John Holt’s “Growing without Schooling”

In 1977 John Holt began publishing Growing Without Schooling, a magazine about homeschooling, unschooling and learning outside of school.   It was the first such publication of its kind.   After Holt died in 1985, the magazine continued, ceasing publication only in 2001, after 24 years.

Now Pat Farenga at HoltGWS LLC is re-formatting every issue of GWS so that it can be released as an e-book.  You can currently read  the magazine for free on the HoltGWS website, but the e-format will definitely make it easier to access and read.

I’ve been privileged to be a part of this process, helping to transcribe and edit several issues into a workable format for e-publication.   One of the perks is reading each issue from start to finish; it has made me realize what a wealth of information GWS has to offer, even today.    I’ve also realized that some things haven’t changed; concerns about restrictive legislation existed in 1993 (the year during which the issues I am editing were published) just as they do today.   Families sometimes struggled at balancing work and home and discussed how best to incorporate their kids into every aspect of life.  Opposition to coercive education manifested itself in a plethora of ideas on how to encourage learning without imposing it on a child.  And so on.

My favorite article so far appeared in issue 92 of GWS  and is titled “Learning?  Yes, of course.  Education?  No thanks.”  Written by Aaron Falbel, it is genius.   I want to enlarge it, print it out and hang it on my wall.  (In fact, that’s a great idea. I know what I’ll be doing later this evening!)

It begins with an excerpt from an interview with John Holt in 1982, in which the British interviewer asked Holt to give his definition of  the word “education”.   After some demurral, Holt said:

“I don’t know of any definition of it that would seem to me to be acceptable.  I wrote a book called Instead of Education, and what I mean by this is instead of this designed process which is carried on in specially constructed places under various kinds of bribe and threat… …I learn a great deal, but I do it in the process of living, working, playing, being with friends.   There is no division in my life between learning, work, play etc. …I don’t have a word which I could easily put in the place of ‘education’, unless it might be ‘living'”

Falbel then goes on to expound upon Holt’s idea of what education means to most people, and how we would be better served to do away with it entirely.

“Learning is like breathing.  It is a natural human activity…If the air is polluted, then it can become difficult to breathe. …if our social environment is polluted, it can become difficult to learn.  Today, our social environment is thoroughly polluted by education — a designed process by which one group of people…tries to make another group…learn something, usually without their consent because they (the educators) think it will be good for them.  In other words, education is forced, seduced or coerced learning – except that you can’t really make another person learn something he or she doesn’t want to learn, which is why education doesn’t work and never has worked…

It is ironic that education, carried out by well meaning people hoping to produce or enhance learning, ends up attacking learning.  But this is precisely what happens, despite all the good intentions.”

Oh yes.  And it only gets better from there.

GWS has so much good stuff in it you really would never have to read anything else about unschooling (even though I’ll be happy if you ignore that last statement and continue reading this blog).    The e-book version of Growing Without Schooling is on its way, but until then, visit the website and have a look around.  You definitely won’t be disappointed.


Quotes from Growing Without Schooling copyright 2013 by HoltGWS LLC are used with permission.



2 comments on “John Holt’s “Growing without Schooling”

  1. Edith says:

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for sharing this.

    I looked for the article you’re talking about and found it in issue 92 of GWS. (instead of 93)


    • Amy says:

      Edith, you are correct! I just checked my own work and it was issue #92. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I will edit the post accordingly.


Leave a Comment