John Holt – Unschooling Hero

John Caldwell Holt was an American author and educator born in April 14, 1923 in New York City. He was the oldest of three children.
John Holt was educated at the Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland and the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. He joined the United States Navy and served on board the USS Barbero, a submarine at fought in the Pacific Ocean after graduating from Yale University.
John Holt got a job with United World Federalists after his three year-tour of duty with the Navy. He became frustrated with UWF’s ineffectiveness and left it in 1952. After that he started teaching as a fifth grade teacher. It was during his teaching career where he met Bill Hull, a fellow teacher, and they decided to start a classroom observation project; one would teach, while the other would watch. The notes and journal entries Holt accumulated during his first eleven years of teaching formed the core of two of his most popular book How Children Fail and How Children Learn, as well as his more radical work, Escape from Childhood: The Rights and Needs of Children.
Holt wrote several other books and continued to advocate for expansive reform of education until his death in 1985 at the age of 62.
• How Children Fail (1964; revised 1982)
• How Children Learn (1967; revised 1983)
• The Underachieving School (1969)
• What Do I Do Monday? (1970)
• Freedom and Beyond (1972)
• Escape From Childhood (1974)
• Instead of Education (1976)
• Never Too Late (1979)
• Teach Your Own (1981; revised 2003 by Pat Farenga)
• Learning All the Time (1989)
• A Life Worth Living (1990)


Paul King is a happily married unschooling dad of two wonderful boys. Currently living in Bali and working his way around the world. He runs the websites and

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