Society & Culture & Entertainment Education

How to Avoid the "Mommy Grade" Stigma

Generations of successful homeschoolers have proven that parents can make good teachers and guides for their children's education.

But the stigma of "mommy grades" -- the grades you give your own kids -- can cast a shadow on your children's accomplishments when they present their transcript to a college or other outside program.

Critics of homeschooling like to point to the problems that arise when a parent must try to make an objective judgment of their own children's work.

So homeschoolers have developed several strategies for avoiding this seeming conflict of interest.

One way to sidestep the dilemma is to not give any grades at all. Many families use alternate methods to of show what their children have learned, such as portfolios. Education experts like Alfie Kohn believe that grades can backfire when it comes to motivating students to do good work, making them more likely to cheat or to strive more for the high grades than for actual learning.

Others simply assign their children a pass/fail marking for a subject. But there are situations where a grade is preferable or required, such as when a college-bound teen is hoping to qualify for a scholarship based on their high school average. And some families simply feel more comfortable with the standard school-type grading system.

Here are some ways to provide support for your evaluation, and avoid the stigma of mommy grades:
  • Standardized Tests: Although not as reliable as they claim when it comes to demonstrating raw ability, standardized tests are widely accepted as objective proof of a student's ability. For specific courses, consider having your student take AP exams or SAT subject tests.

  • College Classes: My personal choice for reinforcing my own narrative transcript explaining my children's work in high school was to include grades they earned in credit-bearing classes at the local community colleges.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Teachers, community leaders, and other adults who have worked with your children can add legitimacy to your own evaluation of their abilities by writing letters of recommendation detailing your children's qualities and accomplishments.
  • Regional and National Competitions: Spelling bees, science fairs, robotics competitions, and other opportunities to be judged by outside evaluators can all validate the scores your give your own children.

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