In April, 1984, I met John Holt at the first homeschooling conference held by the Family Learning Network, in Spokane, Washington. We were just getting Home Education Magazine off the ground at the time, publishing our fourth issue, and as a member of the Family Learning Network I was delighted with the opportunity to meet and spend time with this inspiring author, who was widely appreciated as founder, editor, and publisher of the first publication on homeschooling, Growing Without Schooling, affectionately known as GWS.
Observing children was one of John Holt’s favorite activities; his abiding respect for their innate learning abilities was strong and guided his work at GWS. In GWS #1, published in August, 1977, John shared his vision:
This is the first issue of a newsletter, about ways in which people, young or old, can learn and do things, acquire skills, and find interesting and useful work, without having to go through the process of schooling.” He added, “Mostly, it will be about people who want to take or keep their children out of school, and about what they might do instead, what problems come up, and how they cope with these.
Patrick Farenga, who worked with John Holt for many years, and who has been an extremely effective homeschool advocate in his own right, has shared some wonderful early photos of John from the Holt Associates/GWS archives. We’re presenting them in this photo feature with some favorite quotes and excerpts from John’s writing. Commenting on a video taken at the above-mentioned Family Learning Network conference in 1984, Pat wrote that he hoped it would “show John as the quiet, plainspoken but deeply thoughtful man he was.” Pat continues, “This short segment also shows Holt’s deep empathy with children, a quality that is sorely lacking in all our discussions of education today. John’s analysis of how children struggle with pronouns is radical when you consider how few current day teachers would recommend, as John does, to leave the children alone and let them figure it out for themselves.”
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