Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Joyce Fetteroll, in response to someone wondering whether boredom or deprivation would increase curiosity:

If all a kid has is rocks and sticks, they'll turn those rocks and sticks into a wide variety of things. If a kid has a Pokemon, it's usually going to be a Pokemon. To see the rich storytelling the child doing, it takes more attention and more understanding of what the child is interested in.

Einstein and Ferrari and e.e. cummings and Steve Jobs didn't build from sticks and stones. They built off of what others had created before. Kids shouldn't have to be made to reinvent story telling because their parents aren't engaged enough to understand what's happening with the Barbies and the Pokemon.
—Joyce Fetteroll

photo by Sandra Dodd
of toys bought at a carboot sale


Monday, May 30, 2011


Joyce wrote:

"Our role is to walk by their sides as they explore, not let them explore on their own. At times we need to hang back and be quiet so they can have the time and freedom to explore something that fascinates them. At times we need to share their enjoyment and be with them (even if it's the umpty gajillionth rerun of Spongebob Squarepants ;-) At times we need to point things out. At times we need to share the things we love. At times we need to take them to places they wouldn't know to explore."
—Joyce Fetteroll

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How much can one child understand?

Parents can make a big difference by helping children work through their thoughts and theories without scoffing or criticizing. Awareness of this pattern of development can help parents avoid expecting young children to think in ways of which they are incapable, and avoid holding children responsible for "understanding" or "agreeing to" things they can't really comprehend.

Some parents will say, "I explained it and he said he understood." What probably happened was the child heard "blah blah blah blah, okay?" and said "Okay."

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leeway and Freedom

[W]hen their whole real life is this, is natural learning, is making choices about real things in their real lives, and having the leeway and the freedom to say "I don't really like this. I'd like to do something different," and for the adults around them say "Ok let's figure out how we can do that," it makes a whole different kind of person. I never knew how much damage school did until I saw some kids who hadn't been.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 27, 2011

John Holt

Deb Lewis wrote a wonderful summary review of John Holt's book Teach Your Own, and her intro is this:

Teach Your Own was published in 1981 and reads like some of the really meaningful discussions on unschooling lists and forums on-line today. Holt has written commentary around and expounded on ideas in letters from parents who were reading and writing to Growing Without Schooling magazine, which he began publishing in 1977. Teach Your Own will give anyone familiar with the unschooling lists a sense that John Holt would have loved these on-line discussions. E-mail lists are very much like what John Holt was doing all those years ago via snail mail.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Little things

As we get older and our kids grow up, we eventually come to realize that all the big things in our lives are really the direct result of how we've handled all the little things.
—Pam Sorooshian

clickable photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Unexpected skills

Joyce Fetteroll's daughter Kathryn has played electric guitar for years now, but here is something Joyce wrote at the beginning of all that:

Kat (who's 14) is taking guitar lessons for the first time. Her teacher was impressed that she could read and play the notes without looking at the fret bar and wondered how she could do that if she'd never played before. Kat replied "Three years of playing video games!" She said he laughed.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The tangents are the good parts.

Real Learning
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 23, 2011

Everything we do

Unschooling has had an incredibly positive impact on our lives, and not only in an educational aspect, but in everything we do. It's changed the way we live, the way we think, and the way we look at the world in general.
—Lyle Perry

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Real life

Kids who are in school just visit life sometimes, and then they have to stop to do homework or go to sleep early or get to school on time. They're constantly reminded they are preparing "for real life," while being isolated from it.
—Sandra Dodd

Radical Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Find the Way

"People who look at what they have and how they can work with it find the way quicker (and are happier) than those who look at what they don't have."
—Joyce Fetteroll

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 20, 2011

Positive fun

Joyce Fetterol wrote:

One of the factors that drew me to homeschooling rather than public schooling was that I thought learning should be fun. But only the unschoolers were focusing on fun and having positive relationships with their kids.

Much of the other forums were devoted to how to make kids do their work, what products were best, what to do with younger kids while older ones did their work.
Pam Sorooshian responded:

This got me thinking, Joyce. Because I found unschooling the same way, just looking for homeschooling information and discovered that the message boards where the unschoolers were talking were the ones that got my heart racing because they were so alive and sparkly with ideas and energy and fun and love of their children.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Single-handedly changing the world

From Deb Lewis:

My real and happy kid says a lot more about unschooling than I could ever convey by analyzing human nature. If I'm afraid to talk about my real unschooling life, how will I single-handedly change the world for the better? I've printed out my super hero license and I've sewn my Tick suit. Now, Evildoers, Eat My Justice!

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Minor Magic

I don't believe in magic, but I find joy in wonderful coincidences and confluences. I like looking at a digital clock right at 11:11, for its pattern and symmetry. When planets line up I'm happy, even though I believe it to have no effect whatsoever on humans on earth outside the happiness they might have if they know about it.

The first paragraph is a quote from SandraDodd.com/magicwindow.
photo by Holly Dodd

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Patterns in all directions

Linda Wyatt wrote:

Play with patterns. Play with sets. Go outside and throw rocks and pay attention to the paths they travel. Drop stones into a pond and watch the ripples. Figure out why buildings don't fall down- or why they do. Ponder why the wind off Lake Michigan travels through the city of Chicago the way it does. And Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains... what's different in very windy places? How do you need to change things to accommodate that? Or other weather? Why are most of the roofs in places that get a lot of snow not flat?

I could go on and on and on and on. You can, too.

Question everything. Figure some of it out.
—Linda Wyatt

photo by Sandra Dodd
of wall art at Bhava Yoga Studio


Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Momentum

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

One of the very important aspects of unschooling that is solely on the parents, is to create a happy learning environment. Kids don't learn nearly as well when they aren't happy. It doesn't mean that every person needs to be happy at every moment of every day, it means that things that create happy momentum should be paramount from day to day.

If going to concerts with friends is something that creates happiness, do more of that. If staying at home without friends creates unhappiness, do less of that. If you want to unschool well, make your lives as happy as possible, make home a happy place, make food and grocery shopping and everything in between something that is happy.

Jenny Cyphers
photo by Holly Dodd, of a "shrinky-dink"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Learning Happens

Don't make your life boring.

Always do things that make life more interesting, and in that environment, learning happens.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time Out

Blogger was down for over 24 hours, and so I wasn't able to put up the Just Add Light and Stir post I had planned. The words were in, the photo was chosen, and the whole thing shut down.

But anyway, I need to make an announcement. All the messages thusfar have been my own words, but it's happening more frequently that I find a quote I think would be good and I've already used it. I used one photo twice (and nobody pointed that out, which means either you're all very nice, or not paying attention; possibly both).

AND... I'm sitting in the Albuquerque airport, passport and all, on my way to England, and then Scotland, and later France (with a back-to-England between) and after a while northern Ireland, and eventually, mid-July, Albuquerque. Anyone who wants to follow those adventures can subscribe to or read here: https://sandraeurope2011.blogspot.com/

SO THE NEWS: I'm going to start quoting other people. I'll specify when I do, so if it doesn't say, it's something I wrote or said or wish I had said and wrote just for this blog.

When I wrote "time out" did you think of kid-in-corner, or game-pause? I meant blog-pause. Assembly line stoppage. :-) This is post 250 or so, and I was surprised the blog had lived that long. Nearly three seasons—almost a year. Time flies. This post might serve for two days, because when it's time to post again, I'll be asleep in a plane.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More, please

Any time a mom thinks there's nothing to know, I don't think she knows nearly enough.

When a mom thinks unschooling is doing nothing, she's not doing nearly enough.

If a mom thinks unschooling will take none of her time, she needs to spend a LOT of her time (more than those who knew it would be a life change) figuring out how to spend time to be with her child and what she can do, even when her child's not there, to help unschooling work better.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Sometimes there's secondary beauty, in shadows and reflections.

SandraDodd.com/joy (not a quote, but similar enough)
photo by Holly Dodd

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Changing the present, healing the past, hope for the future

Often people have been resistant about the idea that unschooling involves anything more than just letting their kids play. They don't like to think it involves changing themselves.

Gradually, freedom for the children creates a new looseness in the parents, though. And as one increases, the other does too. When a parent hits a hard spot, where they feel jealousy and resentment, it's often a sign that there's a painful childhood memory that hasn't been laid out to dry yet.

When we're tempted to say "no," and we have that little internal conversation about "Why not?" that can be healing. When I'm there, I think of my mom saying no, and then I picture her having been open enough to say yes more, and I picture my childhood self having a thrill of freedom and approval. There was some freedom, and some approval, but I can imagine up a lot more of it, and shower it on my children.

Sometimes I picture my granny telling my imagined young-girl mom "Yes" a lot too, and I think maybe if my mom had had more freedom she would have more to spread around. And I hope my children will not have to think so hard when they say yes to their children.

Others have mentioned feeling lighter and less bound by "have to." It doesn't seem to matter whether they start with "educational" issues or general parenting issues, it all builds together. All the relationships get better.

photo by Sandra Dodd (hot-tub stove, open)

Monday, May 9, 2011

All or nothing or...

Should people live in the water in the middle of the ocean, or should they live on land as far as possible away from an ocean?
Quickly! What's your answer?

This was a trick question just designed to make you think. But people really do ask the same kinds of questions of themselves sometimes. In some people's heads, "Don't believe everything you read" turns into "Don't believe anything you read."

In the middle are things like "Believe things that make sense and seem to work after you've thought about them and tried them out," and "Don't believe something just because you read it, but wait for it to be confirmed by other more trusted sources, or by your own research or observance."

By thinking in extremes, "There is more than one truth" becomes "All things are equally truthful." Just because there are many truths doesn't mean there's no such thing as nonsense.

The last bit was a paraphrase, to be courteous,
of the original statement from a few years before which was
"Just because there's more than one truth
doesn't mean there's no such thing as bullshit."

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Young Adults

I will know more later, but from my vantage point as someone with two "of age" boys and a girl about to turn eighteen, it seems that the adult products of unschooling turn out to be adult humans who were relatively unhampered as they learned and grew. Many things we have been told and assumed were natural human behavior seem now to be natural side effects of schooling.

School promises a child that if he's good, someday he can take his place in the world. They're still making him that promise when he's a young adult: "Someday…"

Unschooled children are in the world from an early age. When they reach adulthood they have a carriage and calm that I believe came from having being respected as people for many years. It's hard to describe, but impossible to ignore.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 7, 2011


We have a compost pile, and it's kind of amazing how it seems at first that the food and leaves and sticks and banana peels and dog poop will never do anything but sit there looking like garbage, but when I stop watching it, it turns to solid black, rich dirt! I can't find any parts of the elements of which it's made.

It's kind of like that with my kids. It took me a few years to quit watching them and trust that it would compost.

It did.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 6, 2011

They're not self regulating.

"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!

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 5, 2011


In response to anti-"screentime" rhetoric:

If one's goal is to make school the most interesting thing on a child's horizon, then by all means—turn off the TV, don't give them any great picture books, avoid popular music, and close all the windows.

If one's goal is to make learning a constant condition of a child's life, then turn ON the TV, give them all the books and magazines and music they want, open the windows, explore! Explore when you're out of the house, and explore when you're in the house.

photo of Holly Dodd by Quinn Trainor

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Choose Joy

Choose joy. Choose happiness. Choose to be with your children,
and to see with your children.

Quote from an Always Learning message yesterday.
This page might be closest: SandraDodd.com/being
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Though Holly wasn't reading, her vocabulary was sophisticated and she was fascinated by the history of and connectedness of words. When she did start to read, she had no reason to use easy books. She was still eleven when she did her first real reading, a Judy Blume novel. She read two of those, and moved on to Steven King's novella The Body.

When she had only been reading a couple of months, we were sitting down to watch “The Twilight Zone,” Holly reached over to move the Tank Girl comic books she had been reading. One was called “The Odyssey.” Then the DVD menu came up, and one of the episodes was “The Odyssey of Flight 33.” She commented on it, and I said “You saw the word 'odyssey' twice in an hour? Cool!”

She said, “I saw the word 'odyssey' twice in one minute!”
. . . .
Reading will happen, and if it takes longer for your children than you think it will, keep them happy and distracted in the meantime. As their experience and vocabulary grow, their reading will be that much more effortless the day they're fully equipped to understand the written word.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 2, 2011

Open doors

Whatever is treated as an interesting portal to the universe can become one.

While you're living your life, try to open as many doors as you can.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's time to pay attention to your child.

Don't be the clock's mother. Don't watch the clock to see if it's time to eat.

Watch your child.
. . . .
Clocks are great for meeting people at a certain time, but they were never intended to be an oracle by which mothers would decide whether to pay attention to a child or not. Your child knows whether he's hungry. You don't. The clock doesn't either, never did, and never will.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 163

photo by Sandra Dodd