This article is excerpted from LiberatED, a weekly email newsletter where FEE Senior Education Fellow Kerry McDonald brings you news and analysis on current education and parenting topics. Click here to sign up.
In my 2019 book, Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom, which gained even more traction throughout 2020 and 2021 as schools closed and homeschooling soared, I trace the roots of non-coercive, self-directed education back to the Enlightenment and, particularly, to the writings of philosopher John Locke.
Locke was really an early guru of what we would today call “gentle parenting.” He advocated for abundant childhood playtime, developmentally appropriate academics, positive discipline techniques, and freedom over force to cultivate an eagerness for learning. In his 1693 book Some Thoughts Concerning Education, Locke wrote:
“For a child will learn three times as much when he is in tune, as he will with double the time and…