There’s a lot of laughter that happens when conversation among homeschoolers turns to grading. But underneath that laughter is probably a lot of parental discomfort too–how do you grade papers? Is there some easy way to do it? Isn’t it completely subjective? When do you stop letting them correct their papers? When you’re grading things like English, remember that the most important thing is that you are teaching your children to write. It’s okay to circle different problems on an essay for correction without putting a grade or a percentile or a number system on it at all. You don’t even have to know if a word is misspelled, or if your student used a word correctly. You can just circle the word in question and say, “Is this word correct?” or “Did you spell this word correctly?” In the same way you can circle any problems or sections that you don’t understand. My son loved economics, and he wrote about economics all the time, whereas I failed economics in school. When I was in college, I got a 0.7 my first time through economics, and so I frankly did not understand anything he said. When we graded his papers, my husband and I would circle any problems and say, “I don’t understand this. Could you please clarify?” The important point about writing is to learn to communicate clearly, so if your student can’t explain something clearly to a grown adult, then perhaps they should rewrite their essay. In our homeschool, we circled things that needed to be changed, and asked our children to correct them. Sometimes this went back and forth twice and occasionally three times, but we pretty much had them correct the papers. When they were all done, we said “Good job,” and gave them one hundred percent for their English paper. When they got to their honors class in college, that’s exactly how their college professors did it too. They circled the errors, allowed the correction, and then graded the final paper. Grading papers is kind of like making sausage. It’s a messy process, like learning how to write, and it doesn’t come out perfectly when you’re working on it. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to assign a grade during the process of making sausage; it’s better to wait until it’s fully cooked, and in the hotdog bun. Then you can go ahead and grade it. I often point people to the book 501 Writing Prompts for grading papers. It’s a free download from Learning Express, and it gives some really useful help for evaluating daily work. Along with those writing prompts, it shows what each kind of paper should look like. You can see what a perfect paper might look like, what a moderately good paper would look like, and what a rotten paper would look like.