About, Parenting

Teach Your Own – John Holt – Chapter 2

I am reading another John Holt book, so I have a lot I want to talk about. This book is Teach Your Own, the how and why of homeschooling. John Holt originally wrote this book in the 60’s, but the book has been updated in 2003 by Pat Feranga.

Chapter two addresses the common homeschooling questions of, “how will my children learn enough”, “how do I teach my kids for x number of hours a day,”. More importantly it provides some background and studies on what it takes to be a good teacher, and to be successful at homeschooling.


​We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they are away. They have to trust them as people, respect their fragile dignity, treat them with courtesy, take them seriously. They have to feel in their own hearts some of their children’s wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world. And they have to have enough confidence in themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children’s learning. But that is about all that parents need. (John Holt, Teach Your Own)

There are a lot of ideas mentioned in the quote above, but if you are considering homeschooling there’s a good chance you meet most or all of the requirements. I, myself, am still working on the confidence part, but reading these wise words makes me feel a lot more certain about my own capabilities.

Mainly, I already know that I am looking forward to learning alongside my children as they get older. One day they will undoubtedly be smarter than me, but it will not be tomorrow.


In the book, there is also a discussion about certified teachers being more able to help children learn. John Holt does not agree. He says to be a good teacher you need to understand a few things:

For a long, long time, people who were good at sharing what they knew have realized certain things: (1) to help people learn something, you must first understand what they already know; (2) showing people how to do something is better than telling them, and letting them do it themselves is best of all; (3) you mustn’t tell or show too much at once, since people digest new ideas slowly and must feel secure with new skills or knowledge before they are ready for more; (4) you must give people as much time as they want and need to absorb what you have shown or told them; (5) instead of testing their understanding with questions you must let them show how much or little they understand by the questions they ask you; (6) you must not get impatient or angry when people don’t understand; (7) scaring people only blocks learning, and so on. These are clearly not things that one has to spend three years talking about.

I need to work on patience, and understanding, and not being too quick to interfere. In fact, I want to hang this up somewhere where I can see it everyday to remind myself how to be there for my children and provide them opportunities to learn, but not destroy their inclinations to do so.

John Holt emphasizes that you don’t have to be super smart to teach your children. He even mentions examples of parents that didn’t know how to read before they started teaching their kids. The important part was that they were willing to learn alongside their children, and they were successful in doing so.


The states, however, feel that homeschooler parents have a minimum qualification. For the lovely state

of Washington, in which we currently reside, a parent must meet one of the following four requirements:

Qualifying to Homeschool

Home-based instruction must be provided by a parent who is instructing his or her children only. In addition, one of the following four requirements must be satisfied:

  1. The student is supervised by a certificated teacher. There must be a minimum of an average of one-hour contact per week with the student being supervised by the teacher.
  2. The parent has either earned 45 college level quarter credit hours or the equivalent in semester hours.
  3. The parent has completed a parent qualifying course in home-based instruction at a post-secondary institution or a vocational-technical institute.
  4. The parent has been deemed qualified by the superintendent of the district in which the student lives.

Under the Washington state law, you must file a declaration of intent to homeschool with your local superintendent every year. Also, the child must be evaluated annually, either by a person certified in the field of education or by taking a standardized test. This is for ages 8-18.

If you live in Washington, you can get more information from the Washington Homeschool Organization. They have a neat pamphlet, Introduction to Homeschooling, to help us newbies get started.

Are you ready to homeschool, and do you think you are qualified to teach your children? 



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