Playing with Children: Should You, and If So, How?

Parent-child play is ruined when either the parent or the child dominates. Fun occurs when there is no domination in either direction. Parent-child play is not as natural, nor as crucial for the child's development, as child-child play, but it can still be fun.

The Danger of Back to School

Data from one children's mental health center indicate that children are far more likely to experience psychological breakdowns during the school year than during the summer.

What Do Grown Unschoolers Think of Unschooling? IV in Series

Most of the grown unschoolers in our survey were very happy with their unschooling and said they would unschool their own children. A few, however, were unhappy, and their descriptions of their childhoods make it clear why they would be. This final report in the series describes the advantages and disadvantages of unschooling, in the respondents’ own words.

Survey of Grown Unschoolers III: Pursuing Careers

Our survey of grown unchoolers—who had skipped all or much of K-12—revealed, not surprisingly, that many went on to careers in the creative arts. But that is not all. Many also pursued STEM careers and many become entrepreneurs. They chose careers that are enjoyable, meaningful, and high in occupational self-direction.

Survey of Grown Unschoolers II: Going on to College

Most people in our culture believe that college admission requires 13 years of hard work in school, maybe accompanied by frequent tears. To some of them it may be disturbing to learn that it is possible to go to college, and do well there, with no K-12 schooling at all, just by following your own interests and dreams. Here are the words of some who did just that.

A Survey of Grown Unschoolers I: Overview of Findings

How do people who didn't go to school or do curriculum-based homeschooling as children and teenagers fare in adult life? Can they go to college and do well there without previous schooling? What kinds of careers do they pursue? In retrospect, are they happy or unhappy with their unschooled background? In this study, 75 grown unschoolers tell us about their experiences.

Can Lego Help Return Play to Children’s Lives and Education?

I was invited recently to speak at a worldwide conference on play and learning, sponsored by the Lego Foundation. Not surprisingly, I was pleased by some aspects of the conference, displeased by other aspects. Here's why, and here are my thoughts about how the Lego Foundation might make a real, vitally needed difference in the lives of children and families.

Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It

Children love risky play that may worry parents. Why has the drive for such play evolved? What happens when children are deprived of such play?

A Playful Path, and DeKoven's Advice for Getting Back on It

We are born to be playful. We are, as Johan Huizinga put it long ago, Homo Ludens (the playful human) even more than we are Homo Sapiens (the wise human). But many of lose our playfulness. Why do we lose it, and how can we recover it? Here’s why, and here, especially, is how to recover it—from a new book by Bernard DeKoven.

Five Myths About Young People and Social Media

Many adults are puzzled, and some are appalled, by the amount of time teens spend online and by what they seem to do there. In her new book,"It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens," Danah Boyd helps us make sense of teens' uses of social media. Her data and analyses debunk some common myths about teens, technology, and social media....

Why Is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?

Clinical assessment questionnaires indicate that narcissism has been rising and empathy has been declining in young people over the past 30 years or more. Why? Here are several reasonable explanations.

Language, Measures, and the US Handicap in Math

Children in China, Japan, and Korea may have a head start in learning mathematics because they enter school already understanding the base-ten number system. Here's why.

The Reading Wars: Why Natural Learning Fails in Classrooms

The "Reading Wars," the battles between those who favor phonics and those who favor whole-word or whole-language instruction of reading, have been declared to be over. The data clearly favor the early and explicit teaching of phonics. But when children learn to read out of school, on their own initiative, they do so with little attention to phonics. Why this difference?

Why Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment Isn’t in My Textbook

One of the questions I'm often asked by professors who teach from my introductory psychology textbook is this: "Why don't you include Zimbardo's classic Stanford Prison Experiment in your book, like all other introductory psychology textbook authors do?" Here's why.

Schools Are Good for Showing Off, Not for Learning

High pressure testing and evaluation inhibits learning and drives a wedge between those who already know and those who don't. That is one explanation of the education gap between children from economically well off families and those from poorer families, and why that gap has been increasing over the past few decades.

The Human Rights Struggle in Europe: Educational Choice

The struggle for educational freedom in Europe is a human rights struggle, on a par with other such struggles throughout the ages. Parents in the Netherlands have been fined, threatened with imprisonment, and threatened with having their children removed, for following their conscience in education. These are loving, caring, intelligent, responsible--and brave--parents.

Beyond Attachment to Parents: Children Need Community

In hunter-gatherer cultures, such as that of the Efe, infants and children develop close relationships with, and are cared for by, the entire band, not just parents. Today, too, both children and parents need the support of a caring community. The nuclear family is not enough.

Education Revolution: Help Us Reach the Tipping Point

When everyone knows several families who have left coercive schooling and chosen a path of educational self-determination, so it no longer seems like an odd thing to do, we will reach a tipping point. The floodgates will open, and coercive schools will empty out. You can help our nation and world reach that tipping point.

Be Glad for Our Failure to Catch Up with China in Education

Education professor Yong Zhao suggests that the American school system is like a sausage machine that isn’t very good at producing sausages, and that’s why it’s better than the Chinese school system, which is very good at producing sausages.

The Most Basic Freedom Is Freedom to Quit

Freedom to quit is essential to peaceful societies, happy marriages, and satisfying employment. It could also turn schools into places where children learn joyfully.

My Hope for “Free to Learn”

We have made great strides in recognizing the competence and rights of people regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation. I hope now to see real progress in recognizing the competence and rights of children, for only when children grow up free can we hope for a society in which adults know fully how to handle freedom and the responsibilities that come with it.

Seeking Unschooled Adults to Tell Us About Their Experiences

Do you know anyone, age 18 or older, who was “unschooled” for a period that covered, at least, what would have been their last two years of high school? If so, please invite them into this survey.

$100m to Know Why NFLers Die Young? Here’s Why, For Free

Just days before Super Bowl XLVII, the NFL announced it is giving Harvard University a hundred million dollars to find out why professional football players die about 20 years younger than other men. Hey, I could have answered that question for half as much. In fact, here I'll do it for free.

The Educative Value of Teasing

Teasing gets a bad rap, especially in educational circles, because of its association with bullying. But not all teasing is bullying. In fact, in most settings (maybe not in our typical schools), teasing serves positive ends far more often than negative ones.

Can You Measure an Education? Can You Define Life’s Meaning?

First "education" (as occurs in schools) was about obedience training; then it was about learning a bunch of subjects; now it's about passing standardized tests. These are all measurable. But what really IS education, or what should it be, and is it measurable?

Some Schools Now Track Students Like Prisoners

The opening of schools in San Antonio this fall brought a flurry of news reports about the new ID badges with RF chips, which allow school officials to monitor students’ movements. But does such tracking make schools any more prison-like than they already are?

Unsolicited Evaluation Is the Enemy of Creativity

In schools today—and increasingly out of schools too—children are more or less continuously directed and evaluated by adults. These are precisely the conditions that have been shown, in many research studies, to suppress creativity. It is no wonder that children's creativity has declined in recent decades.

As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

In the 1950s, E. Paul Torrance developed ways to measure children's creativity that have proven to be valid predictors of adult accomplishment. A new study using Torrance's measures indicates that children's creativity has been on the decline for the past 20 to 30 years.

In Relationships, Respect May Be Even More Crucial than Love

Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person—sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product.

All Work and No Play Make the Baining the "Dullest Culture"

The Baining, of Papua New Guinea, believe that play is the natural activity of children, and precisely for that reason they do what they can to discourage or prevent it.