Free Play Is Essential for Normal Emotional Development

When young monkeys or rats are deprived of play, they fail to develop normal abilities to regulate their emotions. There is good reason to believe that the same is true of young humans.

Doing More Time in School: An Unimaginative, Mean Proposal

When will educators realize that people learn best when they are happy? Schools fail because they make children unhappy. More time in school won’t fix that.

Meet Kate Fridkis, Who Skipped K-12 and Is Neither Weird nor

Kate Fridkis, who didn't go to elementary or secondary school, is now 26 years old, is happily married, lives in New York City, has a master’s degree in religion from Columbia University, is a part-time chazzan (cantor) at a synagogue (a job she’s held since age 15), and is a full-time writer. I'm delighted that she agreed to this interview.

The Challenges of Unschooling: Report III from the Survey

What is the biggest challenge or hurdle that families must surmount in order to "unschool" their children (that is, in order to allow their children to control their own education)? According to a recent large-scale survey, the biggest challenges lie not in unschooling per se, but in societal attitudes toward it. It is hard to stand up to social norms.

What Leads Families to “Unschool” Their Children? Report II

Here, based on a survey of 232 unschooling families, I address these questions: Why did they remove their children from standard schooling? Why did they transition from homeschooling to unschooling? What authors, and what life experiences, influenced their decision?

The Benefits of Unschooling: Report I from a Large Survey

This past fall I surveyed unschooling families, primarily to learn why they chose not to send their children to school or to school them at home. Two hundred and thirty one families responded to the survey. In this, the first report of the results, I focus on the families’ definitions of unschooling and the advantages they perceive unschooling to have for their families.

Video Game Addiction: Does It Occur? If So, Why?

The concept of "video game addiction" has been rejected by the American Psychiatric Association, by many video game researchers, and by many psychotherapists who work with video gamers. I reject it too. Here's why; and here's how you might help someone you know who spends lots of time at video games and seems unhappy.

The Many Benefits, for Kids, of Playing Video Games

Video games do not promote obesity, ill health, social isolation, or violence. They do promote friendships, cooperation, self-control, and brainpower.

How Children Learn Bravery in an Age of Overprotection

I doubt if there has ever been any human culture, anywhere, at any time, that underestimates children’s abilities more than we North Americans do today. Our underestimation becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, because . . .

Why Children Protest Going to School: More Evo. Mismatch

A Darwinian, evolutionary perspective helps us understand why children do not readily submit to schooling. Every bone in their body, every neuron, every muscle, resists coercion. Our hunter-gatherer past endowed children with educative drives that are rooted in freedom.

Why Young Children Protest Bedtime: Evolutionary Mismatch

A Darwinian, evolutionary perspective helps us understand why young children put up such a fuss about bedtime. Every parent should realize that their child is not just testing their will. The child, for good reasons, is experiencing fear, maybe even terror.

What Is Unschooling? Invitation to a Survey

A large and growing number of parents are taking their children out of school, not to school them at home but to allow them to learn in their own natural ways at home and in the larger community. What are they thinking?

Is Real Educational Reform Possible? If So, How?

Our present compulsory school system is like the hulking dinosaurs of the late Mesozoic. Those people and groups who have walked away from the school system—the homeschoolers, unschoolers, Sudbury schoolers, and so on—are like the Mesozoic’s little mouse-like mammals. . . . My money is on the mice.

What Einstein, Twain, & Forty Eight Others Said About School

• "It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry." - Einstein • "How I hated schools, and what a life of anxiety I lived there." -Churchill. • "The vanity of teaching doth oft tempt a man to forget that he is a blockhead." -Saville

How Does School Wound? Kirsten Olson Has Counted Some Ways

In her book "Wounded by School," Kirsten Olson identifies seven ways by which school can produce lifelong wounds. What lasting emotional effects--positive or negative--has school had on you? How is school currently affecting your children or others whom you love?

The Human Nature of Teaching III: When Is Teaching an Act of Aggression?

I've known kids who would rather get a beating than a B. The methods of coercion we use in schools today are at least as hurtful as the "barbaric" methods of the past. I argue here that any coercive teaching is an act of aggression--from the viewpoint of the teacher as well as the student.

How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways

If we truly believe in the values of equality and peace and want them to reign once again as the norm for human beings, then we need to (a) find ways to deflate the egos, rather than support the egos, of the despots, bullies, and braggarts among us; (b) make our ways of life more playful; and (c) raise our children in kindly, trusting ways.

The Human Nature of Teaching II: What Can We Learn from Hunter-Gatherers?

Hunter-gatherers did not teach by coercion and generally did not attempt to direct their children's learning. Yet they did teach, in ways that preserved children's feelings of security, trust, trustworthiness, and personal autonomy. Here is how they did it.

The Human Nature of Teaching I: Ways of Teaching That We Share With Other Animals

Teaching is natural in at least some other animals as well as in humans. Almost all such cases of teaching involve relatively simple ways by which the teacher helps the learner practice some skill or acquire some information that the learner is highly motivated to practice or acquire. Teaching, then, is altruistic; it serves the learner at some cost to the teacher..

What Do Chinese Americans Think of Amy Chua’s Tiger Mother?

In reviews of Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” on, Chinese Americans express much more dislike for the book than do other reviewers. They are more likely than are other reviewers to see Chua’s parenting methods as cruel, to see her values as misdirected, and to believe that she unfairly stereotypes Chinese mothers.

Amy Chua Is a Circus Trainer, Not a Tiger Mother

Amy Chua may not have written her "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" as satire, but in fact it is satire. It shows the absurdity of our current, mainstream approach to education if we take it to its logical conclusion.

How to Advise and Help Your Kids Without Driving Them (or Yourself) Crazy

We love our kids. We want the best for them. And so, we offer them advice and help that they didn't ask for and don't want, and they reject it or ignore it. In some instances our impulse to help leads us to become downright pests to our children. ... Here are seven suggestions for really helping kids, in ways that respect their individuality and need for autonomy.

Unsolicited Advice: I Hate It, You Hate It; so Do Your Kids

"Have a nice day," said the mom to her teenage daughter; to which the daughter replied, "Motherrrr, will you pulleeeeze stop telling me what to do!" I empathize with both parties in this old joke. . ... Why do we dislike unsolicited advice, especially when it comes from those we love?

Fight Bullying with Babies

Here are four stories about the power of babies and young children to reduce the aggressiveness and increase the kindness of older children and adults.

Cheating in Science: School is a Breeding Ground

One of the tragedies of our system of schooling is that it deflects students from discovering what they truly love and find worth doing for its own sake. Instead, it teaches them that life is a series of hoops that one must get through, by one means or another, and that success lies in others' judgments rather than in real, self-satisfying accomplishments.

Cheating in Science: A Tragic Story of a Suicide

I begin with a true and tragic story. Many years ago I was a graduate student conducting research in one of the top biopsychology laboratories in the country. The lab chief was one of a handful of the world’s most prominent research psychologists at that time, and many in the lab believed he was headed for a Nobel Prize. ...

Experiences of ADHD-Labeled Kids Who Leave Typical Schooling

Parents reports indicate that most ADHD-diagnosed kids do fine without drugs if they are not in a conventional school). ADHD-diagnosed kids seem to do especially well when they are allowed to take charge of their own education.

The ADHD Personality: A Normal and Valuable Human Variation

The brains of people diagnosed with ADHD are no doubt different from those of other, but that doesn't make ADHD a "disorder." ADHD (in most cases) is only a disorder to the degree that we, as a society, fail to provide environmental conditions in which people with differing personalities can make best use of their strengths and learn to compensate for their weaknesses.

I Want Your Stories of ADHD in Homeschoolers, Unschoolers, and Free Schoolers

Most ADHD diagnoses in children are initiated because of inattention or disruptive behavior in school. To date there has been no research at all on ADHD in children who do not attend a conventional school. If you have (or are) an ADHD-diagnosed school-aged child doing homeschooling, unschooling, free schooling, or some other form of unconventional schooling, I invite you to post or send me that story. I will analyze the stories qualitatively and quantitatively and present the results soon on this blog.

ADHD & School: Assessing Normalcy in an Abnormal Environment

One out of every eight school-aged boys in the United States has a diagnosis of ADHD. If just teachers' ratings were used for the diagnoses, that proportion would be one out of every four! How can that be? The answer to that question is not unlike the answer to this question: Why do so many monkeys in cages look so abnormal?