Last week we highlighted the four schooling methods that Charlotte Mason said to avoid. One of those methods is the practice of giving grades.

We’ve received several inquiries from our readers with great questions about how avoiding grades would look practically. So let’s take a few minutes to discuss the how-to’s.

Q: If we don’t assign letter or number grades, how do we evaluate end-of-term exams for depth of mastery?

A: You’re right, you should evaluate end-of-term exams (and even immediate narrations) for depth of mastery. Now, keep in mind, that when I say evaluate, I don’t mean that you have to necessarily use a letter-grade system.

We evaluate things all the time in life without using letter grades. We evaluate new recipes and determine whether they are keepers. We evaluate books and discern whether they live up to Charlotte’s standards.

And we can do the same with our children’s narrations. You will know how well they are forming relations when you hear or read what they have to say. Don’t limit your evaluation to a single letter grade.

Q: Aren’t grades necessary for high school academic records?

A: Yes, grades are required for high school transcripts. And some states may require grades as part of their local laws. In such a case, you can assign a letter grade to a student’s work, but don’t tell the student.

Charlotte’s main concern was that the student’s attention would become focused on the grades rather than the knowledge. If your student doesn’t know about his or her grade, the focus should stay where it belongs—on the knowledge itself.

“Children come into the world with a few inherent desires, the desire for power, for praise, for wealth, for distinction, for society and for knowledge. Education which appeals to the desire for wealth (marks, prizes, scholarships or the like) or the desire of excelling (as in the taking of places, etc.), or to any other of the natural desires, except for knowledge, destroys the balance of character, and, what is even more fatal, destroys by inanition that desire for and delight in knowledge which is meant for our joy and enrichment through the whole of life” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 246).

You might also find helpful this discussion about evaluations on the SCM Forum.