I scurried to my local bookstore yesterday to grab a copy of Boston College psychology professor--and avid unschooling supporter--Peter Gray's, new book: Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Now, I can't put it down.
Offering both a personal and provocative analysis of the potential consequences of today's predominantly super-charged, over-scheduled, adult-driven, institutionalized childhood, this book is a must-read for those of us choosing a different way:
"We are pushing the limits of children's adaptability. We have pushed children into an abnormal environment, where they are expected to spend ever greater portions of their day under adult direction, sitting at desks, listening to and reading about things that don't interest them, and answering questions that are not their own and are not, to them, real questions. We leave them ever less time and freedom to play, explore, and pursue their own interests." (p.5)
Much of Gray's book focuses on trust. We must trust our children, trust our parenting, trust the evolutionary foundations of natural learning, trust that children have the innate capacity to seek and to know, to engage and collaborate and resolve conflict--if we grown-ups just get out of their way. So much of childhood today seems to be focused on the opposite of trust--on control and orchestration.
"Over the past half century or more we have seen a continuous erosion of children's freedom to play and, corresponding with that, a continuous decline in young people's mental and physical health. If this trend continues, we are in serious danger of producing generations of future adults who cannot find their own way in life." (p. 6)
Many unschooling and homeschooling and other alternative-schooling families witness first-hand the results of more trust in the natural learning process. We see our children thrive in wide-open, child-directed, play-based environments that allow them the time and space to reveal their true gifts and passions, and allow them to naturally develop essential cognitive and interpersonal skills. We see them learn to walk and climb, to read and write, to discover and synthesize, to question and wonder--without being told or directed. We see the results of trusting natural learning. Now, how do we show others?
"It is time for people who know better to stand up and move against this terrible tide. Children do not need more schooling. They need less schooling and more freedom." (p. 20)