Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sharper tools

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:
The basic idea of unschooling is that we learn what we need by using it. And that's exactly how kids learn to speak English. Toddlers aren't trying to learn English. They're using a tool (English) to get what they want: which might be juice or a hug or picked up to see better. The English tool is more efficient than other tools they've been using: pointing or crying or wishing. And because English is more efficient, they use it more. And because they use it more, the get better at it. Kids learn English (and everything else) as a *side effect* of living and pursuing what they enjoy.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Brave and calm

Be brave,

     be calm,

          be happy.
4/26/17  Strong and calm photo DSC01462.jpg
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sparkly and flowing

 photo MariaWongCreek.jpgSometimes it's fun to try to think with fewer words.

Unschoolers can move toward "better" by making better choices.

Imagine a way to be. What about clean, moving water?

When you choose activities, responses, thoughts and moods could you choose things more sparkly and flowing?
photo by Maria Wong

Monday, April 24, 2017

Adult things

 photo grapesDonnAnderson.jpgKids blossom and get bigger from doing adult things because they want to, instead of kid-things they have to do because they're small.
photo by Donna Anderson

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nurture and share

 photo DSC03648.jpg
Be the kind of person you want your child to be.

Nurture your own curiosity and joy.

Find gratitude and abundance in your life.

Explore. Make connections, on your own.

Share those with your children when they're interesting.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 22, 2017

If you can...

Sometimes the thing to do is just to go to sleep.
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, April 21, 2017

The best answers

 photo Straw bale target.jpgIt's hard to explain unschooling, partly because the best answers are "it depends," followed by questions for the parents to consider while they're making their decisions.

. . . .

Getting unschooling is a process. There will be more to get once you're comfortable with the new understandings and behaviors.
photo by Abby Davis

Thursday, April 20, 2017


"Radical" means from the roots—radiating from the source. The knowledge that learning is natural to humans can radiate forth from that point in every direction.

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photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Live in the learning

"Child-led, 'wait til they ask" isn't the way radical unschooling works. It's a way for unschooling to fail, if the parents are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the child to lead, or ask to learn something.
photo by Karen James, of stained glass by Ethan James

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learning about learning

For the parents, deschooling is learning about learning. photo ColleenPrietoWinterBirds.jpg
photo by Colleen Prieto

Monday, April 17, 2017

Whole, thinking, seeing

 photo foodJanetRohdeBuzit2.jpgChildren have been whole, thinking, seeing beings since the day they were born. Assisting them to learn and to find their strengths and to explore the world and its possibilities is preparing them for their unseen futures.
Mommy-labs Interview, October 2012
("Children" replaces "they," to allow the quote to make sense out of context.)

photo by Janet Rohde Buzit

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Finding art

 photo Easter_Eggs.jpgIt's fun to be on the lookout for art in unexpected places. Sometimes people purposely make art and hide it, for kids to find.

Find art wherever you are.
photo by Hinano

Friday, April 14, 2017

"I hope you don't mind"

Dylan isn't twelve anymore; Deb Lewis still writes beautifully.

Yesterday was David's birthday and we had guests. I left dishes in the sink when I went to bed. I got up early with the dogs but then went back to bed. When I got up later Dylan had done the dishes. He said " I know you really like to do the dishes mom, so I hope you don't mind, but I just felt like doing them."
 photo JanineCatsWater.jpg
Dylan is twelve.

I *know* living life joyfully makes a difference in the way our kids see us and the way they see the little things that make life better.
—Deb Lewis
photo by Janine Davies

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Grand and simple

Of natural learning, Ren Allen wrote:

By choosing to unschool, I am giving my children the ability simply to enjoy the
 photo playingTogether.jpgjourney rather than to seek some unknown destination that falsely promises an end product. My children’s lives are their own; their dreams and passions belong to them, and in gathering the bits that matter, they are showing me that natural learning is grand and simple all at once. The light that emanates from them awes me to silence.
—Ren Allen
photo by Lydia Koltai

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

High horse on holy ground

One day Colton and Bud returned from the library, thrilled with what they had found. A video copy of "Godzilla!" I snorted derisively and suggested that our time would be better spent with a book. I was ignored. They made some popcorn and started the movie. I sat with them on the couch, or to be more accurate, on my moral high horse....

A voice whispered in my ear: Look at them, Carol. Just LOOK at them! .... They were totally connected to each other through their movie experience, and it was a joy to watch. I knew that they were making a memory together....

We have laughed and cried together as we have watched, and we have wondered and marveled.... And when I watch my husband and son stomping around the house like Godzilla as they destroy Tokyo, I know that I am standing on holy ground.

The rest is worth reading, and there's a story by Deb Lewis, too:
photo borrowed from 60 Years of Godzilla

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The light dawned

It was the issue of food that provided the epiphany for me to "get" what unschooling is about. When I realized that there are foods out there that make me gag, and I wouldn't want to have to finish them (or even put a bite in my mouth) the light dawned. Why do it to kids, if there's something that I refuse to eat?
—Heidi C.
 photo foodJennyBilderback.jpg
photo by Jenny Bilderback

Monday, April 10, 2017


"I think trying to see the world through young kids' eyes can help us move toward wonderment."
—Chris Sanders
 photo grapesJoIsaac.jpg
photo by Jo Isaac

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Building an unschooling nest

 photo foodJenniferSmith.jpg"Building an unschooling nest" is a phrase that has come to mean maintaining a safe, rich, happy environment in which learning cannot help but happen.

What will help to create an environment in which unschooling can flourish? For children to learn from the world around them, the world around them should be merrily available, musically and colorfully accessible, it should feel good and taste good. They should have safety and choices and smiles and laughter.

There is some physicality to the "nest," but much of it is constructed and held together by love, attitudes and relationships. Shared memories and plans, family jokes, songs and stories shared and discussed, all those strengthen the nest.

Quote from The Big Book of Unschooling, page 125
photo by Jennifer Smith

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Inside and outside

 photo DSC00609.jpgI have some good plants in my house. Outside it can be too harsh for most plants to survive, but indoors is safer.

The photo was taken far from New Mexico, but still shows some life inside, and some less-lively structure outside.

Two ideas: Sitting around watching plants grow isn't as good as some other things you could do, and don't be too prejudiced against being inside!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 7, 2017

Confident, happy, glad

I wrote this of Kirby, in 2005 when he was 18 years old:
He's confident in his skin, in his mind, and in his being.
He's not afraid of his parents.
He goes to sleep happy and he wakes up glad.

My priorities could have been different.

Kirby is 30 now. Yesterday he contacted me about plans for adopting his wife's daughter, who is eight, so her name will be Dodd, too. They recently signed a mortgage on the house where she has her own beautiful room.

Context for the top quote about Kirby is in a story here:
photo by Rachael Rodgers

Thursday, April 6, 2017


 photo DoodleTopHollyDodd.jpg"The top itself was not what caught Ethan's attention. For me, it was. For Ethan, it was the swirly lines that were the treasure he happened upon and wanted to explore more."
—Karen James, 2017
photo by Holly Dodd, 2009

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"We" can be a problem

 photo AmberIveyRainbow.jpgRemember that your child is a whole separate person.
photo by Amber Ivey

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Good life; less needy

"Parents who do make meeting their children's needs a higher priority will find that life is good and they, often unexpectedly, find that they are, themselves, less needy when they feel like really good parents."
—Pam Sorooshian
 photo LydiaKoltaiHalloween.jpg
photo by Lydia Koltai

Monday, April 3, 2017

Learning happily

 photo IMG_3533.jpegI believe that if children learn happily, without pressure and without shame, that they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Unfolding, unfurling

[To the frequently voiced complaint that the word "unschooling" seems negative, this was written years ago and has not been bested:]
 photo RoseSorooshianHummingbird.jpg
"Lots of people make this point, but I never see the negation as negative in a value-judgment sense when I use the word—to me unschooling is as positive as unchaining, unbinding, unleashing, unfolding, unfurling, unlimiting....

"All mean freedom and growth and vast possibilities to me."
—Zann Carter
photo by Rose Sorooshian

Saturday, April 1, 2017


There do need to be breaks for familiar, comforting activities, but a rich life should include newness for the sake of learning (and fun), and an unschooling parent should be aware of the learning that's happening in the children and in the parents, both. Learning isn't just for kids!  photo AmberIveySnow.jpg
photo by Amber Ivey

Friday, March 31, 2017

Little bits of life

 photo DSC02869.jpgLook for beauty in the tiniest things in the smallest moments.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Unscheduled brilliance

"Let go of the fear of missing out; it will hamper your ability to be open to the cornucopia of unscheduled sparkling brilliance."
—Robyn Coburn
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Your perspective will change

4/29/17 Your perspective will change photo grapesCherylBalazs.jpg"Your perspective will change when you've experienced new things, seen the world from a different place."
—Debbie Regan
photo by Cheryl Balazs

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Love in the moment

Deb Lewis:
3/28/17 Love in the moment photo TVStephanieGuthaus.jpgOne of the beautiful things about unschooling is it gives our kids time to really explore the things they love—to see where they might lead. And if they don't lead to a career or life-long hobby, the love of the thing, in the moment, is still a valuable experience. If you could magically know what would give your child joy, wouldn't you want to provide it? The magic is in trusting our kids to know what they want and in helping them do as much of that as we possibly can. It's not always easy or comfortable, but how do you put a price on learning and joy?
—Deb Lewis
photo by Stephanie Guthaus

Monday, March 27, 2017

Focus on the good

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

I wish things for our family had been different earlier than later, but it is what it is. Unschooling really helped make us better people. I can't even imagine, or rather I can, how different things would be with our relationships with our kids if they'd been in school all these years.

Kids absorb the good and the bad. Unschooling really focuses on the good, and that's, well, GOOD!
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Blue Suede Shoes


Some time back there was a request for songs to be sung which would be educational. As music itself is a discipline, I think any music can be used as an educational tool. It can tie in with physical activity, mathematics, physics, history, geography, art, language, and it can be used to get kids excited and awake, or calm and asleep, or anything in between. I don't mean singing about math or history, either, but discussing the form of the music, the rhythm, the moods, the origins, the instruments on which it is traditionally played, the length and pattern of the verses (or phrases, or whatever), what its purpose is (a march, background music for a movie or for an 18th century fireworks show, a lullaby, a love song), etc.

Don't miss this fun and easy opportunity to tie different "subjects" together by using a song as a jumping off place to many different discussions. If you need ideas, name a song here and see how many suggestions you can get for it!


What's above was written in 1993. Someone named "Blue Suede Shoes," thinking it wouldn't net much. I just wrote and wrote that day, and luckily I printed it out and saved it. The link below leads to my response, commentary and a video of Elvis doing another song, that leads to another song, and... you know.
photo by Sandra Dodd (of some art right behind my house)


The tromp l'oeil art of full-sized cars on storage containers is still behind my house. The Elvis page has two added videos—not of Elvis, but things that one reminded me of, and then the other (added recently). I hope you have fun with all of this!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Living with food

You don't know what your children need. They won't know either, if they're never allowed to live in such a way that they will learn to pay more attention to their bodies than to a book or a menu, a calendar, a clock, or to their parents' fears and prejudices.
photo by Sandra Dodd

When I used this text in 2012, someone who was offended wrote to unsubscribe.
I told her to do it herself with the link at the bottom of the e-mail.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Be that way

By Joyce Fetteroll:

Treat them the way you want them to treat others - It's easy to be nice when the kids are nice. The kids need to see how people (you) can be patient and kind when life isn't going smoothly. They need to see how to work with someone whose view is different. They will get to see that by how you treat them when their view is different from yours. If you treat their needs and feelings as less important, they'll learn to treat other's needs and feelings as less important. And then when you're old and bedridden, they'll say, "No, you don't need more tea, no, you don't need to finish that TV program. I have other things to do than tending to your needs. Can't you see how busy I am?"
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Erika Andromeda, of a patient child and his well-loved Great Grannny

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mind and awareness

Don't think of your brain. Think of your mind and of your awareness. A little tiny brain can hold a LOT of information. A big fat one can fail to do so. It's not size, it's peace and use. photo IMG_4991.jpg
photo by Charles Lagacé, of sundogs in Nunavet
(trois-soleils, in French)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


 photo foodBrandieHadfield.jpg It's cool when something can be more than one thing. When you think of how to categorize an object, an idea, or an action, if you can give it more than one designation, it will have more "relatives"—more connections in the world.

Art? Apple? Fruit. Food. Gift. Inspiration, memory, photo-op!

Most things are many things.
photo by Brandie Hadfield

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Awareness in the way a mother touches and speaks to and thinks of her child in the next moment she is near him is the awareness that makes unschooling and peaceful parenting work.,
a page I chose because it has a reference to tigers
photo by Sandra Dodd

P.S. After I saw this quoted elsewhere, I saw a grammatical glitch, so I have replaced "that" with "in" early in the quote. -sorry-

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Along the way

Karen James wrote:

I've climbed big hills (physically and metaphorically) like this for a couple of decades now. I don't look up and think "That's going to be exhausting." I look up to get a sense of where I want to go. Then I start walking. As I walk, I listen to my breathing. I watch my progress. I notice the beautiful details along the way. I look up every once in a while to celebrate how far I've come. I haven't made it to the top of every hill I've wanted to climb, but I don't let that negatively influence my next attempt.
—Karen James
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 18, 2017


 photo IMG_0434.jpgOne of my main principles has been that it's my job to protect the peace of each of my children in his or her own home insofar as I can. I'm not just here to protect them from outsiders, axe-murderers and boogie-men of whatever real or imagined sort, but from each other as well.
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Friday, March 17, 2017

Peacefully and respectfully

11/8/14 A gift to the giver photo KarenJamesSocks.jpg"Living in the world peacefully and respectfully are good places to begin to focus when new to unschooing. The best advice I was given was to look at my son. Not at ideals. Not at freedom. Not at school or no school. Not at labels. Not at big ideas. Look at my son. Be with him. Get to know him deeply. And, then to read a bit about unschooling. Give something new a try. See how it goes in the context of our real day to day life. I still do that. I'm still learning."
—Karen James
photo by Karen James

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Unusual but doable

If a family is looking for rules and passivity, they can create a lifetime of it. If a family wants joy and learning, the creation is a bit more difficult and unusual but doable! photo TVAmberIvey.jpg
photo by Amber Ivey

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Principles and change

"Focussing on being my child's partner is helping me to place my real life children front and centre of my attention and to think deeply and respond kindly and appropriately to their particular needs in this particular moment."
—Zoe Thompson-Moore
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photo by Sarah Dickinson

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Childproof world?

Instead of childproofing the world, worldproof your child. photo IMG_7525.jpeg
photo by Chrissy Florence

Monday, March 13, 2017

Brighter than the sky

One day, my neighbor's tree was brighter than the sky.

Sometimes my kids are brighter than I am. The older they get, and the older I get, the more often they outshine me in many ways. I do not mind one bit.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Old history

No one could make a website, or a book, or a library or a university with all the history you will come across in your life. Frolic! Delve. Catch it in your peripheral vision. Learn it in relation to cooking or automechanics or learning which plants came from other countries when, and why. Why were airplane plants popular with Victorian ladies and with hippies? And the Victorian ladies couldn't have called them airplane plants, so what did they call them? And why did they have them? And what does NASA think of airplane plants? They're #1 on NASA's list! But wait... that's not just history. It involves geography, home decorating, botany and the space program. Don't stop 'til you get enough.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of root beer on the dashboard
outside Bode's in Abiquiu, New Mexico
(AB-i-cue, and BOE-deez)

P.S. This post was first published here in 2011. Two things:
-Thinking of what you were doing six years ago would involve some personal and family history.
-My history page is older history now; it's one of my early webpages. If you know of a history site you think might be worth adding to that page, send me a note!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What is real

Sandra Dodd, response in 2000 to: Can anyone explain to me "unschooling"?

It's like "just say no."

Just say no to school years and school schedules and school expectations, school habits and fears and terminology. Just say no to separating the world into important and unimportant things, into separating knowledge into math, science, history and language arts, with music, art and "PE" set in their less important little places.

Most of unschooling has to happen inside the parents. They need to spend some time sorting out what is real from what is construct, and what occurs in nature from what only occurs in school (and then in the minds of those who were told school was real life, school was a kid's fulltime job, school was more important than anything, school would keep them from being ignorant, school would make them happy and rich and right).

It's what happens after all that school stuff is banished from your life.
photo by Amber Ivey

Friday, March 10, 2017

Where the learning is

 photo JanineGateSitting.jpgEven if you obtain the coolest tools or toys unschoolers could recommend, natural learning isn't in the toys, it's in the reltionship between the adult and child—in the freedom and peace and time to explore and to think.
(The quote isn't there, but similar ideas are!)
photo by Janine Davies

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Kind of a background thing

Pam Sorooshian, on strewing:

Strewing might be what I did at the Live and Learn conference when I noticed that some of the leaves were turning colors and, as I was heading to our room, I picked some up off the ground and left them on the bathroom counter so that my daughter would happen to see them when she used the bathroom. I have no idea if she ever noticed them or not. Or it might be that I'm getting something out of a closet and I notice a game that  photo IMG_3581.jpghasn't been out and played in a while, so I set it out on the living room coffee table.

When the kids were little, I was very aware of and more intentional about this habit—I picked up interesting rocks or feathers, put out different kinds of paper or markers or tape or a puzzle or an old hat or anything that might, even if just for a moment, interest someone. Now it is just a way of life and I don't think about it, but we all do it. It is kind of a background thing that goes on in unschooling families—it is part of what creates a stimulating, enriched environment for our kids.
-Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What really matters

Meredith wrote:

"I always wonder what people expect when they ask unschoolers what materials they use, since it's a question that does come up now and then, generally by academic homeschoolers but sometimes in a daycare context.... The flattering reason, I guess, is that they think we're all geniuses at "making learning fun" but it's ultimately the wrong question. There aren't any special materials. Our homes are full of normal things, commercial toys, cartoon pajamas and pokemon sippy cups, tvs and video games, with piles of things that need to be sorted and put away slumped in corners, or cluttering up the couch and stairs. Many families unschool on slim material resources. The magic of unschooling is in the relationships."
—Meredith Novak
photo by Rachel Singer

"The magic of unschooling is in the relationships." —Meredith
(I repeated the last line because it's good.)
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