Sunday, July 31, 2011

Be where your child is.

For unschooling to work, parents need to stop looking into the future and live more in the moment with their real child. BEING with a child is being where the child is, emotionally and spiritually and physically and musically and artistically. Seeing where the child *is* rather than seeing a thousand or even a dozen places she is not.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Twenty-five and twenty; tired and happy

I've been a mother for twenty-five years. I've just come to my room following Kirby's birthday party, which involved a ton of shopping, rearranging, cleaning, cooking, and then ten hours (so far; I clocked out at ten) of guests and activities. Rock Band is still going on in the den; Marty's there. In the library, Kirby is talking to friends. Holly has been asleep for a while. Keith's been asleep for five hours.

I'm in the quiet after the colorful, laughter-filled storm.

Twenty years ago this summer, we did not register our five year old for kindergarten; we registered him as a homeschooler. That's a long time. No wonder I'm tired!

The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd (click to enlarge)
That's Kirby in the red shirt on the left of the photo; Holly in shorts.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I think I'm positive!

"I think it's been the changes in my parenting that have really made our unschooling lifestyle so positive."
—Gail Higgins
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Ronnie Maier wrote:

That's the best thing about unschooling, having all of those L-words bundled up into one lovely lifestyle.
—Ronnie Maier

Details of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Everyday Mysteries

We don't know what will happen today. Plans can change. Unexpected things happen, and we don't even know whether they will be pleasant surprises or oopsies.

Life can be mysterious. Learn to love surprises!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living Life

  Life. People can live lives, even little kids live lives, without preparation, learning on the job, as they go. They can learn while doing real things with real happiness and real success.
photo by Sandra Dodd
__ __

Monday, July 25, 2011

Busy and Happy

Keep life busy and happy, and things can only grow from there.

A paraphrase of something at
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unschoolers' Holiday!
art by Sandra and Holly Dodd, from photos by Sandra and Holly Dodd
(I did the black lines, and Holly did the photoshop fill-in.)


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Listen, learn and trust

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

*Listen* to what she says with an open mind. Don't listen with an ear tuned to your ideas of what she should be thinking or should not be thinking. Listen to *her* ideas. Don't impose your "right" way of thinking on her. Don't lead her to your "right" way of viewing the world. Listen to her growing understanding. Trust that she's a thinking being and her ideas will change as she gains experience with the world. Trust she'll value kindness if who she is is treated with respect and kindness. Trust that she'll want to step on your ideas if you show her that's what you do with people who don't have the same ideas as you do.
—Joyce Fetteroll

Joyce wrote that on the Always Learning discussion list on July 22, 2010.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 22, 2011

A softer, clearer person

When you begin to see learning from new and interesting angles, you yourself are learning about learning (in addition to all the things about bugs or food, bridges or clouds or trains that you're learning with your children, or when they're not even there).

Your softer, clearer vision of the world makes you a softer, clearer person.
from page 192 of The Big Book of Unschooling, "Personal Change"
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a long-disused pigeon coop in France

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Learning is all connections

Learning is all connections—
associations, patterns, and relationships.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Tissington

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A busy, enriched and enriching life

I used to assume that people would begin with a busy, enriched and enriching life, but not everyone was making the same assumption or starting from the same place. Some said "We're unschooling, starting now," and then watched the kids to see when they were going to take control or direct their own learning.

Choices in an environment maintained with learning in mind are different from choices in a quiet, boring place. If I were a kid, my choice in a quiet, boring place would be to go to school.

Make your unschooling sparkly and joyful.
—Sandra Dodd

The text above is from a 2009 commentary on a 1996 article at
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a spooky fortune-telling machine (click it)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The history of now

What has changed? Some once-important products are long gone. Modern construction becomes historical architecture even while people are living in it. Clothing styles "come back." Musicians "cover" older songs. Movie costume and make-up can reflect the time movies are made even if the costumes are supposed to depict centuries past. Readers can look at the science fiction of 50 or 100 years ago with nostalgia for what people used to believe might make future sense.

People make their own connections, involving cars, hair, maps, science, language, furniture, food and humor, so a rich life provides the materials for learning history.
photo by Sandra Dodd
(clickable link)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your child's friend

Pam Sorooshian, on being a child's friend:

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be your child's friend. Do what it takes to earn their friendship—be supportive and kind and honest and trustworthy and caring and generous and loyal and fun and interesting and interested in them and all the other things that good friends are to each other. Be the best 40 year old friend you can be (or whatever age you are).

People use "I'm the parent, not a friend," as an excuse to be mean, selfish, and lazy. Instead, be the adult in the friendship. Be mature. You've BEEN a five-year-old and your child has not been a forty-year-old, so you have an advantage in terms of long-term and wider perspective. Use that advantage to be an even better friend. You know how to be kinder and less self-centered and you know how beneficial it is to put forth the effort.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd, of six-year-old Adam and his mother and friend, Julie

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The same person can see the same thing more than one way. With practice, you can see things different ways without even moving. In terms of thought, perspective is no more than "seeing" something from a new angle.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mind You Hold Tight

One of the greatest gifts you might give your child, your family and yourself is to learn to set an example of how to deal with surprise wounds and doubts, and to coach your children through their encounters with fear and disappointment with calming touch, cleansing breath, and shared hope.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 15, 2011

Everyday hopes

"Which is the hope most parents have for their kids? Do they hope their kids will comply with and follow rules, or do they hope their kids will live their lives making choices that are good and right?"
—Deb Lewis
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a wood pigeon in Ashford, Surrey

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Calmer than I used to be

Wednesday, July 13 (2011) was my day to return home after two months in the UK (with a side trip to France). I expected one long day with Albuquerque at the end of it, but I'm in Atlanta. Tomorrow I'll be in Albuquerque.

I was grateful, through the confusion and delays, that I wasn't missing something like a wedding rehearsal or a graduation or a speaking engagement. This is a good night for me to be in a hotel in Atlanta, I guess, as unexpected outcomes go.

During the announcements and confusion, I was calm and sometimes amused. Some other people were taking it in happy stride, too, and that kept the mood of dozens and hundreds of others happier.

Fear and anger can be contagious, but happy acceptance seemed to be contagious tonight.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Magnetic attraction

Over the years we have collected magnets in one plastic cup—leftovers from various games, magnet sets, things found in parking lots, etc. Sometimes the magnets come out, and nobody passes without playing. Nobody plays without sitting and talking.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dealing with steam

"What you want isn't a way to let off steam that's constantly building up but a way to not build up steam."
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, July 11, 2011

About Boys

Many men work around their childhood shame and trauma, or take years untangling and overcoming it. Some men live with it every day, thinking it's just a natural part of everyone's life. Some are timid; some are bullies. If their parents could have planned ahead to avoid shame and trauma, how much calmer and creative and courageous might their sons have been? There are inevitable sorrows enough without parents creating them. There are obstacles enough in life without parents setting them purposely or carelessly.
Young men who will thank their mothers and hug their dads and who want to come home when they have the option do not come from harsh, traditional, punitive parenting. If their mothers have been their allies and supporters rather than their owners and bosses, life is different. If their fathers have been their counsellors and partners rather than their trainers and overseers, those boys can grow up whole, in peace and confidence. about boys
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time, times, timing

Time can be geological, historical, millennial, generational, eternal or poetic. Current time can involve years, months, seasons, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds and sub-particles thereof. Time can fly or drag along. It can heal everything or be the enemy. There's no time out from time!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Peaceful Playing

Whatever you do, make it fun, interesting, comforting, memorable, unusual, familiar, nourishing, productive, or restful. If it can be three or four of those things at the same time, good job!

Precisely How to Unschool
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eating sugar

"I don't believe sugar is addictive. I believe some people naturally like sweets more than others and I believe our attitude about sugar, about any food, creates more problems than the food itself. I think one of the best things we can do to ensure a healthy attitude about foods for our kids is to not screw up their psychology with fear and guilt and dire warnings."
—Deb Lewis

The quote is the conclusion of a longer story by Deb Lewis here:
photo by Sandra Dodd, of cupcakes by Julie Anne Koetsier

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sleeping when they're tired

We were active in La Leche League, and Keith and I both fell in love with being parents, and with the ideas we were learning there. We were active in a group that had many late-night parties and meetings, and campouts, so our kids were used to sleeping in different places, and falling asleep in our laps, or in a frame backpack either indoors or in the mountains under the stars. That helped us know without a doubt that children will sleep when they’re tired, and that it’s more important for them to be with their parents doing interesting things than to be home in bed simply because it’s 8:00 or 9:00.

From page 340 of The Big Book of Unschooling (page 381 of 2019 edition)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Learning to make peaceful choices

Schuyler Waynforth wrote some years ago:

It was hard not to turn to the quick solution that never solved anything and left everyone upset, me included, me, maybe the most.

But it was amazing to have to expand into the vacuum left by not having that blunt tool in my toolbox. Both Simon and Linnaea grew to trust me. It took less time than I expected.
. . . .
My raging, my approach to problems didn't help anything.

I can remember talking about it, thinking about it, it was like a switch I could feel turning. I went from calm and in control to *switch* furious in no time at all. And I couldn't figure out how to not turn the switch on, to make the switch a thoughtful process. When it flipped the other day I felt it go and I stepped away and I turned it off. Most days I stop long before the switch goes. The thoughtful process was recognizing the grumpiness earlier in the day. Feeling a shortness that isn't normally there and doing things to respond to that like going for a quick breath outside or having a chocolate milk or a chai latte or something else that just ups my energy budget a bit. Taking five minutes to close my eyes and be still helps, too. Whatever works for you to buffer yourself is good. Come up with lots of little things.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


It's better to think of good moments or bad moments, rather than to curse a whole day with "this is a bad day."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, July 4, 2011

Four steps to unschooling

Some people think they can read their way to unschooling, or that if they can win enough arguments about how learning works, that then they will be unschoolers. That's not how it happens.

If you do these four things, in this order, enough times, you might discover you are fully and confidently unschooling:
Read a little.

Try a little.

Wait a while.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, July 3, 2011

When Holly wanted plums

Pam Sorooshian wrote this ten years ago:

I went to New Mexico and Sandra picked me up at the airport. We then went to three grocery stores, one right after another, because Holly (who was maybe 4 or 5 at the time) was really wanting some plums and the first couple of stores we went to didn't have any. She wasn't being terribly demanding or whiny or anything—just saying, "Mommy I REALLY would love to have a plum."

So we drove around—which was great because I got to see a bit of Albuquerque—and we got her some plums and she munched happily in the back seat while we talked. I was very impressed with Sandra's willingness to do this—most people would have thought it was MORE than enough to stop at even one grocery store because a child had a sudden urge to eat a plum. Most people would have just brushed off the child's urge (do we brush off our OWN urges like that?)

I thought then, and it has been confirmed for me on many occasions since, that when kids know that their parents are willing to go out of their own way to help them get what they want, that the kids end up usually more understanding and able to more easily accept it when parents don't give them what they want.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a chimney assortment in Linlithgow

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Practice being accepting of whatever cool things come along, and providing more opportunities for coolness to unfold.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 1, 2011

Discover abundance

Concerning abundance, Jenny Cyphers wrote:

In order for kids to feel and see abundance, they first must have parents who feel and see it too, even IF there is no money. Go to parks, pick up sticks, ride bikes to new places, swing on the swing differently, make bubbles and blow them in front of a fan. Look at stars at night and try to find constellations, light things on fire with a magnifying glass, roast hot dogs for dinner (it's cheap), the possibilities are limitless, but only if you choose to see them. THAT is what will help your kids learn how to be creative thinkers—seeing and doing creative things.
photo by Sandra Dodd