What would happen if we started letting kids learn without tests, grades, or homework? I would love to find out. I would love to have the mental, physical, and emotional freedom to let my kids just explore life and learn with joy (with a good deal of helpful direction, of course). Around my house, I frequently bounce between a very loose structure in which the kids tend to learn a great deal and "freak out" mode at which time I am inordinately interested in getting the boxes checked off and the grades filled in... and when the kids tend to learn a bit less. I deeply resent being forced into the latter position. Not because I disagree with objective assessment, but because I disagree that it is possible to accurately assess all students in the same time-frame using the same methods for the same academic purpose.
I came across a short article today that describes a non-traditional school from the 1970's at which trademarks of traditional institutional schooling were eliminated. How did it go? Well, from the brief overview presented, I gathered that the few kids featured grew up to be just fine. What happened to all of the other kids? I don't know. Maybe they are all street bums. The article doesn't say. But the whole thing is interesting to me. You can read about it here.
I am not an advocate for an elimination of structured education. Young people should have direction and accountability. What I do strongly believe is that the entire American education system can and should be overhauled to more fully honor the natural creativity, intelligence, courage, beauty, and fire of youth.
We have a very short memory in America. We can't imagine "school" in any other way than it has been operating for the last 50 years. I doubt highly that my ideal educational institution would look at all like a free-thinking-hippie school from the 1970's but neither would it look very much like the Catholic schools I know either. In fact, if it wasn't for all of my personal faults and failings, I think my ideal school might just look a lot like... home.
Homeschooling is Not What You Think