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Whether or not you should create a homeschool report card is a very personal decision. Many parents have excellent reasons for being wary of report cards, after all. Some parents have negative memories about report cards from their own childhoods. Maybe report card time made them feel “dumb,” and they don’t want their own child to experience that. Some parents don’t want their kid to base their self-worth on grades. Some don’t think learning is even quantifiable.
However, feedback is essential to growth. Not only that, but formal, written feedback is both powerful and easier to track than oral feedback. Here are some tips for creating a homeschool report card that honors your family’s values while still providing meaningful feedback for your child.
Write Goals Before You Grade
Before you can decide how you want to report on your child’s progress, you need to decide what progress you hope they’ll make. Setting goals ensures your child has tangible expectations, a source of motivation, and can feel a sense of achievement (after reaching it).
If you live in a state that has specific learning targets for homeschoolers or requires certain material mastered for standardized tests, use those benchmarks. Likewise, if you’ve chosen a specific curriculum that outlines target growth by the end of the year, it might be easiest to go with their suggestions. Otherwise, you have a lot of freedom!
You know your child, their strengths and weaknesses, and any extenuating circumstances for them or your family this year. Using that information, you can determine how much growth in a certain period is appropriate.
Whatever you decide, be careful about moving the goalposts too much throughout the year. Kids benefit from high expectations, and often aren’t well-served by bars that only get lower and lower. On the other hand, there’s a time and place for understanding and modification, especially if expectations were unrealistic to begin with. Aim your goals land somewhere between the two extremes. To help you keep track of all your goals throughout the year, I strongly suggest you write everything down in a portfolio like this one to keep you accountable!
What Options do I have for a Homeschool Report Card?
This is the grading scale most of us parents grew up with. For every subject, you get a letter grade from A-F or else a numerical grade from 100-0. Often, the numbers come from averaging numeric scores on tests, assignments, and projects, and the letters correlate to a certain numeric range.
This could also be called a ‘standards-based’ homeschool report card, as the concept comes from the standards-based movement. Its hallmark is a four level grading system, often shown as
- Exceeds Expectations (4)
- Meets Expectations (3)
- Partially Meets Expectations (2)
- Does Not Meet Expectations (1)
For use in your own homeschool, you can adopt the above language or use your own code or words, like “outstanding,” “satisfactory,” “needs improvement,” etc. Heck, the grading system at Hogwarts is somewhat reminiscent of this method!
This is a great reporting method for those who expect they’ll return to public school, want an easy-to-read format, or like the focus on subject mastery. The downside is that a four level system doesn’t give much room for nuance or complexity in reporting.
This method focuses on giving an in-depth snapshot of a child’s progress. Instead of reducing all of a child’s work in a given period to a letter or number, this allows the homeschool report card to paint a full picture of the child. Here, each subject or unit has a written paragraph detailing the child’s successes, places for improvement, and any other remarkable notes.
The strength of this method is that parents can get very detailed and specific when giving feedback. Its weakness lies in its lack of quantifiable data. It’s easy to scan a document and see an “A” is better than an “F,” at least in the eyes of school administrators and college admissions counselors. If your child’s actual grades aren’t beholden to any higher authority or data-driven professional, this can be an excellent, useful homeschool report card format.
If this is your preferred method of reporting, and especially if you live in a state where this is sufficient for record-keeping, check this out. We’ve got a complete, personalized, printable portfolio bundle with a section just for these kinds of notes! Even if you don’t plan on using a comments-only homeschool report card, you should still check it out for goal-setting purposes. Also, do you ever feel organized enough? (I know I don’t.)
Soft Skill Section
One of the main reasons for the standards-based education movement is to remove things like tardiness, neatness, and classroom behavior from the grading system, and focus instead only on content learned. While there are benefits to this mindset, it often left holes in how students received (or more often, didn’t receive) feedback on their ‘soft skills.’ This can be detrimental, because many soft skills are often highly predictive of future success. If a child is emotionally mature, respectful, or can manage their time, they’re likely to be well-adjusted and successful adults.
If you’d like to keep academic learning and soft skills separate on your homeschool’s report card, but want to give your child feedback on both, you can! Just add a section and comment or rate your child on how respectful they are, how hard they work, or any other soft skills you’d like to encourage them to work on.
If you’re still on the fence about creating a homeschool report card, find an experienced homeschooler in your area and chat with them about your concerns. No matter what problem you’re facing, someone else has likely faced the same problem and come up with one (or five!) solutions. Learn from them!
And if there’s one thing every vetran homeschool mom knows, it’s that you need to stay organized! Don’t forget to check out our homeschool planner and portfolio combo pack to help keep you focused on your child’s goals and (hopefully!) track their progress.
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.