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SVS/Unschooling Controversy - YouTube
"This is a commentary on the currently controversial article by Daniel Greenberg . The article is not summarised during the commentary so it will be necessary to read it before listening. Further discussion is available to join on the forums at

"Differences Between Self-Directed and Progressive Education" can be read here . This commentary is offered by Jeanna L Clements in her private capacity and does not represent any other individual or collective. Please feel free to share. Thank you."
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12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Differences Between Self-Directed and Progressive Education | Psychology Today
"Self-Directed Education, not progressive education, is the wave of the future."

"I’ve found that when I speak or write about Self-Directed Education some people mistakenly believe that I’m speaking or writing about progressive education. Progressive education has many of the same goals as Self-Directed Education, and its advocates use much of the same language, but the foundational philosophy is quite different and the methodology is very different. In what follows I’ll review the basic tenets of progressive education, then review those of Self-Directed Education, and, finally, explain why I think the latter, not the former, will become the standard mode of education in the not-too-distant future."

"To the advocate of Self-Directed Education, it is the child’s brilliance, not a teacher’s, that enables excellent education. The job of adults who facilitate Self-Directed Education is less onerous than that of teachers in progressive education. In Self-Directed Education adults do not need to have great knowledge of every subject a student might want to learn, do not have to understand the inner workings of every child’s mind, and do not have to be masters of pedagogy (whatever on earth that might be). Rather, they simply have to be sure that the child is provided with an environment that allows the child’s natural educative instincts to operate effectively. As I have argued elsewhere (here and here), that is an environment in which the child (a) has unlimited time and freedom to play and explore; (b) has access to the most useful tools of the culture; (c) is embedded in a caring community of people who range widely in age and exemplify a wide variety of skills, knowledge, and ideas; and (d) has access to a number of adults who are willing to answer questions (or try to answer them) and provide help when asked. This is the kind of environment that is established at schools or learning centers designed for Self-Directed Education, and it is also the kind of environment that successful unschooling families provide for their children.

Education, in this view, is not a collaboration of student and a teacher; it is entirely the responsibility of the student. While progressive educators continue to see it as their responsibility to ensure that students acquire certain knowledge, skills, and values, and to evaluate students’ progress, facilitators of Self-Directed Education do not see that as their responsibility. While progressive education is on a continuum with traditional education, Self-Directed Education represents a complete break from traditional education.

I wish here to introduce a distinction, which has not been made explicit before (not even in my own writing), between, Self-Directed Education, with capital letters, and self-directed education, without capitals. I propose that Self-Directed Education be used to refer to the education of children, of K-12 school age, whose families have made a deliberate decision that the children will educate themselves by following their own interests, without being subjected to an imposed curriculum, either in or out of school. I propose further that self-directed education, without capitals, be used in a more generic sense to refer to something that every human being is engaged in essentially every waking minute of every day. We are all, constantly, educating ourselves as we pursue our interests, make our living, and strive to solve problems in our daily lives. Most of what any of us know—regardless of how much curriculum-based schooling we have attended—has come from self-directed education."

"Progressive educators often cite Rousseau as an early proponent of their views. Rousseau’s sole work on education was his book Émile, first published in 1760, which is a fictional account of the education of a single boy. If this book has any real-world application at all it would be to the education of a prince. Émile’s teacher is a tutor, whose sole job, sole mission in life, is the education of this one boy, a teacher-student ratio of one to one. The tutor, by Rousseau’s description, is a sort of superhero. He is not only extraordinarily knowledgeable in all subjects, but he understands Émile inside and out, more so than it is ever possible (I would say) for any actual human being to understand another human being. He knows all of the boy’s desires, at any given time, and he knows exactly what stimuli to provide at any time to maximize the educational benefits that will accrue from the boy’s acting on those desires. Thus, the tutor creates an environment in which Émile is always doing just what he wants to do, yet is learning precisely the lessons that the tutor has masterfully laid out for him.

I think if more educators actually read Émile, rather than just referred to it, they would recognize the basic flaw in progressive educational theory. It is way too demanding of teachers to be practical on any sort of mass scale, and it makes unrealistic assumptions about the predictability and visibility of human desires and motives. [For more on my analysis of Émile, see here.] At best, on a mass scale, progressive education can simply help to modulate the harshness of traditional methods and add a bit of self-direction and creativity to students’ lives in school.

In contrast to progressive education, Self-Directed Education is inexpensive and efficient. The Sudbury Valley School, for example, which is approaching its 50th anniversary, operates on a per student budget less than half that of the local public schools (for more on this school, see here and here). A large ratio of adults to students is not needed, because most student learning does not come from interaction with adults. In this age-mixed setting, younger students are continuously learning from older ones, and children of all ages practice essential skills and try out ideas in their play, exploration, conversations, and pursuits of whatever interests they develop. They also, on their own initiative, use books and, in today’s world, Internet resources to acquire the knowledge they are seeking at any given time.

The usual criticism of Self-Directed Education is that it can’t work, or can work only for certain, highly self-motivated people. In fact, progressive educators are often quick to draw a distinction between their view of education and that of Self-Directed Education, because they don’t want their view to be confused with ideas that they consider to be “romantic” or “crazy” and unworkable. For example, I’m pretty sure that Alfie Kohn had Self-Directed Education in mind when he wrote (here again): “In this cartoon version of the tradition, kids are free to do anything they please, the curriculum can consist of whatever is fun (and nothing that isn’t fun). Learning is thought to happen automatically while the teachers just stand by, observing and beaming. I lack the space here to offer examples of this sort of misrepresentation — or a full account of why it’s so profoundly wrong — but trust me: People really do sneer at the idea of progressive education based on an image that has little to do with progressive education.”

Kohn’s “cartoon” characterization of Self-Directed Education is not quite right—because children do, on their own, regularly choose to do things that aren’t fun in an immediate sense and because staff members don’t just stand around observing and beaming; but, yet, it is not too far off the mark. And it does work. Don’t trust me on that; read and think skeptically about the evidence. Follow-up studies of graduates of schools for Self-Directed Education and of grown unschoolers have shown that people, who educated themselves by following their own interests, are doing very well in life. You can read much more about this in previous posts on this blog, in various academic articles (e.g. here, here, and here), and in my book Free to Learn.

Self-Directed Education works because we are biologically designed for it. Throughout essentially all of human history, children educated themselves by exploring, playing, watching and listening to others, and figuring out and pursuing their own goals in life (e.g. here and Gray, 2016). In an extensive review of the anthropological literature on education cross-culturally, David Lancy (2016)) concluded that learning—including the learning that comprises education—is natural to human beings, but teaching and being taught is not. Winston Churchill’s claim, “I always like to learn, but I don’t always like to be taught,” is something that anyone, any time, any place, could have said.

Children’s educative instincts still work beautifully, in our modern society, as long as we provide the conditions that enable them to work. The same instincts that motivated hunter-gatherer children to learn to hunt, gather, and do all that they had to do to become effective adults motivate children in our society to learn to read, calculate with numbers, operate computers, and do all that they have to do to become effective adults (see Gray, 2016). Self-Directed Education is so natural, so much more pleasant and efficient for everyone than is coercive education, that it seems inevitable to me that it will once again become the standard educational route.

Coercive schooling has been a blip in human history, designed to serve temporary ends that arose with industrialization and the need to suppress creativity and free will (see here). Coercive schooling is in the process now of burning itself out, in a kind of final flaring up. Once people re-discover that Self-Directed Education works, and doesn’t cause the stress and harm that coercive schooling does, and we begin to divert some fraction of the billions of dollars currently spent on coercive education to the provision of resources for Self-Directed Education for all children, Self-Directed Education will once again become the standard educational route. Then we’ll be able to … [more]
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november 2018 by robertogreco
The 'Unschooling' Movement: Letting Children Lead Their Learning | On Point
"Is a child who spends the day watching videos or playing in the backyard actually learning? Yes, say advocates of the "unschooling" movement.

Is a child who spends the day watching videos or playing in the backyard actually learning? Yes, say advocates of the "unschooling" movement.

Interview Highlights
On a typical day for children being unschooled

Maleka Diggs: "Every day has a different tune, and for our family, unschooling or self-directed learning is something that we've embraced over the years. It allows them the freedom to be able to explore ideas, thoughts, whether it be read a book or maybe start off and kick off the day watching television. Either way, it's their decision and my focus becomes to guide them through whatever decisions that they make to ensure that their experience is as fruitful as they'd like it to be.

"It totally begins with freedom. They are morning folks, I am not. At 11 and 13, they are able to prepare their own food. So I don't have to have that stick of — 'Oh, let me get up and cook breakfast for my daughters this morning.' That's not our case. The beginning starts off with a meal. ... And it just progresses from there, whether they have workbooks that they're interested in. And I think there's a misnomer when it comes to unschooling that young people don't use books if it is their choice, most definitely. And that's what one of my daughters does, she enjoys reading and engaging in workbooks and learning about different topics of her choosing, where my other daughter is very much focused on the humanities. And she loves music and dance and drumming."

On the decision to unschool

MD: "I was going to take the typical route and do formal education for my daughters. Like many parents, I moved to a neighborhood where the catchment would kind of secure providing quality access to education for my daughters. What that means, in many areas, is that if you are a person of color, as our family is, you, many times, have to move to a predominately white area, and that's what we did. I went because I wanted to ensure this quality education and I did that. When we got up to the school to enroll my oldest daughter, it was a very difficult moment because the principal there did not believe that I lived in that area, and she asked me for proof of my identification, and several things that were dehumanizing and oppressive, and just marginalizing as a whole. And that was the beginning for me."

On the unschooling movement

Peter Gray: "I have to say, 'unschooling' is not my favorite term. Because it's kind of a negative term. It says what you're not doing, and it terms to put other people on the defensive — 'Oh, you're not doing school? You're not doing what we're doing?' -- instead of saying what you are doing. So I prefer the term 'self-directed education.' ... It's not that we don't believe in education. We believe in education, we just think it works best when children take charge of their education. And the other reason that I don't use the term 'unschooling' in my own writing is because self-directed education can occur in a school-like setting. There are schools for self-directed education. They are not schools that give tests or have a curriculum. There are schools where there's all kind of opportunity for learning, for interacting with other kids, there are adults to help you if you want to ask the adults to help you, but they're not going to come to you and say it's time for you to do this or that. You have to go to them. Much of my research has been in that kind of setting."

On kids who don't have self-direction for this type of learning

PG: "This issue of self-directed — what does it mean to be self-directed? I'm an evolutionary psychologist, so I'm interested in human nature and the nature of children. Look at little kids: Have you ever seen a little kid who hasn't yet gone to school who's not self-directed? Who's not just curious and playful and eagerly doing things? They're exploring the world almost from the moment they're born. They're looking around — 'What's out there? What's new? What can I learn about?' Think of all of the things that children learn before they ever go to school. And this is not just some children that learn it, this is essentially all of the children. They learn their native language from scratch, they learn an enormous amount about the physical world around them and the social world around them. So unschooling is this: What if we just let them continue to do that? Instead of, put them away where their own questions don't count anymore; where their own play is considered, at best, recess, which is increasingly being taken away, rather than a way of learning; where socialization is almost cut off because they're not really allowed to talk to one another or to cooperate. ... We send them to school and then we wonder why they're no longer self-motivated, because we've taken away the basic motives for learning: curiosity, playfulness, sociability."

On how unschooling could contribute to challenges for the public school system

Michael Apple: "I think that it's only a small percent of home-scholers that are doing this, and the research on this is actually quite limited, and mostly limited to middle-class people. We have to remember as well that if you're going to go into this, you need to be fully dedicated, and the vast majority of parents are working two jobs. They're being not just unschooled, but deskilled, in terms of their incomes, with incomes falling within minoritized communities, and because of this I am a little more skeptical about whether this is a model I would like most people to follow. I must admit as a parent of an African-American child myself, I am not a romantic about what goes on and I have a good deal of sympathy for what Maleka is struggling to do, and I think successfully. To me the issue is what do we to collectively? The vast majority of students in the United States will never see a self-directed learning program or an unschooled program. They will go to regular public schools, which, by the way, were victories, not only defeats. African-American and Latino and indigenous people were forbidden from going to school. So let's remember that the school is the last truly public institution. Everything else is being privatized. And there's massive attacks on teachers and schools, turning them into voucher plans and for-profit schools. And to the extent that the unschooling movement grows, it actually, unfortunately, and certainly not consciously on the part of its participants, it contributes to the attacks on teachers and schools. And it will lead to defunding of public schools, which will be a disaster for many more children than will see an unschooling program.""
unschooling  homeschool  education  children  learning  howwelearn  malekadiggs  petergray  michaelapple  schools  parenting  self-directed  self-directedlearning  2018 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Reading Wars: Why Natural Learning Fails in Classrooms | Psychology Today
[via: ]

"So, we have this puzzle. Out of school, children learn to read by what appear to be whole-word, whole-language methods. They read right off for meaning and they learn to recognize whole words and read whole passages before they pay much attention to individual letters or sounds. Phonics comes later, based on inferences that may be conscious or unconscious. Learning to read out of school is in some ways like learning oral language; you learn it, including the rules, with little awareness that you are learning it and little awareness of the rules that underlie it. But that doesn’t work well for learning to read in school. Learning there is better if you master the rules (the rules relating letters to sounds) before attending much to meaning.

The mistake of the progressive educators, I think, has been to assume that the classroom is or can be a natural learning environment. It isn’t, and (except in unusual circumstances) it can’t be. The classroom is a setting where you have a rather large group of children, all about the same age, and a teacher whose primary tasks are to keep order and impart a curriculum—the same curriculum for everyone. In that setting, the teacher decides what to do, not the students. If students decided, they would all decide on different things and there would be chaos. No matter how liberal-minded the teacher is, real, prolonged self-direction and self-motivation is not possible in the classroom. In this setting, children must suppress their own interests, not follow them. While children out of school learn what and because they want to, children in school must learn or go through the motions of learning what the teacher wants them to learn in the way the teacher wants them to do it. The result is slow, tedious, shallow learning that is about procedure, not meaning, regardless of the teacher’s intent.

The classroom is all about training. Training is the process of getting reluctant organisms to do or learn what the trainer wants them to do or learn. Under those conditions, methods that focus on the mechanical processes underlying reading—the conversion of sights to sounds—work better than methods that attempt to promote reading through meaning, which requires that students care about the meaning, which requires that they be able to follow their own interests, which is not possible in the classroom."
petergray  reading  howwelearn  education  unschooling  deschooling  2013  training  schools  schooling  wholelanguage  phonics  learning  progressive  curriculum  pedagogy 
october 2018 by robertogreco
▶ The Jet Set Breakfast, 1 Sep INTERVIEW - UNSCHOOLING · SAfm -
"Further to our previous conversation regarding unschooling and homeschooling, we spoke to Zakiyya Ismael to get a better understanding of this"
zakiyyaismael  2018  unschooling  deschooling  homeschool  johnholt  history  india  southafrica  learning  informallearning  intentionallearning  unintentionallearning  petergray  academia 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Children, Learning, and the Evaluative Gaze of School — Carol Black
"That's when I understood: when you watch a child who is focused on learning, and you let them know you’re watching, and you let them know your opinion as though your opinion matters, you just took that thing away from them. You just made it yours. Your smell is all over it now.

The evaluative gaze does the greatest harm, of course, to the kids who live under a biased eye; the ones who enter school with a test score or a disciplinary record or a skin color that shades the gaze against them. Once an assessment of a child's ability has been made, positive or negative, that child will feel it; if you think you can conceal it from them, you're wrong. They know. They always know. Studies have shown that even lab rats learn more slowly if their researchers believe that they aren't smart rats. The kids who grow up under a negative gaze, the ones who day after day, year after year, feel themselves appraised and found wanting –– these kids pay the greatest price, their psyches permanently damaged by it, their futures irrevocably harmed. (The fact that our appraisals are shown again and again to be wrong never seems to discourage us from making them.) But even the kids who get the good grades, the high scores, the perfect "10's" –– even they are subtly blighted by it. They've won the prize, and lost their power.

Why is it clear to us that it's degrading and objectifying to measure and rank a girl’s physical body on a numeric scale, but we think it’s perfectly okay to measure and rank her mind that way?

Over the years I've watched the many ways that children try to cope with the evaluative gaze of school. (The gaze, of course, can come from parents, too; just ask my kids.) Some children eagerly display themselves for it; some try to make themselves invisible to it. They fight, they flee, they freeze; like prey animals they let their bodies go limp and passive before it. Some defy it by laughing in its face, by acting up, clowning around, refusing to attend or engage, refusing to try so you can never say they failed. Some master the art of holding back that last 10%, of giving just enough of themselves to "succeed," but holding back enough that the gaze can't define them (they don't yet know that this strategy will define and limit their lives.) Some make themselves sick trying to meet or exceed the "standards" that it sets for them. Some simply vanish into those standards until they don't know who they would have been had the standards not been set.

But the power of the gaze goes beyond the numbers and letters used to quantify it. It exists in looks and tones and body language, in words and in the spaces between words. It is a way of looking at another human being, of confronting another human life; it is a philosophical stance, an emotional stance, a political stance, an exercise of power. As philosopher Martin Buber might have put it, the stance of true relationship says to the other, "I–Thou;" the evaluative gaze says "I–It." It says, "I am the subject; you are the object. I know what you are, I know what you should be, I know what 'standards' you must meet." It is a god-like stance, which is actually a big deal even if you think you are a fair and friendly god.

The evaluative gaze of school is so constant a presence, so all-pervasive an eye, that many people have come to believe that children would actually not grow and develop without it. They believe that without their "feedback," without their constant "assessment," a child's development would literally slow or even stop. They believe that children would not learn from the things they experience and do and see and hear and make and read and imagine unless they have an adult to "assess" them (or unless the adult teaches them to "self-assess," which generally means teaching them to internalize the adult gaze.) For people whose experience is with children inside the school system, it may seem self-evident that this is true. For people whose experience is with children outside the school system, it may seem like believing that an acorn would not grow into an oak tree unless you measure it and give it your opinion. Because an oak tree does not actually require your opinion, and believe it or not, 90% of the time, neither does a child.

A pot boils whether you watch it or not. It just needs water and fire.

There are ever-increasing numbers of people raising their kids outside this Panopticon of constant evaluation and measurement and feedback, and what they find is simply this: they grow and develop very much like other kids. Like other kids, they don't all conform to the same "standards;" like other kids, they are individual and diverse. Like other kids, they have triumphs, and struggles, and doldrums, and passions, and frustrations, and joys. "Assessment," or the lack of it, seems to have remarkably little to do with it. Because what an oak tree actually needs is not your opinion but soil and water and light and air, and what a child needs is love and stories and tools and conversation and support and guidance and access to nature and culture and the world. If a kid asks for your feedback, by all means you can give it; it would be impolite not to. But what we should be measuring and comparing is not our children but the quality of the learning environments we provide for them. "
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june 2018 by robertogreco
The Culture of Childhood: We’ve Almost Destroyed It
[previously posted here: ]

"Children learn the most valuable lessons with other children, away from adults."

"I don’t want to trivialize the roles of adults in children’s lives, but, truth be told, we adults greatly exaggerate our roles in our theories and beliefs about how children develop. We have this adult-centric view that we raise, socialize, and educate children.

Certainly we are important in children’s lives. Children need us. We feed, clothes, shelter, and comfort them. We provide examples (not always so good) of what it’s like to be an adult. But we don’t raise, socialize, or educate them. They do all that for themselves, and in that process they are far more likely to look to other children than to us adults as models. If child psychologists were actually CHILD psychologists (children), theories of child development would be much less about parents and much more about peers.

Children are biologically designed to grow up in a culture of childhood.
Have you ever noticed how your child’s tastes in clothes, music, manner of speech, hobbies, and almost everything else have much more to do with what other children she or he knows are doing or like than what you are doing or like? Of course you have. Children are biologically designed to pay attention to the other children in their lives, to try to fit in with them, to be able to do what they do, to know what they know. Through most of human history, that’s how children became educated, and that’s still largely how children become educated today, despite our misguided attempts to stop it and turn the educating job over to adults.

Wherever anthropologists have observed traditional cultures and paid attention to children as well as adults, they’ve observed two cultures, the adults’ culture and the children’s culture. The two cultures, of course, are not completely independent of one another. They interact and influence one another; and children, as they grow up, gradually leave the culture of childhood and enter into the culture of adulthood. Children’s cultures can be understood, at least to some degree, as practice cultures, where children try out various ways of being and practice, modify, and build upon the skills and values of the adult culture.

I first began to think seriously about cultures of childhood when I began looking into band hunter-gatherer societies. In my reading, and in my survey of anthropologists who had lived in such societies, I learned that the children in those societies — from roughly the age of four on through their mid teen years — spent most of their waking time playing and exploring with groups of other children, away from adults (Gray, 2012, also here). They played in age-mixed groups, in which younger children emulated and learned from older ones. I found that anthropologists who had studied children in other types of traditional cultures also wrote about children’s involvement in peer groups as the primary means of their socialization and education (e.g. Lancy et al, 2010; Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1989). Judith Harris (1998), in a discussion of such research, noted that the popular phrase It takes a village to raise a child is true if interpreted differently from the usual Western interpretation. In her words (p 161): “The reason it takes a village is not because it requires a quorum of adults to nudge erring youngsters back onto the paths of righteousness. It takes a village because in a village there are always enough kids to form a play group.”

I also realized, as I thought about all this, that my own childhood, in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 1950s, was in many ways like that of children in traditional societies. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today) and chores, and some of us had part time jobs, but, still, most of our time was spent with other children away from adults. My family moved frequently, and in each village or city neighborhood to which we moved I found a somewhat different childhood culture, with different games, different traditions, somewhat different values, different ways of making friends. Whenever we moved, my first big task was to figure out the culture of my new set of peers, so I could become part of it. I was by nature shy, which I think was an advantage because I didn’t just blunder in and make a fool of myself. I observed, studied, practiced the skills that I saw to be important to my new peers, and then began cautiously to enter in and make friends. In the mid 20th century, a number of researchers described and documented many of the childhood cultures that could be found in neighborhoods throughout Europe and the United States (e.g. Opie & Opie, 1969)."

"Children learn the most important lessons in life from other children, not from adults.
Why, in the course of natural selection, did human children evolve such a strong inclination to spend as much time as possible with other children and avoid adults? With a little reflection, it’s not hard to see the reasons. There are many valuable lessons that children can learn in interactions with other children, away from adults, that they cannot learn, or are much less likely to learn, in interactions with adults. Here are some of them.

Authentic communication. …

Independence and courage. …

Creating and understanding the purpose and modifiability of rules. …

The famous developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (1932) noted long ago that children develop a more sophisticated and useful understanding of rules when they play with other children than when they play with adults. With adults, they get the impression that rules are fixed, that they come down from some high authority and cannot be changed. But when children play with other children, because of the more equal nature of the relationship, they feel free to challenge one another’s ideas about the rules, which often leads to negotiation and change in rules. They learn in this this way that rules are not fixed by heaven, but are human contrivances to make life more fun and fair. This is an important lesson; it is a cornerstone of democracy.

Practicing and building on the skills and values of the adult culture. …

Getting along with others as equals."

"The adult battle against cultures of childhood has been going on for centuries.

Hunter-gatherer adults seemed to understand that children needed to grow up largely in a culture of childhood, with little adult interference, but that understanding seemed to decline with the rise of agriculture, land ownership, and hierarchical organizations of power among adults (Gray, 2012). Adults began to see it as their duty to suppress children’s natural willfulness, so as to promote obedience, which often involved attempts to remove them from the influences of other children and subordinate them to adult authority. The first systems of compulsory schooling, which are the forerunners of our schools today, arose quite explicitly for that purpose.

If there is a father of modern schools, it is the Pietist clergyman August Hermann Francke, who developed a system of compulsory schooling in Prussia, in the late 17th century, which was subsequently copied and elaborated upon throughout Europe and America. Francke wrote, in his instructions to schoolmasters: “Above all it is necessary to break the natural willfulness of the child. While the schoolmaster who seeks to make the child more learned is to be commended for cultivating the child’s intellect, he has not done enough. He has forgotten his most important task, namely that of making the will obedient.” Francke believed that the most effective way to break children’s wills was through constant monitoring and supervision. He wrote: “Youth do not know how to regulate their lives, and are naturally inclined toward idle and sinful behavior when left to their own devices. For this reason, it is a rule in this institution [the Prussian Pietist schools] that a pupil never be allowed out of the presence of a supervisor. The supervisor’s presence will stifle the pupil’s inclination to sinful behavior, and slowly weaken his willfulness.” [Quoted by Melton, 1988.]

We may today reject Francke’s way of stating it, but the underlying premise of much adult policy toward children is still in Francke’s tradition. In fact, social forces have conspired now to put Francke’s recommendation into practice far more effectively than occurred at Francke’s time or any other time in the past. Parents have become convinced that it is dangerous and irresponsible to allow children to play with other children, away from adults, so restrictions on such play are more severe and effective than they have ever been before. By increasing the amount of time spent in school, expanding homework, harping constantly on the importance of scoring high on school tests, banning children from public spaces unless accompanied by an adult, and replacing free play with adult-led sports and lessons, we have created a world in which children are almost always in the presence of a supervisor, who is ready to intervene, protect, and prevent them from practicing courage, independence, and all the rest that children practice best with peers, away from adults. I have argued elsewhere (Gray, 2011, and here) that this is why we see record levels of anxiety, depression, suicide, and feelings of powerlessness among adolescents and young adults today.

The Internet is the savior of children’s culture today

There is, however, one saving grace, one reason why we adults have not completely crushed the culture of childhood. That’s the Internet. We’ve created a world in which children are more or less prevented from congregating in physical space without an adult, but children have found another way. They get together in cyberspace. They play games and communicate over the Internet. They create their own rules and culture and ways of being with others over … [more]
childhood  culture  learning  children  play  rules  age  adults  parenting  schools  petergray  2016  sfsh  openstudioproject  lcproject  self-directed  self-directedlearning  games  unschooling  deschooling  society  behavior  howwelearn  democracy  change  practice  communication  autonomy  online  internet  web  authenticity  courage  hunter-gatherers  augusthermannfrancke  obedience  willfulness  youth  generations  jeanpiaget  ionaopie  peteropie  psychology  anthropology  peers 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The Joy and Sorrow of Rereading Holt’s "How Children Learn" | Psychology Today
[Also here: ]

"Holt was an astute and brilliant observer of children. If he had studied some species of animal, instead of human children, we would call him a naturalist. He observed children in their natural, free, might I even say wild condition, where they were not being controlled by a teacher in a classroom or an experimenter in a laboratory. This is something that far too few developmental psychologists or educational researchers have done. He became close to and observed the children of his relatives and friends when they were playing and exploring, and he observed children in schools during breaks in their formal lessons. Through such observations, he came to certain profound conclusions about children's learning. Here is a summary of them, which I extracted from the pages of How Children Learn.

• Children don’t choose to learn in order to do things in the future. They choose to do right now what others in their world do, and through doing they learn.

Schools try to teach children skills and knowledge that may benefit them at some unknown time in the future. But children are interested in now, not the future. They want to do real things now. By doing what they want to do they also prepare themselves wonderfully for the future, but that is a side effect. This, I think, is the main insight of the book; most of the other ideas are more or less corollaries.

Children are brilliant learners because they don’t think of themselves as learning; they think of themselves as doing. They want to engage in whole, meaningful activities, like the activities they see around them, and they aren’t afraid to try. They want to walk, like other people do, but at first they aren’t good at it. So they keep trying, day after day, and their walking keeps getting better. They want to talk, like other people do, but at first they don’t know about the relationships of sounds to meanings. Their sentences come across to us as babbled nonsense, but in the child’s mind he or she is talking (as Holt suggests, on p 75). Improvement comes because the child attends to others’ talking, gradually picks up some of the repeated sounds and their meanings, and works them into his or her own utterances in increasingly appropriate ways.

As children grow older they continue to attend to others' activities around them and, in unpredictable ways at unpredictable times, choose those that they want to do and start doing them. Children start reading, because they see that others read, and if they are read to they discover that reading is a route to the enjoyment of stories. Children don’t become readers by first learning to read; they start right off by reading. They may read signs, which they recognize. They may recite, verbatim, the words in a memorized little book, as they turn the pages; or they may turn the pages of an unfamiliar book and say whatever comes to mind. We may not call that reading, but to the child it is reading. Over time, the child begins to recognize certain words, even in new contexts, and begins to infer the relationships between letters and sounds. In this way, the child’s reading improves.

Walking, talking, and reading are skills that pretty much everyone picks up in our culture because they are so prevalent. Other skills are picked up more selectively, by those who somehow become fascinated by them. Holt gives an example of a six-year-old girl who became interested in typing, with an electric typewriter (this was the 1960s). She would type fast, like the adults in her family, but without attention to the fact that the letters on the page were random. She would produce whole documents this way. Over time she began to realize that her documents differed from those of adults in that they were not readable, and then she began to pay attention to which keys she would strike and to the effect this had on the sheet of paper. She began to type very carefully rather than fast. Before long she was typing out readable statements.

You and I might say that the child is learning to walk, talk, read, or type; but from the child’s view that would be wrong. The child is walking with the very first step, talking with the first cooed or babbled utterance, reading with the first recognition of “stop” on a sign, and typing with the first striking of keys. The child isn’t learning to do these; he or she is doing them, right from the beginning, and in the process is getting better at them.

My colleague Kerry McDonald made this point very well recently in an essay about her young unschooled daughter who loves to bake (here). In Kerry’s words, “When people ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she responds breezily, ‘A baker, but I already am one.”

• Children go from whole to parts in their learning, not from parts to whole.

This clearly is a corollary of the point that children learn because they are motivated to do the things they see others do. They are, of course, motivated to do whole things, not pieces abstracted out of the whole. They are motivated to speak meaningful sentences, not phonemes. Nobody speaks phonemes. They are motivated to read interesting stories, not memorize grapheme-phoneme relationships or be drilled on sight words. As Holt points out repeatedly, one of our biggest mistakes in schools is to break tasks down into components and try to get children to practice the components isolated from the whole. In doing so we turn what would be meaningful and exciting into something meaningless and boring. Children pick up the components (e.g. grapheme-phoneme relationships) naturally, incidentally, as they go along in their exciting work of doing things that are real, meaningful, and whole.

• Children learn by making mistakes and then noticing and correcting their own mistakes.

Children are motivated not just to do what they see others do, but to do those things well. They are not afraid to do what they cannot yet do well, but they are not blind to the mismatches between their own performance and that of the experts they see around them. So, they start right off doing, but then, as they repeat what they did, they work at improving. In Holt’s words (p 34), “Very young children seem to have what could be called an instinct of Workmanship. We tend not to see it, because they are unskillful and their materials are crude. But watch the loving care with which a little child smooths off a sand cake or pats and shapes a mud pie.” And later (p 198), “When they are not bribed or bullied, they want to do whatever they are doing better than they did it before.”

We adult have a strong tendency to correct children, to point out their mistakes, in the belief that we are helping them learn. But when we do this, according to Holt, we are in effect belittling the child, telling the child that he or she isn't doing it right and we can do it better. We are causing the child to feel judged, and therefore anxious, thereby taking away some of his or her fearlessness about trying this or any other new activity. We may be causing the child to turn away from the very activity that we wanted to support. When a child first starts an activity, the child can’t worry about mistakes, because to do so would make it impossible to start. Only the child knows when he or she is ready to attend to mistakes and make corrections.

Holt points out that we don’t need to correct children, because they are very good at correcting themselves. They are continually trying to improve what they do, on their own schedules, in their own ways. As illustration, Holt described his observation of a little girl misreading certain words as she read a story aloud, but then she corrected her own mistakes in subsequent re-readings, as she figured out what made sense and what didn’t. In Holt’s words (p 140), “Left alone, not hurried, not made anxious, she was able to find and correct most of the mistakes herself.”

• Children may learn better by watching older children than by watching adults.

Holt points out that young children are well aware of the ways that they are not as competent as the adults around them, and this can be a source of shame and anxiety, even if the adults don't rub it in. He writes (p 123), “Parents who do everything well may not always be good examples for their children; sometimes such children feel, since they can never hope to be as good as their parents, there is no use in even trying.” This, he says, is why children may learn better by watching somewhat older children than by watching adults. As one example, he describes (p 182) how young boys naturally and efficiently improved their softball skills by observing somewhat older and more experienced boys, who were better than they but not so much better as to be out of reach. This observation fits very well with findings from my research on the value of age-mixed play (see here and here).

• Fantasy provides children the means to do and learn from activities that they can’t yet do in reality.

A number of psychologists, I included, have written about the cognitive value of fantasy, how it underlies the highest form of human thinking, hypothetical reasoning (e.g. here). But Holt brings us another insight about fantasy; it provides a means of “doing” what the child cannot do in reality. In his discussion of fantasy, Holt criticizes the view, held by Maria Montessori and some of her followers, that fantasy should be discouraged in children because it is escape from reality. Holt, in contrast, writes (p 228), “Children use fantasy not to get out of, but to get into, the real world.”

A little child can’t really drive a truck, but in fantasy he can be a truck driver. Through such fantasy he can learn a lot about trucks and even something about driving one as he makes his toy truck imitate what real trucks do. Holt points out that children playing fantasy … [more]
childhood  learning  parenting  play  sfsh  johnholt  petergray  unschooling  deschooling  education  howwelearn  control  children  motivation  intrinsicmotivation  schools  schooling  future  homeschool  present  presence  lcproject  openstudioproject  reading  skills  keerymcdonald  doing  tcsnmy  workmanship  correction  mistakes  howchildrenlearn  hurry  rush  schooliness  fantasy  mariamontessori  imagination  piaget  jeanpiaget 
december 2017 by robertogreco
A Journey from Public Education to Self-Directed Education | Alliance for Self-Directed Education
"A Latinx family embraces agile learning and spearheads deeper connection for unschooling families of color in Charlotte."

"In 2013, my teenager was assaulted at our local public high school. The school handled the incident terribly and I vowed that the younger children would never go to public school. My family pressed charges on the two students (one minor, one adult). The minor received community service; nothing happened to the adult.

In an unrelated case, that adult is now in jail for accessory to murder.

Our younger children were 3 and 1 at the time, and so began a year-long search for alternative education. This wasn’t totally out of the blue for us. The older kids were in in IBO (International Baccalaureate) World School during their elementary school years. I visited Montessori schools all over the area. But with two kids headed to college and two little ones, there was no way we could afford that additional tuition. Through happenstance, I learned about ALC (Agile Learning Center) Mosaic and the “unschooling” approach. After watching Peter Gray’s TED talk, I was all in!

Now, I’ve read a lot of conversations about how one parent isn’t usually on board. It was nothing different for us. After a lot of conversation, we enrolled Izaiah, who was 4 at the time, in ALC Mosaic. My husband was not a fan of the idea, and he was not shy about telling the whole ALC parent community at our first meet-and-greet. I believe he said, “I’m here because of her. I don’t really know about all this stuff.”

My husband came to notice the benefits right away. The next year, our 3 year-old daughter started going to ALC Mosaic and it continued to be everything we hoped for, and more. You can read more about our first year at Mosaic here.

In the beginning of our third year, Mosaic announced that it had purchased a property. Unfortunately, the location is not convenient for our family, so now we are on a new journey practicing Self-Directed Education at home. This is no easy task, and we are finding our way week by week. We are actively seeking out activities that the kids find interesting: ninja warrior classes, Spanish class in our home, a local co-op and more. However, diversity is lacking and we struggle to find all the things that are important to us.

So far, I can get two of these things, not three.

Think about it: The homeschool population is growing but is still small. The Black and Brown homeschooling population is even smaller. The Black and Brown unschooling/Self-Directed Education population is even smaller. So we are trying to find a percentage of a percentage of a percentage!

I’ve recently been very inspired by Akilah Richards and the work that she has spearheaded around Self-Directed Education for Black and Brown communities. I reached out to her about her work and she interviewed me for her Fare of the Free Child podcast. Through her, I met some local women who have similar unschooling philosophies and hosted an event at my home. That event led to a momentous second meeting during which two of us decided to stop complaining and DO something. That’s when we started the Black and Brown Self-Directed Education of the Carolinas. We don’t know where this will go but are so encouraged by the interest and the messages we have received from other local parents who thought they were all alone.

I don’t know what the future holds for schooling. In the beginning I said, “... my younger children would never go to public school.” And while I hold that belief near and dear to my heart, what I have learned over the last few years is that I honestly don’t know what the next year will bring. I work a full-time day job (that I love) and my husband works nights so he can stay home with the kids during the day. We are like ships passing in the night most of the week, and at some point, we’d like to see each other a bit more often. What I do know is that we will continue to do what’s best for our entire family, and that changes from year to year because we change, our children change, our circumstances change. And that, for our family, is what agile learning and Self-Directed Education are all about; adjusting to the needs of the learner and their community, instead of trying to fit ourselves into rigid ideas that do not help our children to thrive.”"
yaniracastro  education  unschooling  deschooling  self-directed  self-directedlearning  2017  akilahrichards  diversity  schooling  learning  petergray 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Self-Directed Education—Unschooling and Democratic Schooling - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education
"Education, broadly defined, is cultural transmission. It is the process or set of processes by which each new generation of human beings acquires and builds upon the skills, knowledge, beliefs, values, and lore of the culture into which they are born. Through all but the most recent speck of human history, education was always the responsibility of those being educated. Children come into the world biologically prepared to educate themselves through observing the culture around them and incorporating what they see into their play. Research in hunter-gatherer cultures shows that children in those cultures became educated through their own self-directed exploration and play. In modern cultures, self-directed education is pursued by children in families that adopt the homeschooling approach commonly called “unschooling” and by children enrolled in democratic schools, where they are in charge of their own education. Follow-up studies of “graduates” of unschooling and democratic schooling reveal that this approach to education can be highly effective, in today’s word, if children are provided with an adequate environment for self-education—an environment in which they can interact freely with others across a broad range of ages, can experience first-hand what is most valued in the culture, and can play with, and thereby experiment with, the primary tools of the culture."
petergray  unschooling  self-directed  self-directedlearning  learning  education  deschooling  democratic  culture  homeschool 
may 2017 by robertogreco
What is Self-Directed Education? - YouTube
"Prof. Peter Gray's quick primer on the basics of Self-Directed Education (SDE) -- from the Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) "
petergray  education  learning  howwelearn  self-directed  self-directedlearning  self-directededucation  schooling  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  compulsory 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Alliance for Self-Directed Education | Home Page
"The Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to informing people about the benefits of, and methods for, allowing children and adolescents to direct their own education. The Alliance’s ultimate goal, its vision, is a world in which Self-Directed Education is embraced as a cultural norm and is available to all children, everywhere, regardless of their family’s status, race, or income.

A Fundamental Premise

A fundamental premise of the Alliance is that top-down, coercive systems of schooling, imposed by states and nations, violate the human rights of children and families to direct their own lives, learning, and paths to adulthood. If there were evidence that coercive schooling were necessary for the welfare of the people on whom it is inflicted, such a system might be justifiable; but, as explained elsewhere in this website, there is no such evidence and there is much evidence to the contrary.

Why an Alliance?


The term Alliance in the organization’s name emphasizes its goal of bringing together the various organizations and individuals who are already actively promoting and enabling Self-Directed Education. The founders of the Alliance recognize that there are various flavors and manifestations of Self-Directed Education (for examples, varieties of home-based Self-Directed Education, democratic schools, and learning centers).

A goal of the Alliance is to create a collaborative space where we can all link arms, learn from one another, and collectively amplify the truth that is common to all of our experiences—that Self-Directed Education works! Success in achieving our common vision will depend, in large part, on the numbers of people who take an active stand and work together to support the movement.

The movement away from coercive schooling toward Self-Directed Education has been inching along for decades. It has not yet taken flight because (a) most people still don’t know about Self-Directed Education or about the success of those who have taken this route; and (b) most who do know about it shy away from it because it seems so “non-normal.”

So, the Alliance is designed to give wings to the movement by (a) using all means possible to spread the word about Self-Directed Education and its success, and (b) normalizing Self-Directed Education by making it a brand, showing how it is done, publicizing the research evidence of its success, and connecting people to the tens of thousands of families happily pursuing this route.

The Alliance is financed entirely by donations from individuals and organizations who support the cause of Self-Directed Education. All members of the Board of Directors are volunteers, who receive no financial remuneration for their work for the Alliance. Donations to the Alliance are tax deductible and allow the Board to hire freelance consultants to manage projects that would not be feasible on a purely volunteer basis."

"Education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person being educated.

Let’s start with the term education. In everyday language people tend to equate education with schooling, which leads one to think of education as something that is done to students by teachers. Teachers educate and students become educated. Teachers give an education and students receive this gift. But any real discussion of education requires us to think of it as something much broader than schooling.

Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life.

Education can be defined broadly in a number of ways. A useful definition for our purposes is this: Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life. This includes the kinds of things that people everywhere more or less need to learn, such as how to walk upright, how to speak their native language, how to get along with others, how to regulate their emotions, how to make plans and follow through on them, and how to think critically and make good decisions.

It also includes some culture-specific skills, such as, in our culture, how to read, how to calculate with numbers, how to use computers, maybe how to drive a car—the things that most people feel they need to know in order to live the kind of life they want to live in the culture in which they are growing up.

But much of education, for any individual, entails sets of skills and knowledge that may differ sharply from person to person, even within a given culture. As each person’s concept of “a satisfying and meaningful life” is unique, each person’s education is unique. Society benefits from such diversity.

Given this definition of education, Self-Directed Education is education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person becoming educated, whether or not those activities were chosen deliberately for the purpose of education.

Self-Directed Education can include organized classes or lessons, if freely chosen by the learner; but most Self-Directed Education does not occur that way. Most Self-Directed Education comes from everyday life, as people pursue their own interests and learn along the way. The motivating forces include curiosity, playfulness, and sociability—which promote all sorts of endeavors from which people learn. Self-Directed Education necessarily leads different individuals along different paths, though the paths may often overlap, as each person’s interests and goals in life are in some ways unique and in some ways shared by others.

Self-Directed Education can be contrasted to imposed schooling, which is forced upon individuals, regardless of their desire for it, and is motivated by systems of rewards and punishments, as occurs in conventional schools. Imposed schooling is generally aimed at enhancing conformity rather than uniqueness, and it operates by suppressing, rather than nurturing, the natural drives of curiosity, playfulness, and sociability."
self-directed  self-directedlearning  education  homeschool  unschooling  learning  schooling  conformity  culture  humanrights  coercion  children  akilahrichards  patfarenga  petergray  laurakriegel  jackschott  kerrymcdonald  scottnoelle  tomisparker  stephendill  cevinsoling  brookenewman  daniellelevine  jenspeterdepedro 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Unsolicited Evaluation Is the Enemy of Creativity | Psychology Today
"In numerous experiments, conducted mostly at Brandeis University, psychologist Theresa Amabile sought the conditions that might increase or decrease creativity. In a typical experiment she would ask the participants—sometimes children, sometimes adults--to produce some creative product.[2] Depending on the experiment, the product might be a collage, or a haiku poem, or a short story. Then she would have the products evaluated for creativity by a panel of experts. Although creativity is hard to define, it is apparently not too hard to recognize. The judges were quite consistent, from one to another, in their evaluations, even though they performed their evaluations completely independently. In general, the judges saw as creative those products that were original and surprising, yet were also somehow satisfying, meaningful, and coherent. Original and random was not scored as creative.

In some of these experiments, Amabile would tell some of the participants that their products were going to be evaluated for creativity by a panel of experts. On top of that, for some, she said that their product would be entered into a contest and prizes would be given to those judged most creative. Other participants were told nothing about evaluation or about any consequences for creative or uncreative performance.

The results of these experiments were quite consistent. In experiment after experiment, the participants who made the most creative products were those who did not know that their products would be evaluated. They were the ones just playing, not concerned about judgments or rewards.

In physically demanding tasks, like lifting heavy weights, and in tedious tasks, like counting beans, we do better when we are being evaluated than when we are not. But in tasks that require creativity, or new insights, or new learning, we do better when we are not being evaluated—when we are just playing, not stressed, not afraid of failure. Evaluation generally promotes effort—because we want to impress the evaluator—but effort is insufficient for creativity. You can’t be more creative just by trying harder. To be creative, you have to back off of yourself in a way that permits the full engagement of certain unconscious mental processes—processes that generate unusual associations and new ideas. Those unconscious processes work best when you are playing, not when you are striving for praise or some other reward."
petergray  psychology  2016  creativity  children  assessment  evaluation  parenting  sfsh  unschooling  deschooling 
june 2016 by robertogreco
On the Wildness of Children — Carol Black
"When we first take children from the world and put them in an institution, they cry. It used to be on the first day of kindergarten, but now it’s at an ever earlier age, sometimes when they are only a few weeks old. "Don’t worry," the nice teacher says sweetly, "As soon as you’re gone she’ll be fine. It won’t take more than a few days. She’ll adjust." And she does. She adjusts to an indoor world of cinderblock and plastic, of fluorescent light and half-closed blinds (never mind that studies show that children don’t grow as well in fluorescent light as they do in sunlight; did we really need to be told that?) Some children grieve longer than others, gazing through the slats of the blinds at the bright world outside; some resist longer than others, tuning out the nice teacher, thwarting her when they can, refusing to sit still when she tells them to (this resistance, we are told, is a “disorder.”) But gradually, over the many years of confinement, they adjust. The cinderblock world becomes their world. They don’t know the names of the trees outside the classroom window. They don’t know the names of the birds in the trees. They don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, if that berry is edible or poisonous, if that song is for mating or warning.

It is in this context that today’s utopian crusader proposes to teach “eco-literacy.”

A free child outdoors will learn the flat stones the crayfish hide under, the still shady pools where the big trout rest, the rocky slopes where the wild berries grow. They will learn the patterns in the waves, which tree branches will bear their weight, which twigs will catch fire, which plants have thorns. A child in school must learn what a “biome” is, and how to use logarithms to calculate biodiversity. Most of them don’t learn it, of course; most of them have no interest in learning it, and most of those who do forget it the day after the test. Our “standards” proclaim that children will understand the intricate workings of ecosystems, the principles of evolution and adaptation, but one in four will leave school not knowing the earth revolves around the sun.

A child who knows where to find wild berries will never forget this information. An “uneducated” person in the highlands of Papua New Guinea can recognize seventy species of birds by their songs. An “illiterate” shaman in the Amazon can identify hundreds of medicinal plants. An Aboriginal person from Australia carries in his memory a map of the land encoded in song that extends for a thousand miles. Our minds are evolved to contain vast amounts of information about the world that gave us birth, and to pass this information on easily from one generation to the next.

But to know the world, you have to live in the world.

My daughters, who did not go to school, would sometimes watch as groups of schoolchildren received their prescribed dose of “environmental education.” On a sunny day along a rocky coastline, a mass of fourteen-year-olds carrying clipboards wander aimlessly among the tide pools, trying not to get their shoes wet, looking at their worksheets more than at the life teeming in the clear salty water. At a trailhead in a coastal mountain range, a busload of nine-year-olds erupts carrying (and dropping) pink slips of paper describing a “treasure hunt” in which they will be asked to distinguish “items found in nature” from “items not found in nature.” (We discover several plastic objects hidden by their teachers along the trail near the parking lot; they don’t have time, of course, to walk the whole two miles to the waterfall.) By a willow wetland brimming with life, a middle-school “biodiversity” class is herded outdoors, given ten minutes to watch birds, and then told to come up with a scientific hypothesis and an experimental protocol for testing it. One of the boys proposes an experiment that involves nailing shut the beaks of wild ducks.

There is some dawning awareness these days of the insanity of raising children almost entirely indoors, but as usual our society’s response to its own insanity is to create artificial programs designed to solve our artificial problems in the most artificial way possible. We charter nonprofit organizations, sponsor conferences, design curricula and after-school programs and graphically appealing interactive websites, all of which create the truly nightmarish impression that to get your kid outside you would first need to file for 501(c)3 status, apply for a federal grant, and hire an executive director and program coordinator. We try to address what's lacking in our compulsory curriculum by making new lists of compulsions.

But the truth is we don’t know how to teach our children about nature because we ourselves were raised in the cinderblock world. We are, in the parlance of wildlife rehabilitators, unreleasable. I used to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and the one thing we all knew was that a young animal kept too long in a cage would not be able to survive in the wild. Often, when you open the door to the cage, it will be afraid to go out; if it does go out, it won’t know what to do. The world has become unfamiliar, an alien place. This is what we have done to our children.

This is what was done to us."

"If you thwart a child’s will too much when he is young, says Aodla Freeman, he will become uncooperative and rebellious later (sound familiar?) You find this view all over the world, in many parts of the Americas, in parts of Africa, India, Asia, Papua New Guinea. It was, of course, a great source of frustration to early missionaries in the Americas, who were stymied in their efforts to educate Indigenous children by parents who would not allow them to be beaten: “The Savages,” Jesuit missionary Paul le Jeune complained in 1633, “cannot chastise a child, nor see one chastised. How much trouble this will give us in carrying out our plans of teaching the young!”

But as Odawa elder and educator Wilfred Peltier tells us, learning -– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of non-interference, in the right of all human beings to make their own choices, as long as they’re not interfering with anybody else. As Nishnaabeg scholar and author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson tells us, learning –– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of consent, in the right of all human beings to be free of violence and the use of force. Simpson explains:
If children learn to normalize dominance and non-consent within the context of education, then non-consent becomes a normalized part of the ‘tool kit’ of those who have and wield power… This is unthinkable within Nishnaabeg intelligence.

Interestingly, the most brilliant artists and scientists in Euro-western societies tell us exactly the same thing: that it is precisely this state of open attention, curiosity, freedom, collaboration, consent, that is necessary for all true learning, discovery, creation."

"We no longer frame people as either “civilized”or “savage,” but as “educated” or “uneducated,” “developed” or “developing” (our modern terms for the same thing). But we retain the paternalistic attitudes of our forebears, toward our children and toward the “childlike” adults we find all over the world — a paternalism in which the veneer of benevolence is underpinned by the constant threat of violent force.

Control is always so seductive, at least to the "developed" ("civilized") mind. It seems so satisfying, so efficient, so effective, so potent. In the short run, in some ways, it is. But it creates a thousand kinds of blowback, from depressed rebellious children to storms surging over our coastlines to guns and bombs exploding in cities around the world."
education  unschooling  children  childhood  carolblack  attention  culture  society  learning  wildness  wild  wilderness  thoreau  ellwoodcubberley  williamtorreyharris  schooling  schools  johntaylorgatto  outdoors  natureanxiety  depression  psychology  wellness  adhd  mindfulness  suzannegaskins  openattention  miniaodlafreeman  paulejeune  wilfredpeltier  leannebetasamosakesimpson  consent  animals  zoos  nature  johannhari  brucealexander  mammals  indigenous  johnholt  petergray  work  play  howwelearn  tobyrollo  chastisement  civilization  control  kosmos  colonization  colonialism 
may 2016 by robertogreco
The Reading Wars: Why Natural Learning Fails in Classrooms | Psychology Today
"Researchers have conducted systematic case studies of precocious readers, through interviews of parents, and have compared them with other children to see if they are unique in any ways other than their early reading. The results of such studies, overall, support the following conclusions:[1,2]

• Precocious reading does not depend on unusually high IQ or any particular personality trait. Although some precocious readers have IQ scores in the gifted range, many others score about average. Personality tests likewise reveal no consistent differences between precocious readers and other children.

• Precocious reading is not strongly linked to social class. Some studies have found it to be as frequent in blue-collar as in white-collar families. However, it does seem to depend on growing up in a family where reading is a common and valued activity.

• Parents of precocious readers report that they or an older sibling often read to the child, but did not in any systematic way attempt to teach reading. In the typical case, the parents at some point discovered, to their surprise, that their child was reading, at least in a preliminary way, and then they fostered that reading by providing appropriate reading materials, answering the child’s questions about words, and in some cases pointing out the relationship between letters and sounds to help with unfamiliar words. In essentially no cases, however, did they provide anything like the systematic training in either phonics or word recognition that might occur in school.

In sum, precocious readers appear to be children who grow up in a literate home and, for some unknown reason (unlike even their siblings in the same home), develop an intense early interest in reading. Interest, not unusual brain development, is what distinguishes them from others. Because they are interested and strongly motivated, they use whatever cues are available to figure out the meanings of printed words and sentences, and, along the way, with or without help, consciously or unconsciously, they eventually infer the underlying phonetic code and use it to read new words. For them, reading for meaning comes first, before phonics. In the words of one set of researchers, “[The precocious readers] were not taught the prerequisite skills of reading such as phoneme-grapheme correspondence or letter-naming skills but, instead, learned to read familiar, meaningful sight vocabulary; the rules of reading were not explicitly taught but apparently inferred over time.”[1]

The fact that precocious readers learn to read relatively quickly, before they are four years old, with no evidence of stress and much evidence of pleasure, suggests that learning to read in this way is not very difficult when a person really wants to do it. Learning to read, for them, quite literally, is child's play.

How unschoolers and children in democratic or free schools learn to read

In a previous report (here), I presented a qualitative analysis of case histories of learning to read by children in unschooling families (who don’t send their children to school or teach a curriculum at home) and by children at the Sudbury Valley School (where students are in charge of their own education and there is no imposed curriculum or instruction). I won’t repeat that work in detail here, but, in brief, some of the main conclusions were these: (1) Children in these settings learn to read at a wide variety of ages; (2) at whatever age they learn, they learn quite quickly when they are truly motivated to do so; (3) attempts by parents to teach reading to unmotivated children generally fail and often seem to delay the child's interest in reading; and (4) being read to and engaging in meaningful ways with literary material with skilled readers (older children or adults) facilitates learning.

In sum, these children seem to learn to read in essentially the same ways that precocious readers learn, but at a wide variety of ages. They learn when and because they are interested in reading, and they use whatever information is available to help them, including information provided by people who already know how to read. They are not systematically taught, and the people who help them generally have no training or expertise in the teaching of reading.

The reading wars, and the failure of progressive methods of reading instruction in schools

We turn now from self-motivated children learning to read out of school to children who are taught in school, where the assumption is that they must learn to read at a certain age and in a certain way, whether they want to or not. In school, learning to read appears to be unnatural and difficult. It occurs at a snail’s pace, incrementally over several years, Even after three or four years of training many children are not fluent readers.

Progressive educators have always argued that learning to read should not be slow and tedious. They have argued for “whole-word” and “whole-language” methods of teaching reading, which, they claim, are more natural and pleasurable than phonics-first methods. Although the progressive educators commonly think of themselves as proposing something new, contrasted with “traditional education,” the progressive arguments actually go back at least to the origin of compulsory state schooling in America. Horace Mann, the first secretary of education in any state in the union, who oversaw the passage of the first state compulsory education law (in Massachusetts, in 1852), fought for the whole-word approach and railed against phonics. In the early 20th century John Dewey and progressive educators inspired by him were champions of holistic, reading-for-meaning approaches. Later, in the 1970s and ‘80s, Kenneth Goodman and Frank Smith took up the torch and promoted what they called the whole-language approach.

On the other side are those who have long argued that phonics is the key to reading and should be taught early and directly. Noah Webster, sometimes referred to as the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,” was an early warrior in the phonics camp. In the late 18th century, he created the first series of books designed to teach reading and spelling in secular schools, and they were founded on phonics. In the mid 20th century, Rudolph Flesch turned the tide back toward phonics with his bestselling book, Why Johnny Can’t Read (1955). He argued convincingly that the progressive movement had produced a serious decline in reading ability in American schoolchildren because it ignored phonics. In the most recent two decades, the leading proponents of phonics include educational researchers who base their argument on experiments and data more than theory. Many carefully controlled experiments have by now been conducted to compare the reading scores of children taught by different methods in different classrooms, and the results of the great majority of them favor phonics.[3]

Because of their intensity and presumed importance, these debates about how to teach reading have long been dubbed “the Reading Wars.” Today, the majority (though not all) of the experts who have examined the data have declared that the wars are over—phonics has won. The data seem clear. Overall, children who are taught phonics from the beginning become better readers, sooner, than those who are taught by whole-word or whole-language methods. The learning is still slow and tedious, but not as slow and tedious for phonics learners as for those taught by other methods.

Why natural learning fails in classrooms

So, we have this puzzle. Out of school, children learn to read by what appear to be whole-word, whole-language methods. They read right off for meaning and they learn to recognize whole words and read whole passages before they pay much attention to individual letters or sounds. Phonics comes later, based on inferences that may be conscious or unconscious. Learning to read out of school is in some ways like learning oral language; you learn it, including the rules, with little awareness that you are learning it and little awareness of the rules that underlie it. But that doesn’t work well for learning to read in school. Learning there is better if you master the rules (the rules relating letters to sounds) before attending much to meaning. 

The mistake of the progressive educators, I think, has been to assume that the classroom is or can be a natural learning environment.  It isn’t, and (except in unusual circumstances) it can’t be. The classroom is a setting where you have a rather large group of children, all about the same age, and a teacher whose primary tasks are to keep order and impart a curriculum—the same curriculum for everyone. In that setting, the teacher decides what to do, not the students. If students decided, they would all decide on different things and there would be chaos. No matter how liberal-minded the teacher is, real, prolonged self-direction and self-motivation is not possible in the classroom. In this setting, children must suppress their own interests, not follow them. While children out of school learn what and because they want to, children in school must learn or go through the motions of learning what the teacher wants them to learn in the way the teacher wants them to do it. The result is slow, tedious, shallow learning that is about procedure, not meaning, regardless of the teacher’s intent.

The classroom is all about training. Training is the process of getting reluctant organisms to do or learn what the trainer wants them to do or learn. Under those conditions, methods that focus on the mechanical processes underlying reading—the conversion of sights to sounds—work better than methods that attempt to promote reading through meaning, which requires that students care about the meaning, which requires that they be able to follow their own interests, which is not possible in the classroom… [more]
education  reading  literacy  progressive  2016  petergray  children  teaching  learning  naturallearning  unschooling  schools  training  coercion  interests  emergentcurriculum  phonics  rules  wholelanguage  noahwebster  precociousreaders  precociousreading 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Setting the record straight on early literacy instruction - The Washington Post
"By Diane E. Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige

There has been much well-deserved criticism of the increase in direct instruction in reading skills to young children, resulting from the demands of the Common Core State Standards. However, when we and others argue for abandoning the current one-size-fits-all approach to early literacy, we are not proposing “natural learning environments,” where children learn to read on their own with little teacher intervention.

Yet this is the only alternative to direct, skills-based instruction that Peter Gray describes in “The Reading Wars: Why Natural Learning Fails in Classrooms,” a 2013 post at Psychology Today that he recently published on his Facebook page.

In his essay, Gray argues that learning to read in and out of classrooms is different, by its very nature. This is true. But we do not agree with his assumption that the progressive alternative to direct teaching of phonics and reading skills is to set up natural conditions that allow children to learn to read on their own. He is creating a dichotomy that illustrates an enduring misconception of progressive practice.

Decades ago, in the Harvard Education Review, Lawrence Kohlberg, an American psychologist known for his theory of moral development, and Rochelle Mayer, now a professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, astutely described a “romantic” view of learning which grows out of psychological theories that promote inner growth and development. They argue that Romantic educators create an environment where children are free to flourish and grow based on their innate and inner needs, through self-discovery.

Kohlberg and Mayer contrast this view with progressive education—the outgrowth of cognitive theory, as seen in the work of Jean Piaget, and the educational philosophy of John Dewey. In the progressive approach, the main focus is not on the skills to be learned or on the individual child, but on the interaction between the two. It’s a dynamic and complex process in which the teacher has a vital role to play.

With respect to reading, the teacher must understand the developmental progression of skills in oral language, reading and writing. The teacher must know the level of each child’s skills, as well as understand his or her unique learning needs and abilities, culture and linguistic background. With this knowledge, the teacher can purposefully build curriculum for every child that is developmentally appropriate, meaningful, and lasting.

In “Lively Minds,” a short paper that Lillian Katz wrote for Defending the Early Years, this beloved professor emerita at the University of Illinois draws a distinction between academic goals and making meaning through learning. Education, she argues, must “provide a wide range of experiences, opportunities, resources, and contexts that will provoke, stimulate, and support children’s innate intellectual dispositions.”

[Report debunks ‘earlier is better’ academic instruction for young children]

Teachers in progressive classrooms are intentional about literacy education and employ many strategies to expose children to rich oral language and print. Among them are telling and enacting stories; reading picture and chapter books; singing, reciting, and reading from posted charts (teachers using pointers to read along and helping children isolate specific letters and sounds); drawing and writing with invented and conventional spellings; taking dictation from children; and helping children write their own stories.

In organic and meaningful ways, teachers use print throughout the day—labeling block structures and interest areas, writing recipes, transcribing children’s stories, making charts for attendance and classroom jobs. Teachers tune these activities to the developmental skill levels of individual children, scaffolding new learning in ways that will build a strong foundation for lifelong success in reading.

In contrasting the whole-language and phonics skills-based approaches, or what he calls “training,” Gray ignores the complex role of the teacher in a progressive classroom. Good literacy programs integrate both phonics and meaning; for effective learning, skill-building must be connected to children’s interests and developmental levels in meaningful ways.

In these times of policy mandates and standardized education for even our youngest children, it is vital that critics be clear about the alternatives. And it’s equally important that critics not misrepresent appropriate practice, or what its proponents are advocating for. We hope that clarifying these issues will help us move forward toward best educational practice for all of our children."
literacy  children  pedagogy  progressive  progressiveeducation  reading  writing  teachingwriting  teaching  petergray  dianelevin  nancycarlsson-paige  howweteach  learning  education  schools  earlyliteracy  commoncore  johndewey 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm | Psychology Today
"Research reveals negative effects of academic preschools and kindergartens."

"A Study in Germany that Changed Educational Policy There

For example, in the 1970s, the German government sponsored a large-scale comparison in which the graduates of 50 play-based kindergartens were compared, over time, with the graduates of 50 academic direct-instruction-based kindergartens.[2] Despite the initial academic gains of direct instruction, by grade four the children from the direct-instruction kindergartens performed significantly worse than those from the play-based kindergartens on every measure that was used. In particular, they were less advanced in reading and mathematics and less well adjusted socially and emotionally. At the time of the study, Germany was gradually making a switch from traditional play-based kindergartens to academic ones. At least partly as a result of the study, Germany reversed that trend; they went back to play-based kindergartens. Apparently, German educational authorities, at least at that time, unlike American authorities today, actually paid attention to educational research and used it to inform educational practice.

A Large-Scale Study of Children from Poverty in the United States

Similar studies in the United States have produced comparable results. One study, directed by Rebecca Marcon, focused on mostly African American children from high-poverty families.[3] As expected, she found—in her sample of 343 students--that those who attended preschools centered on academic training showed initial academic advantages over those who attended play-based preschools; but, by the end of fourth grade, these initial advantages were reversed: The children from the play-based preschools were now performing better, getting significantly higher school grades, than were those from the academic preschools, This study included no assessment of social and emotional development.

An Experiment in Which Children from Poverty Were Followed up to Age 23

In a well-controlled experiment, begun by David Weikart and his colleagues in 1967, sixty eight high-poverty children living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, were assigned to one of three types of nursery schools: Traditional (play-based), High/Scope (which was like the traditional but involved more adult guidance), and Direct Instruction (where the focus was on teaching reading, writing, and math, using worksheets and tests). The assignment was done in a semi-random way, designed to ensure that the three groups were initially matched on all available measures. In addition to the daily preschool experiences, the experiment also included a home visit every two weeks, aimed at instructing parents in how to help their children. These visits focused on the same sorts of methods as did the preschool classrooms. Thus, home visits from the Traditional classrooms focused on the value of play and socialization while those from the Direct-Instruction classrooms focused on academic skills, worksheets, and the like.

The initial results of this experiment were similar to those of other such studies. Those in the direct-instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished. This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old. At these ages there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, highly significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.

By age 15 those in the Direct Instruction group had committed, on average, more than twice as many “acts of misconduct” than had those in the other two groups. At age 23, as young adults, the differences were even more dramatic. Those in the Direct Instruction group had more instances of friction with other people, were more likely to have shown evidence of emotional impairment, were less likely to be married and living with their spouse, and were far more likely to have committed a crime than were those in the other two groups. In fact, by age 23, 39% of those in the Direct Instruction group had felony arrest records compared to an average of 13.5% in the other two groups; and 19% of the Direct Instruction group had been cited for assault with a dangerous weapon compared with 0% in the other two groups.[4]

What might account for such dramatic long-term effects of type of preschool attended? One possibility is that the initial school experience sets the stage for later behavior. Those in classrooms where they learned to plan their own activities, to play with others, and to negotiate differences may have developed lifelong patterns of personal responsibility and pro-social behavior that served them well throughout their childhood and early adulthood. Those in classrooms that emphasized academic performance may have developed lifelong patterns aimed at achievement, and getting ahead, which—especially in the context of poverty—could lead to friction with others and even to crime (as a misguided means of getting ahead).

I suspect that the biweekly home visits played a meaningful role. The parents of those in the classrooms that focused on play, socialization, and student initiative may have developed parenting styles that continued to reinforce those values and skills as the children were growing up, and the parents of those in the academic training group may have developed parenting styles more focused on personal achievement (narrowly defined) and self-centered values—values that did not bode well for real-world success."
petergray  psychology  education  children  learning  howwelearn  academics  2015  directinstuction  unschooling  deschooling  schooling  schooliness  poverty  davidweikart  rebeccamarcon  nancycarlsson-paige  geralynmclaughlin  joanalmon 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Case for Free-Range Parenting -
"BETHESDA, Md. — ON her first morning in America, last summer, my daughter went out to explore her new neighborhood — alone, without even telling my wife or me.

Of course we were worried; we had just moved from Berlin, and she was just 8. But when she came home, we realized we had no reason to panic. Beaming with pride, she told us and her older sister how she had discovered the little park around the corner, and had made friends with a few local dog owners. She had taken possession of her new environment, and was keen to teach us things we didn’t know.

When this story comes up in conversations with American friends, we are usually met with polite disbelief. Most are horrified by the idea that their children might roam around without adult supervision. In Berlin, where we lived in the center of town, our girls would ride the Metro on their own — a no-no in Washington. Or they’d go alone to the playground, or walk a mile to a piano lesson. Here in quiet and traffic-safe suburban Washington, they don’t even find other kids on the street to play with. On Halloween, when everybody was out to trick or treat, we were surprised by how many children actually lived here whom we had never seen.

A study by the University of California, Los Angeles, has found that American kids spend 90 percent of their leisure time at home, often in front of the TV or playing video games. Even when kids are physically active, they are watched closely by adults, either in school, at home, at afternoon activities or in the car, shuttling them from place to place.

Such narrowing of the child’s world has happened across the developed world. But Germany is generally much more accepting of letting children take some risks. To this German parent, it seems that America’s middle class has taken overprotective parenting to a new level, with the government acting as a super nanny.

Just take the case of 10-year-old Rafi and 6-year-old Dvora Meitiv, siblings in Silver Spring, Md., who were picked up in December by the police because their parents had dared to allow them to walk home from the park alone. For trying to make them more independent, their parents were found guilty by the state’s Child Protective Services of “unsubstantiated child neglect.” What had been the norm a generation ago, that kids would enjoy a measure of autonomy after school, is now seen as almost a crime.

Today’s parents enjoyed a completely different American childhood. Recently, researchers at the University of Virginia conducted interviews with 100 parents. “Nearly all respondents remember childhoods of nearly unlimited freedom, when they could ride bicycles and wander through woods, streets, parks, unmonitored by their parents,” writes Jeffrey Dill, one of the researchers.

But when it comes to their own children, the same respondents were terrified by the idea of giving them only a fraction of the freedom they once enjoyed. Many cited fear of abduction, even though crime rates have declined significantly. The most recent in-depth study found that, in 1999, only 115 children nationwide were victims of a “stereotypical kidnapping” by a stranger; the overwhelming majority were abducted by a family member. That same year, 2,931 children under 15 died as passengers in car accidents. Driving children around is statistically more dangerous than letting them roam freely.

Motor development suffers when most of a child’s leisure time is spent sitting at home instead of running outside. Emotional development suffers, too.

“We are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives,” writes Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College. He argues that this increases “the chance that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and various other mental disorders,” which have gone up dramatically in recent decades. He sees risky, outside play of children among themselves without adult supervision as a way of learning to control strong emotions like anger and fear.

I am no psychologist like Professor Gray, but I know I won’t be around forever to protect my girls from the challenges life holds in store for them, so the earlier they develop the intellectual maturity to navigate the world, the better. And by giving kids more control over their lives, they learn to have more confidence in their own capabilities.

It is hard for parents to balance the desire to protect their children against the desire to make them more self-reliant. And every one of us has to decide for himself what level of risk he is ready to accept. But parents who prefer to keep their children always in sight and under their thumbs should consider what sort of trade-offs are involved in that choice.

At a minimum, parents who want to give their children more room to roam shouldn’t be penalized by an overprotective state. Cases like the Meitivs’ reinforce the idea that children are fragile objects to be protected at all times, and that parents who believe otherwise are irresponsible, if not criminally negligent.

Besides overriding our natural protective impulses in order to loosen the reins of our kids, my wife and I now also have to ponder the possibility of running afoul of the authorities. And we thought we had come to the land of the free."
clemenswergin  2015  parenting  children  autonomy  freedom  exploration  fear  safety  risktaking  helicopterparents  childhood  cities  petergray  self-reliance  independence  us  nannystate  freerangeparenting  helicopterparenting 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Kids, the Holocaust, and "inappropriate" play
"On a strong recommendation from Meg, I have been reading Peter Gray's Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Gray is a developmental psychologist and in Free to Learn he argues that 1) children learn primarily through self-directed play (by themselves and with other children), and 2) our current teacher-driven educational system is stifling this instinct in our kids, big-time.

I have a lot to say about Free to Learn (it's fascinating), but I wanted to share one of the most surprising and unsettling passages in the book. In a chapter on the role of play in social and emotional development, Gray discusses play that might be considered inappropriate, dangerous, or forbidden by adults: fighting, violent video games, climbing "too high", etc. As part of the discussion, he shares some of what George Eisen uncovered while writing his book, Children and Play in the Holocaust.
In the ghettos, the first stage in concentration before prisoners were sent off to labor and extermination camps, parents tried desperately to divert their children's attention from the horrors around them and to preserve some semblance of the innocent play the children had known before. They created makeshift playgrounds and tried to lead the children in traditional games. The adults themselves played in ways aimed at psychological escape from their grim situation, if they played at all. For example, one man traded a crust of bread for a chessboard, because by playing chess he could forget his hunger. But the children would have none of that. They played games designed to confront, not avoid, the horrors. They played games of war, of "blowing up bunkers," of "slaughtering," of "seizing the clothes of the dead," and games of resistance. At Vilna, Jewish children played "Jews and Gestapomen," in which the Jews would overpower their tormenters and beat them with their own rifles (sticks).

Even in the extermination camps, the children who were still healthy enough to move around played. In one camp they played a game called "tickling the corpse." At Auschwitz-Birkenau they dared one another to touch the electric fence. They played "gas chamber," a game in which they threw rocks into a pit and screamed the sounds of people dying. One game of their own devising was modeled after the camp's daily roll call and was called klepsi-klepsi, a common term for stealing. One playmate was blindfolded; then one of the others would step forward and hit him hard on the face; and then, with blindfold removed, the one who had been hit had to guess, from facial expressions or other evidence, who had hit him. To survive at Auschwitz, one had to be an expert at bluffing -- for example, about stealing bread or about knowing of someone's escape or resistance plans. Klepsi-klepsi may have been practice for that skill.

Gray goes on to explain why this sort of play is so important:
In play, whether it is the idyllic play we most like to envision or the play described by Eisen, children bring the realities of their world into a fictional context, where it is safe to confront them, to experience them, and to practice ways of dealing with them. Some people fear that violent play creates violent adults, but in reality the opposite is true. Violence in the adult world leads children, quite properly, to play at violence. How else can they prepare themselves emotionally, intellectually, and physically for reality? It is wrong to think that somehow we can reform the world for the future by controlling children's play and controlling what they learn. If we want to reform the world, we have to reform the world; children will follow suit. The children must, and will, prepare themselves for the real world to which they must adapt to survive.

Like I said, fascinating."

[Reminds me of this Umberto Eco quote about gun play:

"Stefano, my boy, I will give you guns. Because a gun isn’t a game. It is the inspiration for play. With it you will have to invent a situation, a series of relationships, a dialectic of events. You will have to shout boom, and you will discover that the game has only the value you give it, not what is built into it. As you imagine you are destroying enemies, you will be satisfying an ancestral impulse that boring civilization will never be able to extinguish, unless it turns you into a neurotic always taking Rorschach tests administered by the company psychologist. But you will find that destroying enemies is a convention of play, a game like so many others, and thus you will learn that it is outside reality, and as you play, you will be aware of the game’s limits. You will work off anger and repressions, and then be ready to receive other messages, which contemplate neither death nor destruction. Indeed, it is important that death and destruction always appear to you as elements of fantasy, like Red Riding Hood’s wolf, whom we all hated, to be sure, but without subsequently harboring an irrational hatred for Alsatians."]
children  play  simulation  petergray  2015  holocaust  wwii  ww2  learning  howwlearn  playtolearn  unschooling  deschooling  violence  umbertoeco  georgeeisen  psychology  developmentalpsychology  videogames  gaming  danger  auschwitz  practice  reality  imagination  survival  fiction  control  teaching  schools  schooling  parenting 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Unschooling: The Case for Setting Your Kids Into the Wild | Nature |
"There’s a name for the kind of education Fin and Rye are getting. It’s called unschooling, though Penny and I have never been fond of the term. But “self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning in the context of their own unique interests” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so unschooling it is."

"Fin and Rye are proficient with most of the hand and power tools that form the backbone of any working farm. By the time they were eight, both of them could operate the tractor and, in a pinch, drive the truck with a load of logs. They split firewood alongside us, swinging their mauls with remarkable accuracy. They are both licensed hunters and own .22 rifles and 20-gauge shotguns. They wear belt knives almost everywhere, oblivious to the stares of the adults around them, some concerned, some perplexed, and some, it often seems to me, nostalgic.

Our sons are not entirely self-taught; we understand the limits of the young mind and its still-developing capacity for judgment. None of these responsibilities were granted at an arbitrary, age-based marker, but rather as the natural outgrowth of their evolving skills and maturity. We have noticed, however, that the more responsibility we give our sons, the more they assume. The more we trust them, the more trustworthy they become. This may sound patronizingly obvious, yet I cannot help but notice the starring role that institutionalized education—with its inherent risk aversion—plays in expunging these qualities."

"“I look back at unschooling as the best part of my life,” Chelsea Clark told me between classes at the University of South Carolina School of Law, where she was accepted on full scholarship after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the university’s undergraduate program. “It was a huge advantage, actually. I had the confidence of knowing what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t burned out on classroom learning like most college kids.” Chelsea was unschooled throughout her high school years in the small town of Dorchester, South Carolina.

Still, perhaps the best answer I can give to the question of what price my children might pay is in the form of another question: What price do school-going children pay for their confinement? The physical toll is easy enough to quantify. Diabetes rates among school-age children are sky-high, and the percentage of 6-to-11-year-olds who qualify as obese has nearly tripled since 1980. And what do children do in school? Exactly. They sit.

Inactivity is also bad for the brain. A 2011 study by Georgia Health Sciences University found that cognitive function among kids improves with exercise. Their prefrontal cortex—the area associated with complex thinking, decision making, and social behavior—lights up. The kids in the study who exercised 40 minutes per day boosted their intelligence scores by an average of 3.8 points.

Yet the physical and cognitive implications of classroom learning have played minor roles in our decision to unschool Fin and Rye. It’s not that I don’t want them to be healthy and smart. Of course I do—I’m their father.

But, in truth, what I most want for my boys can’t be charted or graphed. It can’t be measured, at least not by common metrics. There is no standardized test that will tell me if it has been achieved, and there is no specific curriculum that will lead to its realization.

This is what I want for my sons: freedom. Not just physical freedom, but intellectual and emotional freedom from the formulaic learning that prevails in our schools. I want for them the freedom to immerse themselves in the fields and forest that surround our home, to wander aimlessly or with purpose. I want for them the freedom to develop at whatever pace is etched into their DNA, not the pace dictated by an institution looking to meet the benchmarks that will in part determine its funding. I want them to be free to love learning for its own sake, the way that all children love learning for its own sake when it is not forced on them or attached to reward. I want them to remain free of social pressures to look, act, or think any way but that which feels most natural to them.

I want for them the freedom to be children. And no one can teach them how to do that."

[See also: OR ]
benhewitt  homeschool  unschooling  education  parenting  vermont  2014  nature  learning  howwelearn  petergray  families  responsibility  tcsnmy  glvo  edg  srg  outdoors  risk  risktaking 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Human Rights Struggle in Europe: Educational Choice | Psychology Today
"State-mandated exams subvert self-directed education, because they dictate the content and timing of learning and undermine children’s sense that educational assessment is their own responsibility and pertains to their own personal, unique goals and values."
europe  netherlands  belgium  sweden  germany  homeschool  unschooling  standardization  standards  self-directedlearning  education  deschooling  learning  2013  petergray  assessment  humanrights  colonization 
august 2013 by robertogreco
As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity | Psychology Today
"Kyung Hee Kim’s recent research report documenting a continuous decline in creativity among American schoolchildren over the last two or three decades

"Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous monitoring, evaluation, adult-direction, & pressure to conform that restrict children’s lives today.  In the real world few questions have one right answer, few problems have one right solution; that’s why creativity is crucial to success in the real world. But more and more we are subjecting children to an educational system that assumes one right answer to every question and one correct solution to every problem, a system that punishes children (and their teachers too) for daring to try different routes. We are also, as I documented in a previous essay, increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure—that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential."
intelligence  standardization  standardizedtesting  kyungheekim  torrancetestofcreativethinking  ttct  learning  us  trends  control  boredom  schools  petergray  2012  education  children  creativity  freedom  parenting 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The most boring culture on Earth
"The Baining, an indiginous group of Papua New Guinea, shun play and basically don't do anything but work.
According to Fajans, the Baining eschew everything that they see as "natural" and value activities and products that come from "work," which they view as the opposite of play. Work, to them, is effort expended to overcome or resist the natural. To behave naturally is to them tantamount to behaving as an animal. The Baining say, "We are human because we work." The tasks that make them human, in their view, are those of turning natural products (plants, animals, and babies) into human products (crops, livestock, and civilized human beings) through effortful work (cultivation, domestication, and disciplined childrearing).

The Baining believe, quite correctly, that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it. They refer to children's play as "splashing in the mud," an activity of pigs, not appropriate for humans. They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it. Beyond infancy, children are encouraged or coerced to spend their days working and are often punished -- sometimes by such harsh means as shoving the child's hand into the fire -- for playing. On those occasions when Fajans did get an adult to talk about his or her childhood, the narrative was typically about the challenge of embracing work and overcoming the shameful desire to play. Part of the reason the Baining are reluctant to talk about themselves, apparently, derives from their strong sense of shame about their natural drives and desires.

But maybe Americans are becoming more boring as our children's freedom to explore is curtailed:…"

[Peter Gray's article is here: ]
culture  via:lukeneff  boredom  boringness  baining  papuanewguinea  psychology  anthropology  petergray  2012  parenting  children  stoicism  allworknoplay  play  adderall  jasonkottke 
july 2012 by robertogreco
What Leads Families to “Unschool” Their Children? Report II | Psychology Today
"My goal now, in Report II, is to describe the paths by which the families that responded to the survey came to unschooling.  This report is based on a qualitative analysis that my colleague Gina Riley and I  made of the responses to Item 6 on the survey form, which reads as follows: 

6. Please describe the path by which your family came to the unschooling philosophy you now practice.  In particular:  (a) Did any specific school experiences of one or more of your children play a role?  If so, briefly describe those experiences. (b) Did any particular author or authors play a role? If so, please name the author or authors and what most appealed to you about their writing.  (c) Did you try homeschooling before unschooling?  If so, what led you from one to the other?"

[Part 1: The Benefits of Unschooling

Part 3: The Challenges of Unschooling ]
homeschool  research  parenting  2012  petergray  deschooling  unschooling  education  learning 
april 2012 by robertogreco
The Benefits of Unschooling: Report I from a Survey of 231 Families | Psychology Today
"Here, in a series of reports in this blog, my intention is to present a more informal report of the survey results. In this first report, I present some general statistics about the families who responded and then  focus on their definitions of unschooling and their statements about the benefits of unschooling. In subsequent reports I'll focus on their paths to unschooling and the biggest challenges of unschooling. One thing I can do here, which we won't be able to do in the more formal academic article, is to present many quotations from the survey forms. Many of the respondents are eloquent writers, who had no trouble putting their enthusiasm for unschooling into words."

[Part 2: What Leads Families to “Unschool” Their Children?

Part 3: The Challenges of Unschooling ]
learning  deschooling  2012  education  parenting  research  unschooling  petergray  homeschool 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Welcome to the Age of Overparenting - Boston Magazine -
"…pushing kids can be just as bad for them as attending to their every desire…children of upper-class, highly educated parents…are increasingly anxious & depressed. Children with “high perfectionist strivings” were likely to see achievement failures as personal failures…being constantly shuttled between activities…ends up leaving suburban adolescents feeling more isolated from parents.

…while today’s middle- & upper-middle-class children have an unprecedented array of opportunities, their experiences are often manufactured by us…Nearly everything they do is orchestrated, if not by their parents, then by some other adult…But their experiences aren’t very rich in the messier way — in those moments of unfettered abandon when part of the thrill is the risk of harm, hurt feelings, or struggle. In our attempt to manage & support every moment of our children’s lives, they become something that belongs to us, not them.

[ ]
parenting  children  stress  anxiety  anxiousparenting  helicopterparenting  helicopterparents  2011  caroldweck  petergray  suniyaluthar  behavior  messiness  play  unstructuredtime  learning  life  overparenting  unschooling  deschooling  freedom  independence  education 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Children Teach Themselves to Read | Psychology Today
"In marked contrast to all this frenzy about teaching reading stands the view of people involved in the "unschooling" movement and the Sudbury "non-school" school movement, who claim that reading need not be taught at all! As long as kids grow up in a literate society, surrounded by people who read, they will learn to read. They may ask some questions along the way and get a few pointers from others who already know how to read, but they will take the initiative in all of this and orchestrate the entire process themselves. This is individualized learning, but it does not require brain imaging or cognitive scientists, and it requires little effort on the part of anyone other than the child who is learning. Each child knows exactly what his or her own learning style is, knows exactly what he or she is ready for, and will learn to read in his or her own unique way, at his or her unique schedule."
education  reading  unschooling  learning  parenting  deschooling  directinstruction  pedagogy  sudbury  sudburyschools  petergray  psychology  research  anecdote  cognitive  children  autodidacts  literacy 
december 2010 by robertogreco
How Developmental Psychology’s Marriage to the School System Distorts Our Understanding of Children | Psychology Today
"it is not surprising to discover that the questions that developmental psychologist attempt to answer in their research are largely school-related questions. Many of the questions are explicitly about school lessons; they have to do, for example, with ways of teaching reading or math. But even questions that are not so obviously about schooling are strongly affected by the school paradigm. They have to do with the effects, on children, of structured situations set up for them by adults, in controlled settings where the choices of what to do are severely limited. That, by itself, pretty much rules out the study of real play or curiosity.

There is nothing nefarious about any of this. These are honest researchers trying to study what they and others around them see as important. The result, though, is an extraordinarily biased and narrow view of the human nature of children."
education  psychology  unschooling  deschooling  petergray  play  children  schools  schooling  teaching  reading  tcsnmy  gamechanging 
march 2010 by robertogreco
When Less is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools | Psychology Today
"Think of it. Today whenever we hear that children aren't learning much of what is taught in school the hue and cry from the educational establishment is that we must therefore teach more of it! If two hundred hours of instruction on subject X does no good, well, let's try four hundred hours. If children aren't learning what is taught to them in first grade, then let's start teaching it in kindergarten. And if they aren't learning it in kindergarten, that could only mean that we need to start them in pre-kindergarten! But Benezet had the opposite opinion. If kids aren't learning much math in the early grades despite considerable time and effort devoted to it, then why waste time and effort on it?"

[More on the L. P. Benezet experiment]
mathematics  math  teaching  psychology  philosophy  parenting  unschooling  academia  children  development  education  homeschool  learning  petergray  deschooling  us  research  lcproject  tcsnmy 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Why Schools Are What They Are II: Forces Against Fundamental Change | Psychology Today
"previous posting...evidence supporting following claims: (1) Children's instincts to play & explore on their own provided foundation for education during our long history as hunter-gatherers (2) Children today can & do educate themselves very well, w/out coercion or adult prodding or direction, if provided w/ an environment that supports instincts to play & explore (3) Conventional schools are what they are today because of historical circumstances that led people to devalue play, believe that children's willfulness must be broken, & believe that everything useful, including learning, requires toil. Today, many people understand the educative value of free play & exploration, regret that children are provided relatively little opportunity for such activities, & believe that children's willfulness is a positive force for their development, education, and enjoyment of life. Yet schools continue on, as before...Why is it so difficult to institute fundamental changes w/in school system?"

[via: ]
education  learning  unschooling  deschooling  play  exploration  children  history  psychology  schooling  toil  instinct  tcsnmy  lcproject  petergray 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Minimally Invasive Education: Lessons from India | Psychology Today
"Mitra...describe[s]...minimally invasive w/ minimal amount of intrusion into children's lives...experiments demonstrated that children learned at an amazingly rapid rate with no adult teachers. All that the educators had to do was to provide the tool, the computer. The children's natural curiosity, playfulness, & sociability took over from there...Children in school are not free to pursue their own, self-chosen interests, & this mutes their enthusiasm. Children in school are constantly evaluated. The concern for evaluation & pleasing the teacher...overrides and subverts the possibility of developing genuine interest in the assigned tasks. Children in school are often shown only one way to solve a problem & told that other ways are incorrect, so the excitement of discovering new ways is prevented. Segregation of children by age in schools prevents the age mixing & diversity that seem to be key to children's natural ways of learning."

[via: ]
tcsnmy  unschooling  deschooling  sugatamitra  holeinthewall  petergray  india  learning  outdoctrination  lcproject  play  curiosity  playfulness  sociability  freedom  agesegregation  evaluation  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education | Psychology Today
Forced education interferes with children's abilities to educate themselves... 1. Denial of liberty on the basis of age. 2. Fostering of shame, on the one hand, and hubris, on the other. 3. Interference with the development of cooperation and nurturance. 4. Interference with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction. 5. Linking of learning with fear, loathing, and drudgery. 6. Inhibition of critical thinking. 7. Reduction in diversity of skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking."
education  psychology  learning  unschooling  reform  deschooling  freedom  schooling  schools  self-directedlearning  responsibility  compulsory  petergray  highered  academia  homeschool  pedagogy  prison  cooperation  teaching 
october 2009 by robertogreco

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