Freedom to Learn

The roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning.

Seeking Unschooled Adults to Tell Us About Their Experiences

Pass this on to people who meet our criteria as being "unschooled" adults.

A year and a half ago I initiated a survey of unschooling families in order to learn about their reasons for unschooling and what they perceived to be the benefits and challenges of this approach to education.  More than 230 families generously responded to the survey, and my colleague Gina Riley and I analyzed the results.  I published a summary of those results on this blog—here, here, and here; and Gina and I subsequently authored a full report on the survey that is scheduled to appear in the next issue (Vol. 7, issue 14, 2013) of the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning.  The survey results also contributed to the discussion of unschooling in the final chapter of my new book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.

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Gina and I are now following up with two more survey studies of unschooling.  One of these is a survey specifically of the children, who are under 18 years old, in the same families that responded to the initial survey.  For that study we are not seeking new recruits; we have already sent emails to those families asking the children to participate if they are willing to. The other study, for which we are seeking new recruits, is a study of adults—age 18 and older—who were “unschooled” during at least the last two years of what otherwise would have been their high school years.  For this study we are seeking the participation not just of those who were in the initial sample of families, but also anybody, anywhere, who fits the criteria.

For the sake of this study, “unschooling” is defined as follows: Unschooling is not schooling. Unschooling parents do not send their children to school and they do not do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child's learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.

For our study of unschooled adults, we are seeking people who meet the following criteria:

a.  Participants must be 18 years of age or older.

b. Participants must have been unschooled (by the above definition) for at least two years during what would have been their high school years.  AND

c. Participants must not have attended 11th and 12th grade at a high school.

If you meet these criteria and are willing to participate in the study, or if you have any questions about the study, please send an email to Gina Riley at this address:  professorginariley@gmail.com.  If you have questions or comments about this study that might be of interest to other readers, please post them here.  Either Gina or I will answer any questions.

If you know anyone who qualifies for this study, please tell them about it and send them Gina’s email address and/or a link to this blog post.  If you belong to an unschooling group of any sort, please send them a link to this post.  To make this study most effective, we want to reach as many unschooled adults as we possibly can.

THANK YOU for considering this request!

Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, is author of the newly published book Free to Learn (Basic Books) and Psychology (a textbook now in its 6th edition).

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