Saturday, April 30, 2011

Limiting Unschooling

I have heard of, read about and communicated with people who referred to themselves as part-time unschoolers, relaxed homeschoolers, eclectic homeschoolers, academic unschoolers and other terms.
. . . .
Limited kinds of unschooling will have limited benefits.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 41 (or try 45)
which leads in to
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 29, 2011


When I was little I didn't get things, and I was told no a lot, and I still get a thrill from spending money, eating out, getting something new. It's as though something in my broke, when I was little, and a switch is stuck that makes me want something, vaguely. My kids don't have that at all, none of them.

Keith said he wanted them to grow up undamaged, and this might be part of what "undamaged" looks like. They're realistic and not needy.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Travel can be small or large. The younger the children, the shorter a trip needs to be to provide them with an experience from when their world will be enlarged.

Take them where they will see, hear, touch, smell or taste something new.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quietly, sweetly, gently

"I recommend getting up and doing something sweet for another person, wordlessly and gently. Never send the bill; make it a gift you forget all about. Do that again later in the day. Don't tell us, don't tell them, just do it."
—Sandra Dodd
That's a quote from group e-mail that I might never have thought of again, except Krisula Moya quoted it in public. Thanks!

photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mastering ideas about learning

As some of my articles are being translated (now into Japanese, French and Italian) I see how much of my writing and thinking is about language itself, and so some of these ideas won't translate. But sometimes, that fact is very good. Some of our confusion about teaching and students and study and learning, in English, has to do with the words we use, and if the problems don't exist in other languages, that's wonderful for them.

In Romance language (Italian, French, Spanish and so on) our "teacher" translates to something along the lines of "maestro," a word we have too in regards to music direction. And we have the English cognate "master" which is more currently left in "master of arts" and other college-degree titles. Once that meant a person was qualified to teach at the university level. That meaning is gone in the U.S., pretty much.

Considering the word family from which "maestro" comes (and not knowing all its connotations in other languages), the English verb "to master" means to learn. It means to become accomplished in the doing of something. Whether mastering horseback riding or blacksmithing or knowing and controlling one's own emotions, it's not someone else does to you or for you.

So for any translators or bilinguals reading here, have sympathy for English speakers who can't get to natural learning without disentangling all the graspy words and ideas about teaching and education and their implications that learning is passive and teaching must be done to a person.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, April 25, 2011

Getting help organizing toys

When my kids were little I hired other kids (slightly older) to organize toys several times. It was like playing, for my kids, and they would help. The older kid would get $5 an hour for putting my kids' stuff away in a fun and organized fashion. It was kind of like playing for them too.
photo of Holly by Sandra Dodd, but photoshop art by Holly herself

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book worship

There was a time when the only way for a kid to get information from outside his home and neighborhood was books. (Think Abraham Lincoln, log cabin in the woods far from centers of learning.) Now books tend to be outdated, and is better for information. If Abraham Lincoln had had full-color DVDs of the sights of other countries, of people speaking in their native accents and languages, and of history, he would have shoved those books aside and watched those videos.

When someone thinks books are the one crucial step to any further learning, then books and school have crippled that person's ability to think expansively, and to see what's unfolding in front of them in the real world.
photo by Holly Dodd with her Barbies enacting a movie

Saturday, April 23, 2011


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 Holly, in England, June 2000

Friday, April 22, 2011

Being in the world

Sometimes people ask how homeschooled children will move out into the world. Our children were never anywhere but in the world. They were present with us as much as they wanted to be. We let them be other places, without us, when they wanted to be. The world was always all around them, and they were always in their place in the world.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 21, 2011


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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Strew their paths

Strew their paths with interesting things.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What is radical unschooling?

Unschooling is learning from the world around. Radical unschooling has to do with seeing that learning is much more than academics, and that learning happens all hours of the day and night, not just "during school hours." It's not radical in a revolutionary way. It's radical in that it is based in the root of the idea of natural learning.

From the MomLogic interview
The photo, by Sandra Dodd, is one of the images on the
original cover of The Big Book of Unschooling

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quietly, lovingly, now

Every day he is older.
Be with him, where he is, quietly, lovingly, now.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Big shadow

I took this photo out of the window of Garcia's restaurant, at Juan Tabo and Comanche, in Albuquerque. Keith and I had gone there for breakfast. I saw the shadow on the side of the truck before I saw what was making it.

It's not very important.

Sometimes, though, a small thing can cast a large shadow. A small act can make a big difference. A small person can have a large presence.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The First Step

Curious, happy kids will learn a lot from whatever they do. Frustrated, unhappy kids won't learn much no matter what they do. So the first step is to create a happy, rich environment.

photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, April 15, 2011

Learning to live

You don't know exactly 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, calendar or clock.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Being the same

Even when it's not as clear as you're used to, the sun is as bright as can be behind the clouds.

It's the same sun.

Even when it's not as clear as you're used to, love is as bright as can be behind fear and frustration.

It's the same love.

Today, be present and patient.
photo by Beth Fuller

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Everything you've ever learned

Think about everything you’ve ever learned. Make a list if you want. Count changing the oil in your truck, or in your deep fryer. Count using a calculator or a sewing machine. Count bike riding and bird watching. Count belching at will and spinning with your eyes closed if you want to. Think about what was fun to learn and what you learned outside of school.

Okay, maybe not everything, but if you think of twenty or thirty things you learned joyfully, easily, and if you can think of who helped you learn them, and what they did, it will boost your confidence. While you're in those thoughts, if gratitude arises along with some of them, maybe do some follow-up. Are some of those who inspired or assisted you still available to thank? Is there someone who would benefit from hearing some of what you've remembered? I bet there will be something in your memories that's worth passing on within or outside your family.

The first part is from
and the second part is new.

photo by Holly Dodd

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


A butterfly in the yard is more wonderful than a dusty butterfly pinned in a box, but you can control the one in the box better, as long as you don't want it to fly. At least it will be there when you want to look at it. The one in the yard is on his own schedule.

Un papillon dans la cour est tellement plus merveilleux qu’une mouche poussiéreuse fixée dans une boîte mais vous ne pouvez pas contrôler le premier aussi longtemps qu’il veut voler. Au mieux il sera juste là l’instant d’un coup d’œil. Les battements d’ailes dans votre cour ont leur propre horaire !

from "Moving a Puddle",
traduit par Jeanine Barbé (poetically)

photo by Sandra Dodd, without a butterfly in it

Monday, April 11, 2011

Practicing on Small Things

Some people homeschool because they think schools teach too much and aren't controlling the kids well enough. Some people homeschool because they think schools teach too little and control too much. I don't mind my kids learning things schools fear to teach, or having choices in their lives. Practicing on small things gave them knowledge and experience when they were old enough to practice on larger things. Some families homeschool to limit their children's access and freedom. For us, it's the opposite.

from an April 2010 interview
photo by Sandra Dodd, of petroglyphs west of Albuquerque

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Try not to learn."

I was once asked:
Since unschooling is a lifestyle, how can a family wanting to embrace these ideals begin the process? What encouragement would you offer?

Part of my 1998 response:
Play. Joke. Sing. Instead of turning inward and looking for the answer within the family, within the self, turn it all inside out. Get out of the house. Go somewhere you've never been, even a city park you're unfamiliar with, or a construction site, or a different grocery store. Try just being calm and happy together. For some families, that's simple. For others it's a frightening thought.

Try not to learn. Don't try to learn. Those two aren't the same thing but they're close enough for beginners. If you see something *educational* don't say a word. Practice letting exciting opportunities go by, or at least letting the kids get the first word about something interesting you're all seeing.

The "Try not to learn" idea inspired Learn Nothing Day ten years later.
The quote is from An Interview with Sandra Dodd
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Who you Are

How do you apportion your patience, attention, courtesy, time, money, material help, respect?

Those sorts of decisions make you who you are.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 8, 2011

How to Be a Better Parent

On patience:

Learning to think of two choices and make the better one is the best tool I've found and it works every time. If the two choices are "what was done to me" and "what I wish had been done to me instead," it's healing every time, too.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Atmosphere of Learning

I'm an unschooler. Lessons are never over. On the other hand, lessons never really begin. Children's questions are answered and an atmosphere of learning is created so that questions are constant and answers are never far away.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Real World for Babies

From a learning standpoint, when babies are carried they see more, they hear and smell more. If they are given things to touch and taste besides just a few baby toys left in the corner of a crib or playpen, they will learn by leaps and bounds. They will spend less time crying and more time being in the real world.

The parents will know the child better, and the child will know the parents better. They will be building a partnership based on trust.

The Big Book of Unschooling, "Babies"
photo by Sandra Dodd, at a fabric store

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Encapsulate it and forget it

Deschooling is needed much more by parents than by children. I still have subconscious school-stuff to slough off; it surfaces when I least expect it and I wrestle it, encapsulate it, and try to forget it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, April 4, 2011

Other sources of information

I'm happy to know I'm not the sole source of information for my kids.

Last night I came to use my computer and there was a dialog on the desktop, a leftover instant message between my thirteen-year-old son Marty and an older homeschooler. This was the entirety of that dialog:

Marty: You coming down?
Other kid: yeah.
Marty: Did you know Canada has Prime Ministers?
Other kid: yeah
Marty: dude

Now I will never have to explain to Marty that Canada has a prime minister. I don't know why he cared, on a Friday night in New Mexico, but it doesn't matter.
For the record, "last night" was in late 2002, and the other kid was Brett Henry, also unschooled, who is now a firefighter in the Los Alamos Fire Department.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Higher Ground

[About feeling stuck in negativity:]

You can climb incrementally up out of the hole where all looks dark and small, to the high ground where you can see in all directions.

It's not a direct quote, but this page can help with climbing up and out:
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Consider your legacy

How one decides to act toward, be with, think about and respond to children happens inside a person with a history, a person who had a childhood. Will childhood hurt be passed on to new children? Sad childhood memories can be seen as the things not to do, and healing can flow, but that can't be forced by anyone else. If it's not part of the thoughts and decision making of each parent, it won't work as well as it could.

Quote is from Family harmony and unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 1, 2011

Regaining Playfulness

Maybe because I kept playing I had an advantage, but I don't think it is beyond more serious adults to regain their playfulness.
But (some might be thinking), if you just play all the time, how will you know the kids are learning? I knew my boys had learned all the swimming safety rules when they rhythmically took turns reciting them exactly wrong: Never swim with a buddy, always swim alone; Always swim in a storm; Always run by the pool…

The bit above will make more sense if you read here:
photo by Holly Dodd