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Main page » Coursebooks » Only for teachers » How Children Learn (Classics in Child Development)

How Children Learn (Classics in Child Development)


Rather than give an overarching theory of how children learn, John Holt, the father of the modern home school movement, uses anecdotal observations that question assumptions about how children acquire knowledge and learning skills.

Holt rejects the idea that children are "monsters of evil" who must be beaten into submission or computers whom "we can program into geniuses." Neither are they the passive receptacles of knowledge that can only learn in a schoolroom. Instead, he calls upon parents and educators to "trust children."

First and foremost, Holt believes that children are born learners and that there is a curiosity in all children that begins at birth, not when they are put in school. His observations of young children reveal that their brains are trying to make sense of the world.

Children want to solve problems; they like to think. The problem is that parents and educators get in the way of this natural process by placing children in large, impersonal schools, and by teaching a meaningless curriculum in an industrial factory setting.

Holt rejects knowledge that is entirely taught in an abstract manner. He uses the example of teaching fractions as an anesthetic experience with little real world application. Similarly, he is disgusted by childrens primers and picture books with their dumb and simple vocabularies. Rather, Holt believes in exposing children to real world problems of increasing complexity. For example, he encourages parents to expose their children to newspapers, letters, warranties, the yellow pages - anything tangible and visceral to promote their curiosity about the world.

Staying with the theme of promoting real problems for children, Holt is nostalgic for a time when children observed their parents at work, indeed, when parents and children worked side by side. He believes childhood observation of parental work would accelerate learning on the part of their children, rather than just having information disseminated from the classroom. This is one reason why Holt is so receptive to home-schooling or as he calls it. "unschooling."
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Tags: children, learn, knowledge, schoolroom, Instead