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Researching Home Education: John Holt

By Bel Moore

The Philosophy of Education

I first heard of John Holt when our eldest child was around 4 years old. There was a bookstore closing down in Sydney, and I bought a few titles at a bargain price and immersed myself in his wisdom. As often occurs when we are trying to absorb new information, it wasn’t the best timing and I made excuses for why Holt’s ideas were not for us. My background studying primary teaching may have influenced my initial reaction to John Holt's message!


As we trialed different methods of home education, I was more able to grasp Holt’s philosophy of respect and freedom. Re-reading books such as Learning All the Time and Teach Your Own every few years has allowed me to continue to trust my children’s capacity for learning and creating.



There is room for John Holt’s philosophies in any home school, it's not just inspiration for unschoolers. We are eclectic learners – using some basic rhythms and routines, and a wide variety of resources. Holt’s influence on me, as a parent of home educated children, is more to do with attitude than methods.



John Holt lived from 1923 to 1985. He was a writer, educator, lecturer and amateur musician. His ten published books are:


  • How Children Fail

  • How Children Learn

  • The Underachieving School

  • What Do I Do Monday?

  • Freedom and Beyond

  • Escape from Childhood

  • Instead of Education

  • Never Too Late

  • Teach Your Own

  • Learning All the Time

"We learn something by doing it. There is no other way" ~John Holt

John Holt's work has been translated into fourteen languages. For years, Holt was a leading figure in school reform. His interests later focused on learning outside the system and he founded Growing Without Schooling magazine. In 1990, Susannah Sheffer published A Life Worth Living: Selected Letters of John Holt, through Ohio State University Press. Click the titles to read those publications online for free.



Bel Moore is a HEA member and home educating mother of seven who lives in tropical far north Queensland. She is interested in growing food plants and flowers, keeping cows and chickens, business, travel, community resilience projects - especially complimentary currency, sustainability, creativity, collaboration, and education. You can read more of Bel's Blogs here.


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