Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #72: "Learning All the Time" by John Holt

Dear kids,

John Holt is John Holt. That is why Learning All the Time is one of the best nonfiction books; he is just a hard-rocking dude. Seriously, though, if you have any interest in homeschooling or just better understanding children, this is the book for you.

My Summary:

Kids are all their own kinds of genius. Just give them a good, positive environment in which to learn and grow, and see what happens. That’s the theme of this and many of Holt’s books on education.

Some tips:

  • The best way to teach a child to read: don’t. Read to him, let him be exposed to books, give him books as gifts, until one day they ask to do the reading. Then read the book together, one word at a time, unsystematically. General pronunciation rules are too often broken to be worth teaching.
  • Good learning book: Let’s Read by L. Bloomfield & C. Barbara and Gnys at Work [sic] by Glenda Bisser.
  • For learning times tables, make a grid and let the child fill it in at her own pace, without correcting it. Keep it on the fridge, and have her do it over and over.

Notable quotes:

  • “Anytime that, without being invited, without being asked, we try to teach somebody else something . . . we convey to that person, whether we know it or not, a double message. The first part of the message is: I am teaching you something important, but you’re not smart enough to see how important it is. Unless I teach it to you, you’d probably never bother to find out. The second message is: What I’m teaching you is so difficult that, if I didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t learn it.”
  • The author’s first elementary school believed in lots of praise. The result: “By the time I came to know them in the 5th grade, all but a few of the children were so totally dependent on continued adult approval that they were terrified of not getting it, terrified of making mistakes.”
  • Babies do not learn in order to please us, but because it’s their instinct and nature to want to find out about the world. If we praise them in everything they do, after a while they are going to start learning, doing things, just to please us . . . The next step is that they are going to become worried about not pleasing us . . .”
  • “What children want and need from us is thoughtful attention. They want us to notice them and pay some kind of attention to what they do, to take them seriously, to trust and respect them as human beings. They want courtesy and politeness, but they don’t need much praise.”



Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.


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  1. Great thoughts. I raised my 2 children very well. They have both told me that. I had to raise them under quite a bit of stress from many things. They are now adults and make mostly good choices on their own, with thought put into the process.
    I love my children.