Grades and Transcripts: Homeschooling through High School the CM Way, part 3

When facing the high school years, one foundational tenet, especially, of the Charlotte Mason Method seems to befuddle parents: no grades. How can our child graduate without a grade point average? we wonder. Don’t colleges look at grades when considering a student for acceptance? Can we issue a diploma without grades or a transcript?

While it is true that students in Charlotte Mason’s school did not receive grades, it is also true that much of the educational system that faces us after the home school years puts a premium on grades. What is a CM mom to do?

Tips on Grades and Transcripts

Here are some tips, ideas, and reassurances from one mom’s experience with graduating a high school student the CM way.

  • Check for graduation requirements.

    Different states and provinces have different requirements for graduating a student from a home school program. Be sure to check for any legal requirements your student must meet in order to graduate in your state or province. Those requirements will affect what subjects or courses you must include in the high school years, and, thus, which courses need to be included in the transcript you create.

  • Check college entrance requirements, if desired.

    If your student plans on taking college-level courses after graduation, check for any entrance requirements at the college(s) being considered. Those requirements will also need to be included in your high school years’ studies and on your transcript.

  • Plan your studies.

    Once you have done your research about graduation requirements and college-entrance requirements (if desired), you can plan what subjects and courses of study you will want to cover during the high school years. Which subjects or topics you assign might vary, but keep in mind that you can teach any subject using a Charlotte Mason approach.

    Remember that Charlotte incorporated an occasional textbook in the older grades in order to delve more in-depth into a particular subject. If you want to bring in a textbook, look for one that uses a conversational tone whenever possible.

  • Assign grades.

    You do not need to use workbooks, worksheets, or direct questions in order to assign grades. You can assign a grade based on how well you think the student has covered/grasped the material. You can tell if your student understands the material and is doing his best, and you can determine a letter grade based on that assessment.

  • Keep grades secondary or invisible.

    When I assigned a grade, I kept that grade in a file on my computer. I didn’t show it to my student. We talked about areas in which she could improve and planned some steps to help her improve when needed, but she didn’t see any grades.

    Charlotte’s concern with grades was that they could be used for motivational purposes, thus completely moving the focus away from a love of learning to just doing enough to get by. When that focus shifts, we hear things like “Is this going to be on the test?” The goal is no longer learning for learning’s sake; the goal becomes doing only what is required to earn the reward. So assign grades when necessary, but make sure they do not become the child’s goal in his school work.

  • Figure credit hours.

    Credit hours can be calculated based on the time involved or on the completion of a course of study. Inge Cannon’s Web site and materials spell out the details for figuring credit hours. See the Great Transcript Resource section below.

  • Create a transcript.

    Use your high school course plan, grades, and credit hours to create a transcript regardless of whether your student is heading for college right now. It’s not that hard, and it’s a good thing to have a summary of your child’s high school studies. You can find some transcript samples on Covenant College’s site. None of my children have attended that college, but I found the information that they provide helpful.

  • Issue a diploma.

    I found some beautiful diplomas at Homeschool Diploma. I especially appreciate their giving the options of adding Bible verses or wording that emphasizes character development as well as academics. As always, check your state’s or province’s laws concerning issuing a diploma to your high school graduate.

  • Gather more ideas.

    As I mentioned at the start, these are just some ideas from one mom. You can read about other moms’ experiences on our SCM Discussion Forum. For example, in this discussion on High School Credits, one experienced mom didn’t worry about credits and instead elected to explain how her school worked on a “mastery” philosophy.

Those of you who have graduated a student using the CM Method, what tips do you have for keeping grades and creating a transcript? Have you done anything special for issuing a diploma? Leave a comment and share your experiences. Many fellow CMers will appreciate it!

Great Transcript Resource

I feel like Inge Cannon is my trusted mediator who smoothes the way between my non-traditional philosophy of education (Charlotte Mason method) and the traditional system’s expectations when it comes to high school transcripts. She has drawn upon her many years of experience within the traditional system to explain how we can keep our selected methods but communicate clearly in the system’s language.

In her Transcript Boot Camp Seminar on DVD Inge does a great job of explaining what a transcript is, what you need to evaluate and how to communicate your evaluations in an “acceptable” manner, how to calculate credits, what needs to be on a transcript, and more. She reassures parents that her approach “does not intimidate parents into making their programs match public or private school scope and sequence in order to be ‘acceptable.’ We encourage home educators to be who they are, maintain their well thought-out philosophy of education, and communicate what they are doing in language the system understands.”

I have used Inge’s tips and counsel for creating my graduating students’ transcripts. Her ideas have relieved so much stress and have worked wonderfully. In addition, I love her emphasis on using the teen-age years to work on character training and mentoring. You can learn more about the Transcript Boot Camp Seminar on DVD by visiting Inge’s Web site, Homeschool Transcripts.


  1. My son is finishing up his sophomore year and, by far, the best way I’ve found to handle the ‘grade’ issue has been to use rubrics. They are nothing more than a listing of attainments set in a grid format with columns of 1-4 points across the top. Any google search of rubrics will bring up plenty to look at in order to see what I’m talking about.
    I have a couple that I use exclusively with my son’s written narrations and essays. The attainments are things like neatness, sentence structure, word choice, etc… The numbers across the top correspond to how well he did for that particular attainment: 1=poor and 4=well done. So in a typical essay, he’ll have 6 different attainments he’ll strive to make a 4 in, which will give him a 100%. This puts the focus on his quality of work rather than a percentage of answers correct. It feels like middle ground for me; he has some grades on his transcript and we have some classic low-key CM studies.

    • Jessica,

      Could you share the rubrics you use for this? Is there a link, or is it something you created on your own?

      Thanks and blessings,
      Pamela F. in VA

      • Some of the rubrics I created on my own. Others I have found by searching the internet. There are so many out there, that I quit trying to make my own and just adapted to what I could find. Sometimes, I’d combine a couple of rubrics. This website is one of my favorites that I refer to over and over again for writing assignments:

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