When a child is in public school he or she is constantly tested. Each week there are spelling tests, there are chapter tests on a regular basis, and in many states there is standardized testing. Many parents of public school students decide that if the grades coming home on test papers and report cards are good, then their child must be learning.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell if a child is learning enough in homeschool because homeschooling generally takes much less time than traditional education. Homeschooled children generally do not spend as much time on a particular topic as traditionally educated students because they are neither ahead nor behind their classmates. Part of the reason for this is that your homeschooled child is receiving one-on-one attention. They do not have to wait for others to catch up, nor are they holding up other students back if they need to spend more time on a topic. If the student understands the topic then he or she can move on right away.
Homeschooled students generally do not take as many tests as public school students do. Consequently, less time is spent teaching “to the test”. Teaching to the test limits a student’s exploration of a subject by limiting them to the material that will be tested. Testing is not necessarily a true measure of understanding of a topic.
In fact, standardized tests can be detrimental to students who are from different backgrounds and upbringings. Consider, for example, a standardized test question that asks reasons for the Civil War. Since the Civil War is viewed differently by different ethnicities, as well as different locations, a question designed to show understanding of the reasons behind the war might not realistically test a student’s knowledge.
It sounds cheesy to say that you will know if your child is learning but the reality is that you will know if your child is learning. You can see it on their faces, you can tell by their attitude, and you will see forward progress.
If your student begins their homeschool day ready to go to school, moves quickly through their assignments, and is hungry for more information, it is safe to say that the student is learning.
If your student can not only give you the instructed materials on a multiple choice test, but can hold a conversation about the material you will know they understand the material. When a student can play the part of the teacher, either giving a speech, or teaching other children in a subject, then that student will have sufficient knowledge of a subject to move on to new material.