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Summary

Our children spend their days being passively instructed and made to sit still and take tests, —often against their will. We call this imprisonment schooling yet wonder why kids become bored and misbehave. Even outside of school children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling —and life— as a series of hoops to struggle through.

In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth.

To foster children who will thrive in today's constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, Gray demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today, as studies at alternative, democratically administered schools show. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better —and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling.

A brave, counterintuitive proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the curiosity-killing institution we call school, Free to Learn suggests that it's time to stop asking what's wrong with our children and start asking what's wrong with the system. It shows how we can act —both as parents and as members of society —to improve children's lives and promote their happiness and learning.

©2013 Peter Gray (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic reviews

"“All kids love learning. Most don't love school. That's a disconnect we've avoided discussing—until this lightning bolt of a book. If you've ever wondered why your curious kid is turning into a sullen slug at school, Peter Gray's Free to Learn has the answer. He also has the antidote." (Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids)

"“[A] well written, well organized and beautifully stated piece of work…. I emphatically recommend this book for any parent as well as any educator or anyone interested in improving education for our society." (Laurette Lynn, UnpluggedMom.com)

"“[E]nergetic… Gray powerfully argues that schools inhibit learning…. [Gray's] vivid illustrations of the ‘power of play to shape an individual are bound to provoke a renewed conversation about turning the tide in an educational system that fosters conformity and inhibits creative thinking." (Publishers Weekly)   

What listeners say about Free to Learn

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Trust

Has changed my view on education & allowing my son to learn. How to be a trusting parent.

1 person found this helpful

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Essential for all parents!

I wish I had read this book before I even thought of having children. It could have saved me from making so making mistakes! Everyone who lives or spends any time with children should read it!

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Informative

Easy listening, simple information on exploring the negatives of schooling and the positives of alternative schooling. It's not so much a deep dive into the subject for me but an easy listening overview.

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Inspirational. Must read.

I highly recommend for anyone considering or practicing alternative education. So much of it seems obvious, but Peter does such an amazing job of confirming and organising ideas, and ultimately reassuring me that this approach is not one to be nervous about.

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Eye opening and well constructed

Really enjoyed listening to this book. Play is the source of all learning and the importance of providing your children with an environment in which they can play and learn becomes very clear throughout.

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Brilliant book!

This is a must for every parent to read! It reminds me of my childhood when I can do almost anything with freedom!

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Amazing

A must read for all. We must start respecting our children. They are the future.

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Mind blowing

I already knew there's plenty of problems with the regular school system, but this book really convinced me that homeschooling is the best. If I can find a community of like-minded people with children in the new few years I would love to join this wonderful movement!

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    5 out of 5 stars

Factual, informative, life changing

As a mindful parent considering homeschooling this gave me the confidence that it's right choice.

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  • Alan Timothy Lester
  • 18-09-18

Tremendous

life changing information for parents. It's on my list of the 10 most amazing books I've read.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Elan Sun Star
  • 11-04-20

incredibly rich -informative and inspiring

I really love this book. I admire the comprehensive nature of Peter Gray's experience and informative and informative style style.. Of all the books I've read Of all the books I've read on on on schooling on schooling and on liberal methods of free classrooms everything from Waldorf school to Montessori to free schools and to nature schools, this book stands apart in its spectrum of illustration of principles and success stories. The concept of freedom in Learning and curiosity and commitment both demands and deserves to be put in Front and center Front and center when we as students as students as adults as adults as teachers and instructors begin to comprehend the importance only allowing students to determine only allowing students to determine a Certain amount a Certain amount of freedom of freedom in their decisions about what to learn we're learned how to learn we're learned how to learn and how to be responsible when given and that sort of freedom and liberty when given and that sort of freedom and liberty....

Thank you Peter gray...we so appreciate you're insights and lifetime of Study and teaching in passing on in passing on these stories which illustrate the success of this style of learning.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lindsay Izzo
  • 20-01-20

first ever audible, excellent!

We are in the process of switching to homeschooling. I am so incredibly grateful to Peter for writing this book. It was full of great insight into the world of education. I truly enjoyed the history he went into and how the book was laid out. the narrator was absolutely fantastic and I found myself not wanting to turn the audible book off.

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  • jesi28
  • 25-04-19

School teacher thoughts

As a public school teacher, now considering unschooling my child, I found this very helpful. It had tons of evidence based stories and research. I’m going to recommend teachers read it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Firecracker
  • 12-09-18

This is a great book!

Great book!
A lot of information including the history of schools!
Explains the natural ways kids learn. I am so grateful for unschool. All children deserve to be happy with no anxiety.

Kids are being medicated with a sedative just to be able to go to school (this isn't in the book)! This is unacceptable. Some children have Pathological Demand Avoidance and unschool is the way they thrive. There are many other children that could thrive from this as well! It promotes free thinking. We need more free thinkers for outside the box thinking. The medical field in particular REALLY needs this!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-03-21

A must-read (or listen)

This is a great book for anyone that has even the slightest feeling that the general schooling system is some how flawed. Some really great points made about playing and child independence.
I believe this book outlines how parenting and schools will be, and should be, in the future.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anna
  • 31-08-20

A MUST read for anyone working with children.

This book is most helpful with opening the adult mind to understanding why children need freedom. Read it! You won't be sorry that you did.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Juan Z.
  • 03-01-20

great book!

very informative and helpful. sudberry valley looks amazing. anyone looking to homeschool should check it out #wellnessrising

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kara F. Poorbaugh
  • 10-04-21

Revolutionary

This book may very well change the course of my life and my daughter's life. As a teacher and a parent, I will never think about education in the same way again. Well-researched and simply stated, I found fascinating the history of our transition from play-based hunter gatherer culture to coercive adult-directed schooling. Thank you Peter for this (my) introduction to self-directed education, democratic schooling and play-borhoods!!

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  • Leanne Palmieri
  • 01-02-21

wonderful book about education

I loved this book! There were so many insights on education and how it has evolved through time and why! I loved that he have so many example and situations of students in different settings to explain his point! This book has given me so much peace and reassurance on my homeschool journey! I absolutely love where he sees education going and I hope that it does and I think with more books like this more parents who are willing to be brave we could have a whole new world! definitely recommend reading this book If you want to learn more about education and help to navigate with your children!