For the Love of Learning – How Learning Happens – Epi#89


Show Title:

For the Love of Learning Episode 89

How Learning Happens

-During the showtimes, watch the show live by clicking this link-

Monday January 9, 2017 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm EST
Tuesday January 10, 2017 1:00 am – 3:00 am GMT


Gina Riley
Jade Rivera
Brendan Heidenreich



In tonight’s show, we are going to tackle a the big question, how does learning happen?

So how does learning happen? From a biological perspective, research has shown that in fact the brain never stops changing through learning. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with learning. Changes associated with learning occur mostly at the level of the connections between neurons. New connections can form and the internal structure of the existing synapses can change.

But is learning a biological process only? And where does the act of learning cross over into “education”? Are the two exclusive? What foundations needs to be in place in order to learn? Who is responsible for learning, the learner or those responsible for the environment? We’ll tackle these questions and more.

Gina Riley

Gina Riley, Ph.D. is an educational psychologist and Clinical Professor of Adolescent Special Education at Hunter College. Previously, she has taught graduate and undergraduate classes in psychology, school psychology, mental health counseling and special education at Mercy College in Westchester County and Nyack College in Rockland County. Her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation both focused on measures of self-determination and intrinsic motivation in homeschoolers, and her current research (with Dr. Peter Gray of Boston College) focuses on unschooling and adult unschooling outcomes. Other research interests include: unschooling in other cultures, the development of reading skills in unschoolers, clinical child neuropsychology, intrinsic motivation and self determination, and supported decision making in those with intellectual disabilities. Although her current life is seeped in academic pursuits, her fondest memories come from homeschooling her college aged son from K – 12th grade. (list of publications)

Jade Rivera

For over ten years, Jade Rivera has made educating marginalized, neurodivergent children her mission. She draws on her compassion as well as her personal and professional experience to help children understand who they are and how they learn. Then she translates that to the parents and professionals that care for them. For several years, she led a micro-school in Oakland, CA, where she provided a unique and engaging learning environment that quirky children adored. She is a proud GHF Ambassador, and author of Micro-Schools: Creating Personalized Learning on a Budget. You can learn more about her work at

Brendan Heidenreich

Brendan is an advocate for young people who don’t like conventional “factory-model” schooling. He envisions a world where all young people have the opportunity to pursue self-directed learning with the support of mentors and community.

Brendan learned about homeschooling at age 13, but was unable to persuade his parents to let him leave school until he was a junior in high school, and learned that a high school diploma was actually not necessary to enter college. His parents finally accepted his plan to drop out at 17, as a junior, and enroll in college instead.
Brendan liked college better than high school but ultimately found it unsatisfying as a learning environment. Eventually he discovered School Survival forums, where he began his work with young people who dislike school. Through his experiences there and various attempts to work on related projects, he started connecting with others interested in self-directed learning in 2012, which eventually led to co-founding Catalyst Learning Network in 2015. Catalyst works with parents and young people to explore issues with school and explore mutually-acceptable solutions.

Brendan is also interested in helping to bring about fictional and documentary works that show the benefits of self-directed education and the problems faced by people of all ages and roles who seek alternatives to conventional school.


This episode is produced by Nina Downer

Episode hosted by Lainie Liberti




Lainie Liberti

As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at: You can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

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