How Children Learn by John Holt

It’s written by a man who has spent a considerable amount of time with children and who has enormous respect on the learning abilities of young children. I absolutely fell in love with his work! A big thanks to Mel for lending this book to me. As I was reading this book, each word and each sentence made sense to me. And I started to realize at how disconnected I can get when I weigh in the opinions of other authors (who have by the way used scientific methods to deduce the behavior of children). How absurd is that? How can anyone measure the behavior of children so objectively when each child is so different. An attempt to standardize or generalize the behavior of children is futile. But one thing that is common among children are their natural ability to learn from their surroundings – they are naturally gifted learners. I can resonate with the author’s observation that children should be encouraged to learn at their own pace.

The message of the book is straightforward but something which some of us have strayed away from. It’s always natural to revert to natural ways of raising a child. Embrace the natural learning style of young children and follow the instinct of a parent. After reading this book, I learnt the importance of letting children discover things for themselves. This book changed the way I look at Svadhi’s growth. I started listening and paid attention to all her babbling and gibberish talks. I started respecting her learning abilities. I started giving her room to mess around with something new and learn at her own pace. I started resisting the urge to correct her when she threw the bowling ball towards the bowling pins instead of rolling it.

Quotes from the book:

  • It is every way useful for children to see adults doing real work and, whenever possible, to be able to help them.
  • Children learn best and remember most when they have not just the freedom to move about and talk in the classroom, but beyond that, a great deal of choice in what they learn and when and how they learn it.
  • We don’t always have to be in such a big hurry to correct children’s mistakes. We can afford to give then time to notice and correct them themselves. My thoughts: it reminded me of an old Indian adage which goes like: Don’t raise your children, allow them to grow.
  • Children seem to be innately gifted learners, acquiring long before they go to school a vast quantity of knowledge by a process called learning without being taught.
  • Children do much of their learning in great bursts of passion and enthusiasm. Children rarely learn on the slow, steady schedules that schools make for them.
  • In talking, reading, writing and many other things they do, children are perfectly able, if not hurried or made ashamed or fearful, to notice and correct most of their own mistakes.
  • Children learn independently, not in bunches; that they learn out of interest & curiosity; and that they ought to be in control of their own learning, deciding for themselves what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.
  • Bring as much of the world as we can into the classroom; give children as much help & guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest.
  • It is love, not tricks or techniques of thought, that lies at the heart of all true learning.
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