Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Shame free

I didn’t expect unschooling to create a shameless life, but one day I said to Holly, joking, “Aren’t you ashamed?”
She didn’t know what “ashamed” meant. She was twelve; maybe thirteen already.

People used to say “you should be ashamed” lots, to and around me, when I was young. And I was, I just hadn’t found the reason for it yet. Shame is like an indwelling virus that surfaces when we’re weak, in those who caught it.

I didn’t know people could grow up without having a wad of shame inside them, waiting to surface.

photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, May 21, 2018

Quiet focus

Moments of quiet focus, and photo evidence of those, are both a bit magical.
photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Gail Higgins photos

Another collection!?
I'm getting well, but have two unexpected separate house guests, from two different unexpected situations.

Please enjoy some beautiful photos by Gail Higgins.

(And a couple of quotes with photos by me; less beautiful but nice words!)

Friday, May 18, 2018

A fun person

"Treat her like a fun person rather than like a kid."
—Angela (NYCitymomx3)
Fron a longer list at SandraDodd.com/howto/advice
photo by Chrissy Florence

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Seasonal doings

There is a "when" and a "where" to activities. Soon, at my house, we'll be inside trying to stay cool, but a different latitude or hemisphere could change that.

Are plants coming or going? Or maybe you live where the plants last all year, every year; maybe you live where plants are mostly indoor houseplants.

Share these ideas with your children, if they're interested. I remember that a year seemed forever, when I was six years old. At sixty, time was very different.
photo (a link) by Janine Davies

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Chrissy Florence photos

Chrissy Florence sent me a Christmas card once, with this beautiful photo (and others). I couldn't stop looking at it. I still love to see it, every time it comes by.

I wrote to ask if I could use it, and if she had others. Yes, and she did.

Chrissy's photos show contemplation and exuberance. I hope you enjoy seeing them, and the quotes that jumped out to match them. Some photos were used twice, because of a Photobucket site glitch that caused me to lose some notes. That's okay, though. If a quote or photo comes by twice, it probably means it was worth seeing again!

I'm grateful for her eye and for her generosity.

Photos by Chrissy Florence
(Sick week, day 2)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Karen James' quotes and photos

I need a few days of sick leave, please.

This will lead to posts with a photo or quote (maybe both in one, but not usually) by Karen James:

Karen James


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Words can block thought

Have you considered putting limits on paper time?
Cloth time?
Other-human time?

I wrote that when the umpteenth person asked why unschoolers weren't limiting children's "screentime," without being able to break that down into what a child was actually doing.
Beyond the door
photo by Cátia Maciel

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Time flows

Every ghost town used to be alive.

Every "haunted house" was once new.

An abandoned car started with good tires, a running engine, and a happy owner.

Each adult was a child.
The flow of history
photo by Karen James

Friday, May 11, 2018


Sometimes it's good to see cause and effect, connections, relationships.

Other times, it might be best to gaze without speaking.
photo by Amy Childs

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Solid and sunny

In a moment, in a place, the world can be solid and sunny. Awe-inspiring. Accessible. Safe and strong.

Those conditions can arise in other ways, too. There can be a time of solidity and warmth in a relationship, in family finances, home maintenance, friendships.

Then there will always be more slippery, jarring days when the world is not as warm.

Store up the feelings and memories of the solid, sunny days. Remember they will come around again.

photo by Lisa Jonick

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Around the corner

Sometimes there are deadlines and commitments. This week, for us, a baby shower, and a college graduation. If Keith misses his pain-clinic appointment, he might need to wait weeks.

Much more often, though, life has more options, more leeway. A path or choice might be reconsidered.

Be accepting, if you can, when you can, of surprises. We don't know for sure what is around the corner, no matter how familiar the road is.

photo by Cathy Koetsier

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Following trails

Don't hesitate to follow little trails, and to quit when something else is more interesting.
photo by Heather Booth

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Intensity and focus

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Is unschooling right for everyone? My answer is, "It depends." I think ALL children can learn and grow and thrive as unschoolers.
But I also think it takes an intensity and focus on living life with a great deal of gusto on the part of unschooling parents. Unschooling parents work hard. For example, they must develop a very high level of sensitivity to their children to know what to offer, when to support, when to back off, how busy they want to be, how much solitude they need, when to nudge them a bit with encouragement, when to get more involved, and so on. AND parents need to be able to always have their kids and their interests in the back of their minds, thinking always about what would interest them; bringing the world to them and bringing them to the world in ways that "click" for that particular child. And it takes a great deal of trust that the child will learn without external pressure.
—Pam Sorooshian

photo by Cathy Koetsier

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Step back and think

I did an odd thing, when Kirby was five. I consciously decided not to use the names of "subject areas," ever. Whether he liked something or not, I wasn't going to tell him it was "history" or "math" or "science." Each of those is made up of dozens, hundreds of interests and unrelated topics. In school, kids decide to declare that they like or hate "science," when really geology has very little to do with psychology or surgery. Same with "geography." Would someone who "likes geography" because he's fascinated by maps and mapping necessarily care about the major production of different regions of the world, or traditional costume of Afghanistan?

But as an unschooling mom, I think it's important for the parents not to say "I don't like... (maps/science/costume/psychology), because if you have fears and prejudices left over from school, it's a good thing to do whatever internal work you need to get over that, so you can answer your children's questions without showing (and maybe passing on) an aversion.

photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, May 4, 2018

Usually unusual

Even in New Mexico, it can be difficult to see a roadrunner. They don't live in groups and they don't make much noise.

A person might live in Texas for a long time and not see a live armadillo.

Don't worry if you miss seeing something cool, but be grateful for lucky sightings of mystery or beauty. Something normal near you might be exotic everywhere else.
More "more"
photo by Holly's friend Eliza

Thursday, May 3, 2018

History's disorderly conduct

History can't be learned "in order," because it's never going to be orderly. It doesn't even happen in order, because often facts aren't discovered until years after incidents occur, and so the history of them unfolds and is clarified and expanded all the time. People knew zip about Pompeii until 1700-and-some years after it was buried. Someday people might know more about Amelia Earhart's disappearance or the assassination of JFK than they do now, after all who knew them personally will have been long dead.

photo by Lisa Jonick

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


My son is finishing his last semester of an economics degree. I helped proofread a paper Monday night and one of his section headings was "Trade Goods and Bads."
That was cute, and was a good header, as the text went.

The next morning, my friend called from Clearlake, in California. I was asking about the neighborhood, and she said that up and around the lake was a place called "Nice." Nice!

Nicer things can make you smile. Smiling is nice.

photo by Amy Childs

This post used to end with "Smiling is better for peace and calm."
That's true, but I think the ending is better without it, rhythmically, poetically.
(Edited the evening of the day it went out by e-mail with the longer ending.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


It's better to think of good moments or bad moments, rather than to curse a whole day with "this is a bad day."

The next moment can be better.

photo by Colleen Prieto

Monday, April 30, 2018

A world that is kinder

"As I've gotten older, I focus more and more on kindness. I want to be kind, I want my children to be kind and I want them to be in a world that is kinder."
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Sarah Elizabeth Douglas

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Limited time offer

I wrote this when I was frustrated, so it's not as poetic as some:

Kids have their whole childhoods to learn to tie shoes, wipe ass, make a sandwich.

Parents do NOT have that whole childhood to slowly mosey over toward being a little closer to unschooling. If you don't do it soon and well, it will be too late to do it at all.

photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Flowing thoughts

What you know can be added to, or amended, but rarely deleted.
Some things are best not learned, which is why it's so important to be careful what you say and how you say it (and to drive carefully, and all that).

Some people do try to encapsulate ideas or experiences and forget them. Sometimes other memories are shut off along with that. That’s a good reason for analyzing traumatic events and sorting through instead of trying to encase them. Too many "do not enter areas" in your mind will slow down connections, and also will inhibit the biochemicals that help make learning fun and easy.

photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, April 27, 2018


Still: quiet, calm; without motion, at rest, not moving from a place, not disturbed; moving little or gently; silent; not loud; secret; unchanging, undisturbed, stable, fixed; not vehement, gentle

"Still" has meant those things for a thousand years. Longer. Still.

Be with your child, still.
Wiktionary is where I got the Old English definition
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, April 26, 2018

This is better.

"This is better. It’s just better."
—Jen Keefe
To read about what Jen found that was better, her writing is queued up here:
Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
photo by Heather Booth

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

More and more connections

Each idea, object, concept, person, song, motion—anything you can think of—has personal associations for you. You have an incalculable mass of connections formed in your brain and will make more today, tomorrow, on the way home, and in your sleep.

photo by Ester Siroky

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

One interaction at a time

One interaction at a time. Just make the next interaction a relationship-building one. Don't worry about the one AFTER that, until IT becomes "the next one."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Meryl Rosenfeld Ranzer

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy and healthy appreciation

If people live wanting what they think they "deserve," they will not be as happy or healthy as if they could live appreciating what they have.
photo by Kelly Halldorson

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Note to parents:

Contented parents are more useful to children and their learning and living than are unhappy parents reciting slogans or rhetoric.
photo by Cass Kotrba

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Soft and gentle

Be soft and gentle

Helping a child learn to hold a kitten or a puppy isn't always easy, but modeling how to do it gently and softly helps. Parents can remember those factors when touching babies and children, too. Is he comfortable? Is he safe?

Someone who can gently handle a puppy, and a baby, might remember those things when dealing with another adult.

SandraDodd.com/better partner
photo by Rose Sorooshian

Friday, April 20, 2018

Car keys and money

"Look for ways to be a helpful partner to your kids—you've got the car keys and the money, you can facilitate their exploration of the world."
—Deb Rossing
photo by Ester S., from inside their RV

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Defuse frustration

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:
Life *is* frustrating. Being mindful won't prevent kids from getting frustrated but it will be a huge step in the right direction. Seeing the world from kids' point of view will help you understand why they are reacting to the world as they are. Treat your kids as though they're doing the best they can with the knowledge and skills and understanding of the world they have. And often when they're at their worst, what works best is a hug.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Joshua Harkness

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Gently sweet, please

Don't anyone be mean to your kids today, please. There will be enough hurt without us adding to it.

photo by Sandra Dodd of younger Holly, in Driffield, East Yorkshire
A sweet repeat from April 2011.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Learning not to teach

For years I have recommended that new unschoolers stop using the word "teach" and replace all statements and thoughts with phrases using the word "learn" instead. I've gotten much flak back from people saying it doesn't matter, or that's "just semantics." What started as a theory with me became belief and then conviction. Unschoolers who cling to the idea of teaching will handicap their own understanding of how learning works.
photo by Annie Regan

Monday, April 16, 2018

Euphoria and elation

The reason there was a hippie slogan in the late 1960's "If it feels good, do it" was that they grew up with parents and grandparents who had been told life wasn't about fun; comfort had to be earned; if it was easy, it was a sin; if it didn't taste bad, it wasn't good for you.

Those things are said to justify hardship, control, and deprivation. They're said to glorify sacrifice, discomfort, yucky medicine and bitter vegetables (which kids probably will like and choose when they're older if they're not forced to eat them as kids).

If something causes biochemical euphoria or elation, and if the goal is learning, and peace, seek that out. Pay extra for that. Clear your calendar to help your child obtain that.

photo by Amanda Gattis

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A long, quiet time

If your purpose is just to be with your child, and relaxed, and have a chance to talk, go with something that's non-verbal and takes a long, quiet time.
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Shapes and angles

The same image, or toy, or building can be seen in many different ways. For a toddler, this could be a triangle, with a circle, and a rectangle. It might remind an older child of stories of magic houses, or of mysteries and adventures. Young adults' thoughts could be all about traditional construction, history, or "Is this for rent?"

Angles are more than just mathematical or visual things.

photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, April 13, 2018

Find abundance

Neediness expresses itself differently with different kids. Abundance expresses itself similarly in all.

A family can learn to find abundance rather than lack, even if they're not wealthy.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Free to behave nicely

My children are about as free as they're going to get, honestly. Always have been. Yet there are all these real-life limitations and considerations. They're free to ignore them. And the state of New Mexico (county of Bernalillo and City of Albuquerque) are not only free, but OBLIGATED, to protect other residents from any over-reaching acts of wild "freedom."
photo by Sandra Dodd, but in Maine, not New Mexico

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Gentle, thoughtful touch

Touch someone, or something, in a gentle, thoughtful way. Feel with your fingers, or cheek, or hand the warmth or smoothness or softness of something or someone you love.
Keith, Kirby, Marty and baby Holly Dodd
November 1991

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bring on the Joy

"Focus on Joy. Really. That's all I need to do right now. It's vacation time in my home...bring on the Joy."
—Angela (NYCitymomx3)
Fron a longer list at SandraDodd.com/howto/advice
photo by Jo Isaac

Monday, April 9, 2018

Stay here

Some people seem to think unschooling takes them through a portal to some alternate universe.

Stay in the real world! Both feet, directly, right in your house, in your town, in your country, in this moment on this day.
photo by Janine Davies

Sunday, April 8, 2018


Joyce Fetteroll, small part of larger writing:
We can view children's needs as inconvenient for us or we can view them as people who need our help doing what they want to do.

          . . . .

We can be our kids partner in helping them get what they want in life or we can be the barrier that opens or closes according to our whim.
—Joyce Fetteroll

photo by Eva Witsel

Saturday, April 7, 2018


Life is richer when you are open to appreciating surprises.
Surprises and discoveries
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 6, 2018

Tales of "Oops"

Advising about an easily frustrated child, Brie Jontry wrote:

Talking about your own frustrations and talking through your own "mistakes," etc, in a light way—not *to* him, but around him, where he can hear you—might be helpful.

I did a lot of: "Ooops! I meant to cut the carrots length-wise instead of into circles. No big deal..." or "Hmmmm, I think next time, I'll do X first instead of Y" or whatever—talk to yourself, to your friends, to your partner about how you learn by doing. Short, light observations. No long drawn out monologues.
—Brie Jontry

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Light and shadow

Shadows can be fun to play with, and to notice. I've always liked it if a bird or an airplane made a shadow on me.

Be a light, when you can be. Practice thinking about what you might be overshadowing.

If you're in the desert, remember that it can be courteous to stand where you will shade someone who's tired or overheated, or is trying to read something.

Be a courteous light.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Continue to play

Play can be serious business. Playing is certainly the main way that very young children learn, until they go to school.

What if they don't go to school? What if the ages of five and six don't mark a life change, and the playing progresses along naturally?

Many people would have no idea how to answer that question. The idea that toddlers' play would naturally progress to other levels without interruption, without separation from families, and without professionals telling children when, where and how to play is foreign to most in our culture.

In one small corner, though, it's common knowledge. There are unschoolers whose children have not been to school and who have continued to play.

That writing continues here: SandraDodd.com/playing
photo by Janine Davies

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


Alex Polikowsky wrote:

Unschooling takes more,
more presence,
more guidance,
more attention,
more mindfulness,
more connection,
more thinking and questioning,
more choices and better choices.
—Alex Polikowsky

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, April 2, 2018

False doom

If a child doing something harmless and happy is thwarted by a parent spouting false doom, the parent is the problem.

The game isn't the problem, the parent is the problem.

The child isn't the problem, the parent is the problem.

photo by Sandra Dodd
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