The Nanaimo Free Learners believes strongly in the virtues of offering an environment free from the pressure and stress of artificially imposed assessment of a child’s work. Numerous studies have proven that a classroom that is driven by the scores of a test is often woefully behind a classroom that allows it’s students to learn organically. See Alfie Kohn’s The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement.
There will be no grades, tests, or homework at Maple Hill. Learners are to be the single judge of any work or project that they choose to complete, and it will be common knowledge that the only person worthy of determining if a child has sufficiently learned a topic is the child themselves. Creating a no-pressure environment without scores or marks allows children to be free from the pressure of measuring up to peers and fosters an attitude of intrinsic motivation to learn.
Learners at Maple Hill will track their progress in several ways:
- Learner portfolios. Each learner will be given a portfolio when they come to Maple Hill, which is used as a physical scrapbook of their time spent here. It can contain stories, artwork, projects, or anything else that the child feels is relevant to their learning path. The only person with any authority to add or remove items from portfolios is the child themselves; this allows them to create an accurate picture of what is important to them.
- Family meetings. At Maple Hill, we believe that a strong connection between home and school is a critical ingredient to a child’s success. As such, we will schedule periodic meetings with learners and their families three times a year. These meetings will involve the child directly and will be a low-key, fun way to discuss the child’s time spent at Maple Hill.
- Monthly Summaries. At the end of each month, a staff member will arrange a time with each learner to create a summary of the child’s activities, projects, and favorite moments from the last several weeks and for older learners, a review of their academic, social, and creative development. This gives children a chance to check in with their goals, re-evaluate their strategies, and to alter their plan if required, all while encouraging children to be responsible for their personal progress. Over time, these summaries will serve as a detailed journal of the child’s time at Maple Hill.