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Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  509 ratings  ·  40 reviews
John Holt is credited with launching today's huge and still growing homeschooling movement. This book is his most direct and radical challenge to the educational status quo and a clarion to call parents to save their children from schools of all kinds. Holt advocates self-directed learning and a creative life. ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Sentient Publications (first published May 1st 1977)
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Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
From the guy who kicked off the homeschooling movement in the united states - not attached to Christianity, but to free kids from the pursuit of achievement, which he equates with Education. John Holt tells us that Education prepares students for a restricted life, constrained by the everlasting failing to pursue one's curiosity and develop a holistic being.

This is a well-written and concise treatment of the Education system from an unschooling perspective. Not much has changed since he wrote i
Susan Olesen
Apr 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm not sure where to start about how short-sighted, bigoted, and damaging this book is.

Let me say two things first off: 1) I am not opposed to quality homeschooling. I came very, very close to pulling two of my kids out of school and teaching them at home. I fought hard to get a third one into a specialized school, and won. 2) I am not a fan of the current trends in public schools, and the Almighty Test curriculum, for it fails every student every time.

That said, this author is both right, and
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: educators, teachers, parents
Recommended to Milloum by: parents wondering whether to put their 5-year old daughter at school... or not
Very radical. A 100 years back in Europe, and to this day in many parts of the world, compulsory schooling was social progress; but now, Holt says, school as we know it has to be wiped out.

Reading this book, if nothing else, revealed how many preconceived ideas I had harboured about education. I laughed out at my stupidity when reading John Holt explaining that "learning" and "doing stuff" are not in fact different processes, the one taking place at school, the other, outside... How much more ob
Justin Podur
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, how-to
John Holt's approach to education, teaching, and learning has been a major influence in my life. What Holt brings to the table is an optimism about people's ability to learn. You don't really need to do anything to get people to learn, especially children, who are incredibly efficient learning machines. But the way our bureaucratic, credential-driven, behaviourist education systems work is to stifle the learning instinct. Holt works this basic message throughout all his books, but this one was o ...more
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is vintage John Holt, who is considered by many to be the father of the homeschooling movement. Written in the seventies, his criticism of the public education system is apropos and prescient. Thirty years ago Holt proposed that school reform was not possible, that the whole system needed to be scrapped. He offered many alternative ways for children to pursue learning and self-education instead of the environment of compulsory schools whose social function is "ranking....grading and labelin ...more
Laura Rogers
Another one of my favorites from one of my favorite authors - so just read it and take it in.
If you have children, this book is a must read.
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing

I imagine this is and will be one of the most important books I've read for my son's sake. Brilliantly succinct and on point. I love it and recommend literally everyone read it. :P
Kate Davis
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such a helpful frame! Holt argues that there is no such thing as "learning" -- there is just doing something poorly and repeatedly until one begins to do it better. That frame is a little difficult to translate to abstract concepts (say, post-graduate theology), but has formed the way I approach designing curriculum and assessment. What are people actually *doing* on the development of their learning, and how is that visible?

For my own learning: this frame has allowed me to expand a growth minds
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I am really enjoying all of Holt's books. His premise, as I understand it, is that humans are born with an innate curiousity to learn and understand the world around them. Regarding public school here is my favorite quote from this book. “Meanwhile, education-compulsory schooling, compulsory learning-is a tyranny and a crime against the human mind and spirit. Let all those escape it who can, any way they can.” John Holt. Pretty much sums it up. Read it if you are curious about a new path for edu ...more
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book; I don't know if I'd go quite as far as Holt does in his scathing appraisal of compulsory schooling--but I'd go pretty far, and his book is a cogent, lucid, and jargon-free explanation of why.

Dena Guzman
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I give the concept and content five stars, six, seven, eight, nine. Shoot me for this, but I find John Holt's writing itself to be slightly dry and thick. However, he's the Father of Homeschool and I think this should be required reading for all parents. ...more
Zag Abdulrahman
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was ok

We don't see someone who has been home-schooled, advocating homeschooling, do we?

How perplexing it is, to be who you are as "compulsory Schooled". Nonetheless, you advocate homeschooling!

Prerna Munshi
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book isn't about reforming education but to completely do away with it. Therefore, this book doesn't even give 'alternate' ways of educating.

Holt has a massive experience in elementary schooling and therefore he has extensively studied how education systemically castrates the thought process of both the child (the supposed student) and the adult (the supposed teacher). This forms a prelude to his concept of 'de-schooling'. This problem persists in a college/University system as well but he
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'd give this book 5 stars for the impact it's going to have on my thinking for decades. It is a lovely book in its own right. The section that includes writing prompts for developing skill in written communication (though hardly the focus of the book) will be useful to us. More than practical, this book is philosophical, shares research and ideas, and includes examples of extraordinary alternative s-chools (lower case, his distinction between compulsory S-chools and s-chools that don't mistake ...more
Justin Martin
May 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An atom bomb in a plain briefcase. I spend the better part of every day thinking about education, and it's rare that I encounter a libertarian argument that feels weighty, real, and considerate. Holt's, unfortunately, is so good at being all three of those that he's able to fundamentally rewire not just how I teach, but frankly whether I want to teach at all. He takes three simple premises (education tries to change us long-term, long-term changes only stick when done consensually, and the vast ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: partly-read
I've been trying to find the right word for this: tirade, polemic, and diatribe aren't right because he's outlining the ideas for something rather than against. Still, it very much carries that feel. He provides no evidence or even supporting arguments for his views. While I agree with some of his ideas, I don't think anyone who disagreed with him would find his writing persuasive. ...more
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: hs-books
Much of this book is outdated/irrelevant in a way that his other books aren't because of developments in the internet and legality of homeschooling.
Sometimes his tone about people who work in schools is more than I can take.
Also--it's very clear that he's coming from a privileged background and that affects his generalizations about how a world without schools would function.
Jonna Higgins-Freese
The father of homeschooling and unschooling, Holt argues that people are natural learners and explorers, and that formal S-chooling kills that process through overemphasis on testing and credentials.

His analysis was interesting, but his solutions weren't compelling to me. While he talks about children and the need to avoid compulsory schooling, most of his solution examples relate to *adult* learning. Clearly he thinks that adults should have more ability to supervise their children, that it's
Grant Black
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
An old book so some of the ideas are old, but the ideas about doing what you are interested in instead of forcing a child to learn something they never wanted to learn and giving them a grade that tells them you are bad at this stands the test of time.

Melodie Good
Sometimes learning happens outside the classroom. This book reaffirms that children learn best when they are engaged in hands-on learning from people in their community. Definitely reminds us that we all have gifts to share.
Kristin (Life Between the Pages)
3.5 stars
Published in the late 70s, several references in this book are now outdated. The overall message, though, is very much relevant and important. The more I read on this topic the more I believe compulsory schooling isn't the answer to anything.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This took me a while to finish but there are a lot of great ideas I'm here. Definitely solidified my decision to not send my son to traditional school. ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Speed-skimmed it and still took away a ton. Definitely a good resource for anyone thinking about education and its many pitfalls.
Rebekah Morgan
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Identifies the problem and the quickly moves onto solutions. Incredibly helpful in trying to decide what it means for me to be a teacher.
Amrit Blackburn
A very thought provoking book, I read it like a study and took my time in orderto digest and consider each section. I would love to read more books like this.
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
I bought into the first half of the book--Do-ers, learning is easier when there's interest and choice in the learner, doing something and learning to do it really aren't two different processes. Great.
The second half--or the final third, perhaps--he lost me. Some of his solutions to getting kids out of compulsory schooling are not well thought out at all. For example: The students could take competency tests to move up a grade instead of having to sit in a classroom for the year. Well, who write
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
So, overall, I really enjoyed this book. His distinction of S-chools and s-chools was hard to read. I get what he meant by the distinction, and appreciate it, I just found the mechanism (the 'S-' and 's-') awkward. A few of the chapters were a little dry, but I think that had to do with the subject matter more than his commentary or writing style. However, chapter 10 (On Human Nature) was awesome, and chapter 13 (What S-chools Are For) kind of blew my mind. And really, really pissed me off. Whic ...more
Myrrie Bloxham
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book after haveing been a homeschooler for 20+ years. So, I had been to conventions and heard a lot about him being the father of the homeschool movement. Ironically, I had to read books from a list given me at an online college where I am now studying to complete my BAES degree, Bachelor of Arts, Edu. studies. After 3.5 years of taking public school teacher classes, it seemed quite radical at first, but I really got into the real-life, hands-on, success and student-led cases. In fac ...more
Emily Mellow
I don't know, this book seems redundant. I love John Holt, but I guess I just don't need more convincing.
I hate to give it a low rating because maybe it will be the book that turns things around for someone else, so I'll leave it unrated- but it's a boring read for those of us already unschooling.
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great resource, full of wonderful things to think about in regards to how to truly educate children. Many, many examples and research and observations and also practical advice and application. I want to read his other books now as we'll as many of the ones he referenced. This book solidifies the idea that compulsory schooling is NOT a good thing, but still ways to deal with it. Loved it.
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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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