When the boys were in younger grades, I felt so confident grading their writing papers.
Confidence is suppose to soar with use, right? But when it came time to grade my first highschooler’s essay, confidence lacked. Like anything else, inexperience makes you feel less prepared.
On the other hand, having homeschooled my first high schooler from the beginning, I knew that I had a unique advantage knowing my son’s strengths and weaknesses and could use that information to help me form a grading standard.
Compulsory vs. Freedom
The thinking that a teen gets to choose topics all the time was the first thing I left behind.
For the most part, I did my best to be a reasonable teacher to my teen, which meant he got to choose the topics he wanted to write about. I learned early on that the very mention of some writing topics, especially controversial ones made for eager writers.
Mr. Senior 2013 wrote most high school essays on things he wanted to write about which were about topics like injustice, the life of writers he admired and a few other frivolous topics he found fascinating.
However, I also am reminded to not abandon my homeschooling goals in high school, which means that I want to form my son’s worldview and Biblical view. That is done through research and expressing his creative thoughts in written word. So some topics were mandatory to write about.
His last essay was mandatory for a completed grade. My instructions called for him to break down each verse of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 that talks about the meaning of love.
Not only was it important to grade him on his creative words, but it was important to me to fill his mind with something worthy of remembering since it was the last time.
Give your teen freedom with his high school essays but don’t give up guidance.
Completing a mandatory high school essay is the first part of my grade.
Forget Grading Like a Public School Teacher.
The next thing I had to learn was to not grade like a public school teacher.
No, I don’t mean to not use some of the same standards, but to not directly attack my son’s writing by all the red marks.
I did that in my son’s younger years and regret it.
Though my oldest son is not as sensitive as my younger sons, I could see that my red marks and my writing on his page took some of the fun out of the process.
What I did learn early in my homeschool years was to write notes in the margin or at the bottom of the paper. I still practiced this in high school.
(Learn from my mistake and leave behind all the red pens and red marks that we think we need to do on writing. Writing notes at the bottom of their page was a keeper for communicating to my sons.)
The example above is how I did it when Mr. Senior 2013 was in the younger grades.
I followed this same example on high school essays.
This is one area where my strength for detail can be utilized for high school. Teens are just like us. They want to know specifically what you liked about their writing.
As home educators we are very specific about what we don’t like about our teen’s writing. Praise should be equally vocal.
As I mentioned, the last essay assignment I assigned for Mr. Senior 2013 was about love and how it is shown. He not only gave his opinion of why it is the strongest motivator in the universe but he supported it with Biblical facts and things he had real life experience with.
I specifically praised him for supporting his writing with solid facts.
Developing Clear Writing.
Then the next part I look for in my son’s writing is to determine how clear he expressed his thoughts. Developing clear writing is not something we achieve.
Expressing thoughts through writing is a developed art. It is not achieved in high school, but I do expect my teen to use what he has been taught through the years like supporting his facts, illustrations, topic sentences and sticking to his topic.
Secondary: Spelling and Sentence Structure
Try to remember that we are nurturing writers instead of spellers. You know I love spelling and grammar, but writing is about expression, communication and breathing life into our artfully contrived words.
Don’t stifle it by counting off more for the mechanics of writing than for expression. Clearly cut writing that moves you is worth more than grammar and mechanics errors.
Homeschool Mom Grades a High School Essay
Grading a high school essay is not only a satisfying job but a unique privilege.
All the instructions you have been given your child for years turns now into a beautiful masterpiece.
Don’t give up your homeschool goals when you grade high school essays.
What writing topics our high school teens fill their minds with as they get ready to finish their tutoring with you is just as important as you adopting traditional standards for grading.
What are you afraid of most when grading high school essays?
Hugs and love ya,