A book where John Holt uses anecdotal observations that question assumptions about how children acquire knowledge and learning skills.
Its surprising (and somewhat daunting) to realise just how many people (including my own parents) have been misguided so deeply in thinking that sending their own children to school is the best way for children to grow up learning and becoming smarter, useful people in the society. What's worse is that some parents think that school is *the* only proper way of educating kids, and they would never entertain any thoughts of educating their own kids themselves - with care and attention. They just leave it to the school teachers in school (who by the way, are often too overburdened with work to provide enough individualised attention to pupils. In a school system, it is often impossible for any teacher to teach each child according to their own learning pace - so children who are quicker to learn can get bored if the teacher's going too slowly, and children who are slower to learn try desperately (in many cases, in vain!) to catch up.
Bottom line is : if parents leave all or most of the responsibility of education to the school system, their kids will miss out on a lot more knowledge they could possibly benefit from, if their parents had played a more active and supportive role in taking up the educational responsibility for their kids. This is not to say that by taking an active role, parents should adopt a "school-teacher"-like approach to their kids by reprimanding them, setting up too many limits at home, constantly correcting their children, etc. In my opinion, one of the best points John Holt has made in this book about educating children is that kids learn better if the learning experience itself has been pleasant and free, rather than having the parent constantly hovering over the child correcting the child constantly. Children must be allowed to explore the world by themselves. Yes, rules are sometimes absolutely necessary. Rules like "Do not go near the hot stove", for example, are necessary for health and safety. Otherwise, children should be left free to explore the workings of the things around them and make their own mistakes. The best way of learning (for children and adults alike) is always to keep an open mind and play by trial and error and not be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes only help us grow.
I just wish I had read this book sooner. I know that at times, I can act towards my daughter just like the way my parents did to me, and it didn't really produce any good at all. Just a nagging feeling of guilt all the time for trivial things really. Looking back, I wish I could just take back all those instances and replace them with positive ones for my daughter. Now I hope its not too late to reverse some of the damage I might have done!
This book's educational value is unsurpassed. If you're already checking out the book's reviews on Amazon now, I suggest you just get a copy of the book and see for yourself what every reviewer here has been raving on about. It's a small book - short and sweet, yet laden with so many ideas and tips on parenting, and to top it all off, it makes for a very entertaining to read. The language is informal, almost diary-like, and what's more, all the ideas presented are well-researched, tried-and-true methods.
The book also makes for a rather nostalgic read for me, as I found myself identifying traits of my own behaviour when I was a child and wondering "what if" things were done differently back then. I wouldn't dare say this book is the authoritative guide on parenting, but it has the definite potential to surprise and enlighten many people - albeit people whose parents shoved them to school since they were young and never knew any better. It can and will possibly contradict many preconceived notions you may have about what makes for proper, good parenting.