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Learning All The Time

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,249 ratings  ·  100 reviews
How small children begin to read, write, count, and investigate the world, without being taught

The essence of John Holt's insight into learning and small children is captured in Learning All The Time. This delightful book by the influential author of How Children Fail and How Children Learn shows how children learn to read, write, and count in their everyday life at home a
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 22nd 1990 by Da Capo Lifelong Books (first published 1989)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  1,249 ratings  ·  100 reviews

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Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This books makes intuitive sense to me. This passage, on the last page, sums it up:

"We can best help children learn, not be deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they can do, answering their questions - if they have any - and helping them explore the things they are most interested in."

It made me excited to watch Penny explore life.

Edited: That re
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Thats not to say that children must discover everything unaided.We can help them in several ways.We can so arrange the materials put before them that discovery is made more likely.Real learning is a process of discovery,and if we want it to happen we must create the kinds of conditions in which discoveries are made.We know what these are .They include time,leisure,freedom and a lack of pressure."
Many young children do indeed need to be introduced to tasks and ativities that take time.But thi
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
He's a social constructionist. Always enjoy Holt. Spoke to him in the early 80's about whether preschool was good for children. He doubted it, but allowed that if the child enjoyed it, it might be alright. ...more
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone with an interest in teaching their child(ren) should read this. Holt makes great observations and gives insightful suggestions about learning, using minimal words. This is not a dry, lengthy, clinical textbook on the history and development of child education, complete with theories, etc. This is an explanation of how children essentially teach themselves. It praises the curiosity, creativity, and ingenuity of children for learning about the world around them by using what comes naturally ...more
Jul 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
How is it possible that this respectful, thoughtful approach to educating children still seems so innovative when it was written in 1985?

I'm no expert on child development, but Holt's studies and conclusions seem consistent with what I've seen from parenting.

I wish this was the standard way of thinking in our public schools (or that it had been the standard when I was in public school).

Imagine the world we'd have if we were a society in which children's love of learning was never squashed...
Pretty good. I haven't read any John Holt books in years, so this was a good refresher on some of his more salient points. He touches on several big ideas that are only recently gaining popularity and traction among the general public and educators, e.g. growth mindset, project-based learning, and the harmful effects of praise. This book was published in 1989 but is comprised of pieces he wrote as early as the 70s.

I enjoy books structured in this manner - short reflections on a single theme (in
Joni Heredia
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, education
I've just finished "Learning All the Time" a few weeks before I'm about to begin "homeschool" with Benjamin in K and Josh in 2nd grade. I've always been a very relaxed, eclectic homeschooler. I've used lots of Montessori materials and I've recently been interested and reading about the Charlotte Mason method, which sounds wonderful to me--except now I see its big flaw--that is, teaching. Reading through this book slowly convinced me that children really do learn constantly on their own. They lea ...more
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book argues--rightly in my opinion given my limited experience with my own children--that children are natural-born learners and we should do as little as possible to thwart that natural desire to explore, to create, to experiment... He says, "Learning, no more than breathing, is not an act of volition for young children... It is in their nature to look about them, to take the world in with their senses, and to make sense of it, without knowing at all how they do it or even that they are do ...more
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had forgotten about this book but when it popped up in my feed today I remembered reading way back at the beginning of our homeschool journey. If I remember correctly, John Holt was the first author I read who prescribed child-led learning. We didn't end up embracing that completely, because I felt the structure of a curriculum was in our best interest, even if it was a loose structure. And in the end, that is exactly what we did. In case you're wondering, we finished the homeschool journey su ...more
May 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
clarified what i need to be doing, in terms of helping my child gaining literacy skills-which is NOTHING. it's a dose of sanity in this crazy world of preschool readiness and leapfrog toys and "your baby can read" DVDs. i love the idea of trying not to interfere with children learning from observing their surroundings and experimenting with everything they come across. of parents doing their best to provide the opportunities, and then stepping back. ...more
Hayley  Brentmar
This book provided an interesting approach and theory to learning, unlike anything I encountered while training to be a teacher. There wasn't much evidence cited to prove his theories, but that didn't bother me (since I wasn't expecting to learn facts). Rather I was looking for insight into the whole "unschooling" movement, that (at least in my understanding) spawned from the introduction of Holt's books and ideas.
Worth considering for both parents and educators.
Michelle Korenfeld
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think what teachers and family should take the most out of this book is that you can't learn how to be a parent, grandparent or teacher. You can just keep on learning the children in order to do better fulfilling their individual needs. Kids are not an empty vessel to fill with knowledge. They are full of awe, curiosity to explore and experience, creative thinking and imagination, ready to become life long learners. If only we wouldn't spoil that. ...more
Graeme Roberts
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An unpretentious but powerful and important book. I resent the tyranny of the new that steers people toward the latest books and ignores great and important works like this, or the histories of Richard Hofstadter, for example. Everyone should read it, particularly if they plan to enjoy and encourage children as they grow. I am looking forward with hope to grandchildren, and John Holt has turned my entire didactic intent on its head. ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I imagine it would have been invaluable to shadow John Holt. It's clear that he practiced what he preached, and to see how he did it would have been a fascinating life lesson. Unfortunately I don't find reading his opinions to be quite as valuable. Though I agree with most of them, it's all gut feel, mixed with some experience, with almost no supporting evidence. This was to me an important oversight. ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have a few books by John Holt, and I believe this one is my favorite. It contains a mixture of advice, observation, speculation, and anecdotes. The organization of it is helpful and logical -- it starts out with chapters for major areas of learning such as reading and writing, math, science, and music, then goes on into some more general information about learning.
The concepts, as many others have pointed out, are mostly very intuitive. Holt does challenge "traditional" schooling often, and s
Mar 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Holt's basic point is that kids learn as an integral part of life, and when adults come in to try to teach them something, they usually retard, rather than accelerate, learning. He makes a reasonable case, but overplays his hand, in my opinion.

The book was written in the 1980s and shows some of its age. For example, Holt spends a significant number of pages arguing that the teaching of cursive handwriting is obsolete. At least since the widespread use of computers, that was already clear, and pe
Diana Coza
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highlighted almost all the book. Reading John Holt is like listening to an inner voice that was made silent by the school system, the status quo, the traditional parenting. That inner voice is the child within. Once we listen to it, we'll know how to help our children learn. We’ll learn to observe, look, listen. What the author invites us to do is give up the tendency to teach and let the children learn on their own by providing them two things: time and safety.

Children are explorers, they are
Heidi Thorsen
Jan 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Although I am using the classical trivium method to teach my children, I have a soft spot in my heart for unschooling, and we spend many days just living our lives and learning what we will from experience. So I already am partial to the author's advice on how to best educate children. In fact, while I was reading the early chapters, I stopped reading several times to pick up my tablet and place an order for a book that was recommended or referenced in the text.

I agree with his recommendations f
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
I had higher hopes for this book, I thought it would have a broader view of the possibilities available and it was a bit repetitive because there was not quite enough material (Holt had not finished writing it before he died). There is so much fantastic research on education and learning that is ignored by most teachers and schools, it was unfortunate that this book did not take advantage of that and was anecdote rather than data driven. Many areas could have used a bit more research or might ha ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is it about?

John Holt made a career out of studying how children learn and wrote ten books about his findings. This book, Learning All the Time was assembled posthumously based on outlines and articles he had written. It illustrates how children WANT to, and WILL learn how to read, write, and count without being taught.

Is it good?

Despited being absolutely riddled with typos to a point where I sometimes struggled to figure out what was being talked about, this book was great. It really broug
Oct 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Though parts of this dragged for me (I was more curious about the big picture, which comes toward the end, rather than the small examples of what's wrong with teaching phonics, etc., of the beginning), I admit to being won over by these ideas. In the beginning it seemed a little like he was just advocating one method over another (e.g. Here's what's wrong with Sesame Street; now see how I would do it), but the philosophy becomes clearer later.

"We can best help children learn, not by deciding wha
May 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library
I picked up this book because someone connected with the "Taking Children Seriously" educational philosophy recommended John Holt to me, and this was both his last and shortest book. Apparently, Holt passed away before completing it, and this was pulled together from his notes. The book has a logical structure but each chapter is filled with anecdotal stories and examples from his own experiences, and has very little objective arguments in its favor. This is probably a window into his organizati ...more
Kat M
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I was looking for a book on unschooling, and read this one with very little research on a recommendation from an acquaintance. This book was not what I was looking for. It is more about why children don't learn in traditional schools.

I actually found it to be a little nerve-wracking, with a lot of "don't teach children to read/write/do math this way..." And I would think, "Oh no! Have I confused my child?" Which seems to flu in the face of the premise of the book: that children are natural learn
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I think I liked this book only because the author's views on child education mirrored some of my personal thoughts and questions I have had recently. But much of this book is largely anecdotal -- it's not based on any research or serious study, only on the author's personal experience. At times it veers towards a rant. It is easy to tell that it was cobbled together posthumously.

As much as I agreed with the essence of what he was saying about the education system, and particulary about allowing
Kate W
I don't think I actually finished it, but it's a compelling read. And what he had to say about (not) teaching your child to read stays with me. He said all you need to do is read to your child for 30 minutes a day. At some point your child will want to 'read' you a book they have memorized, and gradually it will become actually reading, and then they'll try different books. He said you don't even need to correct their errors because they'll figure them out over time from the context of the story ...more
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: unschooling
Another so-so book. I mostly skimmed and skipped around. There are a handful of very inspiring passages and the rest is meh. Maybe it was just bad timing? I can certainly see how some people would find John Holt's books truly revolutionary if they have never read anything in the same vein before. However, having read so many other books on child development, education, and learning up to this point, I felt let down by these books. A case can be made that Holt was the originator to several of the ...more
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Loved the chapters at the end of this book especially. Great reminders of how we all are learning all of the time. I can relate to this book as I have seen learning all the time in action with my children. I put this book at the top of the list for new homeschoolers & especially for those of us who need a reminder that what we are doing is working. That what we are doing for and with our children does make a difference. It's also a nice short, easy to pick up and read & get that little boost of ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kids will be all right if we don't force them to learn (teach), help them when they ask for help (this means even when you are tired!), acknowledge their innate curiosity (and fuel it), and each child learns best when they actively sought to and started a new process of discovery. Best of all, treat them with respect and ease/understand their frustrations. Don't cheat them.

I still think some kids need a little nudge albeit indirectly if you involve them in everything you do, even your profession
Jun 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
i've been declaring i would homeschool my kids ever since i was in 5th grade and my teacher basically discouraged me from reading at my level, which was adult. but now that my son is 2 i decided i should really start doing some reading so i make a real decision in the next few years.
so far this book has picked apart what's wrong w/ the way schools teach early reading and early math, and how they can destroy kids natural ability to set and meet their own challenges
Basirat Atif
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am giving this book a 4 star. I have read John Holt's books before and this one is no different. The only difference here is that he actually gave some suggestions on how to help your children learn while in other books like "How children fail" and "How children learn", he only emphasizes on trusting and encouraging the child. A very beautiful book. I would recommend it to all the parents and teachers who truly want to understand children. ...more
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After teaching in private schools for many years John Caldwell Holt wrote his first two books, How Children Fail, and How Children Learn. He became a vocal advocate for school reforms, and wrote several more books about education theory and practice, including alternative forms and many social issues relating to the education system. Eventually he decided school reform was impossible, and changed ...more

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