Thursday, June 30, 2011

Creation (by accident)

You can create more resentment by trying to prevent all resentment.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Parents who make meeting their children's needs a higher priority will find that life is good and they, often unexpectedly, find that they are, themselves, less needy when they feel like really good parents.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More efficient tools

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

The basic idea of unschooling is that we learn what we need by using it. And that's exactly how kids learn to speak English. Toddlers aren't trying to learn English. They're using a tool (English) to get what they want: which might be juice or a hug or picked up to see better. The English tool is more efficient than other tools they've been using: pointing or crying or wishing. And because English is more efficient, they use it more. And because they use it more, the get better at it. Kids learn English (and everything else) as a *side effect* of living and pursuing what they enjoy.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, June 27, 2011


Stop thinking schoolishly. Stop acting teacherishly. Stop talking about learning as though it’s separate from life.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of an interesting assortment of chimneys in Linlithgow

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fascinating or non-fascinating?

In a discussion on why children should learn things, I suggested that it would make them more interesting at cocktail parties. Someone objected, saying children shouldn’t be pushed to learn things just to make them interesting. She had missed my point, but that only made the discussion more vibrant.

The cocktail party goal might be more worthy than pushing them to learn things so that they can get into college, but I was really enjoying the discussion because it was so different. For one thing, it’s quite a figure of speech now, so many years after the heyday of “cocktail parties." And wouldn't an admissions officer prefer fascinating over non-fascinating? But the stated objection was this: “To push kids in all kinds of directions in order for them to be fluent at cocktail parties is a waste of time, imho." It amused me and I responded. ...
photo by Holly Dodd, of herself in a Learn Nothing Day shirt

Saturday, June 25, 2011

With young children...

We sang a lot. Singing can happen while dressing and driving and making food, so I worked to produce multitaskers. 🙂
. . . .

We have chairs with posts on each side of the back (I don't know chair-part-terminology for it) and the kids would put sheets over them and then rubberbands or hairties to hold them there. When I was little my mom would put a sheet over a card table. We've put a little pop tent up inside. Sometimes you can get those very inexpensively, the two-person dome tents.
. . . .

Museums and very young children: don't plan to see the whole thing. Go in for a while and leave when the kids are restless.
. . . .

We used to play "hide the music" with Kirby (when he was very young). We would wind up a little wooden music box and put it somewhere in his room and he would go in and find it by the sound. Interestingly, he would always look where it was the last time right away, without listening first.
. . . .

ICE in the bathtub. Freeze some in advance. We have a fish mold. The ice fish was good. (It was really for jello or casseroles). Rings, though, like in a bundt pan, for ice too, like they do for punch bowls. And you can freeze things into it. toys. Soap. But even regular ice cubes—they clean themselves up. They float. They bob up if you hold them down and then let go.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of Adam Daniel and his new stuffed otter

Friday, June 24, 2011

Snakes and wild berries

When a science-minded kid loves to take the dog down by the river and look for wild berries and snakes, some parents say, "My kid just wants to play. He's not interested in learning. He'll never learn science just playing."

Each little experience, every idea, is helping your child build his internal model of the universe. He will not have the government-recommended blueprint for the internal model of the universe, which can look surprisingly like a school, and a political science class, a small flat map of the huge spherical world, a job with increasing vacations leading to retirement, and not a lot more.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What can Be

If you hold on to all your old ideas and fears and images of learning, every bit of that builds a curtain of "what should be" and you can't relax, see and appreciate what is.
photo by Sandra Dodd,
and not a good photo,
of an elephant on the base of a cross
outside of Edinburgh castle


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Just Add Darkness and Sleep"

Monday night I sat at my guest-room desk at the Daniels' home near London and thought I should check to make sure there was a post set to go out from this blog. Then I was too sleepy to remember, so I climbed into bed and slept a long, long time.

This morning on our way to the train station to go to London and do cool things, I told that story, and said I sent two posts on Monday, by accident, and was too sleepy to figure it out. Adam said "Just add darkness and sleep!"

That's a great idea sometimes, and it's what happened Monday evening here. Thanks, Adam, for the soothing thought.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


In a response to the Always Learning discussion list, I wrote "The principles of unschooling and natural learning work the same regardless of a child's talents or abilities, but parental posture (emotional, behavioral postures) can keep unschooling from working well."

The other day during a discussion with half a dozen other unschoolers, some from France and some from England, I said that much of my writing was untranslatable because it had to do with English. This might be such an example.

The word "posture" is usually used to tell a child to sit up straighter or to stand more gracefully and impressively. But posture can be relative to something else—a wall, a chair, or another person. Posture can be very subtle, too. Posture can be biochemical. It's possible to read anger in another person's hands or the speed of his facial movements. It's possible to see love in the way a mother picks up or touches a baby. Or it's possible to see frustration, or resentment, or fear, in a parental reaction.

I don't think this will be easily translatable into any other language, but for unschooling to work, the relationship of the parent to the child needs to become so clean and clear that the parent is being, and not just acting. This might involve physical posture, but also thoughts and feelings, reactions and clarity.

It won't happen all at once, and it can only begin to happen when the parent understands that some postures are better, and others are harmful to a better relationship with the child.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a wifi modem set in the only window between the old part of a very old French farmhouse and the newer part. There were countless places where that modem would only have worked in one half of the house, but one perfect place where it could work throughout—an old window on the stairs between the top two floors.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How many times can you say "no"?

Sometimes I've advised people to pretend they only have three hundred "no's"—they have a little ticket they have to spend every time they say no. And they better save some because some people use them up before the kid’s three.

What if your child grows up and you still have 150 tickets left that you can chuck in the trash? That’s pretty cool.
photo by Sandra Dodd

The quote is from a March 16, 2005 interview.


"The best thing you can do for your child is be fascinated by life. 🙂 Get rid of that cloak of dullness that school draped over everything. Relearn how to explore just for the sake of exploring not because it's good for you or because it will be on the test or because it could be good for you one day. Do what's fascinating right now."
—Joyce Fetteroll

"Products" of Education
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Laughing and Smiling

Most of the best things that have happened, I didn’t foresee. I just can’t bring myself to think that a day spent laughing and smiling and doing things that are enjoyable is bad.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Learning about learning

Replace any form of the verb "to teach" with "to learn." It will involve some rephrasing, and sometimes you have to back up and totally revise the statement or the idea. Replace "I taught him…" with "He learned…". Replace "I plan to teach him…" with "When he learns…" (You might want to retroactively revise your earlier thoughts too. If you think you taught your child to eat or talk or walk, you might want to replace those memories with "He learned to walk by pulling himself up and trying it," and so on.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, June 17, 2011

Drop anchor.

Sink-Like-a-Stone Method: Instead of skimming the surface of a subject or interest, drop anchor there for a while.

If someone is interested in chess, mess with chess. Not just the game, but the structure and history of tournaments. How do chess clocks work? What is the history of the names and shapes of the playing pieces? What other board games are also traditional and which are older than chess? If you're near a games shop or a fancy gift shop, wander by and look at different chess sets on display. It will be like a teeny chess museum. The interest will either increase or burn out—don't push it past the child's interest.

When someone understands the depth and breadth of one subject, he will know that any other subject has breadth and depth.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What to do?

Don't do what other people do, do what your kids need.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

To unschool, you begin with your child's interests. If she's interested in birds, you read - or browse, toss aside, just look at the pictures in - books on birds, watch videos on birds, talk about birds, research and build (or buy) bird feeders and birdhouses, keep a journal on birds, record and ponder their behavior, search the web for items about birds, go to bird sanctuaries, draw birds, color a few pictures in the Dover Birds of Prey coloring book, play around with feathers, study Leonardo DaVinci's drawings of flying machines that he based on birds, watch Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

But don't go whole hog on this. Gauge how much to do and when by your child's reactions. Let her say no thanks. Let her choose. Let her interest set the pace. If it takes years, let it take years. If it lasts an hour, let it last an hour.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a dovecote at a house in France

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stimulating and fascinating

When parents think a child's interests are ‘stupid’ or worthless, the parent thinks less of the child.

When a child finds something stimulating and fascinating and the parent declares it worthless, the child thinks less of the parent.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, June 13, 2011


Stop thinking about your own comfort for a while. If you become successful at attending to other people's comfort, their comfort will overflow all around you, and you will feel your success and that will be some of YOUR new comfort.
photo (a link) by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Parents can learn from children

Ren wrote:

As a child I was taught that fashion and all it entails was "wordly" and that Barbie stuff promoted low self esteem. Baloney! What promoted low self esteem was being told my interests weren't worthy.
—Ren Allen
photo by Jayn Coburn

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Bring the world to your children and your children to the world. Revel in what brings you together as a family. Watch tv and movies and listen to music and the radio. Laugh together, cry together, be shocked together. Analyze and critique and think together about what you experience. Notice what your child loves and offer more of it, not less. What IS it about particular shows that engage your child—build on that. Don't operate out of fear. Think for yourself and about your own real child. Don't be swayed by pseudostudies done on school children.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, June 10, 2011

Focus on learning

Some newbie unschoolers want to be part of the in-crowd, but they haven't figured out that it takes time and reflection and maybe being with their kids in a different way. When the focus is on learning, everything can be understood through that lens.
—Robin Bentley
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Choose a point, any point.

Parents new to unschooling tend to worry that some activities are good preparation for life, but others are frivolous and should be forbidden or discouraged. Life and thought and learning, though, depend on connections being made. And the more points of information about anything at all being made inside an individual, the more points there will be to connect.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I was being interviewed and said that living with joy and wonder made life more joyful and... wonderful!

Living with wonder makes life wonderful.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Empower them.

"I want my kids to feel empowered, so I empower them."
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, June 6, 2011


Every time you feel the urge to control a choice, you can ask yourself "why?" and begin to question the assumptions (or fears) about children, parenting, learning and living joyfully that you are holding on to.
—Robyn Coburn
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Parents should be...

Unschooling works well when parents are interesting, positive, thoughtful, considerate, generous, passionate, honest, respectful individuals.
—Deb Lewis
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, June 4, 2011

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."

the wise words of Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a flower growing in the rock below Edinburgh Castle

Friday, June 3, 2011

This little light of mine...

The other day after church in Ettrick someone from Scotland was singing to someone from Kenya, "This little light of mine..."

Melissa Wiley tweeted: "5yo is singing: 'Put the light in the coconut and squeeze it all up'," about the same day that my daughter, Holly, tweeted: "Oh man. It's June. I want to start paying attention to more sunsets while I'm in the land of them."

I woke up in County Durham, UK, impressed that the sun was shining and I could see a contrail in the sky. Very clear, after mostly-grey days.

The same sun shines on us all, just not all at the same time, and the soundtrack varies.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mindfulness practice

"Unschooling, in a very real sense, is a mindfulness practice. Being in the moment with our children, trusting the flow of life, seeing our connections to them and to all of the universe, etc."
—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

That reminds me...

"That reminds me..."

That's all it takes. If one thing makes you think of another thing, you form a connection between them in your mind. The more connections you have, the better access you have to cross-connections. The more things something can remind you of, the more you know about it, or are learning about it.

Flat representations can't show these connections. Neither could an elaborate three-dimensional model, because when you consider what a thing is or what it's like, you not only make connections with other concepts, but experiences and emotions. You will have connections reaching into the past and the future, connections related to sounds, smells, tastes and textures. The more you know about something, the more you can know, because there are more and more hooks to hang more information on—more dots to connect.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a gate at Yarrow Manse