This means we don’t worry too much about grades and transcripts. All of them will take the SAT as a way to document just where they are overall in comparison to other public school children.

Hope that helps. I know on the HEO (House of Education Online) Yahoo Group there is a file that has some sample transcripts from AO kids. I found them to be quite interesting. You might take a look.

Additional information:
Helpful links on rubrics:
Creating and Using Rubrics
Rubrics Generator -you can use this to get some ideas for your own rubrics
Example of a university grading rubric for a term paper

My grading rubrics are sometimes very simple but they give my boys a clear and defined assignment. I found out a long time ago that they like things spelled out ahead of time and that way there are no surprises. This takes a little effort up front from me but it is worth it at grading time. I recycle rubrics from week to week as well so once the system is set up I can print out a previous rubric and have them fill in the current assignment at the top.

I highly recommend using Homeschool Tracker or something similar to make keeping track of grades and activities easier over the four years of high school.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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