“Psychology Today” Wants Unschooled Learning Stories

7 01 2010

for Peter Gray’s Freedom to Learn blog. Talk about power of story! 🙂

Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College who has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. He has published articles on innovative teaching methods and alternative approaches to education. He is currently working on a book about the lifelong nature and functions of human play, tentatively titled Born to Play.

He wants whatever you’re sharing within the next two or three weeks and notes that overcoming problems as well as “success” stories are welcome. Just reading through the kinds of learning he finds most interesting made all sorts of stories pop into my head. For young parents and teachers whose stories haven’t been written yet, his thumbnail categories make a good case for unschooling I think, for learning at any age based on relationships and trust rather than carrots, sticks and other imposed controls (remind me to connect this with Dan Pink’s new book as we discuss):

Here are some topics that particularly interest me, about which I especially invite you to write:

Learning to read without schooling. I am interested in how children learn to read in situations where they have no or little formal instruction in reading. I know that this occurs within a wide range of ages for children at Sudbury schools and in unschooling environments. . .

Learning math without schooling. Some young self-educators learn math because they love it. Others learn it because they want to go to college and have to take the math SAT, or because they need to know it to pursue some other interest that intrigues them. . .

From play to careers: How interests developed in play become career paths. Many lucky people find that their play, done at first purely for fun, evolves into a joyful way of making a living. I’m especially interested in cases where children or adolescents developed passionate interests through their play and then, as they grew older, found ways to make a living by pursuing those interests.

Becoming an expert through one’s own initiative. This topic overlaps with the previous one, but includes cases where the area of expertise is not necessarily a career path. How do people on their own initiative become extraordinarily skilled at some endeavor or extraordinarily knowledgeable about some subject? What seems to motivate them and how do they learn? Read the rest of this entry »