Four Tips to Improve Homeschool Grades
How to increase your homeschool GPA today!
There’s much more to getting good grades than merely knowing the content. Good grades also require knowledge of an instructor’s policies relating to homework & extra credit, the ability to access & review grades, and solid communication with instructors & parents.
In this article, we review four tips to make sure your children’s grades don’t suffer unnecessarily. While this advice pertains specifically to students taking online courses at Homeschool Connections, it is applicable to students in a site-based school, a local co-op, a pod school, or any other learning environment.
Know the Instructor’s Homework Policy
A homework policy is an instructor’s rules about how homework is to be turned in. A homework policy gives the answers to such questions as:
- When is homework due?
- What do I do if I need an extension?
- What circumstances qualify for a homework extension?
- How is homework to be submitted?
- Am I able to get credit for late or missing work?
- Are there limits to how late an assignment can be turned in for partial credit?
After almost two decades in education, I can confidently say that one of the most common reasons students get poor grades is that they don’t follow directions. They don’t know how and when homework should be submitted. They don’t take the initiative to find out what the guidelines are for a given course. It is not uncommon for a student who has not completed any coursework the entire semester to try to turn it all in at the end, only to find their instructor does not allow the submission of work more than two weeks overdue.
It is incumbent upon students to make sure they understand an instructor’s policy on homework so they do not lose credit for reasons that are completely preventable. If your instructor’s policy is unclear or if you’re unable to locate it, reach out to ask via email or in class.
Encourage Students to Check Their Grades!
It is a familiar story—online classes are starting to wind down for the semester, and there’s a week or two left before a course finishes when the instructor gets a frantic email from a student. “I just looked at my grades and didn’t realize I was doing so poorly. Is there anything extra I can do to get my grade up?”
This is not an ideal situation. It puts the student under a lot of stress to do a major course correction in a short window of time. From the instructor’s perspective, it is inconvenient and inconsiderate of their schedule. This scenario burdens the teacher with having to create and grade extra work for the student to complete at a time when instructors are already busy winding down their courses and grading finals.
This problem can be solved by encouraging your children to check their grades regularly. A student logging into their classes and looking at the grade report weekly is much less likely to get sudden surprises at the end of the semester. Students who regularly check their grades tend to get better grades because they are more aware of where they are and where they need to be.
Before you know how to get somewhere, you have to understand where you are in relation to your destination. If you want to lose weight, you have to know how much you weigh now so you have a metric to measure from. Similarly, students who want to maintain good grades need to know where their grades are in real-time so they can make appropriate adjustments without putting all their hopes in a last-minute effort to fix things.
Parents Check Your Children’s Grade
You may be utilizing Homeschool Connections classes to supplement your homeschooling, but you are still the primary educator of your children. It is ultimately your responsibility to keep track of your children’s grades. You know your child’s potential far better than any instructor. The instructor does not know your expectations nor what degree of progress is considered optimal.
I have often had situations where a student does poorly in their coursework, only for the parent to message at the end of the semester and say, “I had no idea my son was so far behind!” While most instructors will send an email if they see something drastically off in a student’s grades, we do not do a continual or systematic monitoring of student grades.
Older students should be keeping tabs on their grades as they prepare for life after high school. However, parents doing so as well ensures that there is less potential for miscommunication or misunderstanding. Plus, it sets an example for your students that this is important. It will help them when they are truly on their own in the future.
Again, knowing how your student is doing in real time is preferable to waiting to review grades after the semester ends. Homeschool Connections recommends setting aside 15 minutes every week to meet with your individual children to go over their assignments and planners. The life of a homeschooling parent can be busy and even chaotic. Putting this on your calendar and making it a priority will help you in the long run.
Also, remember Homeschool Connections is not a school and so does not keep permanent records. Parents ultimately issue the final grade. Whatever information you need about your children’s grades, make sure you record it at the end of the semester. (You can find free homeschool record-keeping forms here.)
Check If There is an Extra Credit Policy
Many students will boost their grades through extra-credit assignments. They go above and beyond the required coursework for additional credit.
Even if a student does not plan on needing extra credit, it is a good idea to be aware of an instructor’s extra credit policy. For example, my own extra credit policy stipulates that (a) students who request extra credit must have all standard coursework turned in, and (b) it cannot be requested when there is less than two weeks left in the semester.
The first point ensures that students do not rely on extra credit as a replacement for regular coursework. Extra credit is for students who completed all the coursework but did not do as well as they’d hoped and would like a chance to bring their grades up. It is not for students who simply didn’t do the coursework (otherwise, in what sense is it “extra?). The second point ensures we do not get into situations like those described above.
This is just an example, but the point is instructors may have their own individualized extra credit policies. It is good to be aware of them so that in the event that a student needs to take advantage of them, he already understands the parameters of what is expected.
Lastly, as a home educator, you can assign extra credit to be presented to and graded by you. Likewise, you can also have your child redo assignments after a course is completed to turn in to you for grading if you want to give them that opportunity.
Knowledge is Your Friend!
As with anything, greater knowledge about expectations and procedures is your friend when it comes to navigating the completion and submission of homework and monitoring grades. Understanding your instructor’s policies and keeping tabs on grades in real time are important tools that contribute to academic prowess.
Ultimately, getting better grades comes down to good communication and planning skills. Homeschool Connections offers the following courses to help your students excel in this area:
- How to be an Excellent Student Note Taking, Test Taking, and How to Get an A
- Organized for Success for High School
- Organized for Success for Middle School
- Leadership and Interpersonal Communication
Do you have tips to share or questions to ask? I invite you to join us in our Catholic Homeschool Connections Community and start a conversation.