Skip to main content

Welcome to Education Alternative's Series on Homeschooling!

We publish Saturday mornings between 8am and 12noon EST

We follow the kos rule of Participating in someone else's diary

Follow us at Education Alternatives for our occasional weekday pieces on homeschooling. If you would like to write for this series, please contact us at

John Caldwell Holt was born on April 14, 1923, part of the “GI Generation” and interestingly the same year as my mom and my partner Sally's parents, plus the same place (New York City) as her parents.  There is just the briefest reference to his young life in his Wikipedia biography, but somehow he developed a profound humanist critique of the rules of engagement between adults and youth in our society, one challenging our whole conception of human development and education, including how they are reflected in the social institution we call “school”.  The further evolution of his thinking led him to become perhaps the progressive “patron saint” of homeschooling and the inventor (or at least the framer) of the concept of “unschooling”.  

On a more personal level, you could call Holt our son Eric's “savior”.  Holt's truly radical ideas about human development had a profound impact on my partner Sally and me.  Those ideas gave us the major justification in 1999 for pulling our son Eric out of school in eighth grade, possibly saving him from a train wreck of an educational experience in his teen years from which he might never have recovered.

In doing the research for this piece and rereading some of Holt's work, I am struck by how much I have become his kindred spirit.  Struck by how much the ideas he champions (so outside the mainstream of conventional wisdom about human development) have inspired me to write and blog about my own take on the truths of how human beings develop and human society evolves.

Holt, World War II & World Government

Like my own dad, Holt completed college and then joined the military to fight in World War II.  He served in the U.S. Navy on a submarine in the Pacific.  According to his Wikipedia biography...

During the war, he concluded that nuclear weapons were the world's greatest danger, and only a world government could prevent nuclear war. After his three-year tour of duty in the Navy, he got a job with the New York branch of the World Federalist Movement. Starting in the mailroom, he became the executive director of the New York branch [the United World Federalists or UWF] within six years. However, he became frustrated with UWF's ineffectiveness and left it in 1952.
I think this formative experience as a young adult is an important insight into Holt's character.  The World Federalist Movement was launched in 1947 in parallel with the creation of the United Nations, which advocated for the UN to have a stronger mandate toward becoming more of a world government.  If nothing else, I think this shows Holt's idealism and connection to the political left and its vision of moving beyond nationalism and militarism  toward a more humanistic society.

Holt as a Teacher

According to the Wikipedia article, after parting with the UWF Holt was convinced by one of his two sisters to become a teacher.  From reading his work, particularly his thoughtful observations about the children with whom he interacted, a portrait of a sensitive and caring soul emerges, and I can see why his sister would think teaching a good next step for him.  

Holt did his first four years teaching fifth grade in a small private boarding school in Colorado.  It was a particularly insightful experience for him because, unlike most teachers who interact with their students only in the classroom, he had the opportunity to observe students outside of school as well, living the rest of their lives.  He was struck by how differently some kids behaved inside versus outside of school...

When I started, I thought that some people were just born smarter than others and that not much could be done about it.  This seems to be the official line of most of the psychologists. It isn't hard to believe, if all your contacts with students are in the classroom or the psychological testing room. But if you live at a small school, seeing students in class, in the dorms, in their private lives, at their recreations, sports, and manual work, you can't escape the conclusion that some people are much smarter part of the time than they are at other times. Why? Why should a boy or girl, who under some circumstances is witty, observant, imaginative, analytical, in a word, intelligent, come into the classroom and, as if by magic, turn into a complete dolt?
Holt also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the babies and young children of his sisters and friends.  Again, he was struck by how confident and self-directed the young children were versus the mostly frightened, timid, evasive, and self-protecting kids in his fifth grade class.  He became determined to figure out what was going on.  What was it about the school environment that seemed to be disabling so many kids?

How Children Fail

Holt moved to Boston and got a teaching job at another private school.  In discussing his observations with a colleague, Bill Hull, they decided to start a classroom observation project, where one of them would teach while the other observed.  What Holt observed and documented in his journals shocked him, but provided an answer to his earlier questions about why so many kids seemed so less capable in school than in the rest of their lives, including before they were old enough to go to school.

Here is a summary of the findings he documented in his first book How Children Fail published in 1964 after eleven years of teaching...

* Children in school abandon their natural inclination to be “thinkers” in favor of being “producers”, moving away from exploration and focusing instead on pleasing teachers and being right at all costs.

* Children learn to see failure as dishonorable and humiliating, rather than an important step in constructing meaning and real learning.

* Being afraid of mistakes, children never try to understand their own mistakes and will not try to understand when their thinking is faulty.

* When teachers praise children, they rob them of the joy of discovering truth for themselves.

* In mathematics, children learn algorithms and develop only a superficial understanding of numbers, and cannot apply their learning to real situations.

* Teachers (Holt included) generally cram students for year-end tests and the material learned is forgotten shortly after the tests because it was not motivated by interest or does not have practical use.

As to that last point, Holt once quipped ironically that the good students are differentiated from the bad students because they forget the material after rather than before the test.

The provocative and controversial conclusion of How Children Fail was that children's academic failure was not despite the efforts of schools but because of those efforts.  He saw compulsory education as fundamentally coercive and noted that...

The idea of painless, non-threatening coercion is an illusion. Fear is the inseparable companion of coercion, and its inescapable consequence.

This conclusion ignited controversy and notoriety for Holt, in a decade (the 1960s) when other conventional ideas of inequality between people were openly being challenged.  He made appearances on major TV talk shows and wrote book reviews for Life magazine.  Others were speaking out for the rights of black people and for the rights of women.  Holt was speaking for the rights of young people to be treated with respect and dignity, like adults were striving to treat each other.

How Children Learn

In his follow-up book, How Children Learn, published in 1967, Holt tried to draw lessons from his observations on how young people really learned, and how school short-circuited that process.  Children learn most effectively by their own motivation and on their own terms, and find most teaching that they have not requested just as patronizing as adults do.  Given that, teachers and parents should provide instruction only when kids request it.

Still trying to salvage the teaching profession, which he continued to be a member of, Holt argued that teachers should not pressure children to learn in a way that is of no interest to them, that teachers should evaluate which type of multiple intelligence students' possess and teach and assess them individually on that basis.

Wrote Holt...

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.
It is interesting to ponder why Holt came to these conclusions while so many of his fellow teachers did not.  Did he have a uniquely high sensitivity to what made people, particularly young people, tick and was able to see inside their souls?  With his keen observational skills, was his opportunity to observe children at a range of ages (before and during their school years) plus in and outside of the classroom (in every facet of their lives) unique?  Or perhaps being an overly sensitive person and lacking a “thick skin”, his own buttons were being pushed and he projected his own discomfort on the education system as a whole?

It is also sobering to ponder how radical the idea of “trusting children” was and still is today!  Many people today would still argue that such trust is naïve and even dangerous.

New Paradigms for Education & Learning

After many years of working within the system as a teacher, and having made these observations that challenged (at least in his thinking) the very core of the externally driven instructional process, Holt became completely disillusioned with the whole concept of compulsory education in school.  He ended his teaching career in the late 1960s to devote himself to promoting his radical ideas about youth development, youth rights, and the rules of engagement between youth and adults in society.  

Other radical thinkers were beginning to challenge the conventional educational paradigm.  In 1968 Daniel Greenberg and others set up the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts (patterned after the Summerhill school in England) where the students completely directed their own learning, participated in the democratic governance of the school, and where the adult staff were not even referred to as “teachers”.  Ivan Illich, an academic and Roman Catholic priest, in his 1971 book Deschooling Society, put forward a thesis that the regimentation of the learning process in schools was leading to a regimentation of society in general.

By the late 1970s, Holt had come to the conclusion that reform of the education system was impossible and it needed to be completely replaced by a new paradigm.  He wrote...

The human animal is a learning animal; we like to learn; we are good at it; we don't need to be shown how or made to do it. What kills the processes are the people interfering with it or trying to regulate it or control it.
Homeschooling & Unschooling

Holt was convinced that kids did not need to be coerced to learn, that given the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources would do so naturally, a line of thought that came to be called “unschooling”.  Holt's 1981 book, Teach Your Own, put forward this vision of an education “based at home” that became the “bible” of the early progressive homeschooling movement.  The chapter headings from the original edition (rearranged and reworked in later editions) and a brief description of the content give you a sense of the book's comprehensive scope...

1. Why Take Them Out – Framing major reasons for homeschooling, including the limitations of schools, the wish of parents to take full responsibility for their children, and acknowledging the full civil rights of children

2. Common Objections to Homeschooling – Providing responses to major objections to homeschooling, including the areas of socialization, embracing diversity, the dangers of “unqualified” teachers, logistics, and how children manage to learn what they need

3. Politics of Unschooling – Responding to more societal issues raised by homeschooling, including issues of economic privilege, poverty, and giving all people in society access to an equally good education

4. Getting Them Out – Addressing legal and logistical issues that parents may encounter pulling their kids out of school

5. Homeschoolers at Work – Giving examples of what a kid's unschooling curriculum might look like

6. Living with Children – Exploring the nature and needs of children and new rules of engagement to acknowledge their inherent worth and dignity

7. Learning in the World – Addressing the reasons for and the logistics of giving kids access to as much of the real world as possible

8. Living and Working Spaces – Thoughts on creating venues for homeschooled kids to come together for shared activities

9. Serious Play – Addressing the importance of giving kids the space and privacy to fantasize and play  

10. Learning without Teaching – Addressing how kids naturally learn by doing, by wondering, by figuring things out, and often in the process resist teaching when well-meaning adults try to force it on them.

11. Learning Difficulties – How homeschooled kids and their parents best address learning difficulties and disabilities, and the important differences between the two

12. Children and Work – Addressing the need for a young person to find their calling rather than just get a good education and find a high-paying job

13. Homeschooling and the Courts – Looking at examples of court challenges to homeschooling and the legal arguments that have been used successfully to defend the practice

Holt made it clear that homeschooling should not be about parents simply replacing teachers directing their child's learning process.  His was the more radical notion that in order to homeschool successfully a parent needed to be able to have an authentic relationship with their child, more like a peer than a superior.  In Chapter 2 he wrote...

We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they are away. They have to trust them as people, respect their fragile dignity, treat them with courtesy, take them seriously. They have to feel in their own hearts some of their children's wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world. And they have to have enough confidence in themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children's learning. But that is about all that parents need. Perhaps only a minority of parents have these qualities. Certainly some have more than others. Many will gain more as they know their children better; most of the people who have been teaching their children at home say that it has made them like them more, not less. In any case, these are not qualities that can be taught or learned in a school, or measured with a test, or certified with a piece of paper. (Page 55 of the PDF)
I see Holt's radical reframing of the relationship between parent and child, adult and youth, as a logical extension of the ideas of civil rights and human rights growing out of the 1960s.  

Holt's Legacy

Holt died in 1985 at age 63.  He bequeathed his quest to transform education and his lifetime of work to protégé Patrick Farenga, who I have had the pleasure to get to know at several Alternative Education Resource Organization conferences.  You can learn more on Pat's website.

I think Holt is still the “patron saint” of the homeschooling movement to many parents and others in the progressive community.  He framed the movement broadly as applying full human and civil rights to children, not just as an alternative venue for school.  He represents a continuing thread in our culture carrying forward ideas of more egalitarian rules of engagement between adults and youth from his philosophical predecessors, including A.S. Neill, Homer Lane, Will Durant and Bronson Alcott.

Certainly his ideas were critical in my own development as a parent, and the opportunities we finally gave our son Eric and daughter Emma to leave school and chart their own developmental course.  Read more about the paths my kids charted in that regard in my piece “Unschooling rather than Highschooling”.

So happy birthday John!  I hope wherever your current venue, your development proceeds unabated!

Originally posted to Education Alternatives on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:43 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Great article (17+ / 0-)

    I was a big fan of John Holt during the Growing without Schooling years.

    Inspired by his writing, I treated my daughter as a person in need of guidance. I would always explain, explain, explain why we were doing something a certain way, and we would discuss it at length. She didn't do crazy kid stuff. She was always responsible.

    I didn't believe that kids need to have myriad pointless rules to follow in order to grow up to learn to follow pointless rules. Western childrearing is based on the premise that kids won't grow up unless we force them to sleep through the night/toilet-train them/wean them/feed them solid food by an arbitrary age, in other words, not trusting nature. The evidence is that children are raised in many different ways in different cultures, and ours represents an extreme of control. Have you ever met an adult who still drinks out of a bottle because he wasn't weaned by the currently fashionable age of weaning?

    I was always amazed when I visited someone who raised their kids by rules. I remember watching a girlfriend interact with her kids, making up rules on the fly while disregarding some at will.

    You know the classic story of the kid who has a tantrum at the checkout counter because his mom wouldn't buy him a candy bar (that he had been staring at while waiting) because [arbitrary rule goes here]? That didn't happen with us. I would buy us both candy bars after discussing which was best, but we couldn't open them until we got home. Not only did she learn self-control, but she never had a tantrum, period. I am convinced that the "tantrum" is simply a result of kids being frustrated by pointless rules forced on them by adults trying to teach them regimentation, in the belief that the primary motivation of kids is to take advantage of and manipulate adults.

    Respect for children is indeed the antithesis of how we raise kids in our society.

    And so often I have heard the mother's lament that she thought after raising her kids strictly they would suddenly become her best friends on reaching adulthood. But the mold is never broken.

    My daughter was my best friend the whole time she lived with me.

    •  those pointless rules (9+ / 0-)

      Mostly, I have seen them to be for administrative convenience.

      Call exploitation and debt slavery whatever you want.

      by jcrit on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:16:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yay! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jcrit, angelajean

      I always find myself tipping your comments, Angela, and now I see why, at least partially. I so agree with your ideas here and they're something I have tried to live by with my daughter as well.

      Just an observation, before we moved, I worked at a history museum and oh, how frustrating it was to almost daily see things that visitors, and I'm assuming kids but not always, had broken. I just don't understand that impulse. OTOH, here in St. Louis, we have The City Museum. We visited a few weeks ago with company from out of town and as we toured, I was struck by how much could be broken and by how little, it appeared, was. Now, theoretically, at the history museum, we were hands-on and we really attempted to live up to that. Follow the guests' interests. The City Museum has a sign at the front desk that says something like, "Use common sense or you could get hurt." You follow your own interests. There seems to be very few rules imposed on the visitor and yet everyone interacted well and shared the space well and nothing in the exhibits looked broken, unlike you see at a lot of museums. The City Museum is a very unique space and I don't know how you'd apply those ideas to the broader museum field but it was an awesome thing to see.

      Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. --Mark Twain

      by Debby on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:51:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have to confess getting caught up it... (4+ / 0-)

      a lot of those parental "rules" particularly when we started sending our kids off to school, around getting them to bed, getting them up, going to school, homework, that whole "this is your life and its schedule, it is what it is, get used to it!"

      Reading Holt among other alternative educational thinkers was a "click" that there was a different way of being, a completely different paradigm for the rules of engagement between adults and youth, one that was actually more consistent with how I was raised as a kid by my unorthodox parents and who I was as a humanistic person.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:57:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And we'd (0+ / 0-)

      be standing right there in line with you -- but munching on our candy bars. :)

      Or go ahead and go to the cookie aisle and get a box of animal crackers when you start shopping. Goodness knows shopping is tedious. Why add to the problem with hunger and fighting over nonsense?


  •  The challenge (14+ / 0-)

    John Holt's work has had a profound impact on me, and informs my work as a parent daily.  Many people say to us "I could never homeschool - it must be hard!"  And they are right, but probably not in the way they think.  I don't have to know everything.  I don't have to teach everything.  I have to teach less rather than more, to hold myself back from jumping in to smear "teachable moment" all over my child's discovery; I need to have the restraint to answer only what's asked.  John Holt's How Children Fail breaks the code of our assumptions about schooling and reveal it to be a foolish game.  Instead of allowing our children to learn, we are forcing them to perform like trick ponies, with the right answers being little hoops they jump through for our praise instead of something integrated with their understanding of the world.

    The hard work of homeschooling isn't in the development or delivery of curriculum, but in the emotional realm, developing empathy, compassion, and foresight.  Of course we all feel empathy and compassion for our children.  The difficulty is in expanding this to keep us on the same side of the table, understanding what is too little, what is too much, what is a passing fancy and what is a sincere interest, and providing what he might need without overwhelming him with my agenda.  Kids don't tell us everything, and understanding what they mean from what little they say can be difficult.

    It's not the things I teach my son that mean the most, it's the things he learns himself, and the things we learn together that matter.  My job is not to teach but to put the infrastructure (books, lessons, materials, groups) together to make different kinds of learning possible, and to be his companion rather than his guide on the journey.

    He's on vacation with his grandparents this week, and he wanted to call to ask me just one thing:  Did I play my violin today?  

    He started learning violin two years ago, and had a rough and useless time of it for three months.  Finally I stopped trying to get him to learn what I told him to and asked him how he wanted to learn.  He said he'd learn if I got my own violin and learned with him.  So I did what he asked.  Now we practice together every day, and he loves it.  

    Someone else might hear us play The Two Grenadiers together and just notice we're beginners.  When we practice, I notice his dynamics and rhythm improving and he notices my tonality and bowing becoming more accurate.  We know how far it is from where we started.  And of course he's better than I am at this point, so I need to use his vacation week to catch up a bit.  He wants to know if I'm doing my job and keeping my promise.

    So I'm going to go tune up right now.  Thanks for the diary, lefty.

    •  You're welcome Gareth... I really like what you... (7+ / 0-)

      said about being "on the same side of" (rather than across from) your kid at the "table".  I think that is a great metaphor!  You are not their inquisitor, your their collaborator.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:01:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Lovely... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      little lion, leftyparent, angelajean sure to read John Holt's book "Never Too Late," on his life as a music learner.  It's one of the most beautiful and personal things he's written — I re-read it about once a year.

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:30:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I loved Holt, Neill and Alcott (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The time and attention I was able to give my kids (31 & 27) was worth more than can be described. They were and are friends, we have many bonds other families do not. Those of you at that time of life seem to be enjoying it as much as I did.

      One thing that contributed was continuing reading aloud even after they were both independent. We shared many books and discussions until they left for college. They had a two hour per day limit on screen time: TV and/or gaming. While there were times it was difficult to enforce, eventually they realized that it did help. It was on during dinner on 9/11/01. Dinner was how they learned conversation, discussion, debate and even telling jokes with the right timing.

      As far as schedules, the only thing I stressed they be aware of is that our circadian rhythms are very sensitive to disruption - which can make you really spacey in the morning. Especially as they reach adolescence, the part of the brain that is learning to set and reset the daily clock tends to set it an hour later every day. Hence the 'up at the crack of noon' habit of teens. Weekends are tempting - even for adults- to break out of the routine. And that is what makes Monday mornings SO bad.

      What I hate about education is how it disrupts the human love and joy of learning. I have been able to get many patients to overcome their fear of learning when it comes to making lifestyle changes and managing chronic illness. Once they get past that, the disease and it's disruption in their lives is less intimidating and they do much better.

      I have had a framed poster of The Banjo Lesson as the focal artwork in my living rooms for over thirty years. To me it perfectly portrays that quiet place we find ourselves when learning something. A mix of serenity, hope and the steady building of mastery. For all that time I have claimed learning as my drug of choice.

      I don't see public education being changed as much as it should be for a LONG time. Meanwhile I keep talking to teachers and school board candidates about changes we could make.

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 09:19:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks Ginny for sharing your story!... (0+ / 0-)

        Another person moved by Holt's ideas to move toward more egalitarian parenting.

        I'm curious...

        Did your kids attend conventional school K-12?

        You also indicated that you had patients, what sort of work did you do?

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:33:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Every day (11+ / 0-)

    As a teacher, I am confronted every day with my own knee-jerk mistrust of my students in the classroom.

    "All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult."
    My solution to the problem is to continually empower students in myriad small ways- ways that reflect respect rather than praise.  This practice, though, can only go as far as my own ability to be respectful.  In the school environment, this can sometimes be very challenging, and so I am quick to apologize for having to be authoritarian.  Just the act of contriteness on my part empowers children, and gives our student-teacher relationship a richer meaning.

    As a victim of behavior modification in my own student years, John Holt made me see how disrespectful it is to treat students in such a way.  It is merely a tool for dominance, preparing young people to be good servants, but not to be critical thinkers.  Kids are the very best critical thinkers!

    Ultimately, it is incredibly easy to be a teacher.  Just be an honest, helpful, assistant in a child's own learning; not necessarily a leader all the time, but always a source of nurturing that children need from grownups.

    I was so turned off by the education system that I had to work in other areas for 25 years before I could even think about teaching.  The Whole Language movement, a philosophy that articulated very clearly what I was thinking about schooling, brought me back into the system.

    Even though the system is back into its old, disrespectful  factory-model again, I decided to keep on teaching as I saw fit, until someone fired me for it.  Incredibly, that hasn't happened yet to me, but sadly, I have seen many, many great teachers pushed to the margins by the forces of greed and authoritarianism.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to honor one of the greats.

    Call exploitation and debt slavery whatever you want.

    by jcrit on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:09:39 AM PDT

  •  I was an undergrad in psychology in A2 (7+ / 0-)

    in the late 60s (time and place of note, but that's a diary in itself) and had the privilege of doing an independent study with a much-loved education professor at U of M, Don Barr, in my final year. I had worked at Student Book Service and seen titles I wanted to read, and got to read them all for this class. How Children Learn and How Children Fail - original copies still on my bookshelf - were the heart of the mix. Another favorite was Teaching as a Subversive Activity, though I also was sympathetic to one of the authors' later partial recanting, when he noted that one of the few things that do hold us together as a nation is shared lessons in elementary sthool.

    "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

    by pixxer on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:41:34 AM PDT

    •  I would love to read (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer, jcrit, angelajean

      an A2 diary of that era. I was there '70 - '72. There oughta be a book.....

      Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

      by davidseth on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:14:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We left in early '71. Do you remember "Drug Help" (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        davidseth, jcrit, angelajean

        and Ozone House? Mr pixxer and I helped make those happen. I really should diary a lot of stuff :)

        Oh cool, a superscript! OK, gotta figure that one out!

        "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

        by pixxer on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:24:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pixxer, jcrit, angelajean

          I was just now thinking about a vegetarian restaurant that was in a church basement near campus. Cannot remember its name. And when I do that it brings back a flood of places and people I haven't seen in ages.

          You make a superscript by using sup as the code inside the less than/greater than markers.  

          Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

          by davidseth on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:27:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you remember time period or cross streets? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pixxer, angelajean

            Was it "Seva"?  I know Ann Arbor pretty well from say 1965 thru 1978 when I moved to Los Angeles.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles

            by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:19:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I think I remember the one. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I don't remember its name either.  It was on either East U or South U near the business school, as I recall, and near the original Domino's Pizza.  This was some time between 1973 and 1975.  The restaurant I'm thinking of offered seasonings in shakers that included bits of seaweed and sesame seeds rather than salt and pepper -- the first time I'd ever seen that.  I found that odd but I liked it.  

            Anyway, I wanted to thank leftyparent for a great diary about a guy who was a special hero to me in those years.  

            •  There was a "Dominick's" restaurant in that... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              neighborhood by the business and law school.  South U always had a bunch of restaurants (Brown Jub, Bicycle Jim's, etc) but I don't remember a vegetarian one.

              Cooper Zale Los Angeles

              by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 01:48:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I have written a lot of pieces about A2... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pixxer, angelajean

        particularly from my own point of view as a youth and young adult growing up there until age 23 when I moved to Los Angeles.  If you are interested I will send you some links to pieces I've written on my blog or you can go to it ( and maybe search on "Ann Arbor".

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:17:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  In the late 1960s I was in A2 attending... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer, angelajean

      Junior High School, and hating most every minute of it!  

      I'm curious about that author who felt there was some sort of critical shared experience for elementary school that binds our society together.  Can you kind of give a quick overview of some of the key items in that thesis?

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:13:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  From memory ages ago... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Postman and Weingartner, in Teaching as a Subversive Activity, made a mockery of such questions as "What were the ways of making a living in ancient Egypt?" b/c kids nowadays don't have to know that. But later, one of the authors (IIRC only one, and it caused a rift) realized that there were so few shared experiences in American society any more that having a shared curriculum - at least to some degree - was important to our sense of national unity or identity. Something like that. In the 50s, if you had a TV, it was likely you watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights. Now that sort of shared TV experience happens only a few times a year - the SuperBowl, say. The overall thrust of the book was that to prepare kids for life as we had never known it before, they need to learn to think. That part they of course stood by.

        "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

        by pixxer on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:02:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have heard that argument a lot... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FloridaSNMOM, angelajean, Nance

          and I'm still trying to make heads or tails of it.  I would think with all the media we have the dramatic world and national events, plus all the reality TV etc would give us plenty to have as shared experience and modern mythology.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 11:15:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I dug up a bit more. It was Neil Postman (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        xaxnar, angelajean

        who realized (from Wiki)

        ...that schools' primary social function is to create a common culture among citizens through the communication of unifying purpose-giving narratives rather than to simply initiate children into the economy.

        “The idea of public education depends absolutely on the existence of shared narratives and the exclusion of narratives that lead to alienation and divisiveness. What makes public schools public is not so much that the schools have common goals but that the students have common gods. The reason for this is that public education does not serve a public. It creates a public.” (pg. 17)

        Let's do that again...
        It creates a public.
        That is the concept I was recalling.

        This is from The End of Education - a most excellently ambiguous title - which I have not read, but I guess I will have to!

        "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

        by pixxer on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:56:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for that passage... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean, FloridaSNMOM, pixxer

          I think of Horace Mann when I read it.   That was what he was thinking about when he built essentially the original basically religious curriculum for the "common" schools in Massachusetts.

          I understand the idea, though I think there is plenty of real life world and national drama (plus all the big "reality" shows on TV like American Idol, et al) that all or most of us share.  IMO we don't need to come up with more stuff like that to teach in schools.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 11:20:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Homeschooling my two... (6+ / 0-)

    We're more eclectic home schoolers than unschoolers, but we do use unschooling to some extent as well. If I didn't have some things he had to do, he wouldn't do it, like algebra. He hates it, but I know it's something he needs to do what he wants to do with his life, including attending college. But, when it comes to a lot of other things, we focus on what he wants to learn. He got interested in Chemistry from reading the Dragonriders of Pern series, for example. Yes, I do the research looking up information to go with the chemistry book we're using, but the subject was his decision.
    Another example of this is what he watches on TV when we're not doing schoolwork. My son would rather watch discovery or travel or the science channel, or animal planet (when it is about animals and not animal cops he says), rather than any other 'typical' teen channel. So yes, officially we're doing Chemistry in school right now, but his Science learning is so much beyond just chemistry on a daily basis that I don't worry about what he's not learning at all.
    For us a balance of child lead and parent lead learning works well. Part of that is based on my son's disability though. Autistic kids tend to get overly focused on one thing to the exclusion of all else. So I try to counterbalance that by presenting more interests and information using that focus but not letting him solely study reptiles and dragons.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:53:28 AM PDT

    •  There are all sorts of educational paths... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, angelajean

      and Holt I think acknowledged that the unschooling path might not be for everyone.  Though I think he would urge all parents and other adults that work with children to let them tell you what they need from you rather than giving it unsolicited.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:22:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks leftyparent (0+ / 0-)

        raising an autistic child is almost always 3/4 intuition and 1/4 research LOL, at least in my experience. I don't disagree with Holt, it just wouldn't work in my son's case. He spends a lot of time researching his own interests, I just make sure to point out where those spread out and how he needs to study other things. And sometimes I have to enforce studying other things or he would be too involved in one thing to bother with anything else. At this point I'm trying also to get him ready for an adult life, including work deadlines and such, which doesn't come easily to him.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 01:02:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, leftyparent, for reminding us of (5+ / 0-)

    Holt's contritubutions to education. Our country has skewed so far to the right that were Republican lawmakers even to take notice of him, they'd decry him as a "hippy-dippy" freethinker out to destroy our youth and America into the bargain. Yet his child-centered approach to education is just what our educational-industrial complex needs.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:10:40 AM PDT

  •  This is one I'll print and keep as a reference (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, jcrit, angelajean

    guide.. absolutely excellent. Even someone rigidly oppposed to unschooling or homeschooling could understand this. Well done !

    •  Thanks K, I appreciate the kudos... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I try to write these pieces and just present what is, while confessing my own bias hopefully, and not trying to spin things completely in the favor of my own bias.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:25:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Illich (6+ / 0-)

    I heard Ivan Illich lecture in the 1970s and read his Deschooling Society. He envisioned education as two people finding out they had similar interests and sitting down together to discuss them, without a "school" institution. The Internet now makes that vision much more feasible. A lot of what we do here at Daily Kos is deschooled education.

    Join the 48ForEastAfrica Blogathon for the famine in east Africa: Donate to Oxfam America

    by JayC on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:10:29 AM PDT

  •  We were, in the '70s, the first family in our (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    town to challenge compulsory schooling.  It's small town with a prestige college and a larger than average population of faculty and teachers, so we got lots of raised eyebrows - as though we were spitting on the "high alter".  The biggest issue wasn't so much the fact that we were home schooling, but that we gave the choice to each of our children.  Democracy in practice!  

    John Holt's work was an ongoing inspiration and aid to our cause.  His most helpful resource was the monthly newsletter, Growing Without Schooling - a salt & pepper styled gem (vast majority of the copy by the readership), very readable - most articles less than a column long, dealing with legal issues, school abuse issues, examples of unique math solutions invented by students themselves (Holt was a math teacher), and countless other subjects of interest.  Well worth the effort to make at least the first fifty issues a regular read.

    Holt led us to another home (Un-) schooling advocate, John Taylor Gatto.  His flinty,  Dumbing Us Down and Underground History of American Education have become classic, well reasoned critiques of forced schooling.  And it was Gatto who led us to that incredible Sudbury Valley School website.  Gatto repeatedly makes the point that it is the compulsory aspect of our western system that makes it untenable and which, at its outset, was so resisted by the general population that it had to be enforced by various militias.  Yet, in the never-ending babel over "what's wrong with our schools and how do we fix it?", the question of compulsion is never raised.

    It became a fascinating irony to realize that a very large number of early home school parents were teachers themselves!

    •  I read Gatto's Underground History... (0+ / 0-)

      and it had as much impact on my thinking as Holt.  In fact I read the list of 28 books Gatto recommended in UH and it gave me an incredible perspective on U.S. history and education.  Gatto and Holt have both been my gurus!

      See three of my pieces based on books recommended by Gatto...

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 11:38:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think we need to see more writing about (0+ / 0-)

      the compulsory part of education - maybe we can help that happen by keeping a constant part of the conversation here at DailyKos.

      •  Good topic! A lot of issues tied together there!.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        farmerhunt, angelajean

        Here is a piece I wrote on that topic previously... "Starting to Imagine Non-Compulsory Schools"

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 07:56:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the link (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          From that essay:

          So if you accept my argument against compulsion (and I expect many of you will not) how do we begin to get from where we are now to this new paradigm?
          The Gordian Knot that is our socio-political-economic  system (SPES) is, in large measure, and as Gatto makes so very clear, "glued together" by our compulsory ed system.  And it gives me headaches trying to imagine a single blow that would peaceably unravel it.  My fantasy would be a kind of "Universal Sudbury" model.

          The unrelenting reality of Peak Oil, Global Warming, and the collapse of Capital will force our SPES into contractions that our current cultural state of mind simply refuses to imagine, save for the budding "localization" trends.  That is, I hate to say, probably the only push that will dismantle our truly dystopic compulsory ed system.  

          However, (dare I say it?) parts of the charter schools movement (excluding the right wing privatizers of course) show some promise, however faint, in this direction.


          •  I'm right in that same flow with your thoughts!... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            reconnected, angelajean

            I think moving forward is all about somehow moving from the OSFA (one size fits all) where we currently are to something like MPFL (many paths for learning).  Homeschooling is part of creating that spectrum, so are alternative private schools (like Montessori, Waldorf, Sudbury Valley and others), and as you say charters.  Particularly the charting process when it is wielded by community organizers to create an alternative sort of school (not, as in often used in red states) as a cudgel to beat on teachers and their unions.

            As it really begins to be about profoundly different choices and there are many available to nearly everyone, then the whole need to stress compulsion I think will fade away.  IMO mandatory education is a a very in-artful attempt to try to ensure equal education.  If everyone in the country has to go to the same kind of school and take the same mandatory classes then that has to be approaching some sort of fairness, right!  At least from a bureaucratic mindset.  Does that make sense?

            But yes, I think Gatto is right about how compulsory schooling glued together an industrial socially-engineered society that really does not trust itself (in the best of circumstances) or even intend (in the worst) to be truly democratic.

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles

            by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 03:23:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this posting (4+ / 0-)

    on Holt's thinking and philosophy. His words are the best you can offer the progressive community to back up all of our personal stories of success. I never regret embracing learning at home and out in the community after reading his books - I occasionally doubt myself, but my children show me over and over again that there is no reason for regret.

  •  A friend of mine was unschooled (0+ / 0-)

    It left her completely unprepared for college and socially maladjusted.   She doesn't recommend it.

    •  Sorry to hear it (8+ / 0-)

      By "She doesn't recommend it." I hope she means she doesn't recommend whatever went into her particular experience, rather than unschooling in general.  

      To indict unschooling would be like saying "A friend of mine went to public school.  It left her completely unprepared for college and socially maladjusted.  She doesn't recommend it."

      Thousands of young people have grown up unschooling and gone on to college, or whatever their option, as well as had happy social experiences.  Surely you have read of some of these experiences here on DK?  There are also many sites on the web that offer resources and examples.

      I know that she can only speak from her experience, which was negative, but it is not representative of everyone's experience.

    •  Say more about her experience if you would... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smalakoff, angelajean

      I'm always curious to understand the range of things, good and bad.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:19:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Her mom dumped her off at the library (0+ / 0-)

        every day and she was free to read whatever.

        She went on to get a phd, but her first year of college was hell because she didn't know how to do simple stuff like take notes and put her name at the top of an assignment before turning it in.

        It was also the first time she was exposed to people with world views conflicting her own.  Having to spend a year working along side somebody who is nothing like us and we can't stand is one of the primary benefits of public schooling, IMHO.  Most of the academic stuff we learn in school we forget by the time we're 30.  The social stuff stays with us for life.  

        She's still can't deal with being around anyone other than liberal intellectuals just because that was everyone she ever encountered ever until she hit college.

        •  Thanks for sharing a synopsis of her story... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The fact that she resolved her initial logistical issues with formal learning in college and went on to get a PhD makes me think that she is a highly motivated, highly gifted individual.  Sometimes highly gifted people are also very shy and/or struggle with more routine social interactions.  

          The fact that you use the word "dumped" to imply perhaps neglect is significant.  Do you think her mom felt that the library would be a better environment for her than sending her to a conventional school?  Being perhaps shy and gifted, maybe she was happy to spend a lot of time there immersed in the world of books and ideas, and leveraged that experience to go on later to the pinnacle of academic achievement, a PhD.  Just speculating!

          She sounds like a person I would enjoy meeting!

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 01:30:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I have a hard (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          time being around conservative dummies, too. But I went to public school. So I have no excuse. :)


    •  I would like to hear more, too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, Gareth

      since this leaves us all wondering. And I've heard the same remark from public schooled kids -- frustrated by lack of preparedness for the "real" world, let alone college. Sounds more like one person's negative experience rather than a broad recommendation for one way of learning over another.

      And, as leftyparent points out, it's good understand a range of experiences - we can all learn from the negative and the positive.

      •  I've seen the unpreparedness, and it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is often starts as described above: education degrades into learning to do tricks on command. Then in the "real world",outside of the most mundane jobs there are no simple tricks, no one to lead your work, no teachers edition with the one right answer, and often no right answer, just good enough plus spin.

        •  Great point! From my work experience... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          work in the corporate business world in information technology and business systems, there is often no right answers, but what can be cobbled together and "keep the lights on" that works for the short time frame and budget.  If one is more that a simple worker bee given completely explicit assignments then one must constantly collaborate and improvise.

          School as conventionally constituted is very unlikely to contribute skills to that sort of situation, and might only show that you survived a very different sort of bureaucratic environment than the corporate one!

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 08:19:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I read (0+ / 0-)

    Nancy Wallace's books and was intrigued by them and her children.  Although I did not unschool, I found her family experiences really interesting.

    I know Vida and Ishamael Wallace are musicians but was curious about what happened to Nancy.  She died a few years ago but that was all I could find out.

    by KibbutzAmiad on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:15:02 PM PDT

  •  I met him (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, angelajean, Nance

    at a conference my third year of teaching--40 yrs. ago.  He informed so much of my life and teaching philosopy, among others, i.e. Alfie Kohn, Jonathan Kozol.  Agree with him or not, he was a powerful and honest provacateur, and I believe, had we taken the guidance of his or the aforementioned pioneers, our education system--even our society--would be far better off.

    I took a lot of heat from various administrations in the 70's for implementing those ideas in the classroom, but I still hear from my students from Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. (I married a coach, so we moved a bit.) Most of their messages to me center around how much they felt validated, respected, and inspired to learn.  

    Happy Birthday, John Holt. And many happy returns of the day. And THANK YOU for affecting me as a young teacher, mom, and eventually psychologist. I am a grateful disciple.

  •  Really enjoyed this, Cooper. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Holt's writing reminded me, when I first read it, of some of my best teachers, and much of his wisdom can actually inform schoolteaching, if people just back off & stop trying to re-school the teaching profession!  

    One of the satisfactions of any real work is the ripening and interweaving of skills through time. When one's work takes place in classrooms, the inherent wisdom of young people seeps through all the methods and best practices and test anxieties and other attendant b.s., and eventually, if you're lucky, you unschool yourself & let them learn what they will.  You become the guiding presence who helps them get where they need to be, by their own paths, and you reflect that and they get it,  sometimes while you know them, sometimes decades later.  When it's your own child, of course, you are more likely to enjoy the long process!

  •  Thanks for posting this... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, FloridaSNMOM, angelajean

    ...I'm too late to be part of the discussion, but I have read everything Holt's ever written, and agree with about 99% of it about 99% of the time.

    Few writers on education seem to have anywhere near as much compassion and respect for the kids they teach.  Herbert Kohl is another who comes to mind.

    As a student I read Holt, Neil Postman, Herbert Kohl, James Herndon and quite a few others; their analyses of the flaws of educational institutions were essential to my keeping my sanity when I was in high school.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:35:31 PM PDT

  •  As for the workplace.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, Nance

    It's interesting to look at this selection of Holt's views on education, and look at them in another context: the workplace. Make a couple of substitutions in the quote from Holt, and see what you get:

    All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust your workforce. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust workers we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.
    The employer-employee relationship seems to carry a lot of the same baggage that shows up in teacher-student interactions. I suspect a lot of what is problematic in both situations could be better understood by getting a better handle on authoritarian behavior. A key nexus in authoritarianism is the intersection between fear and power.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:31:03 AM PDT

    •  Agreed, one seen as preparing for the other... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The worst of school, boring assignments, endless regimentation, and authoritarian rules for which we have no say, supposedly preparing us to face and accept the same in the work world!

      Looking at the possibilities for a transformed work place, something of great interest to me, I have written a number of pieces, including this one... "Moving Towards an Egalitarian Work Place"

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 08:02:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Left out of the discussion ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smalakoff, reconnected, Nance, Gareth

    .... is the simple truth that the PRIMARY function of school for most families is a place to park the kids while they are at work.

    "Education" and any real learning are entirely secondary.  Play, the natural role of learning for all higher mammals, is something to be suppressed.  The reality is: teachers are first tasked with and judged on controlling the behavior of twenty or thirty kids trapped behind their desks for the working hours of their parents.

    And, our local school board just voted to eliminate art classes from the lower grades!

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:56:49 AM PDT

    •  Left out indeed! We have built a society... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that is totally "adult-centric" and seems at times to have no place for young people in any of its venues except for the home and this institution we have created to send, baby sit and "train up" our children we call school.

      You might be interested in my piece... "Schools: Trying to Balance Coercion, Inspiration and Facilitation"

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 08:07:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Just started reading (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        reconnected, Gareth

        The Case Against Adolescence by Robert Epstein - following reading his 2007 article in Psychology Today called Trashing teens.

        We're extending childhood and rendering our kids useless in society. Some who object to kids learning from life rather than from school assume that we are overly protective of our kids and shelter them from the bad things. But my kids interact with a variety of ages and backgrounds on a regular basis. They're shy, but have learned to navigate in what we call the "adult world" working side by side with people twice their age.

        Just agreeing with boatright and leftyparent. Schools shelter kids from society and what is really out there, but the intent for having them there is to put them away while adults get on with the real world stuff.  

        Our youth should be an integral part of a society, not a scape-goat for so many problems like the education system and the challenges that stem from kids simply not wanting to be there.

  •  Thanks for the Article (0+ / 0-)

    It seems an interesting fact that is overlooked here is that Holt himself neither attended nor taught in public schools.  Consequently, all his knowledge of public schools is hearsay.

    Not that disqualifies him from having important things to say about education.  But it causes me to approach his work skeptical of his opinions about public schools.

    •  It is a good point to note... (0+ / 0-)

      Holt's experiences were in the world of private school and the mostly privileged kids who attended them.  Though from my own experience in public school, and that of my kids, I suspect the teacher-student dynamic is not all that different in public schools from what he observed.  Perhaps in some public schools in poorer neighborhoods, the kids see their school as more of an oasis from an otherwise impoverished environment, which could actually change that dynamic.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 01:36:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And public schools (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      have changed quite a bit since he wrote. And since I attended, for that matter. :)

      But I'm not sure any of that is really relevant.

      I find it more helpful to read for understanding, to see if there is anything that does make sense now, etc.


  •  i know a family near here that "unschools" (0+ / 0-)

    Their daughter is free to watch whatever is on TV and eat whatever is in the fridge.

    Maybe that's an education.

    But the seven year old girl is very overweight, afraid to talk to other kids, doesn't want to play outside, and has almost nothing in her life besides the TV.

    Sad existence.  I think it's child abuse, but apparently it's unschooling.

    •  You are so right (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      puzzled, KGardner

      This entirely apocryphal case totally disproves everything we thought we knew about homeschooling. Sample size of 1 with no evidence wins every time.

    •  Don't think its unschooling, think you're right.. (0+ / 0-)

      it seems like abuse.  I think Holt would agree!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 01:39:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How do you know so much (0+ / 0-)

      about this child?

      •  her mother went to highschool with my wife (0+ / 0-)

        They are still kinda friends, but the issues with her daughter have kinda wedged us apart.

        We have other friends that home school, and that works fine.  Even cases where everything except reading and math is open exploration.

        But my one experience with unschooling is seeing the term used to excuse neglect.

        •  Did you read the diary? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If a child is being left to their own devices all day at age 7 then that does seem like neglect to me and it does not fit any definition of unschooling that I've ever seen.

          I'm curious, do the parents call what they are doing unschooling?  If so, is that why you are saying it's your one experience with unschooling?

          If you've read the diary I think you would see that unschooling at it's best is a rich, lived experience, in connection and relationship with parents and others of all ages, with access to resources in a supportive environment.

          So this girl's parents can call it what they want (if they are calling it unschooling) but that doesn't make it unschooling.

          I have to admit that your original post made me wonder about your motives for posting because to characterize her situation as "but apparently it's unschooling" doesn't fit with the diary, or any other piece in the homeschooling series.

        •  An important caveat! Always a few of those! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 02:13:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  So what have you (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          reconnected, leftyparent, k8dd8d

          and/or your wife done to help? Maybe the Mom doesn't know any better than what she is doing and could use a kind word, an invite to the park, inclusion instead of judgement, outings or visits that are not "educational" by the more traditional homeschoolers' standards but are fun for everyone, etc.

          And maybe you and your wife don't know everything that is going on in this little girl's life. Being overweight is not a product of TV or unschooling, for instance.

          If you and your wife can get past the label of unschooling and figure out a way to be helpful to this other family, it might be a good thing. For everyone involved.

    •  Unschooling is not unparenting (0+ / 0-)

      was the response I once got from an unschooler to whom I described a similar situation.  

      Respecting a child's needs and wants doesn't mean giving them everything they want.  Respecting a child doesn't mean allowing the child to act disrespectfully to others.

      •  Good point and clarification! (0+ / 0-)

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:36:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  True. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        OTOH, what an outsider sees may look "disrespectful" or like bad parenting or whatever other accusation they want to throw.

        Judging others based on our own limited experiences, what happened when we went to school, what happened when our kid when to school, how the church lady homeschools, how the hippie next door unschools, what we heard at the water cooler, seeing a child out and about during "school hours," see a child in pajamas at "odd" hours, seeing an overweight child, (my pet peeve) being told that a child is not immunized for religious reasons, etc., etc. -- these can all look to us as if the parent is doing a bad job parenting.

        That may be the case. Homeschooling, just like public schooling, is no guarantee that parents will perform perfectly, or even close.

        But we cannot know. We cannot jump to a conclusion about a family because a child is overweight and prefers TV to worksheets. Or is shy. Or is loud. Or is not in step with the local public school curriculum. Or is simply different from our experience and our expectation about that child.

        We cannot know. Not until we get to know that family pretty darned well, and even then.

        And how you interact with your child when you think they are being disrespectful to someone else, when you are responding to your child's need or want -- that can be done with respect or not.


Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site