John Caldwell Holt (April 14, 1923 – September 14, 1985) was an American author and educator, a proponent of homeschooling and, specifically, the unschooling approach, and a pioneer in youth rights theory.
Holt became disillusioned with the school system after several years of working within it; he became convinced that reform of the school system was not possible and began to advocate homeschooling. He believed that “children who were provided with a rich and stimulating learning environment would learn what they are ready to learn, when they are ready to learn it”. Holt believed that children did not need to be coerced into learning; they would do so naturally if given the freedom to follow their own interests and a rich assortment of resources. This line of thought came to be called unschooling.
John Holt’s Growing Without Schooling (GWS), founded in 1977, was America’s first home education newsletter. He also set up John Holt’s Bookstore, which made selected books available by mail order. This brought in additional revenue that helped sustain the newsletter, which carried very little advertising.
Holt’s sole book on homeschooling, Teach Your Own, was published in 1981. It quickly became the “Bible” of the early homeschooling movement. It was revised by his colleague Patrick Farenga and republished in 2003 by Perseus Books.