Free to Learn: Unleashing the Instinct to Play

June 5, 2020

Peter Gray, Ph.D., a research professor at Boston College, has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. His current research and writing focus primarily on children's natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play, concepts discussed in his book, Free to Learn. Dr. Gray is also president of the nonprofit Alliance for Self-Directed Education and a founding board member of the nonprofit Let Grow

On this podcast, Dr. Gray draws evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history to argue that we must entrust children to steer their own learning and development. He shares the story of his own son’s behavioural difficulties, which led the family to explore alternatives to traditional education. He also describes his own research on the long-term outcomes of children who are unschooled and addresses some of the main concerns parents have about informal education.

Here’s the outline of this interview with Peter Gray:

[00:00:10] Book: Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, by Peter Gray.

[00:00:44] The story of Peter’s son, Scott.

[00:04:40] Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA. 

[00:12:42] Podcast: How to Support Childhood Cognitive Development, with Josh Turknett, MD.

[00:13:13] Education in hunter gatherer populations.

[00:19:42] Biological theory of education.

[00:21:45] Book: The Art of Tracking, the Origin of Science, by Louis Liebenberg.

[00:25:11] Agriculture as catalyst for change.

[00:31:06] Book: Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, by James C Scott.

[00:32:48] The importance of play.

[00:33:52] Curiosity and playfulness.

[00:37:07] Books: The Play of Animals and The Play of Man, by Karl Groos.

[00:41:51] Book: The Moral Judgement of the Child, by Jean Piaget.

[00:43:37] Unschooling.

[00:44:14] Agile Learning Centers.

[00:45:03] The Alliance for Self-Directed Education.

[00:46:38] Unschooling rising in popularity among homeschoolers.

[00:49:19] Study of 232 unschooling families: Gray, Peter, and Gina Riley. "The challenges and benefits of unschooling, according to 232 families who have chosen that route." Journal of Unschooling & Alternative Learning 7.14 (2013).

[00:49:42] Study of 75 adults who were unschooled: Gray, Peter, and Gina Riley. "The challenges and benefits of unschooling, according to 232 families who have chosen that route." Journal of Unschooling & Alternative Learning 7.14 (2013).

[00:51:21] Getting into college.

[00:55:24] Age mixing and scaffolding.

[01:01:00] "Please Trespass" sign.

[01:01:30] Book: Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place for Play, by Mike Lanza.

[01:06:36] Peters Blog: Freedom to Learn.

[01:07:13] Find Peter on Facebook

[01:08:40] The hole in the wall project.

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