Homeschool Paperwork: How to Keep Up — and what to do when you haven’t!

Overview: Homeschool paperwork, especially grading, can easily become overwhelming. Read tips for keeping it under control and recovering when you're behind.

This has got to be one of the most guilt-inducing homeschool tasks ever, am I right? When you don't keep up with the homeschool paperwork — the lesson plans and grading (and transcript! ack!) and other organization — you feel like the worst homeschool mom ever, that your kid won't be prepared for college or whatever else is coming next, and it will be all. your. fault.

But did you notice I used the word “when”? LOL. Because I believe we almost ALL get behind on this at one time or another. Some more than others, it is true (and I may be one of the former, actually!!); but I think most of us can admit to not keeping up like we “should” or want to.

Homeschool paperwork, like grading, can easily become overwhelming. Read tips for keeping it under control and recovering when you're behind. #homeschoolhighschool #homeschoolpaperwork

In this post I want to concentrate specifically on the grading portion of homeschool paperwork.

I know it's easy to get behind on lesson plans and other organization, but I think grading is where we can dig the deepest hole for ourselves when we are not diligent — not to mention how it can affect the kid. But more on that later.

Over the years, I have learned some things. I have found some quicker and easier ways to stay on top of grading my kids' work, so it is not a cumbersome burden. Am I always caught up? That would be a big NO. But when I do get behind, it is easier to plow through the piles when I have already applied these hacks to the process.

1) One huge key is to evaluate what really needs to be graded and what doesn't.

a) In the elementary and middle school years, I'm a firm believer in not grading much of anything. Take a close look at your homeschool laws and see exactly what is required of you. If your kid is progressing in knowledge and getting a fair portion of things correct (truly just check things right or wrong and that is sufficient, no need to figure out a percentage, imho), then you are on the right track.

If your state law says something like “an evaluation of progress,” then those words are pretty widely interpreted and do not need to mean “grades.” You can just jot down some thoughts about how your kid is doing in each subject — what they still need work on and what they are doing well.

If you feel the need to actually grade during these years, maybe just keep it to grammar and math. Those are very objective to grade and therefore don't take much time. And they are perhaps the most important indicators about how your kid is doing overall.

b) In the high school years, grades are definitely a thing, at least if your kid is going to college. You will need to submit a transcript with their college applications, and colleges do look at grades and the overall GPA. But that doesn't mean you need to give them a grade for EVERYTHING they do.

Daily work, in general, does not need a grade in high school. Your teen will most likely be doing much of their coursework independently by now, and they can check their own day-to-day stuff. The chapter test, or the final draft of a paper — these are what YOU give the grade for.

So for each course, you might be grading about 8-10 things per semester — that is all. Find the semester grade, then average the two semester grades to obtain the final grade. Done!

2) Have a place for the kids to put their work that needs grading.

I don't know about you, but I don't like to stop what I'm doing to have to grade that math test that my kid just finished. I have a general schedule for how I want my day to look, usually, and it can easily get derailed if I have to stop for something that really can wait. (I do stop for math questions during daily work and other such immediate concerns — lest you think I'm a horrible mom, lol!)

So I have a particular basket near the computer that has a label on it: “To Be Graded.” My kids know that when they finish a test or a paper, they are to put it there, and I will grade it when I am ready.

But this can lead to me putting it off for a LONG time… so that's when the next trick comes in.

3) Schedule a regular time to do grading. And be consistent with it.

If you really want to stay on top of things, then plan a half-hour at the end of each homeschool day to grade that day's stuff that has been placed into the basket. There will probably only be just a few things, and they might not even take that long. Then you can return them to your kids to work on more the next day, if that is necessary — and we all know that sometimes/often it is, lol.

At the very least, plan a time once a week — and then stick with it. How do you do that? Either plan it for a time when you know you will be available each and every week, or look at each week on Monday and put it into a slot that works for you that week.

If you miss one day, or one week, you can't miss the next. That is the rule. So then at most you are going no longer than two weeks at a time. This can be rough, and you won't like the pile that results — but if you are disciplined to get through it, you'll feel better about yourself!

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What if you've blown it? What if you've let the homeschool paperwork go for weeks/months?

Frankly, I've totally been there, done that. And it's a hard place to be. And there are consequences that result from it, which I want to make you aware of now, hopefully BEFORE it ever happens for you.

First, your kid has not gotten regular feedback about their work. That means they are basically flying blind, and you have no cause for criticism if you find they haven't been doing it as thoroughly as you'd like.

Second, in math your kid may have missed a key concept weeks ago and is still doing it wrong now. That means several tests with the same type of problem are now being marked incorrect, and a poor grade is the result. And that's all on you, mom. (I've been there; I feel your pain, trust me. But I can't soften my words to make you feel better on this one, sorry.)

Third, now you may very likely have some re-education to do. You and your kid have to figure out that math concept and go through all those tests to redo that type of problem. Or you have to make your expectations known better and then follow-through with more consistent oversight to make sure they are met from now on.

AND you have to apologize to your kid and tell them you messed up. You blew it, and they have been affected. From a Christian standpoint, that is the nature of sin. When we sin it affects other people. And we have to humbly ask them to forgive us, and that is HARD. But it will build bridges in your relationship. 

Even from a secular viewpoint, though, it is only right to admit to your kid that you were not diligent. Here you are, asking them to be diligent in their work, and you have not been so in yours. So yea.

But to recover from this, then set aside an entire morning, or day, or several days, to make it right. To get ALL that stuff graded, to go over with your kid what they need to improve, and to get yourself caught back up.

And then follow numbers 1 through 3 from now on; no exceptions.

Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary. LOL.

There are times you can't re-create what “should have” happened.

Like when your kid needs his homeschool transcript done yesterday and you are still grading his last semester of work. Don't ask me how I know.

(In all honesty, this has been me. I am NOT a paragon who does it all right. I am a fallible human being, and I have never claimed to be an expert. I just have experience — and not all of it is the right kind, lol.)

So then you just do the best you can. You grade what is there and average it all together. You might feel guilty about those repeated errors that you know you should have addressed, and you might also hate the fact that the kid didn't even finish some stuff, and you never knew about that, because you weren't keeping track like you should have.

There are three things to keep in mind here:

a) Your teen should have come to you.

No, I am not passing blame — there's still plenty for mom — but it is also true that when your teen does not understand something or is not able to complete their work or is just so far behind it ain't funny, then they should have the maturity to come tell you about it at some point.

If you are finding out weeks/months later that they didn't do what they should have, that is not ENTIRELY your fault. The kid is not a small child anymore, hello, and we expect a certain amount of responsibility from them.

So some portion of those maybe poorer-grades-than-you-had-hoped-for is on them, and therefore those grades do reflect reality to a certain degree.

b) A grade is not ALL about the black-and-white that you see on the paper.

You CAN adjust that grade to accommodate for your own lack of diligence.

If you know your kid was working hard and faithfully, then maybe add in a participation grade to give them credit for that, and then average it in with all the other tests. Participation is a perfectly acceptable part of a grade; public school teachers (and college profs!) do it all the time.

Another perfectly acceptable practice is to drop one or two of their lowest grades per semester. Don't you remember your teachers doing that for you? Then average all the rest. It may still be lower than you wanted for them, but it is not as low as it could be. And then remind yourself of a) just above.

c) Not having all A's is NOT a horrible thing.

If your kid truly deserved all A's, then they wouldn't leave stuff undone, and they wouldn't keep doing things the wrong way. They would have handled it all with maturity and due diligence, even if that meant nagging you to do the grading so they could see what they need to improve. Ya know?

What you want is a true representation of your kid, not some manufactured one due to your own sense of guilt. So if they are ending up with B's and C's — don't worry about it. You most likely are not striving for the Ivy Leagues, after all. You WILL find a college that will accept your kid with those grades, and to be honest, it's probably a great fit for your kid. More on that here: The Truth about How to Look Good on College Applications.

But when all is said and done, keeping up with the grading is obviously the best scenario. Try applying my ideas in your life and see if they help.

But if you get behind again, in this or any other aspect of homeschool paperwork, this does not mean you are a failure as a homeschool mom or that you should send your kid to public school. Life is full of mistakes, and this one is really no worse than any others. Pick yourself up, admit you blew it, and start anew.

Remember that the benefits of homeschooling itself still outweigh any rough patches along the way. Am I right??? :-)

It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

2 thoughts on “Homeschool Paperwork: How to Keep Up — and what to do when you haven’t!”

  1. I have recently found this blog and I am so glad I did. The advice has been a huge help and this article is no exception.

    Thank you for sharing basic ideas for how to keep myself on track. It helps to know other homeschool moms think like I do. Keep up the great tips and advice!

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