Who is John Caldwell Holt (Author)

Biography of the author and founder of the Unschooling movement(child-led learning) and the Growing Without Schooling Magazine.
By Dena Lambert, on July 1, 2002 - Homeschooling

The late John Holt was an author and educator well known among Homeschoolers. His methods and ideas about education live on today through books he has written and through the "Growing Without Schooling" magazine he founded.

The "Growing Without Schooling" magazine was established by John Holt in August of 1977; it is believed to be the world's first Homeschooling magazine. The magazine was directed at those who learned to acquire useful skills and make use of those skills in the working world without the process of formal schooling. Also, its purpose was to unite people with similar beliefs as a means of support and sharing information.

The magazine was based on John Holt's theory about how social changes came about. Social changes that remain, only do so at a slow pace because people can only change their lives and their thinking over a period of time. John Holt knew that his educational beliefs were in the minority, even though his ideas made so much sense. Actually, anyone who did not believe in compulsory education (formal schooling) was in the minority. To some, the idea that a child could learn without constant coercion and direction from an adult seemed ludicrous. Holt was aware that his cause would not make a shift in the way society viewed education, his goal was to help those who believed in learning freely to grow and prosper with support from like-minded people.

Some of John Holt's ideas were offensive to other educators. He was quite outspoken with his beliefs, such as how school children develop as a result of peer pressure in a school setting. He believed that the social life was full of cliques, bullying, competitiveness and many other behavioral problems children could come up with to seek status among their peers. This of course was his response when asked the age old question, "What about socialization?" when referring to education children at home. The social life in compulsory schools is one major reason why many parents choose to keep their children home; of course their are many other individual reasons why parents choose this route.

Pressure in general is another issue Holt believes affected a child's performance in school. He says, "There must be a limit to the tension we put children under. If we don't, they will set their own limits by not paying attention, fooling around or by saying unnecessarily that they don't get it." According to Holt, children should know ahead of time that the tension they feel can be stopped. When children feel more at ease and know that mistakes are acceptable, the stop worrying and start using their brains. So he believed that educators need to stop causing the children to be afraid and help them break the fearful thought pattern. A scared learner is a poor learner.

John Holt lived from 1923 - 1985 and left an admirable legacy behind. He believed that children who were provided with a rich and stimulating learning environment would learn what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it. Sound simple? It can be, but in his day that was considered radical thinking ... today it is called "child led learning" or "unschooling."

To find out more about John Holt you can choose from the ten books he wrote. You may want to start with the classic he wrote in the 1960s school reform movement called, "How Children Fail." In addition to his books, the "Growing Without Schooling" magazine has continued to be distributed even after his death.

About the author: Dena Lambert

First published 2002.

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