Friday, May 24, 2019

Creating history

Remember you don't need a museum to find things your kids will be fascinated by and learn from. You probably have things right in your home that would not only connect to history, but it might be their history. And will be from then on, anyway. Things we have from thrift stores aren't from my family, but for my grandchildren they will be from their family.
Marta Venturini shared that in 2014, from
Your House as a Museum (chat transcript)
and facebook shared it back to both of us this week.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Be that way

Be the way you want your children to be, and they will want to be like you.
photo by Janine Davies

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The sky

"Look at those sticks poking out of the sky!!"
—Gail Higgins
the photographer

What you see
is what you think.
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, May 20, 2019

Ease into change

Instead of just going from lots of control to "do whatever you want," a really sweet way to do it is quickly but gradually. Quickly in your head, but not all of a sudden in theirs. Just allow yourself to say "okay" or "sure!" anytime it's not really going to be a problem.
If something isn't going to hurt anything (going barefoot, wearing the orange jacket with the pink dress, eating a donut, not coming to dinner because it's the good part of a game/show/movie, staying up later, dancing) you can just say "Okay."

And then later instead of "aren't you glad I let you do that? Don't expect it every time," you could say something reinforcing for both of you, like "That really looked like fun," or "It felt better for me to say yes than to say no. I should say 'yes' more," or something conversational but real.

The purpose of that is to help ease them from the controlling patterns to a more moment-based and support-based decisionmaking mindset. If they want to do something and you say yes in an unusual way (unusual to them), communication will help. That way they'll know you really meant to say yes, that it wasn't a fluke, or you just being too distracted to notice what they were doing.
photo by Julie D

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Quiet depth and energy

Generally, parents and neighbors and friends tend to notice and maybe be impressed by a lot of noise and action and reaction. I'm happy to have learned, gradually, over the past 32+ years, that moving toward quiet acceptance and observation has more depth and energy and connection than a bunch of correction, direction and commentary, from parents to children.

in a discussion on Always Learning
(if you're not a member, it's not worth joining to read that)
photo by Chrissy Florence

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Time out / Update

Thanks to Pam Laricchia and her son Michael, pages are all opening on my website again. I'm giddy and grateful for the code they wrote for me to add in the header of my 404 page.

My husband, Keith, survived repeated cardiac arrest and over a month of hospitalization. This week he had his last of ten outpatient physical therapy sessions. He's graduated up through wheelchair and walker, to cane, to normal locomotion. I drive him to various appointments, and am glad to be with him.

Thank you for reading, for sympathy and for support.

from April 8, about how long Keith was in the hospital, and his first day home
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a bucket and shovel, in our son Marty's back yard this week

Friday, May 17, 2019

Calm and open

Unschoolers' support of their children's interests not only creates more peace at the time, and better relationships, but it keeps the world calm and open to them, for their dabbling, curiosity, and exploration.
from a facebook discussion about learning
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Charlie eats an apple

"I was looking at the photos on my phone tonight and found this (Jack must have taken it, hence the angle). It is Charlie (3) eating an apple in front of the telly right beside of a full pot of sweets. I thought it was a rather lovely illustration of the choices kids make when they have them, and I thought of you because they never would have had that choice without all your writing."
—Sarah Dickinson
photo by Jack Dickinson

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


I wrote:
Many things are made better by slowing down. Touching a child is nicer in slow motion than abruptly. Responding to a question can be improved by a pause as long as a single breath.
Lisa J Haugen wrote:
That's why I love the 'add light and stir' blog title. It's such a lovely image—add a little bit, let it swirl into your life, and incorporate. Add a little more. Gently and slowly.
I edited Lisa's a tiny bit, and it was the end of something
a bit longer here, at Radical Unschooling Info
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A birthday pancake

Birthday breakfast!!! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

"Mama! You made it a 5! AND it's a pancake?! With M&M's???! THANK YOU MAMA!!! This is the best breakfast EVER!"

(see also yesterday's post)
photo by Roya Dedeaux, of Wyatt's May-13 birthday breakfast

Monday, May 13, 2019


The smaller the child, the bigger the small adventures seem.

When the world is new, adventure is all around.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Another Mother's Day

I would never have thought, growing up, that motherhood would be a central part of my life and identity. I didn't imagine, even when I had three children, that I was heading toward so much focus on the choices and possibilities involving relationships with children. Mother's Day seems like a normal day; didn't expect that.
—Sandra Dodd, 2010
(now, in 2019, a grandmother)

Disclaimer: Your Mother's Day mileage, date, traditions and experience may vary.
I know Mother's Day isn't a universal time or place.
photo by Karen James

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Old and new

It's good to see old things in new ways.

There is creativity in doing something unexpected with materials already on hand.

Learning can come from novel combinations.
Aging beauty
photo by Holly Dodd (long ago; I'm using it anew)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Get up and go!

People can't read the map until they get to the destination. They need to get on the trail themselves and start to travel. They can change their minds and not go all the way, but they can't get anywhere just by reading and asking questions.

Unschoolers need to start seeing these things work in their own families. There's more to know, and more to think about, and people who will help with ideas and links, but nobody can "teach" another person how to unschool. They can help the other person start to figure it out, though.

from a discussion on Radical Unschooling Info
photo by Heather Booth

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Being calm about food

What has been "medically correct" about diet has changed over and over and over just within my lifetime—every part of a hamburger has been glorified and villified in turn. Every part of a pizza has been the best and worst part, at some point in the past 50 years. Skim milk/whole milk, margarine, artificial sweeteners, eggs, iceberg lettuce, honey, cheese, water (amounts), salt, wine, bread—terror or wonder.
Angels and devils
photo by Amy Milstein

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Cat photos

My website is sketchy, and its host company is shown as down. If it's temporary, let's not worry. If it turns permanent, I'll do some sewing!

Meanwhile, please enjoy photos of cats, on this blog. For those who aren't allergic to cats, they can be soothing, calming, and entertaining. For those who are allergic, the photos can be fun.

For those allergic to cat photos, luckily it's a big internet, and you can click away. (Weirdo. No one is allergic to cat photos.)

Most or all of the cat photos
Photos by lots of people, at the link above.
This one is our cat, Mina, a Birman, in a photo I took.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Protection can backfire

Something Joyce Fetteroll wrote in September 2010:

What if you live your life fearing the worst and guarding against it? Your child will grow up immersed in the idea the world is scary and stronger than he is and he needs armor (or mom) to protect him. (As much as you might try, you won't be able to hide your fears from him.) Is that what you want?

Or he'll think you're full of baloney. He'll see people doing the things you fear—like drinking soda—and they're healthy and strong. He'll then realize you don't know what you're talking about and tune you out. That won't be so good when your fears are justified (like about unprotected sex and drinking and driving.)

Those are worst case scenarios but it's likely he'll have a bit of those if you live your life protecting him from the world.
—Joyce Fetteroll

Related ideas:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 6, 2019

Rationing "no"

What if each parent were issued a ration book of "NO" tickets when a child was born, and could only say "NO" two hundred times? Two hundred times in eighteen years... that's a lot of "no."

But I've seen parents say "no" five times in five minutes, to children in public places who just want to walk, or to be carried, or to touch something, or to see better, or to have a drink of water, or to have mom hold her hand, or to have one of those candy bars she's face to face with, or to stay a little longer, or to leave a little sooner, to ride in the cart or not ride in the cart. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Sometimes someone comes to one of the unschooling discussions, not knowing there are other ways, and offers the traditional "You're the boss, just say no" advice. I'm glad it has come to sound harsh and wrong. It shows me how far I've come.
photo by Brie Jontry, of ice melting and refreezing,
gradually sliding off a roof

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A sense of peace

"Radical unschooling can bring about such a sense of peace with one's own self, that it can be poured into the being of another."
—Megan Valnes
photo by Sam Baykus

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Nicer and more considerate

Being nicer makes one a nicer person.

Being nicer,
more considerate,
makes one a more considerate person.

Being nicer,
more compassionate,
makes one a more compassionate person

Marta saved this. I don't know where I wrote it. Thank you, Marta (and others), for saving some of my scraps over the years so I can see them again, and share them.
photo by Destiny Dodd

Friday, May 3, 2019

Problems disappear

"Eating decisions"?

Choices. If ALL of that is changed to a model in which there is food, and people make choices—lots of small choices, not big "decisions"—a hundred hard problems disappear.

In one small moment, if a child can pick up a food or not; smell it or not; taste it or not; keep that bite and chew and swallow, or spit it out; take another bite or not; dip it in something or not; put another food with it or not—EVERYTHING changes.
photo by Karen James

Thursday, May 2, 2019

They don't owe me

My children didn't ask to be born. I was the one who wanted children. I invited them here by my actions and decisions. I owe them. I owe them food and friendship and protection. I owe them comfort if I can arrange it. I owe them the best of me, and to help nurture the best of them.
photo by Jihong Tang

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

See the good; reflect it back

"Get to know your kids' strengths and set them up to succeed at using those strengths in all kinds of ways. Don't burden them with the perceived shortcomings you find. Let them navigate their own challenges while you focus on their potential. See the good in them and reflect it back. That seems to have been the best gift I've given my own son so far."
photo by Gail Higgins

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Easier, more fun, more peaceful

With my oldest in particular it took me a long time to switch gears from, "How as the adult can I get them to listen to me?" to "How as the adult, the person with the most resources and the most developed brain, can I make this easier, more fun, more peaceful for everyone?" That shift will make the transitions easier, but it takes time and should be done slowly.
photo by Lisa J Haugen

Monday, April 29, 2019


Sandra's writing from 1993:

People want to see the first step and hear the first words of their babies, they say, when they don't put their children in daycare. I was lucky to be able to afford to stay home with my kids and I am thrilled to be the first to see them respond to their first-whatevers.

A couple of weeks ago I got to see the look of amazement on my six-year-old's face when he colored a Mobius strip and then cut it in two (or, rather, not in two) lengthwise. When I told him he would be ten or fourteen the next time there was an inauguration, I saw Lights Come On! Walking and talking aren't everything.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Sunday, April 28, 2019


When people ask me "are you always going to homeschool them?" I say (very truthfully) "I don't know. It depends on them. I'm willing to, but if they decide they would rather go to school, that's fine."

The only people who have ever been unhappy with that response are those who are rigidly, defiantly homeschooling with a vengeance.
photo by Cathy Koetsier

The words are something I wrote in January 1993, that popped up this week,
26 years later.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

When others worry

Sometimes others worry about our kids. Laurie Wolfrum wrote:

If it is a close family member, relative or friend, try to have compassion and understanding. Look at things from their point of view. Likely they love you and your children and want the very best for them, just like you do. It may help to foster good relations between you, your parents and your children if you assume positive intent and make an effort to share what the kids are up to and interested in.

Something that might help in any case is to explain that –
Periodically we evaluate how things are going.
Nothing is written in stone.
For now, this works for us.
We’ll see how things go.
—Laurie Wolfrum

"Pass the bean dip."
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, April 26, 2019

History, in a word

A parent cannot decipher words for a child. Only the child can decipher written language. You can help! You can help LOTS of ways. One way would be to gain an interest in the words you use yourself, and stop once in a while to examine one, its history, why it means what it means.

Here are some fun practice words you can probably figure out without looking them up, maybe.
These days, you might be able to ask Siri or Alexa for the etymology of a word.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Dodd-house Unschooling, 1994

What is below was written in 1994. I wanted to make it easier for other families to understand and try unschooling, and have been doing that ever since.

Our daily plans are nebulous, and although we might schedule a trip to the zoo or a papier-mΓ’chΓ© day (something that takes a clean table and a lot of setup and no big interruptions), we don't have something scheduled on most days, and we don't "educationalize" trips to zoos and museums and such. We just go, and what we read or see is discussed, but not in a scheduled, checklist way.

There are several ways that I get ideas and resources. I have e-mail friends. I have a few local friends who homeschool but the homeschool scene is too structured for my tastes. I'm a member of the state organization and I get some good ideas from their newsletters. When I was beginning to homeschool, I got reassurance from a friend who has four older children. Her philosophy is that as long as they know things by the time they go on dates or get married, it doesn't matter how soon or in what order they learn them. Family Fun Magazine has some good ideas and I have some books on arts and science projects. Nothing has helped as much as reading Growing Without Schooling.

Update, 25 years later:

Earlier this week, Keith and I were at the old house (the house we were in when kids were young) watching Ivan (Marty's baby, who's 16 months old). I commented on the brick floor I had put in the entryway, and said I don't know how I had the energy to do that, but I liked the pattern, and it was still in good shape.

The friend mentioned above is Carol Rice (with the four kids and the good advice). Just recently, for a few months, she and Kirby were both working at Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless—she as a permanent employee, and Kirby as a contract IT guy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Snowy rocks

One of the trickiest of philosophical ideas must be time, and permanence. An hour can seem long or short.
Four hours with an unhappy baby can seem like twenty hours, but a year later, the tiny baby is missed, and the parents would love to hold her again, but now she's off running and climbing.

Rocks last longer than snow, but neither lasts forever. Rocks might be moved, or broken. Snow will come back again.

Frustration hurts, but gratitude feels good. Frustration is inevitable, but gratitude takes conscious thought.
photo by Lisa Jonick

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quietly alert

If you can choose to be more aware over less aware, that will help.

One aspect of awareness is working on your ability to be quietly alert, like a mother hawk, aware of the location of your child, her mood and your surroundings.
photo by Karen James

Monday, April 22, 2019

Be open to learning

When something someone heard from a friend or read on a blog is stated adamantly as TRUTH, rational thought has been batted away. Some people have the fervor of conversion upon them, having heard that there is an easy way to SAVE their families from disease and death, to make their children smarter, and better behaved; to make themselves strong and beautiful into old age. It is partially fountain-of-youth stuff. It is partly an attractive excuse for controlling children (and spouses, sometimes).
The quote is from a page about food as a religion, but it's really about control
(being too easily influenced, and then trying to pass it on)
photo by Amy Milstein

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Read, try, wait and watch

Read a little. Try a little. Don't do what you don't understand.

Wait a while. You probably won't see an immediate change. But don't pull your plants up by the roots to see if they're growing. That's not good for any plants or for any children. Be patient. Trust that learning can happen if you give it time and if you give it space.

Watch your own children. Are they calm? Are they happy? Are they curious and interested in things? Don't mar their calm or their happiness with arbitrary limits, or with shame, or with pressure. Be their partner.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Smell your child's hair

Smell your child's hair. They say dogs can smell fear, but moms can smell love, or something, when they smell the top of a young child's head. Something biochemical happens, and something intellectual can happen.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Just Say No

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 Catherine Forest

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Use your words

Someone once wrote:

"In the past my kids have tended to expect to be waited on hand and foot."

I responded:

If you use phrases like "to be waited on hand and foot," you're quoting other people. That usually means the other person's voice is in your head, shaming you. Or it means you've adopted some anti-kid attitudes without really examining them. If you're having a feeling, translate it into your own words. It's a little freaky how people can channel their parents and grandparents by going on automatic and letting those archaic phrases flow through us. Anything you haven't personally examined in the light of your current beliefs shouldn't be uttered, in my opinion. Anything I can't say in my own words hasn't really been internalized by me. As long as I'm simply quoting others, I can bypass conscious, careful thought.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Learning to live better with children makes one a better person. Being patient with a child creates more patience. Being kind to a child makes one a kinder person.
Simply put...
photo by Chrissy Florence

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Live lightly with patience

1. Most dangers are temporary.

2. Even clear and lit-up things might cast a shadow.

3. Everything around you is exotic to someone else somewhere else.

4. Many beautiful things lack permanence.
photo by Sabine Mellinger

Monday, April 15, 2019

Transcendental moment

Remember that your children will also experience flow.

If you interrupt them while they're playing Rock Band or drawing or spinning on a tire swing, you might be disturbing a profound experience. So interrupt gently, when you must. Treat them with the respect you would treat anyone who might be in the midst of a transcendental moment.

page 207 of The Big Book of Unschooling, on Flow
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What is "natural"?

The other day on facebook, someone asked friends to share their most recent photo of nature. I looked through my photos, back two months, and though some were of the sky or mountains, there were buildings in the foreground. Those of plants were plants in the yards of humans.

Is a photo of a bird playing in a puddle more natural than a bird in a human-built birdbath? Is a bird's nest or a beaver dam more natural than a human's home?

For a long time, and still, some people have wanted to keep human life and thought far away and separate from animals, and to deny that we are related to other mammals, to other primates. I suppose it's human, and natural, to wonder where the line is between what is natural, and what is human.
photo by Amy Milstein

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Seasons, in and out

Seasons change, and yet it's the same old seasons, in the same old order.

People can change, but they're still people, who get excited about snow, and then frustrated with the same snow, and then tired of snow.

Snow is natural, and it's beautiful. It is natural for people to have short attention spans, to want to make things better, to see what could be, should be, might be, and to think about that instead of what *is*, in that moment. Accept that human nature, like snow, can be welcome, beautiful, irritating, and sometimes dangerous.

Be careful walking, and driving, and help others be safe.
photo by Amy Milstein

Friday, April 12, 2019

Museum of the Random

I love thrift shops, charity shops, yard sales, flea markets, car boot sales. In The Netherlands, on the King's birthday, people are allowed to put things out in front of their houses, to sell. Then they need to wait a year. Albuquerque has an ordinance that says a family can have a garage sale or yard sale twice a year. Most people never do, and some have one nearly every week, so it all evens out.

I have some wonderful things with good stories, bought off a little table at a casual local fair at a hill fort in Cambridgeshire in 1979. From a yard sale in Colorado Springs in 1970, I got a Chinese Checkers board made of wood, with a set of marbles I still have. But even the names of the places are exotic and collectible: Wandlebury. Colorado Springs (called more locally "C-Springs" or "the Springs").

When digital cameras came along, I bought fewer things and spent less money for other people's used treasures. As museums and ever-changing collections, they are wonderous. Unlike "real museums," if you love something, you might be able to buy it! But you can probably pick it up and examine it, even if you don't take it home.
photo by Sandra Dodd, at Family Thrift, not far from the house,
a shop to benefit programs for veterans of the Vietnam War

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Practice, quietly...

Sometimes parents talk too much.

Practice being quiet.
photo by Robbie Prieto

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 a small pond

"Big fish in a small pond" is a phrase used to belittle someone's confidence, sometimes, but there ARE small ponds, and they DO have important aspects!

Find joy in letting people be as big as they are, right where they live.
photo by Kes Morgan-Davies

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Artsy collections

This photo is of home decorating, artistry, collecting and storytelling. Everything in the picture has a story. Some might be "found it," or "made it," but those stories would involve where, and how, and when.

Not everyone can arrange a collection interestingly or harmoniously. One of the greatest forms of artistry is arranging a display of paintings in a museum, or organizing a gift shop so that the visit itself seems a gift.

But wait! Look at the duck shadow! Beauty pops up wherever you see it. is an example of an online collection.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Monday, April 8, 2019

Naturally capable

A very basic tenet of unschooling: Surround the child with a swirling, wonderful, exciting, stimulating and rich environment and the child is naturally capable of learning from it.
—Pam Sorooshian
(almost a direct quote)
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Sunday, April 7, 2019


Make each moment the best moment it can be. Be where you are with your body, mind and soul. It's the only place you can be, anyway. The rest is fantasy. You can live here clearly, or you can live in a fog. Defog.
The Big Book of Unschooling, page 73
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Courage and reason

"Once a fear has created a movement, it's easy to cynically say, 'Follow the money.' And it's not that fear hasn't been created then exploited to make money. But sometimes it begins with a circle of fear and comfort that supports the fear. Only later does it lead to money."
—Joyce Fetteroll
The quote is from
but two other nice destinations are Becoming Courageous and Logic
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, April 5, 2019


There is something special about light, when it's dark. Small illumination is a great dark space can be beautiful. A camp fire, or a candle flame. A torch or flashlight. Neon, or the lit-up name of a store. A traffic light in a rural place. The familiar porch light of a favorite house. Fireworks.

Appreciate casual light shows. Maybe create a bit of light, for its special beauty.
photo by Amy Milstein

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A safer home

Deep breaths change everything, for a few moments.
When a parent learns to calm herself, or himself, many things happen. The home becomes safer. The parent becomes more reliable and more trustworthy. The children can make more choices without fear.

When a parent can learn to take one deep, calming breath while deciding what to do, the parent becomes wiser and more patient.

When a person knows how to calm herself, she can help others.

When children learn how to calm themselves, because the parents have helped them, because the parents understood how to do it, the children have more personal range and power, because they will be more reliable and trustworthy and able to maintain their calm, thoughtful, rational minds.

photo by Gail Higgins

P.S. It doesn't work every time, but without practice, it won't work any time.


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