What the heck do you do with your kids’ work when there’s no clear right or wrong answer?
How on earth do you evaluate it?
During the homeschool year, you’ll find that some subjects or types of assignments are easy to evaluate. They’re easy to grade.
You know exactly where your kids are. You know where they should be within minutes of completing the assignment.
Take math problems, for example. Math problems are often process oriented. Your child either gets the answer right, or they get it wrong. If it’s wrong, you go over their work with them to find their mistake in the problem-solving process.
Did they not line up their decimals when doing addition? Did they mix up their order of operations and forget to solve the part that’s in parentheses first?
Assignments that check for factual knowledge are also easy to evaluate. Again, it’s either right or wrong. What year was the Declaration of Independence signed? Did they memorize the periodic table? Have they learned the definitions of their Spanish vocabulary list?
But other subjects aren’t so easy to evaluate. Take writing for example.
Writing is a skill. It’s hard to evaluate a skill objectively.
How good does writing need to be to be good? How bad is bad? What’s good and what’s bad? You could make your head spin trying to figure that out.
Who has the time anyway? You’re a hard-working, spread-too-thin homeschooling mom trying to homeschool your kids. You’re not a philosopher who has all day to ponder and discuss the right and wrong of things with your peers.
But as a homeschooling mom, you need to know how well your kids are doing in all their subjects. That’s the only way you’ll know where they need help and where their strengths are.
And you take every opportunity to celebrate your kids’ strengths and their wins.
That’s where rubrics come in. A simple rubric will help you evaluate your kids work in those hard to evaluate subjects.
What’s A Rubric? What’s A Rubric Supposed To Do?
A rubric is a scoring tool. Its purpose is to offer an objective evaluation of kids’ work in those hard-to-evaluate subjects like writing.
A rubric can look like a checklist or a chart that lists criteria for success. It should tell your kids what to put in an assignment or a project in order for them to receive a certain score or grade.
Your kids get their rubric when the project or assignment is first explained. They use the rubric as a guide to evaluate their own work before they turn it in. Then, you use the same rubric to evaluate their work.
A clear, specific rubric written in simple language is a wonderful guide for your kids to follow. A vague rubric isn’t helpful.
How Do You Fix a Vague Rubric?
To tell the truth, a lot of rubrics are vague to some degree.
The rubric sounds clear when you first read over it and the assignment directions with your kids. They sit down to start working on their assignment. They read over the rubric again. Then they turn back to you and tell you that they don’t know what to do. You get a little annoyed, and sit down to read the rubric again.
And you realize that you don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to do either!
So what do you do?
Add specifics to the rubric. Reword it! If you’re using a prepared homeschool curriculum and a rubric is falling short, take a few minutes to revise it.
For example, a writing assignment may tell your kids to write a paragraph. But they may not know how much to include in a paragraph, or how long it should be.
Here are a few examples of simple adjustments you can add to improve a vague rubric:
-The paragraph gives at least three examples, facts, or pieces of true information that support your topic sentence.
-The paragraph has at least three quotes from the story that support your topic sentence.
-The paragraph must be 100 words long.
If you feel your kids need more confidence building, keep the rubric simple. If you feel they’re ready to stretch out of their comfort zone, make the rubric more difficult.
Whatever you do, always go over the rubric with your kids and adjust the criteria together.
Kids have lots of interesting insights!
How Do You Write a Rubric From Scratch?
If you’re homeschooling in a style that doesn’t have a prepared curriculum, you need some way to evaluate their writing. Also, some prepared homeschool curricula may not have rubrics at all.
To write a rubric from scratch, first, go back and visit your mastery learning goals. Those are the learning objectives I told you about in my last post. They tell you and your kids what they should know and be able to do at the end of a lesson. They also describe how your kids will demonstrate that learning.
Develop your rubric from your learning objectives or mastery objectives. If you’re writing one of these every day or every week, keep it as simple as possible.
When you’re evaluating your kids writing, pick two or three areas to focus on at a time. As your kids’ writing skill develops, add more.
Structure: Does the writing have a topic sentence? Supporting details? Concluding sentence? Are there smooth transitions between ideas?
Explanation of ideas: Are the explanations clear? Does the wording need adjusting?
Discussion of ideas: Have your kids have considered other points of view? How do they respond to them in their writing?
Grammar and punctuation.
Keep copies of rubrics that work well and use them again. Put together a packet of rubrics you’ve used and liked over time. You can use them with your other kids or pass them along to another family.
Finally, put a copy of the rubric used with your kid’s finished writing project. This is another way you and your kids can see how their writing skills improve and advance over time.
A Final Word on Assigning Letter Grades to Written Work
I’m a softie. I don’t assign grades to written work until the kids have reworked and revised their writing, under my supervision, to meet my expectations for them. (Or almost all my expectations.)
And in the Essay Rockstar online writing program, I adjust those expectations to match the skill level of the child. After all, every kid is different. Kids have different abilities at different times of their development.