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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 20 October 2005
My daughter has just turned 3 yesterday. I bought this book about 2 weeks ago and once I started reading it, I just could not put it down. It was a very entertaining experience reading about the behaviour of children, I was so struck by the truth and familiarity of what the author described that I laughed till I cried. It made me start looking at how I had been raising my daughter so far, and made me look back at my childhood years (of which I have very strong memories of), thinking why in the world I had sometimes been doing to my child the way I'd use to hate as a kid when my parents did the same to me. Sometimes people just end up acting like their parents, I think because that was the only living example of parenting they had experienced in their lives, and since their lives had not turned out disastrous, they assumed it was probably an acceptable, if not, one of the many correct ways of "parenting" which will not hurt their children.
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.
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on 24 April 1998
I discovered "How Children Learn" when my own children were already on their way to their teens. I wish I'd had it when they were born, or soon after. John Holt opens our eyes to the absolutely astonishing efficiency with which pre-school children learn so many things. And he does it without any of the language of "educationese," the gobbledygook that so often clutters books about educational issues and makes them opaque and unpleasant tasks to read. Everything he says is immediate, concrete, and down to earth, drawn from specific observations of particular children, working effectively to learn whatever interests them. This is a book that I regularly now give as a gift to my friends when they become parents for the first time. I know of no other that will fill THEM with wonder over the ensuing five years or so, as their children learn to come to grips with the world.
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on 8 November 2002
With this book - it may well change your life forever. I read this some years ago while on a teacher training course, and it told me things that the trainers weren't sharing. I reread it this summer, and as a result, our family are reconsidering the educational options for our children. School is not top of our list of priorities.
This is one of the most approachable of Holt's books, although many of them are worth the effort.
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on 23 May 2012
Being a mom to a 2 year old boy and having to handle his tantrums quite often lately prompted me to start looking for books related to this. This book appealed to me because of its almost 99% positive review.

I couldn't put the book down the moment I started reading the first page. I was constantly aware that this book was first written some 30 odd years ago so I often reminded myself to look out for points of the author that might come across as irrelevant in today's time, but I couldn't - based on my personal experience learning as a child and right through my high school days and from my observation of school-going kids today. The author's keen observation and conclusion of the children he was in contact with were generally as relevant as what I could relate to today as someone who has been a child, then a student and now a mother.

His writing is concise and yet engaging - there were light moments when I actually laughed reading his description of the toddlers or children he was observing but the conclusion he drew from that particular scene that I found funny was not the least light at all, but rather sobering.

After finishing this book, I see my son in a different light now where I am more appreciative of his mischief and incessant curiosity. This book has definitely moved me...
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on 28 August 1998
I learned so much from this small book. It was easy to read and kept you interested. I know it will not only help me with my children, but will help me with teaching myself. Great book that no one should go with out reading.
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on 28 June 1996
I love John Holt's books. This one I think I read about 10
times. It's full of love for children and intellectual
curiosity. It contains very stimulating thought about learning,
about curiosity, and
about what really happens to children in school. If
nothing else, it gave me unsightful perspective to
my own early years in school.
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on 4 February 2011
A fascinating book looking in some detail at how young children learn and how adults can help them to explore the world. It has dramatically changed the way I interact with my son.

John Holt's approach is narrative rather than strictly research-based, but I was interested to read 'Young Children Learning' by Hughes & Tizard shortly afterwards - a classic social science study of the way young children learn. The findings of the research were very, very similar to John Holt's observations.
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on 19 February 2013
almost a philosophical book on childhood. I loved it!
it shows in a very easy way how children love to learn,
without the need to teach them. they learn because they are
human and are eager to learn. as simple as that.
if you love childhood and want to understand it better, buy it!
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on 29 January 2013
Think the one-star review showed a classic lack of understanding, in that parents sometimes pick up these kind of books expecting something to help their child have an edge in school. In fact, it's not that kind of book at all. Having read a few of his books, John Holt has the central idea that children can, and do, learn a great deal more than we realise without being "taught" at all. If that idea surprises you, then get this book and find out more. You may finish it agreeing with him to a greater or lesser extent, but there is no doubt that the case studies he gives show us the processes children go through when they learn, and how our efforts to "teach" them can in fact out them off whatever it is we are trying to teach them. Of course, this goes counter to a lot of my accumulated beliefs: as a parent, I feel it's my job, even my duty, to guide and teach my daughter. But as we have just decided to homeschool her, I have started to read up on educating children outside the schoolroom, and this book was my starting point. Whatever you may think of Mr Holt's central tenets, there is no doubt he comes across a wonderful man who genuinely listened to children and attempted to see the world as they did. It's a humane and loving work which I think should be on the bookshelf of every parent...not that I would try to force that view on you of course. That would be far too much like teaching!
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on 31 October 2009
This is a great read, and parts of it clicks in my head with experiences in my own childhood, my career in childcare, and currently in my childrens unschooled childhood. This has helped me be re-assured that my gut instinct with my children is spot on and my children don't need all of the things certain experts and child-oriented companies say we need. My children *are* the lead in *their* lives! Which is how it should be. I'm here as support, to give them new experiences and to chat about memories *and* most importantly to listen to them.
I feel this book supports me to do just this.
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