An evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray argues that human children, like all mammals, learn best through play – and by play, Gray means without adult involvement. If adults are directing, coaching, even observing, it isn’t real play.
Gray shows how our current educational system interferes with that learning process by denying play and free time, dictating almost all activities, and separating kids by age and expecting them all to learn the same thing at the same time. Instead, Gray advocates for a learning process completely driven by the kids themselves and with plenty of play.
He uses the Sudbury Valley as model which gives kids plenty of learning resources but puts the power in their hands to choose what they want to do every day – and yet somehow they still end up learning to read, write and do math—and yes they do graduate and many go on to college.
It’s a fascinating exploration of what democratic learning really means. While it may be hard for everyone to replicate the Sudbury Valley experience, there are many ideas and practices in Free to Learn that parents and educators can adopt themselves.
Want more practical help giving your kids freedom? Both Peter Gray along with Free Range Mom Lenore Skenazy and others have started an organization Let Grow. It helps like-minded parents and educators connect with each other to build a community around raising self-reliant, independent kids. There is power in numbers.