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John Caldwald Holt (Home Schooling). ED 530 Theorist Presentation Spring Semester 2010 Marianne Ostrowsky. Background. Born on April 14, 1923 in New York City In 1943 graduated from Yale University with degree in physics

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John caldwald holt home schooling

John Caldwald Holt(Home Schooling)

ED 530 Theorist Presentation

Spring Semester 2010

Marianne Ostrowsky


  • Born on April 14, 1923 in New York City

  • In 1943 graduated from Yale University with degree in physics

  • He “stumbled’ into the classroom from a suggestion from his sister.

  • Spent 11 years on a classroom observation project with Bill Hull in Boston.

  • These findings were the foundation for his first 2 books, How Children Fail and How Children Learn

  • He was a sought-after speaker and supporter of school reform

  • He was a visiting teacher for the education departments at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley

    Image source:

Background continued
Background continued

  • He felt he failed at reforming the school system and then became an advocate of homeschooling

  • In 1977 founded Growing Without Schooling, the nation’s first homeschooling magazine

  • Teach Your Own, was published in 1981

    • became the "Bible" of the early homeschooling movement

    • was revised by his colleague, Patrick Farenga, and republished in 2003

  • He wrote several more books about education theory and practice, including alternative forms and many social issues relating to the education system.

His theories
His Theories

  • Believed that children love to learn on their own terms but hate to be taught.

  • Children

    • strive for teacher approval or the “right” answers many times using ‘guess-and-look’ strategy watching the teachers face and reactions

    • fear wrong answers and avoid challenges

    • learn how to survive in school without understanding the ideas

    • were frightened, timid, evasive, and self-protecting in a formal classroom

His theories continued
His Theories continued

  • Holt realized school children were not failing academically because they weren't attending public school but rather because of the schools themselves.

  • He believed the learning environment at home needed to be different than the school’s environment, not replicated.

  • Children did not need to be coerced into learning; they would do so naturally if given the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources.

  • He sought to show a model of the learning process a child goes through and how he believed public schools were stifling that process with their modern and mass education.

  • “Learning is as natural as breathing”

His theories continued1
His Theories continued

  • "father" of the term unschooling

    • Differs in methodology, curricula and grading methods

  • Children learn through their natural life experiences

    • including child directed play

    • game play

    • household responsibilities

    • social interaction

  • Children learn by their own motivation on their own terms through discovery

Homeschooling today
Homeschooling today

  • In 1980, home schooling was illegal in 30 states.

  • It became legal in all 50 states in 1993

  • specific state laws constitute a patchwork of regulations.

  • About 1.1 million students were home schooled in the U. S. in the spring of 2003, up from 850,000 in the spring of 1999

  • the percentage of the school-age population that was being home schooled -- increased from 1.7 percent in 1999 to 2.2 percent in 2003.1

    1U.S. Department of Education, NCES, 1.1 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2003 (Washington, DC: NCES, 2004).


  • Holt, John. How Children Fail. New York, NY: Perseus Publishing 1982. Print

  • Holt, John, and Patrick Farenga. Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press 2003. Print

  • Cambridge Forum Speakers 1970-1990 John Caldwell Holt

  • History of the Homeschool Movement: Trends and Growth in a Push for Homeschooling Acceptance Globally


  • U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2007 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES).