Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life Review

Our children spend their days being passively instructed, and made to sit still and take tests—often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling, yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through.

In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know, but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.

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, Gray 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. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today, as studies at alternative, democratically administered schools show. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better—and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling.

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 promote their happiness and learning.

Title:Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life

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    Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life Reviews

  • Cass

    Half-way through this book I wanted to go back to teaching and use this knowledge in my classrooms, alas I am devoted to raising my children, at least for the next few years.I am a high school teacher...

  • Stefani

    I've only read the introduction and part of the first chapter, but I'm already wary about where this book is headed. On the cover (which I read as I grabbed it off of my library's shelf) it looks like...

  • Tasha

    This book fits my family like a glove. We unschool and this book was a wonderful reminder to me why we do it. I love reading books that remind me that it is so amazing for my kids to stay outside of t...

  • Bruce

    “Children are designed, by nature, to play and explore on their own, independently of adults. They need freedom in order to develop; without it they suffer. The drive to play freely is a basic, biol...

  • Stephen Case

    I was homeschooled a bit growing up. It wasn't by choice, and I so suppose it wasn't actually true homeschooling. Rather, I had a "home-bound teacher" who delivered my assignments and lessons for port...

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    A lot of this felt like a warmed-over rehash of other things I have read, especially John Holt, but also Lenore Skenazy and Susan Linn. I felt that there was an unschooling agenda and that the book wa...

  • Melissa

    On Trustful parents view of children..."You are competent. You have eyes and a brain and can figure things out. You know your own abilities and limitations. Through play and exploration you will learn...

  • Starr

    Bottom line: Let kids play free of most adult interference. In this book, you'll read about fascinating research on play and its importance for development. I loved reading about Sudbury Valley in Mas...

  • Moira

    While I love Peter Gray's writing--and this book is no exception--I think this particular work may be more for those new to the idea of self-directed learning and the importance of play (or perhaps as...

  • Alison

    "Imagine that you had omnipotent powers and were faced with the problem of how to get young humans and other mammals to practice the skills they must develop to survive and thrive in their local condi...