Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brighter than the sky

Yesterday 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.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A good question to ask

When people change directions concerning their children's lives and learning, sometimes they ask what they should do and how they should do it.

A better question to ask is "Why?"

photo by John Hooker

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Choosing to make choices

In response to someone talking about her children self regulating, I wrote:
"Self regulate" means to make a rule and then follow it yourself. They're not self regulating. They're making choices. It's different. It's better!
My friend Bela sent me the following story, which has a good description of mindful living:
One zen student said, "My teacher is the best. He can go days without eating."

The second said, "My teacher has so much self control, he can go days without sleep."

The third said, "My teacher is so wise that he eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's tired."

photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sources of light

Sometimes light is from an Aha!! lightbulb moment.

Sometimes light is more information, or seeing from a new angle, "in a new light."

Sometimes light is from the sun, or the moon, or a fire.

Sometimes light comes from just lightening up. (Not "lightning up," or "lighting up," so spelling will make a big difference, in those lights.)

Live lightly.

Real Learning
photo by Sandra Dodd, up high, in Maui

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Little things

It's not easy to tell the profound from the trivial as it's happening. Sometimes the profound slips into the "not so important" category when I'm not looking. Occasionally I remember one thing or another that seemed just a little goof at the time, but ultimately, somehow, changed my life.

"We all are preparing for our unseen futures."

quote from Art, Aging and Spirituality
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"...don't have to know..."

My kids think math is a tool and a toy and a game. Why would they want to be saved from it?

"We don't have to know that" isn't anything I have ever heard my children say. Because there is nothing they do "have to learn," there is nothing that is off their learning list either. In artistic terms, without the object there is no field. In math-lingo, they have the infinite universal set. In a philosophical light, they avoid the dualism of learning and not-learning.

Holly photo

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Some people have snow while others have heat waves. Leaves turn red and gold some places while others have year-round greenery.

Some days are full of learning and laughter and others are quieter.

Expect the world to surprise you. Moments, days and years will have different kinds of weather, activity, and learning. The factors are too many to track, so flexibility and the ability to be easily amused or quickly compassionate will serve you well.

Elijah Trujillo grew the sunflower. Sandra Dodd took the picture.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Real Reading

Sometimes I've been criticized for saying that I won't say my child is reading until he or she can pick something up and read it. Not something I planted and that they've practiced, but something strange and new. If I can leave a note saying "I've gone to the store and will be back by 10:30," and if the child can read that, then I consider that the child is reading.

Others want to say "My child is reading" if he can tell Burger King's logo from McDonald's. I consider that more along the lines of distinguishing horses from cows. Yes, it's important, and yes, it can be applied to reading, but it is not, itself, reading.

I've just spent a month where there are many signs and directions I can't read, where there are conversations I can't begin to comprehend. I've also been hanging out where even young children know two or three languages. All my kids are grown, and it's been a long time since I couldn't read English. Being in India reminded me daily that hearing isn't always understanding, and seeing words isn't necessarily reading words.

The first two paragraphs are from SandraDodd.com/r/real.The photo is of especially beautiful Marathi writing, outside a shrine.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


A rich world for a baby is similar to a rich world for anyone else. A baby is a person. A lucky baby has an adult partner who understands that.

Holly Dodd photo

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Center of the Universe

It's your universe. You're the center of your universe. You see the world through your own eyes.

a bit of the universe
as seen from Holly Dodd's perspective one day

Friday, November 19, 2010

Random surprises

Sometimes it's hard to know whether to look at the flower or at the leaves or at what might be in the darkness behind, or up at the sky, or to turn around and ignore the flower completely. There might be a bird in a nearby tree, or an interesting sound coming from a window.

Plans change. It can be good, upon occasion, to just listen and look and explore. Sometimes it's fine to just see a flower and not say a word about it.

We could call those moments restless confusion and indecision, or we could consider ourselves being open to the moment, in a state of wonder and curiosity.

Keep a positive light on what's outside you and within you, and your world will be a better place.

photo by Sandra, at the direction of a little girl named Shree

Thursday, November 18, 2010



Where do thinking and knowing turn to learning? Right at the edges, where you think something new, or know something different. Learning comes from connecting something new to what you've already thought or known.


What scents, stories, emotions, visions do you associate with your mother? Your first pet? Your newest car? Ohio? Candy canes?

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 Sandra; Pune, Maharashtra, India

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"Practice" is the actual doing of a thing. Some people practice patience, therapy, medicine, or Buddhism.

Sometimes a person will use the word "practice" when it would be better to use "experiment" or "drill" or "train." In that "experiment" or "work until it's right" way, trees never "practice" making leaves. Every leaf is for real.

And so it is with learning. "The practice of learning" is actually doing it.

Each bit of learning is real learning.

Holly Dodd photo

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Give, give, give

If you want to measure, measure generously. If you want to give, give generously. If you want to unschool, or be a mindful parent, give, give, give. You'll find after a few years that you still have everything you thought you had given away, and more.

Finding Yourself

The quote above is from "Precisely How to Unschool": SandraDodd.com/howto/precisely

photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, November 15, 2010

Light and flow

This is picture of the sun shining on the Rio Grande. My daughter Holly took it and uploaded it to my collection of images for this blog.

This week I'm 9,000 miles from Holly and the Rio Grande, but I see the same sun. Some things are constant.

One can come to see that learning is as constant as the sun, if the proverbial windows are not figuratively blocked out. Darkness can be induced. Learning can be discouraged.

Be receptive to learning, and thought, and to possibilities. Let the light shine on the same old familiar things in a new way. Bask in the free, public streams of water and of light and of ideas.
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, November 13, 2010

In and out the window

When I was a kid we learned a game with a song that went
Blue bird, blue bird, in and out my window,
Blue bird, blue bird, in and out my window,
Blue bird, blue bird, in and out my window,
Oh Johnny I'm tired.
I liked the idea of windows that birds could fly in and out of, and I've seen many of those lately.

Windows, doors, and eyes, I'm noticing, are for looking into and for gazing out from.

photo by Sandra Dodd
Pune, Maharashtra, India
November 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Real food

One of the many stories at "True Tales of Kids Turning Down Sweets":

Marty had been running around outside in the sun for a few hours, and I offered to take him to Ben & Jerry's. He said he wanted to go home and have real food, not ice cream, but thanks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Pure Entertainment"

There was once a mom who could say nothing good about cartoons except that pure entertainment should count for something. I had an opinion.

"Pure entertainment"? I don't think I believe in that.

If someone is being entertained, that person is thinking. That person is analyzing SOMETHING, and every trail made in the brain is a reuseable trail, and a trail to connect to other things.

If someone is NOT being entertained, they will be learning negative, yucky stuff—being made unhappy, learning what and who to avoid in the future.

Whatever your children do should be unfolding in as stressfree and joyful a way as possible. THEN it will be mindful.

If the opposite of mindless is mindful, it's not the stimulus but the thinking to consider.


(In the past few days I've been in three different homes with kids watching cartoons, in Bangalore and Pune, India. I've seen parts of Disney's beautiful "Snow White and and Seven Dwarfs," Tom and Jerry, Ben 10, 102 Dalmations, something in Hindi that I think was originally English, and a Hindi DVD on the origins and adventures of the Monkey God Hanuman.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Little things

You can find wonder and learning in little details you might not have seen if someone else didn't say "Look..."

When Marty was a year old, we went to the zoo. We were trying to show him white tigers, but he was looking at a fat barrier rope with a crow on it. To a child so new to the world, both were equally rare and wondrous.

We can't always know what will be interesting or important to another person.

photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, November 8, 2010


I don’t know exactly what will be happening at our house today, or this evening, but I have every expectation there will be warmth and kindness and humor and learning.

(quote from the end of "Late-Night Learning")

Sunday, November 7, 2010


New things and new places present themselves all the time. We can't do or go everywhere. Sometimes we choose "same" over "new" because we love "same." There are movies I've watched over and over, and movies I've never seen. Some people read the same book again, or listen to favorite music repeatedly. There are pictures I've drawn more than once, and stories I've told several times. People will walk or ride a bike or skateboard along the same route they've traveled before.

If someone wants to go to a place he's already been rather than to a new place, it will still be somewhat new and different each time. When I see a movie I haven't seen for a long time, I see it with new knowledge and maturity. My perspective is different, even if the movie itself is exactly as it ever was.

New things and new places can be familiar places under different circumstances.

photo by Sandra, of a gate in Albuquerque's Old Town

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Be ready to find beauty and newness in unexpected places.
See with a child's eyes.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Being a safe place

Make yourself your child's safest place in the world, and many of your old concerns will just disappear.

Instead of requiring that my kids had to hold my hand in a parking lot, I would park near a cart and put some kids in right away, or tell them to hold on to the cart (a.k.a. "help me push", so a kid can be between me and the cart). And they didn't have to hold a hand. There weren't enough hands. I'd say "Hold on to something," and it might be my jacket, or the strap of the sling, or the backpack, or something.

I've seen other people's children run away from them in parking lots, and the parents yell and threaten. At that moment, going back to the mom seems the most dangerous option.

Make yourself your child's safest place in the world, and many of your old concerns will just disappear.

The Big Book of Unschooling

page 67 (71, second edition)
photo by Sandra, on Diwali, in Bangalore
__ ___

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Whenever possible, let children wear something they could sleep in. Or let them sleep in something that wasn't really for sleeping. Put sleep above tradition or appearances. The purpose of sleep doesn't require special equipment or costumes.

Twice in the past week, I've fallen asleep in my clothes, and the sleep was wonderful. The photo is of a camphor lamp, to keep mosquitos away, in the room I'm staying in this month in India.

The top quote is from the "Toddlers" section of The Big Book of Unschooling
(page 66, or page 71 in the 2019 edition)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Individual balance

One's world can be richer with a special focus than if it is (as they say) more "balanced." Balance too often means "nothing special, nothing extraordinary."

Focus, Hobbies, Obsessions (SandraDodd.com/focus)

photo by Holly Dodd

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What have you sacrificed?

I think forbidding toy guns is another instance of superstitious magic practiced unwittingly by parents.

The idea that one can make a sacrifice to assure future success is ancient among humans, isn't it?

Deprivation doesn't create appreciation. It creates some or all of desire, neediness, curiosity, fascination, resentment, obsession, anger...

Unfortunately the real sacrifice parents make too often is their child's happiness and their own hope of a full and healthy relationship with that child and future adult.

The quote is from the page on Toy Guns.
The photo is of Marty and Holly, as zombie hunters, Halloween 2008.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Other Unschoolers

Teens who were always unschooled *know* things that other people don't know. My children, for example, know one can learn to read without being taught. They don't think it, kind of believe it, or have a theory about it. They know that it's possible to be honest and trust your parents. They know it's possible for a fourteen year old girl to hang out with her older brothers pleasantly and at their request. They understand why those with unlimited TV in their own rooms can go a long time without turning it on, or why they might want to leave it on to sleep. They have years of experience with the fact that someone with the freedom to choose to stay awake will get sleepy at some point and want to go to bed and sleep. They all understand when it's worth going to sleep even though fun things are going on, and they know how to decide when it's worth setting an alarm to get up.

There are many adults who don't know those things.

"Unschooled Teens: How are they as people?"

Photo of the water bottle from the Albuquerque Live and Learn Conference,
in the window, in our bathroom in Albuquerque,
by Sandra, for the way the light shone through it.