John Holt was a fifth grade teacher who worked in private schools. In 1964, his book "How Children Fail" created an uproar with his observations that forcing children to learn makes them unnaturally self-conscious about learning and stifles children's initiative and creativity by making them focus on how to please the teachers and the schools with the answers they will reward best. His subsequent book, "How Children Learn" (1967), also became widely known. The two are still in print and together they have sold over a million and a half copies and have been translated into over 14 languages.
This book turned my thinking upside down and changed the course of my life-it inspired me to let go of my career as a frustrated schoolteacher in favor of exploring and then advocating self-directed learning. As the homeschooling/unschooling population mushrooms, many fine books and other resources become available, but none replaces John Holt's visionary, revolutionary, attentive, and specific work, as radical now as it was 30 years ago. If you haven't read him, good chance you don't fully understand the depth or possibility of our movement. In Instead of Education, Holt addresses a huge question-how can people live and work more purposefully? In doing so, he tackles many medium-sized and smaller questions-What do schools really teach? What could libraries lend, in addition to books? Why do children seem happy in a particular school in Denmark? Throughout, his writing is-as usual-simultaneously reverent and scientific. -- Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook Reading this book again, like reading Maria Montessori, fills me with a certain sadness that such clear vision, brilliant insight and profound understanding of the needs of children should have been offered time and again, for so many years, to be so largely ignored. With our schooling situation growing ever more deplorable, the plight of our educationally abused children worsening day by day, Holt's work is more critically needed than ever. He spells out the problem and its solution with such clarity and simplicity that any parent can read him and every parent should. We ignore his prophetic vision at our peril. -- Joseph Chilton Pearce In Instead of Education ($15.95, Sentient Publications, Boulder, CO) John Holt says that parents must save their children from schools of all kinds because they kill creativity and do a bad job teaching even the basics. In short, this is a book about home schooling, one of the fastest growing trends in the nation. Why? Because the entire educational system in America has been steadily 'dumbed down' since the 1960s. Holt has been a voice of common sense since the 1960s when his first book, How Children Fail, pointed out that you cannot force children to learn anything. Schools, since then, have been straight jackets into which both teachers and students are strapped by mandatory testing and, for seven million children, mind-altering drugs various 'educators' decided these children needed. His new book is packed with great ideas and examples of how to create learning opportunities and environments outside of the established educational structure. This is an important book that every parent should read. Bookviews.Com John Holt was a prophetic voice in the educational wilderness who vividly explained why our system of schooling often frustrates genuine learning. He made this case quite clearly indeed in his groundbreaking work Instead of Education. It is as radically relevant to the educational challenges of our generation as it was to his. -- Ron Miller, author of What Are Schools For? Holistic Education in American Culture and publisher of Paths of Learning Magazine Be clear about this: Instead of Education, although less widely known than his more famous titles, is John Holt at the top of his game. If you are one of the millions of walking wounded still staggering from your own encounter with forced institutional schooling, and trying to spare your own kids from its damage, this book will be your guide and a good friend. -- John Taylor Gatto, author, The Underground History of American Education