Location, Location, Location
Just as the laws around home instruction vary from state to state, so do the forms of assessment that are considered acceptable. Some states (such as Maine) offer a few different options and allow parents to choose the one that works best for them.
Among the options for assessment in Maine are the following:
- Results of a standardized achievement test
- Results of a test developed by local school officials (must be arranged with school system before school year starts)
- Review and acceptance of progress by a Maine-certified teacher (source)
Homeschoolers in Maine must utilize just one of the above methods, the most popular being the third, which tends to take the form of a portfolio review with a certified teacher who then signs a letter stating that the child is making adequate progress.
Overall, Maine makes it pretty easy for homeschoolers to complete their assessments, especially in comparison with a more heavily regulated state such as New York. There, in addition to quarterly reports of courses completed, credits earned, and grades received, there's also a mandate for either standardized testing (on which the student must achieve an adequate score, as defined in the homeschool statute) or extensive narratives detailing the student's progress.
Check your State Statutes
In order to understand the requirements you have to meet in terms of assessment, be sure to check your state homeschooling statutes. These can be found at your state's Department of Education or Education Agency, and most states include helpful tips and forms to start you on your way.
Of course, your ideas of assessments may vary from those of your state. So don't be shy to assign your child those dioramas, free-form essays, or whatever tickles your fancy—and also be sure to keep track of his best work and his progress in a curated portfolio.
But however you do it, make sure that the work your child performs can be assessed by both you and, when necessary, whatever official folks may be involved. Even if it doesn't come up, being ready for that process is a big part of keeping your child on track in the homeschooling world.