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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
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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

4.3  ·  Rating details ·  1,188 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
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: anxio ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Perseus Books Group
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Jul 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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, a John Holt fan-girl, and a parent of two children under 5.

The major concepts of this book are not new to me, but it was full of so much research and new thoughts that I absolutely loved it. Some stories (and accompanying research) resonated.

I remember as a teenager, I was doing a task and my litt
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 the box...although the outside is becoming busier, which is awesome by the way!

This is a book that I would love to get hundreds of copies of and just leave them around for people to pick up. Not because the book is written amazingly well, or grabs your interest and doesn't let go, but because it is
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education, 2015
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 a book advocating more free time for kids (agree 100%). The author explains how kids used to have more free time, and how less free time over the past 50+ years is correlating with an increase in mental disorders in children and teenagers. I'm on board with that.

But he moved on to talk about presen
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“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, biological drive. Lack of free play…kills the spirit and stunts mental growth.”

I’ve been a professional educator for over twenty years, and Free to Learn is likely the most comprehensive, convincing account I’ve ever read of how children actually learn. Passionate yet scholarly, abundantly supported by re
Stephen Case
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
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 portions of eighth, tenth, and eleventh grades when I was too sick from chemotherapy to attend classes. So this, to be fair, probably colors my perspectives on alternate schooling options: for me, going to public school was always a privilege. It was something I got to do when things were normal and hea ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 what you need to know. Your needs are valued. Your opinions count. You are responsible for your own mistakes and can be trusted to learn from them. Social life is not the pitting of will against will, but the helping of one another so that all can have what they need and more desire. We are with yo ...more
Michael Fitzgerald
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: another
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 wasn't up-front enough about it. I disagree with the author that "fifty years from now, if not sooner, the Sudbury Valley model [basically unschooling at a school] will be featured in every standard textbook of education and will be adopted, with variation, by many if not all public school systems."

May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 Mass. and their free curriculum (free as in, the children guide themselves). This is no touchy-feely book--expect data and compelling arguments in favor of less school, and more play.

[Some free advice: Next time you feel like butting in on your kids' imaginative play, stop yourself.]
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 something to be given to a hesitant partner or questioning family member who isn't sure what you do or why--if you homeschool, unschool, or your child attends a Summerhill- or Sudbury-like school). This belief did not affect my rating of the book; I just mean that if you've read a number of works o ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"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 conditions of life. How might you solve that problem? It is hard to imagine a more effective solution than that of building into their brains a mechanism that makes them want to practice those very skills and that rewards such practice with the experience of joy. That, indeed, is the mechanism that natur ...more
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Dr. Peter Gray is a research professor at Boston College. He is now retired but continues to publish research and give guest lectures.
More about Peter O. Gray...
“Everyone who has ever been to school knows that school is prison, but almost nobody beyond school age says it is. It's not polite. We all tiptoe around the truth because admitting it would make us seem cruel and would point a finger at well-intentioned people doing what they believe to be essential. . . . A prison, according to the common, general definition, is any place of involuntary confinement and restriction of liberty. In school, as in adult prisons, the inmates are told exactly what they must do and are punished for failure to comply. Actually, students in school must spend more time doing exactly what they are told than is true of adults in penal institutions. Another difference, of course, is that we put adults in prison because they have committed a crime, while we put children in school because of their age.” 8 likes
“The biggest, most enduring lesson of school is that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.” 3 likes
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