I’ve clearly read too many homeschool newbie threads lately because this has been bugging me a lot.
What you should know and what skills a child should have at any given time is extremely subjective.
I know that when people are starting out, they worry about this. Some people, I suppose, never stop worrying about it. And there are legitimate reasons to check in about where a child is. If a child is really struggling, there may be a question of learning disabilities.
However, I have so much trouble relating to the desire to follow state standards, which apparently some homeschoolers do, even the standards of states they think are “better” somehow than their own. These are politically motivated standards decided in large part by politicians, not by people who really know anything about kids, much less your kids. I also don’t get the mania for the E.D. Hirsch books. He advocated that children need to know about dead white guys (and not much else) then made books of random, unconnected bits of information for kids by grade level. I’m less than impressed. Following a certain curriculum at least makes sense to me as that way you’ve got a scope and sequence, but it’s not an exact guideline. If a child finishes the 2nd grade math of one curriculum two months into what is technically 3rd grade, is that really going to destroy his whole future? Different curricula have completely legitimate but completely different scopes and sequences.
This is why, when we assess (and I take the idea of assessment very seriously) we don’t assess against a rubric of skills or against some idea of the average child of their age. We assess progress and effort, we assess meeting personal goals and moving forward.
For me, what it boils down to is the difference between product oriented education and process oriented education. I don’t buy into product oriented education. My child achieving a list of preset skills isn’t what I’m interested in. I’m interested in helping my children grow, learn and find their path. There’s information I want them to learn, but I’m guiding them, not pouring it in. They have to take the steps themselves. I can’t do it for them. And in the end, I assume that the learning isn’t what you come out with at the finish of a preset school year, but the journey you took to get there. You can measure the finish with a checklist of skills and a multiple choice test, and sometimes that’s a fine thing to do, but the more important piece, the journey, is harder to measure, yet more important.