Monday, October 31, 2011

Where and how are you being?

"Being there for and with the family" seems so simple and yet many parents miss out on it without even leaving the house. Maybe it's because of English. Maybe we think we're "being there with our family" just because we can hear them in the other room. There is a special kind of "being" and a thoughtful kind of "with" that are necessary for unschooling and mindful parenting to work.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interested and Interesting

In July 2009 I spoke at a small conference in London. This is about strewing for teens, from the notes for one of those presentation. Most of it would work for people of any age, though!
Your family needs to be interested and interesting.

Go places.
Bring things and people in.
Visit friends of yours who have cool stuff or do interesting things.

Ask him to go with you if you take the dog to the vet. Drive home different ways and take your time.

Putz around. Go to the mall some morning when it's not at all full of teens and window-shop.

If you can at all afford it, find something in another town like a play, concert, museum, event and take him there. Stay overnight.

Go touristing somewhere not too far from you. Like if you had out of town guests, but just go with your son.

Watch DVDs together.

Is there something you do that he might want to learn? Is there something you could learn together? Maybe the two of you could take a class or join a group that does... photography, hiking, quilting, scrapbooking, pottery, woodworking...

When Marty and I were going to the credit union to get money to get a used Jeep he wanted, I took Holly and her boyfriend along. That was a learning and sharing experience for us all.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What will you regret?

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

"None of us are perfect; we'll all have some regrets. But with my kids 19, 16, and 13, I can now say that I will never say anything like, 'I wish I'd let them fight it out more,' or 'I wish I'd punished them more,' or 'I wish I'd yelled at them more.' I will only ever say that I wish I'd been more patient, more attentive, more calm and accepting of the normal stresses of having young children.

"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'."

—Pam Sorooshian
(whose daughters are now 20 to 26 years old)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, October 28, 2011

Found Art

Halloween candy gets dusty if kids' diets aren't limited or controlled. If a child goes trick-or-treating but isn't desperate for every bit of sugar he can grab, and if the parents don't take the candy away from him or make rules about how much he can eat, he'll eat some and the rest will probably be thrown away around Christmas.
photo by Sandra Dodd in Ashford, Surrey, not near Halloween

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Being where you are

Holly and I went on a day trip a few days ago to see her cousin, my niece. We were on a road neither of us had ever been on and might not travel again. This is a photo right out the window of the van, from the driver's seat. I used the steering wheel to brace the camera. Leaves are changing, but it's still warm for October.
Already it's history. Most of those leaves are still on those trees; not all of them, though all will fall. Holly and I will never have that day again, except in photographs and memories.

Where you are when you read this is a place where you can find value or beauty. The moment you read this is a moment you can make better, if by nothing more than breathing in gratitude and appreciation.
photo by Sandra Dodd, October 22, Los Luceros, New Mexico

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The tapestry of our lives

"Each small way we’re tied to our children adds to the tapestry that our respective lives weave."
—Ben Lovejoy
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dad and daughter

Bob Collier wrote, of playing with his daughter:

"So there I am, a six foot guy with a beard lying on the floor with a little girl playing Polly Pockets, smiling and laughing and making silly stuff up as I go along. My daughter's happy. She can see that I love what she loves because it's written all over my face. And I really do. Who knew Polly Pockets could be so much fun? The Polly Pockets though are just the excuse. Not the cause."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, October 24, 2011

Intense Interests

Can one intense interest come to represent or lead to all others? A mom once complained that her
son was interested in nothing but World War II. There are college professors and historians who are interested in nothing but World War II. It can become a life’s work. But even a passing interest can touch just about everything—geography, politics, the history and current events of Europe and parts of the Pacific, social history of the 20th century in the United States, military technology, tactics, recruitment and propaganda, poster art/production/distribution, advances in communications, transport of troops and food and supplies, espionage, prejudices, interment camps, segregation, patriotism, music, uniforms, insignia, religion….
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Mindful Lifestyle

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Although unschooling is often described as a homeschooling style, it is, in fact, much more than just another homeschool teaching method. Unschooling is both a philosophy of natural learning and the lifestyle that results from living according to the principles of that philosophy.
The most basic principle of unschooling is that children are born with an intrinsic urge to explore—for a moment or a lifetime—what intrigues them, as they seek to join the adult world in a personally satisfying way. Because of that urge, an unschooling child is free to choose the what, when, where and how of his/her own learning from mud puddles to video games and SpongeBob Squarepants to Shakespeare! And an unschooling parent sees his/her role, not as a teacher, but as a facilitator and companion in a child's exploration of the world.

Unschooling is a mindful lifestyle that encompasses, at its core, an atmosphere of trust, freedom, joy and deep respect for who the child is. This cannot be lived on a part-time basis. Unschooling sometimes seems so intuitive that people feel they've been doing it all along, not realizing it has a name. Unschooling sometimes seems so counterintuitive that people struggle to understand it, and it can take years to fully accept its worth.

This was the description at an online discussion for many years—at the UnschoolingDiscussion list.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Choose more

Part of Pam Sorooshians's response to the idea that unschoolers are lazy:

Ask yourself really honestly, is there something more I could be doing for my child that would enhance my child's life? If the answer is yes, then make the choice to do it. Then ask this question of yourself again and again and, each time, make the life-enriching choice. Apply this to small things and to big momentous decisions. Small things—could I make something for dinner that would be special and interesting? Did I see a cool rock on the ground outside—could I bring it in and wash it and set it on the table for others to notice. Big things—would my child enjoy traveling? Can we take a family vacation that involves exploring things my child would find interesting?

In unschooling, 'lazy' means not thinking about enriching and enhancing your child's life. You change this by doing it—one choice at a time."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, October 21, 2011

Playing With Ideas

Natural learning is about making connections, in history, philosophy, belief and practice. Tie in music, art, science, geography, patterns, religion, animals, minerals or vegetables. This is unschooling practice and strewing practice, except that it's as real as anything.

Scatter it out and rearrange it!

On October 20, I went to sleep happily thinking this post was all finished and ready to go, but I had forgotten the photo. So I'll explain what this is. When I visited Wales, I bought this big, gaudy umbrella as a souvenir. In New Mexico, we rarely need umbrellas. A couple of years later, I had baby seedling trees that were perishing from too much sun, so I set the umbrella up for them, to simulate a mother tree's shade, and it stayed a couple of months. Trees can need shade more than people need umbrellas, in Albuquerque, and that's an oddity I'm used to.

Thinking Sticks blog, the post called "trail, trailer, wagon, fender"
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Can you be still?

It seems half the time parents are wanting their kids to be still, and the other half of the time they're wanting them to get up and be more active. Poor kids! Poor parents.

Perhaps an appreciation for how difficult it can be to "be still" would help. Holly is learning meditation, and the studio where she does yoga is right on Central Avenue, old Rt. 66, near downtown Albuquerque. It's not a place that is often still. She said she has learned to let her thoughts arise and attach themselves to the sound of passing cars, to make their way out of her mind. One day she was having a big thought and a truck passed and picked it up.

Sometimes unschooling rolls over itself with excitement and activity. Other times the world is still even though we're busy.

I've recommended this collection of "typical days" several times lately, but for each really busy day that seems worth writing about, it's okay if there's a laid-back day with nothing planned when people are home, just being, and not noting anything about it but the stillness.

The photo is by Sara Janssen, and is used by permission.
(People used to be able to see it in context on her blog, Walk Slowly, Live Wildly. This links to a preserved copy, but the images are gone, so I'm glad I saved one.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Humor induces thought

The way jokes usually work is that they cause you to connect two things in your mind that you hadn't connected before, and if it happens quickly and surprisingly, you laugh. Humor induces thought. Those without the information inside won't "get the joke." No one gets all jokes, but the more we know the more we'll get.
Over the next few days when something funny happens you might want to take a moment to think about why it amused you, and what you needed to know to understand that joke. (There are many studies and analyses of humor, but they're never funny. Some are written in such stilted jargon that THAT is funny!) I do not recommend discussing this with young children. They don't need to know how humor works. They need to have parents who appreciate their laughter and who can find even more things to amuse them and help them do the mental gymnastics necessary for that happy laughter to arise.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Blogger's interface changed in April 2012.  I came to this post May 2, 2012 to see what quote I had used and I accidentally deleted the title.  So if it wasn't called "Humor induces thought" before, sorry about that.  Thanks for reading old posts. 🙂

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I love the internet

#1 reason to love the internet: You're reading this page!

#2 reason to love the internet: pictures, music, video, art, voices... (Oh wait; that's lots of reasons!)

I love the internet,
I love my website,
I love history, and
I love the future.

Robyn Coburn wrote something once about her dad, who was a professional juggler. I put it on a webpage, as a connection from another juggling page I had, and...

One thing led to another. She got to see video of her dad juggling. You can see it too, because the internet is wonderful.
photo by Sandra Dodd
Robyn, on her dad, and the video of him

Monday, October 17, 2011

Watching her watching that

Holly will be twenty years old in a couple of weeks, but in 2003 I wrote this:

At the age of eleven, Holly has had very little exposure to the idea of what is kids' stuff and what is not, and so her television and movie tastes are personal and calm. She will watch Teletubbies on the same day she might watch Stand By Me or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She likes music, she understands The Green Mile, and she's analytical about the messages various PBS children's shows intend to present, about school or self esteem or history or math. It's fun for me to watch her watch TV.

How Unschooled Kids Watch Tv
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The simplest details

Ren Allen, in part of a response to someone who was defending not wanting to be joyful all the time:
We have the ability to choose gratefulness in any situation. For me, this has been life changing, though I still have a long ways to go! And I have tried very hard to take the words 'have to' out of my vocabulary.

Some of you may feel it's just semantics, but it's empowering to see everything I do as a choice.

When I'm getting ready for work I have caught myself saying "I have to get to work now" and stopped myself, saying " I CHOOSE to go to work and I need to be there soon." Simple? Perhaps. But sometimes the simplest details lead to more mindful living. The richness of abundant living is in the details.
—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 15, 2011

You can't test out.

Part of deschooling is to stop expecting anything of him. You can't bypass that. You can't test out. Lots of unschoolers think they can test out, or take an accelerated track to unschooling. It's not that way at all. It's something that has to be discovered, understood, created and maintained.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, October 14, 2011


"It's much better to be their partner than their roadblock. If you become an obstacle they'll find a way around you. Is that what you want for your relationship with your kids?"
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Kirby was five and not going to go to school that year when I decided to keep the whole idea of a structured curriculum divided into subjects secret from him for a while. So we carefully and purposefully avoided using these terms: science, history, math.

He was too young for us to need to avoid terms such as "social studies" (which doesn't come up outside of school anyway) or "grammar," but I was prepared to rethink my list of terms to avoid as he got older, if he continued to stay home.

By the time his brother and sister were unschooling, some of those "names of subjects" (in school parlance) had been discovered on TV shows about school, or in jokes or songs. Don't know much about history; don't know much biology… By then, though, I was ready with confident answers, and we were all sure natural learning could work.

If you can avoid using school terminology, it will be helpful in many different ways that you will figure out if you don't already see them.
photo by Sandra Dodd, at The High Country, in Chama, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unguided Discovery

Deb Lewis, on the idea of Unguided Discovery, wrote:
"My son has experienced a lot of wonderful learning through discovery and knows how to find instruction if that's what he wants. I have a wild idea that doing what he wants to do is more important than doing what science educators would like him to do. I don't think all innovators and leaders have to come from
the molded and stamped process that produced a previous innovator. I think new understanding often comes from fresh and fearless approaches to discovery. So, while some people are working to prove Piaget wrong, I think he had a good idea when he said, 'If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.'"
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a steam calliope

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The structured homeschooling that involves buying a curriculum and teaching at the kitchen table on a schedule is not the control group the school system needed. Those who practice “school at home” serve to reinforce the school’s claims that they could do better if they had more teachers and better equipment. When a structured family has high test scores, the schools say “SEE? We could do that too if we had one teacher per three or four students.”
. . . .

Scientifically speaking, my children are not a control group. They’re not isolated and kept purely away from school methods and messages. But what is unquestionable is that there are now thousands of children who are learning without formal teaching. They are learning from the world around them, from being with interesting and interested adults doing real work and real play. Instead of being put away with other children to prepare for life, they are joining life-in-progress right at birth, and never leaving “the real world.”
photo of Holly Dodd and Adam Daniel, by Adam's mom

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Know what you don't want!

The way to know the right direction is to identify the wrong direction.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where art lives

Robyn Coburn wrote:

Maybe thriving at [the University of Wollongong] gave me an enhanced appreciation of blurred edges. I find the concept of interconnectedness of all knowledge, one of the tent poles of Unschooling philosophy, to be a no-brainer. Art as science as history as math as language studies as economics; skills acquisition as a function of activity rather than a separated prerequisite. I believe creativity is the foundation of all activity.
—Robyn Coburn

"Encouraging Creativity":
photo by Sandra Dodd, of medieval floor tile at Winchester Cathedral

Friday, October 7, 2011

Testing some things

I'm trying to get my little-tree favicon to show in the browser windows, and need to mess with a post to do that.

ALSO, some people were having a hard time commenting on posts at the blog. Some people are responding to the e-mails (those who read by subscription), and that's fine with me; I get a direct e-mail. If you would like to leave a comment at the blog, though, please click on the title of the post (at the top of the e-mail message), and leave a comment there.

I think it's fixed. If any of you who have had a problem before or who haven't posted but have a minute to test it could at least leave a "ping" on this one, that would be appreciated. It should take anonymous comments. It will say "anonymous," but you can sign your post in the body of it, if you want to.

There are 772 subscribers today, just for a bit of update.

Sorry for the boring post. Maybe there will be another one, later. :-)

Thanks for reading!

gratuitous photo by Sandra

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Deb Lewis, out of context, but a really good part:
There's evidence galore! There's evidence throughout human existence. There's evidence in the fossil record. Stone age evidence and Bronze Age evidence and evidence in every archaeological site in the world. Humans learn.

They learn what the other humans around them are doing. They learn by living.

And now there's the evidence of my own son's life. He is surrounded by the things that interest humans in the twenty-first century. He is surrounded by the whole of human history. He is a citizen of the world in a time when access to information has never been easier. He is learning all the time.

Read the whole article, "The Evidence of Years":
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What's natural?

"It is natural for people to learn—each in their own way. It is natural
for children to want to understand the world around them. They also want to join the adult world and become competent and capable adults themselves. They'll strive for this in their own natural ways. Unschooling parents work on creating a home environment that supports their children's natural desire to learn and grow."
—Pam Sorooshian

from "I LIVE THEREFORE I LEARN: Living an Unschooling Life"
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Look up

When I was little, there was mean little trick we did to younger kids, and I didn't know enough to feel guilty about it. It had hurt my feelings when I was younger, but still I passed it on.

It started "Look up." It ended, after a while with "Gee, you're dumb."

I was reminded recently that I had told a relative NOT to teach my kids that fake "game." I'm still glad I asked that it not be done to them. The entirety of the rhyme, which has hand motions, was
"Look up. Look down.
Look all around.
Look at my thumb.
Gee, you're dumb."
I never wanted my kids to think for one joking moment that they were "dumb." I always stopped at the "look up" part, and life has looked up for all of us.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eliminate half the world (in a good way)

No parent has to do anything. They choose to do things.

So being in that world of choices, where do they decide to stop and why?

There comes the philosophy back.

Through all the innumerable factors, how DO people decide?

By deciding what principles they are following. Each principle one clings to eliminates about half the choices in the world easily, and in a good way. Each additional principle eliminates some more options, until the world becomes manageable.

Sparkly Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adults, not children

Don't worry about them. Delete "socialization" from your vocabulary. Give your kids so much love and self-confidence that peer pressure will mean nothing to them. They will be pressure-proof.

You want to aim toward a happy, balanced, confident adult, not "a successful third grader." You're raising adults, not children. You're keeping them warm and alive and happy until they become adults, because they will, with or without you in the picture. We have the power to screw them up to the point of life-scarring, or to just give them some room and peace and security to grow well in. We can't very well make them be what they aren't.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of Kerrin Koetsier

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Seems like yesterday

If my kids watched TV for hours each day, I might not be a good person to listen to about this, but I'll say it again: Unlimited access to TV and to food in my house has produced kids who only watch TV when they want to, and who only eat what they want to eat which is NOT a bunch of candy.

Holly asked for broccoli Tuesday. I bought some and cooked it before I knew she had gone to her friend's for an overnighter (she got the invite and left while I was shopping). So yesterday she asked about it, I reheated it and brought it to her at the TV where she was playing a game, waiting for the Simpsons to come on. She finished that bowl of broccoli, salt and butter, and asked for more with less butter.

I cooked the rest of it, and she ate most of it.

When The Simpsons ended she was done with the TV.

This isn't theoretical broccoli or TV, it was yesterday.

[It was 2001, but I wrote it the day after it happened.
Holly was nine years old.]

True Tales of Kids Turning Down Sweets
photo by Sandra Dodd, totally unrelated to the text, from a display at the Victoria and Albert museum of art from defunct or dismantled churches