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Grade Levels, Standards and Benchmarks

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From our FAQ: Getting Started:

How do I know if my child is learning at the right level? How do I know if I am skipping something academically?

There are standard curricula and grade-level goals available:

But please don't let yourself be limited by standardized goals. The real answer to this question is that your child will tell you. You just have to listen closely. If your child is bored, then you should increase the level of the material. If your child is confused or overwhelmed, you should lower the level of the material. Like most people, you should expect your child to be more ahead in some things than in others. Also, not every school (nor every home) sets the same standards. If you were to compare Harvard University with, say South Dakota Community College (a name I just made up), although they both might be colleges, well, you know that they wouldn't be the same. So don't limit yourself to standard expectations. Instead, change the rules! Why not decide within your own family, teacher and student together, what the expectations and goals will be? Set goals that you find attainable, and set standards that excite you!

Laurie is also available for personal curriculum consultation

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Advice on Standards

  • Goals for First Grade: Early Reading and Writing
  • At, you can go to their Typical Course of Study for PreK-12: scroll down and click on any grade from Preschool to 12 to get a complete list (taken from the World Book Encyclopedia) of a typical course of study for that grade.
  • One popular source for homeschooling K-8 curriculum is the Core Knowledge Series by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., What Your nth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good nth Grade Education. View the table of contents to see at a glance a full year curriculum for that grade.

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Debate about Standards

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New York City Board of Ed. Standards

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New York State Education Dept. Standards

For Arts; Career Development and Occupational Studies; English Language Arts; Health, Physical Education, and Family Consumer Sciences; Languages Other Than English, Including American Sign Language; Mathematics; Science and Technology; and Social Studies, see their

Free online New York State curriculum and learning standards for preschool and kindergarten through 12th grade. New

Note that the state's free online curriculum does not tell you HOW your child should learn the topics, it just provides a list of topics to cover for each grade across all the subject areas. You can use this as a checklist across subjects and grades, allowing the student to proceed at his or her own pace.

NOTE: NYS does not require that homeschoolers use any specific curricula (CR 100.10 or Feel free to apply the K-12 NYS Curriculum on your IHIP, writing detailed quarterly reports after-the-fact for each required subject stating what you did.

For methods and materials, browse the sidebar subjects here for more resources, and use whatever works best for your kid. Mix and match. Collaborate with your child!

See also the Latest News on ELA, Mathematics, and Grades 3-8 Testing, and their sample tests for Language Arts and Elementary/Intermediate Tests and Regents Examinations.

ELA and NYS Math tests. It is important to understand that we do not have to use the same tests as the public schools, but if you want to find out what was on previous ELA and NYS math exams, see New York State Testing Page 2011-2012. Scroll down to the grade you need and click on the series of blue years. You can download and print tests from last year. Remember that your homeschooled child does not need to test before fifth grade!

Here is the new draft of common core curriculum for 8th grade, including links and lesson plans. [Comment from Laurie: Personally I have a hard time with a curriculum that includes From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (usually recommended for ages 9-12) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce (recommended by the New York Times for adults age 20 and up),, both for 8th grade (approx. age 13). While these books are highly recommended, I think that most homeschooling parents would be wise to offer them at different ages. Another book in the core curr. 8th grade list is Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. In my opinion, this is a great book for girls ages 8 - 11, but a poor choice for boys, and an especially poor choice for 8th grade. You are better off finding interesting literature that your children will enjoy reading, than sticking to any of the suggestions or guidelines in this "core curriculum."]

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National Standards

The National standards for English and math were recently updated and made more concise and easier to understand. They are still full of educators' double-speak, and offer suggestions that do not need to be followed exactly. For example, in English, to "cite a textual example" or "analyze" a story's "overall structure" can deaden the literary experience if taken too seriously. I suggest that "discuss" could be substituted for "analyze" and a freer approach could be taken.

As another example, the suggested reading (for grades 6-12, this is on page 58) includes Macbeth as the only Shakespeare play. At home, my son and I read a Shakespeare play every year (sometimes more than one), and Macbeth was far from our favorite. In fact, my son complained that the only part worth reading was Lady Macbeth, and Macbeth, the title character, was a total wimp. I suggest starting with a Shakespearean comedy, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream or Much Ado About Nothing, and then reading a tragedy, perhaps Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet. Similarly, you do not need to introduce yourself to John Steinbeck with his greatest and longest literary work, The Grapes of Wrath. His other novels, such as Tortilla Flat or Cannery Row, will be more easily accessible to a young teen, and possibly even more enjoyable depending on the personality of the reader.

See the Common Core State Standards Initiative website for useful links and tips.

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