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John Caldwell Holt

John Caldwell Holt (1923-85) is recognized by many as the father (some now even say grandfather!) of the modern homeschooling movement and the person who coined the term "unschooling." He was the author of ten books about education. In 1977, he founded Growing Without Schooling magazine as a way to support homeschooling families and to provide a forum for them to communicate with one another. Growing Without Schooling ceased publication at the end of 2001 after 143 issues. While subscriptions are no longer available, many of the back issues can still be purchased.

John passed away a few years before we began our unschooling journey, but he still had a strong influence on us thorough his books and magazine. We think his books are "must read" information for anyone who is homeschooling or considering homeschooling. He wrote with great clarity and had many insightful ideas that continue to make much sense today.

GWS Booklets:

Collections of some of the best stories in GWS Magazine, on two of their most-requested topics.

Life After Homeschooling contains stories about homeschoolers moving into the wider world.  Detailed accounts of the college admissions process and of alternatives to college, all from homeschoolers' perspectives. Paper, 14 pages.

#3474JH $4.95

Transition from School to Homeschool
. Leaving school is the first step, but adjusting to a new way of learning and living is an ongoing process. These stories - several by young people themselves - take you inside that process and offer reassurance and insight.

#3472JH  $4.95 unavailable

A Life Worth Living
DVD tribute to John Holt - Pat Farenga created this slide show for Growing Without Schooling's 20th anniversary conference. It was transferred to DVD and enhanced with footage not in the original show. It covers Holt's early career as social reformer and private school teacher, to famous author and school reformer, to unschooler and homeschool advocate.

Filled with rare photographs, tape recordings of Holt's own words from interviews and lectures over the years, and some video of Holt, you get a view of Holt's transformation from a "high standards" elite private school teacher, to a free schooler, to a pioneer homeschooler. A Life Worth Living is a perfect introduction to one of the most innovative thinkers about education. JHB

22 minutes - DVD format.

For a limited time, we will include a 7-page booklet titled, "The Education of John Holt." It's a reprint of article that first appeared in the December 1981 issue of Yankee magazine. 

#LWL-DB $11.00

Books by John Holt

Freedom and Beyond
by John Holt. Many of the questions with which homeschoolers continually wrestle are addressed in this book, in Holt's clear, eloquent, and comprehensive style. What's the difference between "structured" and "unstructured"? Between coercive and natural authority? What does discipline really mean? What happens when kids who are not used to making choices about their learning suddenly get this opportunity? What tensions arise, and how can we help?

Holt's exploration of these questions would be enough to make the book extremely valuable, but there's more - Holt also offers a cogent analysis of why schooling cannot cure poverty and what deschooling would mean for the poor. Fascinating, important reading. JHB

Paper, 263 pages. 1995 edition.

#3278JH currently out of stock

How Children Fail
by John Holt - First published in 1964, this book has helped many parents and teachers over the years understand what actually happens in the classroom.

John Holt was a keen and astute observer of children, with a passionate conviction that our children deserve much better. His writing is very clear and accessible, and makes so much sense.

Paper, 298 pages.

#4021X $16.95 $11.99

How Children Learn by John Holt - John Holt opens our eyes to the amazing ways pre-school children learn so many things. His writing is clear, concrete, down to earth and based on his observations of children and how they learn from what interests them.

What I like about John Holt's writing is his constant curiosity about learning. It will get you thinking about both your child's learning and your own.

Paper, 320 pages

#4048 $16.00 $11.25

Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better
by John Holt lays out the foundation for unschooling as the vital path to self-directed learning and a creative life.

Instead of Education
gives lots of examples of how to create learning opportunities outside the established educational structure, as well as fascinating stories of people who choose to self-educate, non-compulsory schools, learning centers, and informal learning arrangements in action.


#0094 $15.95 $13.99

Learning All the Time: How Small Children Begin To Read, Write, Count, and Investigate the World, Without Being Taught
by John Holt. John was working on this book before his death, and it was completed using his articles in Growing Without Schooling and other previously uncollected writing. As with all of his books, this work exhibits the great respect he had for children and insights into how they learn.

John explores how children learn and think and demonstrates that children can and do pick up "the basics" (reading, writing, math) from the world around them. I find many of his ideas very practical, not just theoretical, and every so often I pick up and skim this book to help remind me that my children are, indeed, learning all the time. Paper, 169 pages. 

#0911 $15.00

A Life Worth Living: Selected Letters of John Holt, edited and with an introduction by Susannah Sheffer - From the backcover: "The letters of education critic and reformer John Holt were worksheets for his public writing as well as a fascinating record of his time. They contain some of his most poignant insights into education and educational reform, school, and politics. In this absorbing collection, Holt can be seen at his fiercest - openly challenging the usefulness and wisdom of compulsory schools, of universities, of the institution of childhood - and at his freshest, revealing thoughts conceived in the moment of writing."

This book is now out of print, but we have been purchasing used copies. As a result, we have a small quantity available. The copies may have creases, library stickers, highlights, notes or a combination of any of these.

285 pages.

#5445 $21.99

Sharing Treasures: Book Reviews by John Holt. Edited by Patrick Farenga and Jane Prest Holcomb. This is a collection of book reviews by John Holt about education, children, and learning.

John Holt reviewed the literature of education for the popular press of his time, but as his interests in children and learning expanded beyond school walls, so did his search for books and materials that would be useful to people who are learning without attending school. These are John Holt's personal recommendations for homeschooling resources. His insight, wit, and eclectic selection offer us new ways to view learning.

Because the age of this publication, many of the books are out of print. However, many are in print and the reviews themselves are interesting reading as they reflect the views held by John Holt.

Sharing Treasures is out of print, and we have very few copies. The copies we have are in new condition.

Paper, 92 pages. 8.5"x10.75"x.25"

#7086 $15.99 unavailable

Teach Your Own - The John Holt Book of Homeschooling
by John Holt and Patrick Farenga. When we acquired the John Holt bookstore, we never thought we would have the chance to carry a new book by John Holt (who died in 1985). Okay, it's not a "completely" new book, but it is a new edition with lots of new information. Long out of print (with used copies often going for much more than the original purchase price!), the classic Teach Your Own: A Hopeful Path to Education has now been updated and re-released.

The new version is entitled Teach Your Own - The John Holt Book of Homeschooling. Appropriately enough, it has been updated and edited by Patrick Farenga, the president of Holt Associates. Pat has combined personal stories and the resources from his own book, The Beginners Guide to Homeschooling, with this classic work by the father of the modern homeschooling movement. The original was published in 1981 and was the source of inspiration for many parents considering homeschooling. Holt's words are every bit as inspiring today and show a timeless common-sense that will have nodding your head in agreement as you read along.

This book will help you avoid the trap of turning your home into a miniature school. Instead, you will be encouraged to take advantage of homeschooling's flexibility to provide an educational experience that is nearly impossible to duplicate in schools. If you are already homeschooling but have ever had moments of self-doubt, or wondered how to face relatives who question your decision, then this book will restore your confidence and remind you of the many benefits of the path you have chosen. If you are just getting started or only considering homeschooling, this book will help open your eyes about the many possibilities and will supply you with a wealth of information and resources to help you on your way.

Legal advice and suggestions for countering common objections to homeschooling are included. An extensive bibliography and several appendices will provide you with information on other books, correspondence programs, curriculum suppliers, helpful private schools, homeschooling organizations, learning materials, and opportunities and activities. This is a "must have" book for every homeschooler!

Paper, 334 pages

#6946 $18.95 $15.99

The Underachieving School by John Holt lays out his basic arguments about how schools fail our children and offers a wealth of inspiring ideas for what to do about it.

The Underachieving School is a collection of essays and articles written and compiled by Holt, each brimming with inspiration and ideas on how to teach children. Taking into account how children actually learn, this book shows us the difference between learning and schooling through his original thinking; clear, thoughtful writing; and firsthand accounts of what does and doesn’t work in education.

Paper, 164 pages. 8.5"x5.5"x.5".

#0388 $14.95

“Education is something a person gets for himself, not that which someone else gives or does to him.”  John Holt, from The Underachieving School

What Do I Do Monday?
by John Holt. This is Holt's classic answer to teachers who asked, "How can I put all your ideas into practice myself, with my kids?" The book contains hundreds of things to do or try - "measuring speed," "measuring strength," "fractions," "recording talk," "writing for ourselves," "writing for others," and much more.

It is also a hard-hitting look at what's wrong with marking and grading, at what can help troubled children, and at the difference between "teacher as cop" and "teacher as guide." Holt wrote that of all his books, he felt that this was the one homeschoolers would find most practical.

Paper, 300 pages. 1995 edition.

#3684 $27.50 $23.99

Books with contributions from John Holt

The Lives of Children
by George Dennison is the deeply inspiring story of the First Street School, where twenty-three children, black, white, and Puerto Rican, all from poor families, and many with severe learning and behavior problems, came together with five teachers who believed that "the business of a school is not, or should be, mere instruction, but the life of the child."

It includes a 13 page introduction by John Holt in which he writes: "This book must be seen also as a destroyer of alibis and excuses. We cannot say any longer that we do not know why we are failing, or that we do not know what can be done instead, or that we cannot afford to do it. If we go on failing much longer, stunting and wrecking as we have the lives and spirits of millions of children, it can only be because for peculiar and dreadful reasons of our own that is what we really want to do."

Part of the Classics in Child Development series. Paper, 309 pages.  Limited quantities.

#4831 $19.50 $15.99

Growing Without Schooling: A Record of a Grassroots Movement
The original text of the first two years of Growing Without Schooling Magazine (GWS) are now available for the first time under one cover, reformatted and indexed for easy reading and reference. As you will see, from the very beginning reader's letters were an important part of GWS. This book is special, though, because you will read first-hand accounts from homeschooling's early pioneers and John Holt's ruminations on homeschooling. This book covers the August 1977-December 1979, issues #1-12 of GWS.

This books is currently out of print, so it's only available while supplies last. These are new copies.

Paper, 262 pages.  #7108 $29.95 $26.95

#S-7108 $29.95 $5.00 Only $5 with your $100+ purchase.
Our shopping cart is not sophisticated enough to determine if you have indeed purchased $100+ to qualify for this special offer, but we do not process your order until we receive it in our office. If you have not purchased at least $100 *before* s/h (the total can include the GWS book), your order will not be processed and we will email you.



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