In a classroom, it is challenging to determine retention without tests and grades. In a homeschool situation, the dynamics are completely different.
I am not anti-tests or anti grades-- if that works for you great, but for us...at least up until this point, there has not been a need.
I spend every day one on one with them. I can see what they understand and what they don't. I adjust, practice, and skip as needed according to what they need to "learn." I can assess daily based on the time I spend with them. I correct as we go, and don't need to test to see what they know...I already know!
There is one area we "test" in, if you could call it that. We use math "tests." This is a no stress opportunity to demonstrate proficiency "on their own." We treat it like an independent worksheet. "Go work on this and do as much as you can on your own." Then we come together and go over it. It helps me gauge if I have missed anything, and pushes their independence a little. There is no grade, no red pen, no pressure...just "do your best" and then we can finish it together.
If a curriculum we use has quizzes or tests, we usually use them as a review or worksheet or not at all.
I have considered adding tests for my oldest...I probably will eventually, for some things at least. Actually, we just started a new spelling curriculum that has tests...we will probably do them... I like to be flexible. If it doesn't work out or causes unnecessary stress, we can just change it up again.
The reality is testing is a part of life. We will eventually have to teach my kids how to take tests. From standardized tests to SAT's to job and career testing...testing is a part of our culture.
Grades. My daughter especially is a perfectionist, and I can't see how grades would help her. I think they would stress her out unnecessarily. Grades tend to focus on how you did on the test, not how well you know the material. I want the focus to be on "learning," and enjoying the journey, not performance on a test. I also don't want to label them as "good" at certain subjects and "not" on others.
Some grade for motivation. How will they try harder? If one of my kids is not grasping something and therefore would be earning a low grade, as her teacher I get the luxury of finding out why, presenting it in a different way, and watching them succeed without need of grade motivation. I can motivate in other ways. I can reward diligence and hard work instead of performance.
My kids are young...so I can only speak to our experience thus far...
One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling the ability to do this how each family wants to. If you want to have "school" at home, great. If you don't want your homeschool to look anything like "school," great. Somewhere in between? Great. We get to be flexible and do what works for us.
Don't forget to check out what the other Homeschool Help Series bloggers have to say about "Grades: Do You Give Them? Why or Why Not?"
Chareen "To Grade or Not to Grade?"
Bernadette "Passing Grade"
Julie "Grades Not Required"