Book Review: John Holt’s Teach Your Own

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling by John Holt, Pat Farenga (? Is this the author?) is a book that was recommend to read for those just starting or interested in homeschooling. Since we are interested in homeschooling our daughter Katie, I went ahead and purchased the book. I have mixed feelings about it being a good book to give to beginner homeschoolers, but I do see why John Holt is a voice and guide for seasoned homeschoolers.

“The true test of intelligence is not how much we know how to do, but how to behave when we don’t know what to do.”

The Author:

You might be familiar with a few of John Holt’s books including, How Children Fail and How Children Learn. Spending several years teaching, including a time in Carbondale, Colorado, he began taking notes on how the school system teaches children and became disillusioned by the public-school system. During his time teaching and observing, he concluded that reform was needed in our schools, and children would be better served being taught at home. He also published a bi-monthly newsletter called Growing Without Schooling.

“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all.”

The Book Itself:

If you are looking for just a guide on homeschooling this isn’t it. However, what the book deeply digs  into is how John Holt believes children should be taught and how we as adults need to interact with children.

In the chapter Why Take Them Out, he lists several reasons why people choose homeschooling over sending their children to conventional schools, which include: more time for them to spend with their family, time to learn the subjects they are interested in, and the time to process the information they gather.

The chapter Serious Play was a helpful chapter to me. This line from the chapter really encouraged me that play is an important learning tool for children.

“We talk these days of ‘quality time.’ Children need quality time for their fantasy and play as much as for their reading and math.”

He goes on to mention that organized scheduled play does not create an environment for children to use their imagination freely. He also explains that as adults, it is not our place to try to control or even understand a child’s imagination.

“They need to play well as much as they need to read well. Indeed, we would probably find if we looked into it that children who are not good at playing, dreaming, fantasizing, are usually not much good at reading either.”

What I Liked:

I agreed with several of his arguments on how children learn, how we should interact with them, and that the world is their school, and everyone is their teacher. I agree wholeheartedly  that learning and living are not two separate things. We learn through living and experience the world around us.

It also was an encouragement that I don’t have to be a certified teacher. I can grow along with my daughter in knowledge as we go on this journey of homeschooling together.

I know that I have peppered this review with quotes from Holt’s book, but they are so good. Here is one last quote (I promise!):

“Live together, as well as you can; enjoy life together, as much as you can. Ask questions to find out something about the world itself, not to find out whether or not someone knows it.”

What I Didn’t Like:

The chapters were unnecessarily weighed down by letters from parents who over the years had sent examples of their homeschooling experiences to Holt. Just a few of these letters in each chapter would have served the purpose better.

John Holt can become too idealistic and over exaggerated on some of the points that he is trying to make. You must be aware that though there are many gems in this book, you sometimes must sift through the overzealousness of Holt himself.

The chapter on Serious Play should have been longer. There were too many letters from parents in this one. I would have much rather heard more from Holt himself on this subject.

Would I Recommend Purchasing This Book:

No, not to a new homeschooler. As I stated in the beginning, this is not a how to guide, but rather  one person’s views on homeschooling. I would recommend this book though to a homeschool parent interested in taking a deeper look into the whys of homeschooling.

Several of John Holt’s views I agree with, and it has reconfirmed the reason I want to homeschool my daughter. I’m interested in his other books such as How Children Learn and How Children Fail. Though a bit long in the tooth, I found some resourceful information in this book.

 

 

 

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