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Learning All The Time
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160 of 165 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 1998
I read an article about 15 years ago in Parade magazine about the Colfax family and the homeschooled sons that they sent to Harvard. This got me interested in homeschooling any children I might have one day, but my fiance (now my husband) disagreed. So I began on long, slow process of picking up books at the library about homeschooling and leaving them in convenient spots such as the bathroom, for him to read. This book is the one that convinced my husband that homeschooling was a viable and intelligent choice for our family.
Filled with marvelous insights about children and how they learn, their initial love of learning and their later dread of it, this book explains why children's love of learning must be cherished and treasured. It is a wonderful book, for homeschooler and institutional schooler alike.
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81 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2005
I admit it: I am in love with John Holt. I realize that he's deceased, and I am happily married, but it's ok because my husband is falling in love with him too. We are both sad that we didn't get an opportunity to hear him speak when he was alive. Thank God he wrote so many books.

We started by reading "How Children Learn," and then moved on to "How Children Fail," at which point we decided to read everything this man has ever written. We're working on it.

"Learning All the Time" is a fascinating book. In it, John Holt, a former schoolteacher and eventual homeschooling advocate, discusses how kids learn and how adults relate to them. Most of us adults don't give kids enough credit for how much they want to learn and how much they CAN learn, at earlier ages than we would have dreamed possible. He challenges everything we've been taught about the allegedly short attention span of very young children, and, since we have the privilege of observing such children in our home on a daily basis, we can see that he is right!

His philosophy involves making interesting learning materials available to kids and avoiding the two extremes of (a) frustrating them by pushing them into areas where they don't have aptitude or interest; and (b) limiting them by underestimating just how much they can learn, and how fast. Basically, he really LIKES children and respects them as human beings.

John Holt was trained as, and worked as, a teacher in the 1950's and 1960's. The more time he spent in the classroom, the more he came to believe that traditional methods of teaching were wasting a lot of children's potential and failing to keep their attention.

He has a tremendous respect for children. He has a lot of insight into the fact that many adults don't understand, respect, or, quite frankly, even like children.

We have applied his philosophy with our own young children, with delightful results. For example, neither of us are fluent in Spanish, but my two-year-old and I are learning it together. I resist the urge to "play teacher" in favor of learning alongside my child, and I am amazed at how much she is able to learn and retain. We have also used his approach towards potty training. When we resisted pushing, our daughter took ownership of the process. Sooner than we would have thought she would, she announced to us that she was a big girl and didn't want to wear diapers. A few weeks later (we expected that it would be many months), she announced that she would not be wearing diapers at night either. She has been true to her word! These are just small examples of how we have asked ourselves, with a little irony but in a mostly serious fashion, "What would John Holt do?" Generally, the answer is to be real with our kids, offer as many learning opportunities as we reasonably can, and pay attention to what they are learning -- and marvel at them.

In the book, he gives concrete examples of kids who could easily have been considered failures in a "cookie cutter" classroom situation. In Holt's opinion, even many kids who are considered learning disabled would do just fine (or at least much better) if they were allowed to reach their potential without an excess of testing and time-wasting "learning" activities.

Holt's writing has influenced us to seriously consider homeschooling our children. Even if we don't, I think that our parenting is being enriched by his approach, and I would recommend this book to any parent or educator.
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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2001
In clear, direct language, Learning All the Time describes the crucial difference between learning (making sense of the world)and education (being forced to digest and regurgitate what someone else dictates). Without vitriol, John Holt exposes how our children are harmed more than helped by institutional schools. He shows how all children are natural and gifted learners and how educational systems frustrate and fracture their innate curiosity about the world. His insights, ideas, and experiences show how to support children as they teach themselves. I wish I'd had this book when my child was born.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 1999
Unschooling cannot be attained through recipes of course, since every child and family is different. But Holt thoughtfully and sensitively manages to share his devotions and insights about learning, children and life in general so clearly that even the most hesitant parent can gain confidence in hir and hir child's ability to unschool.
The book is a collection of essays about many facets of learning and educational subjects (the three R's, science, music). Holt's profound observations help not only to understand how children tackle these subjects but also to gain a better understanding of these subjects ourselves.
Highly recommended for anyone involved in education.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The friend who turned me onto Holt noted the frustration she felt when she first read his stuff in the 90s. He was working on all of this in the 60s, but so little had changed. I devoured the book in a few hours, and in every chapter I made similar observations. Why wasn't this being talked about when I was in school?

Any parent who has ever closely watched their own children is going to recognize the creatures Holt describes. They are intensely curious, start out with a well-developed personal dignity and want to do and figure out everything for themselves. I criticized Gatto for not making his criticisms of school clear enough that a Martian would understand; Holt is so clear that he makes you wonder why you ever believed the pedagogy of public schools- or why we needed one at all.

The book gives Holt's thoughts on how children learn literacy, math, music and science and how parents can or can't assist in those topics and in their child's learning in general. I did very well in school (for whatever that was worth), but I found myself nodding along as Holt explained the shortcomings of the common explanations for phonics, pronunciation- even such basics as vowels versus consonants- and "long" versus "short" vowels. In case you ever worried if it was just you when you scratched (or banged) your head- it's not.

It was the math section that made me want to give this book to every parent I know. As with the literacy section, he supplies optional games parents can play with their children in order to get them to understand numbers. But it was how he succinctly explained the basics of addition/subtraction and multiplication/division that made my eyes pop out. Instead of forcing people to memorize disparate number facts such as 3+4=7 and 7-5=2, anyone can see all of those facts and more using something like this: ******* = *** **** Obviously, you could use objects to get that point across, and the right side could be manipulated to show other information. But this was so much more immediately simpler and more "elegant" than the way we were taught- and the way I have thought I had to teach- that I blinked. It is only when you've been in the room with frustrated students who just aren't getting the "basic" concepts that you can appreciate how angry one might be that this wasn't made simpler from the beginning. (And no, the new new math or TERC doesn't do anything to alleviate this.)

I laughed a little bit when Holt criticized Sesame Street and the way they taught literacy. Well, someone was listening to Holt, because many of the educational programs on PBS have incorporated his suggestions.

Children- adults- create their own knowledge, and they do it individual ways. It is becoming evident to the point of undeniable that a one-size-fits-all curriculum isn't addressing our children's needs. Indeed, the "learning disability" excuse that Holt writes about here is as of 2010 in full force; now instead of just segregating children from each other, they're being drugged in increasing numbers as well. Who is this working out for?

This isn't an angry book. It celebrates not just the potential but the reality of our children. We should celebrate it too by listening to them, respecting them and nurturing them.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2005
I wish I had read this book when my first child was born! This is a very insightful book that looks at how kids learn and how they think. Reading it brought back some memories of my own thinking as a young child. This book made a huge impression on me, and I could not help but notice some areas where I was going in the wrong direction, based on my parenting style. The author draws from his own experiences and even his own mistakes in relating to children and how they reacted. I saw the same reactions in my own children and it hit me instantly, my eyes were opened.

This book is very enjoyable and easy to read, the author comes across as a very caring friend sharing his experiences with you. I would highly recommend this book to all parents for the insight it will give you into you your children's thoughts.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2007
Once your read this book Holt's ideas will be so obvious and self-evident that you will feel stupid for not realizing them yourself. He truly loves children and has tremendous respect for them and their capacity as human beings.

This book completely changed the way I think about children. It had a domino effect that had me reevaluating my entire worldview.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2009
I would rather spend my free time getting lost in a fictional character, but I do force myself to read as much as I can about education, teaching my children, and homeschooling, often just skimming pages or chapters that seem to be interesting or relevant to me. But, reviews of John Holt's books drew me to read this one. As with a thriller or a mystery novel, I couldn't put it down, and I have begun reading another of his books, "How Children Learn". Holt's observations throughout his years as an educator are spot on and so pertinent to the education (or lack of) that children receive today in organized, educational institutions. Even though his work was during the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, his observations and recommendations are pertinent today. I shudder to think what he would have observed in our 21st century schools. I am taking many of his ideas and incorporating them into my lessons with my children, in the hopes that they will learn quickly and effectively and that they will develop a love of life-long learning. I wish I had read this book when my children were babies, but this book is informational for any parent (or grandparent) with children under the age of 10 or so, whether you are homeschooling or not.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2010
I first picked this up at the library, searching for homeschool information. It was the ONLY book by John Holt there (what a pity), and I remembered reading a thing or two about him and being interested. He was an amazing man, someone who was a true pioneer in the thoughts of children as being their own teachers, we need to just be their helpers and providers. The truth to everything he says, and the warm way he loved children is such an inspiration. I quickly set to reading everything he ever wrote, all of his books equally inspiring. This was my first, and I loved it!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2003
This is a great view into a the human mind in it's early stages. This book has given both my husband and myself the confidence to trust ourselves to trust our CHILD with their ability to learn, and their desire to learn. A very thoughtful, kind book.
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