In the words of John Holt….

I was reading out of Holt’s Teach Your Own today, and decided that I would let his words make up the body of today’s post.   Some of these quotes may be familiar to you, others are slightly more obscure.  In any case they are always worth reading again.   Enjoy.

The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do
– How Children Fail (1964)

The idea of painless, non-threatening coercion is an illusion. Fear is the inseparable companion of coercion, and its inescapable consequence.
-How Children Fail (1964)

All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.
-How Children Learn (1967)

The anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know.
-How Children Learn (1967)

I have used the words “home schooling” to describe the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools, because those words are familiar and quickly understood. But in one very important sense they are misleading. What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth in the word is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all.
– Teach Your Own (1981)

Q. Will they have the opportunity to overcome or do things that they think they don’t want to do?
A. I’m not sure what this question means. If it means, will unschooled children know what it is to have to do difficult and demanding things in order to reach goals they have set for themselves, I would say, yes, life is full of such requirements. But this is not at all the same thing as doing something, and in the case of school usually something stupid and boring, simply because someone else tells you you’ll be punished if you don’t. Whether children resist such demands or yield to them, it is bad for them. Struggling with inherent difficulties of a chosen or inescapable task builds character; merely submitting to superior force destroys it.
-Teach Your Own (1981)

Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don’t always know what it is.
– In a letter to Joan Pitkin (1971)

If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him.
– How Children Learn (1967)

The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him, He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense … School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning.
– How Children Learn (1967)

There must be a way to educate young children so that the great human qualities that we know are in them may be developed. But we’ll never do it as long as we are obsessed with tests. At faculty meetings we talk about how to reward the thinkers in our classes. Who is kidding whom? No amount of rewards and satisfactions obtained in the small group thinking sessions will make up to Monica for what she felt today, faced by a final test that she knew she couldn’t do and was going to fail.  Pleasant experiences don’t make up for painful ones. No child, once painfully burned, would agree to be burned again, however enticing the reward. For all our talk and good intentions, there is much more stick than carrot in school, and while this remains so, children are going to adopt a strategy aimed above all else at staying out of trouble. How can we foster a joyous, alert, wholehearted participation in life if we build all our schooling around the holiness of getting ‘right answers’?
-How Children Fail (1964)

It is as true now as it was then that no matter what tests show, very little of what is taught in school is learned, very little of what is learned is remembered, and very little of what is remembered is used. The things we learn, remember, and use are the things we seek out or meet in the daily, serious, nonschool parts of our lives.
-How Children Fail (1964)

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