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Favorite Quotes and Excerpts

We welcome submissions for this collection of quotes and excerpts about children, learning, families, education and more. Please send your contributions to us via email:

All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.

-John Holt, in "How Children Learn"

My kids only come around once in my lifetime, and they (hopefully) won't be with me forever. I chose to have them, and I choose, freely, to make them and my family a priority in my life. This stage of life won't last forever. While it does, I've climbed on for the ride.

-David Albert, in "And the Skylark Sings with Me"

For many parents, homeschooling is a matter of heart and belief; they feel deeply and strongly that they should be homeschooling. They sometimes start homeschooling with only this conviction to go on, unsure of exactly how they will proceed, and they work out practical details and solve problems as they go along.

-Larry and Susan Kaseman, in "Taking Charge Through Homeschooling"

Homeschooling parents can ignore what are for the most part government directives as to what shall be taught and when. Rather, parents and children can work together to develop courses of study that address long-term needs, interests, and capabilities in the context of what they, and not a bureaucracy of somewhat dubious credibility, deem important and necessary.

-David and Micki Colfax, "Homeschooling for Excellence"

One of the first things a family tries to teach its children is the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. One of the first things our schools do is destroy that distinction.

-John Taylor Gatto, foreword, "The Art of Education"

A homeschooling parent in Canada recently sent me a letter which ended with a quote by Roque Dalton: "May we keep hauling up the morning." I like the metaphor of a sailing ship upon the sea for parenthood and for homeschooling. There are no completely reliable charts, and so we must often navigate without them. We must learn for ourselves how to find the currents, avoid the reefs and storms, and enter the harbors. As we haul up the sails to go on sailing, so we haul up the morning for the adventures of each successive day. There is room for everybody on this ocean, and there is no pilot's license required or worth having. We must trust ourselves and our children. May each of us keep hauling up the morning.

-Earl Gary Stevens, Home Education Magazine, 1990

If you think in seasons, plant cereals. If you think in decades, plant trees. If you think in centuries, educate your children.

-Chinese Proverb

It is the duty of a citizen in a free country not to fit into society, but to make society.

-John Holt

The present homeschooling laws are, at best, a poor compromise between a highly structured, two hundred billion dollar a year industry and the principles and beliefs of a handful of parents.

-Helen Hegener, in "The Homeschool Reader"

It is easy to give a quick nod to lifelong learning, more difficult to consider what it really means, for the idea that people should study for about 12 years and then start living is more deeply seated in our culture than many people realize. Lifelong learning is more than an occasional adult education course. It is the expectation that someone will know more at age 40 than she did at age 30, the realization that it is never too late to begin learning another language, the belief that there are important new insights just over the horizon, no matter how old you are. But it is easy to forget these things, and a great deal of pressure on a homeschooler results from the perhaps unintentional assumption that everything a child will need to know during his life must be mastered in his first 18 years.

-Larry and Susan Kaseman, in "Taking Charge Through Homeschooling"

Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.

-Isaac Asimoc

The most potent force for change... is the growing recognition of millions of adults that their own impoverished expectations and frustrations came, in large measure, from their schooling.

-Marilyn Ferguson, "The Aquarian Conspiracy"

Since they were founded, the public schools have enjoyed almost limitless public trust and confidence. People might criticize them in detail, but in principle almost everyone agreed that the public schools were a great thing. The idea of an effective government monopoly in education was accepted almost without question. Now, suddenly, more and more citizens do not believe any longer that the government should have such a monopoly, and many are beginning to ask whether the government should be in the school business at all.

-John Holt, in "Teach Your Own"

The agenda of public schooling has been, for the entire twentieth century, to remove the power of people to think for themselves. A full analysis is impossible here; but you need to realize that because of the systemic, heirarchical nature of schooling, your local teachers, principals, superintendents, and the like have almost no say in this - they are pedagogues, which means practically that they administer routines made elsewhere far away.

-John Taylor Gatto, in "The Homeschooling Book of Answers"

The preschool years are not the time to teach reading or math. We should use life's most impressionable years to teach life's most important lession: how to be happy!

-Richard and Linda Eyre, in "Teaching Children Joy"

I think my deepest criticism of the educational system at that period [junior high and high school], and that also applies to other periods, is that it's all based upon a distrust of the student. Don't trust him to follow his own leads; guide him; tell him what to do; tell him what he should think; tell him what he should learn. Consequently at the very age when he should be developing adult characteristics of choice and decision making, when he should be trusted on some of those things, trusted to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes, he is, instead, regimented and shoved into a curriculum, whether it fits him or not.

-Carl Rogers (1902 - ) U.S. psychologist, in R. Evans' "Carl Rogers: The Man and His Ideas"

Children are given to us - on loan - for a very short period of time. They come to us like flower seeds, with no pictures on the cover, and no guarantees. We don't know what they will look like, be like, act like, or have the potential to become.

-Katherine Kersey, in "Sensitive Parenting"

How do children learn two very difficult skills, walking and talking, without anyone's making a self-conscious effort to teach them? Could children learn other things, even "school" subjects like reading and math, in the same way, by imitating other people's behavior, making mistakes, correcting them on their own, and asking for help when they need it?

-Larry and Susan Kaseman, in "Taking Charge Through Homeschooling"

Homeschoolers know how to get close to their children. That's something every American family needs to relearn.

-Mario Pagnoni, in "The Complete Home Educator"

My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.

-Margaret Mead

Our entire school system is based on the notion of passive students that must be "taught" if they are to learn. . . . Our country spends tens of billions of dollars each year not just giving students a second-rate education, but at the same time actively preventing them from getting an education on their own. And I'm angry at how school produces submissive students with battered egos. Most students have no idea of the true joys of learning, and of how much they can actually achieve on their own.

-Adam Robinson, co-founder of The Princeton Review

It is not what is poured into a student but what is planted that counts.


Many parents find that listening to their child is one of the most important things they do. It provides clues and insights into how he thinks, what interests him, what he has learned, what his concerns are, etc. It helps parents figure out how to help their children learn.

-Larry and Susan Kaseman, in "Taking Charge Through Homeschooling"

Sometimes, in spite of my efforts, I am mistaken for a leader and expected to act in a leaderly fashion. I beg off by saying that even after a half century on earth I'm still trying to get a handle on managing my own life, and do not yet feel capable of managing anyone else's. It sounds like modesty, but it is really self-interest. I notice that, in general, leaders have less time for things that are important like gardening and fishing, and they spend too much time arguing on the telephone, which can't be good for their digestion.

-Earl Gary Stevens, Home Education Magazine, 1995

I don't want my children fed or clothed by the state, but I would prefer that to their being educated by the state.

- Max Victor Belz, grain dealer, Iowa

What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out. John Holt, in "Teach Your Own"

My job is not to teach at all, but to find the opportunities for my kids to learn. NOT knowing something can be an advantage, as it reminds me of the wealth of resources out there in the community and world, if only we are willing to go look for them.

-David Albert, in "And the Skylark Sings with Me"

Isn't the term "homeschool expert" an oxymoron?

-Carol Narigon, homeschooling mother

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

-Margaret Mead

Many parents discover that their homeschool improves when they decide to learn something new themselves and work on it. They set a good example for their child, of course, but they also gain insights into the learning process when they ask themselves: What helped me the most? What interfered with my learning?

-Larry and Susan Kaseman, in "Taking Charge Through Homeschooling"

Our tightly controlled educational system mocks the promise of democracy. With a closed educational system we simply cannot have an open political system. The current situation allows the government and big business to manufacture and maintain our culture for us, and in turn, control remains in the hands of the experts and institutions. The ability to change this situation is in the hands of the individuals and families who understand why change is necessary.

-Helen Hegener, in "Alternatives in Education"

The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.

-Cicero (Quoted by Montaigne)

Any child who can spend an hour or two a day, or more if he wants, with adults that he likes, who are interested in the world and like to talk about it, will on most days learn far more from their talk than he would learn in a week of school.

-John Holt

Academies that are founded at public expense are instituted not so much to cultivate men's natural abilities as to restrain them.

-Baruch Spinoza (1632 - 1677)

Schools and colleges have until now (to recap briefly) served a society that needed reliable, predictable human components. Appropriately enough, they spent overwhelming amounts of time and energy ironing out those human impulses and capabilities which seemed errant. Since learning involves behavioral change, lifelong learning was the most errant of behaviors and was not to be countenanced. Educational institutions, therefore, were geared to stop learning. Perhaps half of all learning ability was squelched in the earliest elementary grades, where children found out that there exist predetermined and unyielding "right answers" for everything, that following instructions is what really counts and, most surprisingly, that the whole business of education is mostly dull and painful.

-George B. Leonard, in "Education and Ecstasy"

Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities.

-Seymour Papert,

Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammarschool; and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books than the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used; and contrary to the king, his crown, and dignity, thou has built a paper-mill.

-William Shakespeare, in King Henry IV

For all of the virtues required in the art of childrearing, none is more important - and none rarer - than patience, in parents, in family, in friends; patience to allow the miracle of human development to unfold according to its own internal laws, from birth through infancy and childhood and youth, and even till the moment of death.

- Daniel Greenberg, in "Child Rearing"

If you live in a material universe where acquiring things is very important to you, then family is an absolute deterrent to maintaining that sort of a world, because family involves values like affection, and sympathy, and passion, and types of pleasure that lead nowhere in a material sense. John Taylor Gatto, in "Alternatives in Education"

The crazy combative patriotism that plainly threatens to destroy civilization is very largely begotten by the schoolmaster and the schoolmistress in their history lessons. They take the growing mind at a naturally barbaric phase and inflame it and fix its barbarism.

-George Herbert Wells, in "The Informative Content of Education"

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

-Mark Twain

One of the most important effects of the study of a subject should be the development of a spirit of inquiry. The ability to ask real questions is more useful than the capacity to answer simple ones.

-Raymond Harris

People would be busy doing interesting things that mattered. Doing them, they would grow more informed, competent, and wise. They would learn about the world from living in it, working in it, and changing it, and from knowing a wide variety of people who were doing the same.

-John Holt

We have reached a place in the history of Western Culture where we've got to raise children to be prepared for a situation which is no longer sharply defined in terms of functions and tasks. We have got to raise children who can deal with the unknown.

- Daniel Greenberg, in "Child Rearing"

Children grow up believing that life is like school, with every question having an answer in the back of the book. Maturity consists in recognizing that life is a continuing series of multiple choice questions with the answers torn out of the back of the book.

-Sydney Harris

Once all are comfortable with the idea that my kids can function adequately academically ("at or ahead of grade level" will bring on the knowing nods), the "S" word, as it had been skulking all along in a forbidding forest darkly draped in Spanish moss, like some huge, horrific toad, will suddenly leap out from among the stinging nettles and skunk cabbage to reveal its gnarled and grotesque, scarifying even if slightly ludicrous, visage.

-David Albert, in "And the Skylark Sings with Me"

We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty rewards--gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A's on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean's lists or Phi Beta Kappa keys--in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.

-John Holt

I hate quotations.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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