How Children Learn by John Holt (REVIEW)

Thursday, June 06, 2013 0 Comments A+ a-

About The Author John Holt (1927-1985) was an American author, educator, as well as one of America's leading educational critics. He's also a proponent of homeschooling & unschooling. His educational philosophy is simple:  

"The human animal is a learning animal;
we like to learn;
we are good at it;
we don't need to be shown how or made to do it.
What kills the processes are the people interfering with it
or trying to regulate it or control it." 

As a leading figure in educational reform, he has written ten books, including How Children Fail and Learning All The Time.

The purpose of How Children Learn is to educate teachers and parents on the natural ways that children learn. It is not about child psychology. It is not about manipulating children to do what we want them to do. It is just simply allowing children to "be".

Games & Experiments
The book starts off with a diary of games & experiments that the author has kept track of through his life. The purpose of these diaries are to show first-hand how children learn in different circumstances. For example, the first "game" he talked about was letting a toddler take apart & re-assemble a ball-point pen. It's simple enough, but yet allows the child to develop fine motor skills and critical thinking. Normally, it would be my reaction to take a pen away from Ariana, but this challenged my thinking. Perhaps, it's perfectly fine for her to have one under supervision.

There is a spirit of joy, foolishness & exuberance behind these games. It's what happens when a child tries to figure out how the world works. This is what education is all about. It's allowing children to simply observe & experiment with the world around them... and most importantly, what is important to them. In fact, it is not uncommon for children to reject any sort of un-asked-for teaching. It is not that they don't want to learn. They simply want to learn about things they find interesting.

The over-riding theme of this chapter is to just let children be when it comes to talking. It is something they naturally do. Children in every part of the world learn to talk by being submersed in talk from the day they were born. We have to trust that they will eventually learn to talk too.

What is important is to allow this to happen naturally. This means not trying to "teach" a child what words mean. Ex. "There's a dog. Can you say dog? D... d... dog. D.....awwwww...... ggggg. dog. According to Holt, children get it. They know what a dog is because they hear about them in everyday language, not because they were "taught" what a dog is.

In addition, it's important to not always be correcting them. In Holt's opinion, nothing will crush the spirit of a child more than always being told they're wrong. Often, well-meaning individuals correct children so much, the children just don't even bother to try anymore... since they're always wrong.What do you if your child says something wrong? Let it go. He will learn eventually. Children have the ability to become aware of their mistakes without somebody else pointing them out. Not only that, but they can correct them too. It takes time for this to happen, but it does happen.What is important is that children learn how to learn. What is important is that children truly love what they are learning.

My Thoughts
 I think this book is a great follow-up book to The Unschooling Unmanual. It gives detailed examples on how children learn so you're able to spot these situations in your own life. This book isn't a manual on how to unschool, but rather it opens your eyes to see what unschooling is. I think every parent can benefit from reading this book. After all, while some "school" may be done at school or daycare, a majority of it takes place at home.

I know unschooling is a topic everyone has an opinion about, and I'm interested in hearing yours... be sure to leave one before you leave. I read and appreciate each and every comment. :)
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