play as an assessment

Being a homeschooling family we take zero tests, and have little need for formal assessment.  While the trained teacher in me occasionally feels the pull towards the little blank bubbles and number two pencils, I have withheld on the account that I clearly have a better opportunity for real evaluation without any coercion whatsoever. With careful listening, and lots of patience I can observe regular, authentic learning within simple, basic play.  Ample freedom gives me the chance to see what needs my attention.

I’ll set the stage for this mornings unstandardized test: The boys have chosen “Chasing Monsters” as their movie on movie night the last two Fridays and it turns out this show is absolutely chock full of information my children are eagerly soaking up.  All the couch cushions are removed, the trampoline is a boat, the four of them (with an age span of 7 year between them all) are playing together, maybe not with the same level of involvement, but in their minds they are each an integral part of the adventure.

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I hear Rowan say,  “Okay guys, I am just going to go over here and do some invasive species removal and take some samples of the water and stuff like that, okay?”

An argument breaks out between Rowan and Jasper, and between the tugging and grunting of Miles hoisting up a large fish I hear Miles calm them with the explanation that, “Rowan knows more about fish, but Jasper can be stronger,” and like magic the problem is gone.  They are busy tieing pretend lines and setting pretend hooks.  There are constant checks and balances of who is in charge, of who isn’t participating enough.  There is screaming, which is resolved without adult interference.  There are facts about whale sharks, their size, their diet, their whereabouts being argued.  They want to look up more information about the sharks, which I help them with, then they get back to work.  The play goes on until lunch time clearly demonstrating their ability to stay on task, work together, conflict resolution skills and my gosh if I knew the standards better I am SURE a slew of others as well.

School is in session and they are learning leaps and bounds, and so am I.

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