I gotta say something.
I didn't mean to imply (and I hope I didn't) that it is only because my kids are somewhere on the gifted spectrum that I can be relaxed about milestones and ages and keeping pace with externally prescribed academic goals. I really believe this is something that can be applied to all children. It's just that I don't have to think too hard about it, because I know that my kids would be more or less "caught up" if they were to suddenly enroll in a public school.
In fact, what I really think is that it is all the more important for children who somehow defy the expected learning trajectory to be allowed to develop at their own pace. This goes for both ends of the bell curve.
I had a student, years ago, who was not reading. She was too old to be not reading, and I had been working with her for over a year in a very concerted effort to get her the tools she needed to begin reading. Her parents were freaked, and I was concerned, too. Not because she wasn't reading, but because I could tell that she didn't know a lot of stuff she needed to start to put it together and begin reading. I started working even more with her, after school. I met with her parents, and we talked about ways they could support her at home with the skills she needed for reading.
And then, slowly, haltingly, she began to read. She was mostly reading from texts she'd memorized, but sometimes she was able to bring it all together and decode an unfamiliar word. I was so, so pleased, and I knew that we could build on this success, and with practice and discipline, she would eventually be able to read along with her peers.
Her parents were not pleased, not in the least.
Guess why. Go ahead, guess.
Because she wasn't reading on grade level. Here was a child whose entire approach to the reading enterprise had been, shall we say, circuitous and unconventional. Reading was not her thing. She would rather have been constructing fabulous things out of blocks and what not. She read as little as possible, and only to satisfy me, her teacher, and her parents. There was just nothing, absolutely nothing, in her history to suggest she should be reading on grade level, and everything to suggest she was going to do it her own way, in her own time.
If they were going to compare (and what parent doesn't) I wanted them to compare her work to where she'd been last year, not to the other kids her age. Because she wasn't like other kids her age.
And really? Neither was anybody else. Every kid I ever taught had his or her own set of gifts and deficits. Some of the most intelligent, insightful kids I taught had some of the most challenging difficulties. We called it uneven development, but I'm beginning to suspect that "uneven" is more normative than anything else. Every kid has some gifts, and some gaps.
Just like people. Imagine that.