Laura Bush Community Library

Peter Gray - Play Deficit Disorder: A National Crisis and How to Solve It Locally

Dr. Peter Gray was invited to the Laura Bush Community Library to speak about the lack of free play in society and what we can do about it. This video is shared courtesy of the library.

Author Dr. Peter Gray gives his second of a three-part talk based on his book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.

Dr. Gray’s research and writing focus on the natural way that children learn through play. Gray demonstrates how children acquire the ability to solve problems, negotiate relationships, and cope with adversity through self-directed play and discovery. These skills are essential in an ever-changing world. The alternative education Gray proposes can replace or supplement traditional education.

Self-education is at the heart of the public library mission. At Westbank Libraries, we are embracing the idea of free play in discovery-based programs, presenting opportunities for kids to explore their interests in a stimulus rich environment. And we’re making sure it’s fun! Check the calendar on our website for Free Play!

Dr. Gray is a research professor at Boston College, author of the text book Psychology (in its 8th edition), and a contributor for Psychology Today, where he maintains a blog Freedom to Learn.

Talking about and experiencing the benefits of free play

Professor Peter Gray argues that society can free children from coercive schooling through learning centers that will maximize their ability to educate themselves without depriving them of the rightful joys of childhood. We agree. Abrome is a self-directed learning community that opened last year to provide families with a real alternative to age-segregated, standards-based schooling. 

We created a space where unlimited free play is an essential component of our learning model. We did this primarily because it is the humane thing to do, but also because it is the best way to prepare for a lifetime of meaning, as well as academic, professional, and personal success. 

Far too many adults believe that in lieu of free play, the process of learning needs to be directed by adults. Unfortunately for young people, less free time and more mandated learning results in increased anxiety and depression, delayed emotional and social development, inhibited executive functioning skills, and diminished intellectual vitality. 

Play is a fundamental component of learning. Unlimited free play allows all people (young children, adolescents, and adults) to engage in the deepest and most meaningful forms of learning, maximizing their creativity, and igniting intellectual passion.

We invite all families to explore free play with us this month through weekly free play events, a book group discussion, and a series of talks, all of which are free and open to the public. 

April 16th23rd, or 30th: ‘Free Play and Food Trucks’ at Laura’s Library 

April 26th: the Smart Schooling Book Group will discuss Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn

Working with Clearview Sudbury School and Westbank Library, Abrome is bringing Peter Gray to Austin for three events

·       April 25th: ‘What is Self-Directed Education’ at Abrome 

·       April 26th: ‘Play Deficit Disorder’ at Laura’s Library

·       April 27th: ‘The Biology of Education’ at Clearview Sudbury

Do Grades Matter? Why Parents Should Care.

Antonio Buehler, founder of Abrome was invited to the Laura Bush Community Library to speak about the importance of grades. This video is shared courtesy of the library.

Grades are a source of anxiety and frustration for many students and their families. For others, it is an ever-present motivator to strive for perfection. Grades affect every student’s conception of how they learn. Whether or not grades are helpful or harmful, they are a reality for most students.

Antonio Buehler founded Abrome to fundamentally change the way the world views education. He wants society to reject the notion that education should be a standardized product in which children are expected to be passive recipients of instruction that is chosen and delivered by adults. Antonio wants learners to be able to direct their own education so they can live rich, fulfilling lives. He believes that by providing learners with the opportunity to take full ownership of their education, Abrome will help save millions of lives, and in the process change the world.

Antonio earned a B.S. in Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy, an M.B.A. from Stanford University, and an Ed.M. from Harvard University.

Conversations About Schooling: Smart Schooling Book Group

The majority of the parents we talk to are not eagerly looking to provide their children with a rich, self-directed learning environment. Sadly, most of the parents we talk to are trying to save their children from the trauma that is so often associated with schooling (e.g., testing, sleep deprivation, depression, bullying). One of the greatest challenges we face when talking to those parents about Emancipated Learning as an alternative to school is that it is often the first time that they have heard of an educational environment that does not rely on coercion. Most of them have never been introduced to the notion of self-directed education, or they believe that self-directed education can be achieved by allowing a student to pick a topic they are expected to write a report about. They might have heard of homeschooling, but have never heard of unschooling, Sudbury Valley, or Summerhill.

Instead of being able to highlight how we are creating a psychologically safe learning space where young people can engage in deep, meaningful, and enduring learning experiences that will allow them to lead remarkable lives, we are left trying to educate them on human psychology, the history of schooling, and the science of learning. Needless to say, a 30-minute conversation covering such deep topics is typically not enough to compel parents to take meaningful action to improve their children’s learning experiences in their current schools, to move them to alternative schools that better meet their children’s needs, or to opt out of schooling altogether.

At the same time, there are a lot of teachers and administrators who know that something is not working at their schools, but do not know what they can do to substantially improve the situation.  They have most likely never been introduced to much of the research that proves that self-directed learning is the best way to deepen learning, promote lifelong learning, and eliminate much of the trauma associated with coercive schooling. It is not their fault, as the organizations they work for and the education schools that they attended go out of their way to ignore these topics, and instead focus on marginal reforms while pushing the baseline assumption that young people need to be forced to learn, and that schooling environments are where that happens.

In an attempt to spur the necessary conversations around education that are currently not being had, we will be hosting the “Smart Schooling Book Group” at the Laura Bush Community Library for the duration of this year. We will read one book each month that focuses on education, with an emphasis on the psychology that would ideally inform how we approach education, and then come together to discuss it on the last Thursday of each month.

2019 Reading List
Jan 31 - The Self-Driven Child by William R Stixrud and Ned Johnson
Feb 28 - Educated by Tara Westover
Mar 28 - How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Apr 25 - The Creativity Challenge by Kyung-Hee Kim
May 30 - Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
Jun 27 - Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Jul 25 - Small Animals by Kim Brooks
Aug 29 - Lifelong Kindergarten by Mitchel Resnick
Sep 26 - Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby
Oct 24 - Mindset by Carol Dweck
Nov 21 - Opening Minds by Peter H. Johnston
Dec 19 - Teacher Liberation Handbook by Joel Hammon

We hope that young people, parents, future parents, teachers, and school administrators can all benefit from these readings and conversations. Hopefully some school board members will also drop in.

2018 Reading List
Jan 25 - Mindset by Carol Dweck
Feb 22 - Creative Schools by Ken Robinson
Mar 29 - Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
Apr 26 - Free to Learn by Peter Gray (author will be present)
May 31 - The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey
Jun 28 - Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz
Jul 26 - Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
Aug 30 - How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
Sep 27 - Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner
Oct 25 - Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
Nov 29 - Schools our Children Deserve by Alfie Kohn
Dec 20 - The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith

2017 Reading List
Jan 26 – Why Don't Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham
Feb 23 – The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine
Mar 30 – Wounded by School by Kirsten Olsen
Apr 27 – Free to Learn by Peter Gray
May 25 – Overschooled but Undereducated by John Abbott
Jun 29 – Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman
Jul 27 – The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik
Aug 31– Drive by Daniel Pink
Sep 28 – Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A. S. Neill
Oct 26 – The End of Average by Todd Rose
Nov 30 – Old School by Tobias Wolff (novel)
Dec 28 – [holiday break]