Topic | Evaluating Daily Work – How's that going for you?

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  • Claire

    We’ve been discussing college and grading on here lately which lead me to start (or continue) thinking about how I evaluate my children’s daily work.  I wonder sometimes if I am too easy on them, and if so, how do I move away from that practice?  It might seem a little frightening to hear someone like me, who has been using CM now for almost seven years, asking such a question, but I think we all vacillate on the implementation of the CM methods along our journey and need to reach out and get feedback from others in the same boat.

    Upper middle school / high school only …

    • When a child turns in a written narration, or brings it to you for review, where do you start?
    • Do you have a checklist of sorts that you begin with, or do you do an overall reading first?
    • What’s on that checklist?
    • Is content more important than mechanics?
    • Is what’s said in grand discussion more important than oral narration?
    • What helped you set your standard or goals for your children’s responses?
    • When and how do you say “no way!” this isn’t going to cut it?

    Personally, I err on the side of content far more than mechanics and I’m sort of panicked (occasionally) by this but at the same time I’m not super great at cracking the whip and actually changing my response thus their work.  I enjoy our robust grand discussions and watching them think about whatever they’ve read far more than I enjoy dissecting their writing skills, grammar issues, etc.  If I read it and love the content, I’m likely to let a lot slide in terms of the “other” stuff because I can see they know the material and have original thoughts on it or back up their assertions well.  Believe me, I see the error in my ways too.

    Anyone else wondering about issues in evaluating daily work?

    Sonya, is there any guideline from SCM for high school regarding this and if not what a cool series of blog posts that would be!  How to tighten up evaluations in the later years of CM – for those who haven’t done such a great job and those who have.


    I agree, even with CM experience under the belt we can waffle back and forth a bit as our children move into new stages that we haven’t taught and so have not seen the fruit of yet! I’m much more comfortable in my CM elementary practices for my younger kids than I was for my older few. For example my 6th child is an almost 6 year old who is calling himself a kindergartener  and the majority of the time his school work is exploring through play and snuggling up for read alouds with mom. When my 10th grader was that age we were much more academically minded – pushing her into sit down work earlier than needed. And it backfired in the math arena by the end of 2nd grade.

    Now, on to your questions. For a written narration I hold her accountable for basic writing conventions (use punctuation, decent handwriting, spell what you know) but I don’t go over it with a fine tooth comb and pick it apart. I am more interested in the ideas, thoughts, and understanding.

    When I decide I want her to complete a writing assignment from rough draft to final product ready to share with others (which could be a written narration she has done) then I let her know that the piece will be going through the entire revision/edition process to polish up. She does one of these about every two weeks, but mostly it is in her writing program this year (The Power in Your Hands). That has its own rubrics so she knows what will be expected and graded.


    When a child turns in a written narration, or brings it to you for review, where do you start?Do you have a checklist of sorts that you begin with, or do you do an overall reading first?What’s on that checklist?Is content more important than mechanics?Is what’s said in grand discussion more important than oral narration?What helped you set your standard or goals for your children’s responses?When and how do you say “no way!” this isn’t going to cut it?

    My daughter types her writing assignments. I sit down with her and we go over each assignment and correct it together. When we first started this, years ago, I would always repeat the main errors we needed to look for. Over time, the list grew shorter as she made less and less mistakes. Now, I have her check her work for those things before calling me to check it with her. Sometimes, there is nothing to correct. Usually there are 2-3 things that need correction or where I challenge her to find a better way to word something.

    Our checklist is simply, check for run on sentences, proper punctuation, capitalization, and try not to use the word “but”. Those are the issues she has struggled with in the past. At this point, her punctuation and capitalization are good, she just needs to continue to work mostly on run on sentences and finding better ways to word things.

    I believe content to be more important than mechanics because a good writer can be a good writer and still have poor mechanical writing skills as long as he has a good editor. 🙂

    That said, we always correct both, mechanics and content. I mostly focus on encouragement and try to keep corrections to a minimum but I don’t compromise on basic writing mechanics at this age. She needs to correct her work. I do try to keep my suggestions on better wording down to a minimum so as not to overwhelm her with correction.

    I’ve rarely had to tell her that her writing isn’t going to cut it. Writing comes natural to her so her assignments usually just need a smidge of polishing.

    I’m more focused on encouragement. I want my children to feel good about writing so I try to sandwich criticism with praise and keep things on a positive note.

    After reading various college level papers, I feel confident that my daughter will be able to hold her own when the time comes.

    Sonya Shafer

    Sonya, is there any guideline from SCM for high school regarding this

    Hi, Claire. I’ve found that the easiest way to be objective in evaluating my students’ written narrations is to use a rubric. We give a few example rubrics in the Your Questions Answered: Narration book, and we are writing them into the Using Language Well series in more detail. You might download one of the teacher books in that series and take a look at how we are suggesting the rubric be used.

    You could use a rubric to identify one or two points that need to be improved and focus on those with your student until you see consistent progress, then focus on a different point or two. You can also determine which aspects are given a heavier weight in the point system; for example, accuracy of content, mechanics, style, following the instructions, etc.

    As the teacher, you can use the point system to make sure your evaluation is not changeable depending on your mood or the topic. And you can have a concrete score record from which to determine a grade.

    I like giving the student his own copy of the rubric, but without the point values. That way he can see what is expected of him — be reminded of what he has learned through the years — and identify what he needs to work on, but not get caught up in the score for motivation.


    A few years ago, attending a central NY community college info. seminar, I learned that homeschool children were rated heavily on the entrance writing, reading and algebra exams and not as much with their high school grades. They need to satisfy all the HS requirements shown on a transcript, but grading for homeschoolers varies based on the grading methodology. So since I learned that, I have submitted all my children’s quarterly reports with satisfactory and unsatisfactory for grades. Also, it should be noted I’ve never reported an Unsatisfactory. It would have to be explained in depth what the retraining would have to be.

    Not giving grades is so freeing, especially with scm method. My time isn’t taken up with grading, I have so much more time to read more living books.

    Before anyone just jumps into this philosophy check with your school district and with possible college choices. Martha

    P.S. our family just finished with the science read aloud, A Black Bear’s Story by Emil Liers from our town library. Great author, keep your eyes opened for him at sales.


    Thanks for the feed back Sonya.  It would be so cool if “tools” could be purchased independently of the instructive books for us old timers.  Not that we don’t need the books, but it would be nice to pop on and grab a nifty bookmark or two with a writing rubric on it or a similar type tool.

    @Tristan, I liked your ideas on preparing the student for the written piece in which everything will be evaluated versus taking a narration randomly for that type of scrutiny.

    @MommaMartha, that sounds wild!  No grades on a high school transcript?  How is a GPA determined?  The GPA requirements are pretty standard for all the college applications I’ve seen thus far – aren’t they?




    This was a great thread! Thank you!

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