Out of all the titles in the original Educore list, I was particularly looking forward to one: Learning All The Time, by John Holt. This book simply exuded accessibility, which I correctly anticipated would be in short supply. I wasn't disappointed. Short, colorful, and to the point - Learning All The Time was engaging, informative, and a welcome reprieve amidst the heavier reading.
Holt analyzes education primarily from the learner's perspective rather than the teacher's, which seems sensible. He takes for his premise children's natural curiosity about things and seeks to find ways to encourage this interest and give it places to go. This approach tends to shy away from memorization and other such didactic forms of teaching, favoring instead more organic methods, in the Socratic style. "In short, all the [...] facts that children are now given, and then asked to memorize, they could discover and write down for themselves. The advantage of the latter is that our minds are much more powerful when discovering than memorizing, not least of all because discovering is more fun." (-Chapter 2, At Home With Numbers, emphasis in original)
Sometimes we fall under the impression that we are teaching the wrong way, when in actuality we are simply teaching too much. Holt observes: "We have a tendency, when a child asks us a question, to answer far too much. 'Aha,' we think, 'now I have an opportunity to do some teaching,' and so we deliver a fifteen-minute thesis for an answer." He follows with an anecdote: "I heard a [...] story about a child who asked her mother some question and the mother was busy or distracted, or perhaps didn't feel she knew enough, and said, 'Why don't you ask your father?' The child replied, 'Well, I don't want to know that much about it.'" (-Chapter 5, What Parents Can Do)
This is certainly not a book about "classical education," and one could argue that Holt gives kids too much credit. Either way, the ideas presented are worthy of thought. There is much to be said for discipline, but sometimes in our zeal for discipline we forget that the real goal is self-discipline, which is a jolly sight harder.
I found myself agreeing with Holt more often than not, and was pleased to find some corroboration regarding my views on spelling: "The best way to spell better is to read a lot and write a lot. This will fill your eye with the look of words and your fingers with the feel of them... In all my work as a teacher, nothing I ever did to help bad spellers was as effective as not doing anything, except telling them to stop worrying about it, and to get on with their reading and writing." (-Chapter 1, Reading and Writing, emphasis in original)
This book was published posthumously, but still contains the contagious enthusiasm of a man who loved kids and loved helping them learn stuff. For anyone interested in training children, homeschoolers in particular, this is 3/8" of shelf space well spent.