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How Children Learn (Classics in Child Development) Paperback – September 4, 1995
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About the Author
- ASIN : 0201484048
- Publisher : Da Capo Lifelong Books; Revised edition (September 4, 1995)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780201484045
- ISBN-13 : 978-0201484045
- Lexile measure : 1140L
- Item Weight : 13.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #676,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The key premises. What he found is that the way children learn is wildly different from how we (as adults in charge of their learning) believe it works. He found that children start out keen for knowledge and learning, and learn by constantly sifting through the chaos for threads, and then they test different theories about how things work. They learn through tactile experience, through patient experimentation, they want to know and to understand, and often show far more advanced capabilities than they are given credit for. However, the way schools are set up does not align with how they learn, and often stifles the wonder and joy for learning, in favor of shame, anxiety, pleasing people in authority, and learning how to cheat (on purpose or through interpreting nonverbal clues given by teachers/parents) and game the system.
This book focuses much more on the wonder and joy of learning (How Children Fail focuses more on the school part), and is really inspirational, and the reader can gain some really good practical tips about how to deal with children. The book is set up as almost a journal - at first Holt records his observations, without all that much interpretation, and then he starts analyzing. It's a really natural way for us as readers in turn to learn, and his conclusions then have the impact of "yes this is it!" because we walked the path along with him, and "saw" these children and how they act. I have been surprised by how much I have thought about this book since finishing it, and how often his observations float to the surface of my brain, especially when dealing with children, but also when dealing with adults and when observing myself.
Note that there are some dated references (like to a typewriter) and some of the adult-child interactions pluck at current sensibilities oddly (like the game that one little child invented and played with him where they "spanked" him and he play-cried). But that was another era with different rules, and the book continues to be powerful and feel relevant today.
I have the same endorsement for Holt's other book, "How Children Fail".
Without going any further in my review, I want it to be known that this book has revolutionized my thinking on children and education. I always had a strong negative reaction to what's known as "the dicovery method," even as we were constantly presented with it in required classes for my education minor. My mind was truly opened as he explained case after case of how children really benefit, and in fact NEED, time to "mess about," as he is fond of calling it. Another thing that really struck me was how he explained the process of learning. Children are constantly in a state of testing what they know, but this process isn't necessarily linear. They are in a sort of state of uncertainty at almost all times. It takes a lot of testing to really know something, but once they know it, they know it. Forcing it into them by rote (or when they aren't interested in it or have not discovered it for themselves) is counterproductive.
One of the things that I loved about this book is that it had lots of real-world examples of parents and educators putting this into practice, and then Mr. Holt would comment on these examples.
I am very much more eager to learn as much as I can about "unschooling" now than I ever was. This book I will credit in years to come with changing my mind about "unschooling" (even though that term is not really used). This approach is different than anything I have seen (or maybe it has just given me a new perspective.) I could go on and on about the things I learned from this book.
There were so many things in this book that I was inspired to do. In particular, he talks a lot about children writing on their own. They may just make scribbles, but to them they are writing something important. This is better than forcing them to write something in a certain way perfectly. They are exploring and learning. (It is ok for them to "mess about".) So today is my youngest daughter's birthday, and I asked my oldest daughter to write a card for her sister. She knows how to write some letters, but she mostly wrote lines of scribbles. But she pointed out that the piece of paper I gave her was too small to be a card, so I folded it like a greeting card. Then when she was finished, she wanted to "mail" it to her sister. I got an envelope and I asked her to write her sister's name. (I told her how to spell it, and she got most of the letters correct - writing the "e" backwards.) Then she wanted to "stamp" it, so I got her a square shaped sticker. She seemed to know approximately where to put it. She put it in the top right hand corner, but I was actually surprised. Then she had to put it in the "mailbox." She didn't ask to take it outside to the real mailbox, so we hunted for a spot around the house. I put it on the counter under my computer, and she said, "She won't be able to reach that." Then I moved it to a low shelf. She called her sister over, telling her she had mail. Then she "read" the note to her sister. Very little of this process was directed by me. I was so thrilled by this since it is so similar to stories throughout the book.
If John Holt were alive, I would fangirl out and attend any lecture, book signing, or appearance of his. I have several more of his books, and I have bumped them up on my TBR list.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone - parent, educator, HUMAN - who wants to understand children and learning better.
Top reviews from other countries
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!
It's good and you take nuggets of information from it.
Take your time. Read. Re-read. Come back to it.
I wish everybody could read this and I can’t recommend it more.