A leading expert in childhood development makes the case for why self-directed learning -- "unschooling" -- is the best way to get kids to learn.
In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that in order to foster children who will thrive in today's constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, he demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it's time to stop asking what's wrong with our children, and start asking what's wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children's lives and to promote their happiness and learning.
Developmental psychologist Gray declares that "school is prison, but almost nobody beyond school age says it." In this energetic though repetitive manifesto, Gray powerfully argues that schools inhibit learning by " with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction" by "turning learning into work" and reducing "diversity in skills and knowledge." Gray suggests that children possess a natural instinct to educate themselves, and through unstructured play and exploration with individuals of all ages, they will blossom and develop into confident individuals. Drawing on various psychological case studies as well as an in-depth examination of the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass., Gray shows that children learning in "unschooled" environments demonstrate a deep desire to learn, as well as a capacity for self-control, and display feelings of anxiety and depression far less than students in a structured environment. Many educators and parents may find Gray's ideas na ve and impractical, but his vivid illustrations of the "power of play" to shape an individual are bound to provoke a renewed conversation about turning the tide in an educational system that fosters conformity and inhibits creative thinking.