Gina Riley, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist, Clinical Professor, and Program Leader of the Adolescent Special Education Program at CUNY – Hunter College. Dr. Riley has over fifteen years experience working with teens diagnosed with learning disabilities and emotional/behavioural disorders. She is also a seasoned academic, with years of teaching, research, and supervisory experience within the fields of special education, psychology, school psychology, and mental health counseling. In addition, Dr. Riley has extensive experience in online education and distance learning at the college/university level. She is known internationally for her work in the fields of homeschooling, unschooling, and self-directed learning. Her book Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond the Classroom, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in July 2020. Dr. Riley has one son, who she unschooled.
I was first introduced to the work of Dr. Gina Riley quite a few years ago through a study that both she and Dr. Peter Gray did on the challenges and benefits of unschooling. Little did I realize at the time that Dr. Riley was an unschooling parent herself. An unschooling parent, researching unschooling and alternative learning, that also worked in secondary education as a teacher to teachers. (You can see why I was excited that she accepted an invitation to the show.) I knew that the information Gina has to share as a researcher, professor and parent is more important than ever.
Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond The Classroom
In this episode Dr. Riley begins with sharing her own personal experience as a parent choosing to unschool over 20 years ago. We talk about why she made the decision, the fears she had to overcome and how that decision actually prepared her well for the world we find ourselves in today.
In the academic arena, there is not a lot of work on unschooling. I think this is also why some have a hard time believing that unschooling is a valid way to learn and live life. Everyone always wants to reference the research and if there is not a lot of research to be found, people begin to doubt. This is one reason why Dr. Riley's new book, Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond the Classroom, is important. It is the first academic book published on Unschooling and self directed learning. Gina says that she wrote this book for "the 24 year old Gina (the single mom choosing this unfamiliar path) so that she could give it to her mom, who is also an educator, and say -here's the research."
"The Kids Are Going To Be Fine"
I also took the chance to ask Dr. Riley a few questions that I often hear from parents interested in unschooling but that are uncertain because it looks so different from school. How will they learn without school or if I don't teach them? How will they learn math or to read? What opportunities will be open to unschoolers when they become adults? Dr. Riley answered all of these but it was one statement that said it all for me. "It's not so much how do we do this, it's more, let's trust ourselves in doing this." She said, "The kids are going to be fine. Unschoolers know how to learn."
We ended the episode talking about a question that for many are wondering because of the shift in our current world, whether they are in traditional education or not. That is, What is the future of education?
I hope that you get a chance to tune in to the episode to hear what Dr. Riley has to say.
Unschooling: Exploring Learning Beyond the Classroom published by Palgrave Macmillan
The Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Education (published paper by Dr. Gina Riley and Dr. Peter Gray)
Alliance For Self Directed Education
Learning By Living Podcast- Gina Riley and Kevin Currie-Knight
High Tech High
Self Determination Theory- Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci
Rethinking Learning To Read: The Challenge From Children Educated At Home: Harriet D. A. Pattison
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