Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Be specific (more or less)

When other people ask me I say "We homeschool."

When other homeschoolers ask me, I say "We're unschoolers."

When other unschoolers ask me, I might say "We're radical unschoolers."

from page 32 of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"What about social growth?"

Concerning the "socialization" question...

It might be useful to ask conversationally, "What do you mean?" It's very likely they don't know what they mean. It's a question asked out of very vague fear. If they have an answer, say "Can you give me an example?" It probably won't take much to lead them to see that they haven't really thought much about the topic.

Some home educating families feel that they're on trial, or at least being tested. If someone asks you something like "What about his social growth?" it's not an oral exam. You're not required to recite. You could say "We're not worried about it" and smile, until you develop particular stories about your own child. It's easier as your children get older and you're sharing what you *know* rather than what you've read or heard.

These might help, depending on the way the questions are coming along.
photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kids want to learn.

I think the way adults learn is the best way to learn — ask questions, look things up, try things out and get help when it’s needed.

Kids want to learn. When people unschool their kids, the relationship with the kids becomes the driving force, and it becomes the environment for more learning and more happiness, which primes the pump and you can’t stop it. Try not to learn. You can’t do it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No Need to Recover

All of my children have worked in jobs alongside college graduates. Mine did so without college loans to repay, though they might pick up some college debt yet. My husband didn't get his engineering degree until he was nearly 29, and he went through public school and then straight to college. He ran out of steam, tired of school and schooling, by the age of 20. It came back to him, though, once he had some time to recover. My kids won't need to recover from schooling.

Why I Unschooled My Three Kids (an interview)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Just as we've thrown out school for something better that works, we've thrown out conventional parenting practice for something better than works! And just as throwing out school doesn't mean throwing out learning, throwing out conventional parenting doesn't mean throwing out parenting. We're there *with* our kids, helping them, talking to them about life, helping them solve problems.
. . . .
There's more to unschooling than just not doing school. To make it flourish we need to look at ourselves, our relationship, the way we look at the world in a new way to clear out the thinking that's holding us back.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 25, 2011

Flowing and open

When parents and children can be partners rather than adversaries, communications will be flowing and open.

In families with punishments, criticism and shaming, children sometimes avoid the parents in social situations, and they will hesitate to share secrets or problems with their parents.

From a 2009 Interview called just "Unschooling"
photo by Sandra Dodd, of an irrigation ditch in Los Luceros, near Alcalde

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What are you storing up?

The really good thing about happiness is that it’s portable. It’s cheap. It doesn’t need a safety deposit box or an inheritance. You can give the same amount to all your kids, and they don’t have to wait until they’re 18 to claim and use it! Think about that. They can have it right now, and start using it, without taking yours away from you.

Do kids need to have their own room to store their happiness in? No. Do kids need to wait nine weeks to get a report card that says they’re doing well in happiness? No. Will working really hard now store up happiness they can use later? That’s the going theory, the one we were raised on, but I no longer believe it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Sometimes when a mom is really frustrated with doing the dishes, it can help to get rid of dishes with bad memories and connections, or put them in storage for a while. Happy, fun dishes with pleasant associations are easier to wash.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A warm welcome

Deb Lewis wrote:

"If you could not have both or if it was rare to have both, consider which would be more important, having your daughter’s help with housework or having a warm and loving relationship with her. Which will serve her better? Children who do not have a loving connection with parents *will* look for one elsewhere. They may find it with people who don’t have their best interest at heart."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 21, 2011


Harmony makes many things easier. When there is disharmony, everyone is affected. When there is harmony, everyone is affected too. So if it is six of one or half a dozen of the other, go with harmony instead!

How you live in the moment affects how you live in the hour, and the day, and the lifetime.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where are you going?

If you don't know where you're going, it's hard to begin to get there. If where you want to go is a fantasy, then it's impossible to get there.
from page 25 of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Keith Dodd, of the Chama River,
near Abiquiu, New Mexico


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Principles sustain; rules constrain

Ben Lovejoy wrote:

"Question the rules, and question the principles as well. But once you and your family have chosen the principles important to the family, you'll find that no one will want to change or break or get around them like they will rules.

"Principles sustain a life; rules will constrain that very same life."

—Ben Lovejoy
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 18, 2011

Something so profound...

Just as the topic of food can be a hurdle or a brick wall to some trying to get unschooling, it can also be the source of the epiphany that sheds light on all other principles involved in natural learning and parenting peacefully. Consider a child who has been told what and how much to eat, and told how his body feels by someone trying to manipulate or control him. That is not about learning or choices. If a parent understands that a child can learn about food by trying it, by eating it or not, by sensing how his own body feels, the parent understands something so profound that all their lives will change.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Safe and simple

Someone fearful of "media violence" wrote, "I know this is a complex topic."
Joyce Fetteroll responded:

Only when it's mixed in with traditional parenting, school, disconnection.

In unschooling families it's simple: we help our kids explore what interests them in ways that are safe. And the side effects are that they find being loved and trusted and accepted for who they are is a whole lot more attractive than hatefulness and meanness. When their lives are full to overflowing with love, they don't need violence to get something they're lacking. All they need is to ask and they have a parent who will help them get it.

It's really that simple! Not complex at all.

Logic and Parenting
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Access to information

Little by little, years ago, I started to see that each little idea that had changed my own family had the potential, if I could explain it clearly enough, to change another family. Just a little was enough. As more and more families shared their successes and joys, the world changed. As more information was gathered and put where others could find it, the rate of change increased.

When I was first unschooling, we waited two months for a new issues of Growing Without Schooling. There was no internet discussion at all. When that began, a few years later, it was user groups, not even e- mail or webpages yet. Today someone can get more information about unschooling in one day than existed in the whole world when my oldest was five. I'm glad to have been part of honing, polishing, clarifying and gathering those ideas, stories and examples, and keeping them where others have quick access to them.

Interview with Sandra Dodd, Natural Parenting, 2010 (Section #5)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Unschooling is easy for children, once parents relax into it and come to understand it. It's a way of living with children in a life based on sharing a joyous exploration of the world.
photo by Holly Dodd (of Keith and me, at the fairgrounds one day)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thrashing and flailing

About the ideas of, and avoidance of, the terms "force," "have to" and "no choice":

One of my favorite things about unschooling as practiced and discussed among some of my favorite unschoolers is the philosophical advantage kids have who grew up with ideas like these. There are adults who can't even read "You don't have to; you choose to..." without thrashing and flailing around and telling us to Be Quiet!!! 😊

When the thrashing and flailing stop, then there is a quiet. Then you can think.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Randomize Me

One of my favorite things on my page is my random page generator. The art's by my friend Bo, and the coding was lifted from someone else's freely-offered random generator, but I did all the filling in. That was so fun I made one for Joyce's page too. The cool thing about random pages there is that any page links to all the rest.

If you have The Big Book of Unschooling, you can use it as a "ouija book" by turning to a page at random when you have a question. 😊

The "Ouija-Book" method of getting unschooling help
photo by Sandra Dodd
taken at Bode's, in Abiquiu
(Bo-deez, sounds like—a little general store)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Monstrous Imagination

Deb Lewis once wrote, of her son Dylan:

Dylan's imagination took off when he saw his first monster movie. Monsters! Guys in monster suits. There are monster suits?! Model trains, model railroads, model cities, model tanks, model soldiers. Giant moths. Flying turtles. When he was four he'd say to me "Mom, do you want to watch Gammera? Flying turtles! You don't see that every day!" And, by golly, you don't.

And when he saw the animation of Ray Harryhausen the parade of clay monsters through our house was jaw-dropping genius.

And when he played his first Playstation game his mind was going so fast he didn't have time to change out of his pj's. How do you kill the Dragon? How can you get past the troll on the bridge? How do you defeat the Cyclops? Could you really fling a cow in a trebuchet? Anyone who thinks these things don't inspire and require imagination is too disinterested or unimaginative to think about it much.
—Deb Lewis
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 11, 2011

More of everything

Connections won't be the same for any two people, but talking about those connections will help our children, and us, understand more and more of everything. We can't know all of everything, but we can know more of everything.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The world is hers.

I think Holly takes the world for granted. And why not? The world is hers.

The world wasn't mine when I was little. It belonged to grownups, and I was told how to sit, what to say, what to eat and how to hold the spoon. I was told where to play, who with, and how long. If I got dirty or tore my clothes I was in trouble. I was told what was good and what was bad.

Holly takes the world for granted, and I'm thrilled about that.

Holly was seven years old in this photo, and ten when the article was written.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interesting and good

From 2002:

One of my favorite things about my kids, and what makes unschooling easy with them, is that they're not cynical or critical about the interests of others in the family, or of the neighbors, or of their friends. They assume that everything has the potential to be interesting and good.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Play around.

Play with words, with ideas, with thoughts.

Play with music.

Play in the rain.

Play in the dark.

Play with your food.

But play safely. Play is only play when no one involved is objecting. It's only playing if everyone is playing.
Jouer, un sérieux travail
photo by Sandra Dodd of a shiny trashcan on a tile floor
Play with your camera.

Monday, November 7, 2011

More or Less

If life feels dull, enliven it.
If life seems frantic, slow down.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Choose your Contagion

Someone wrote elsewhere, about Just Add Light and Stir:
I really didn’t like Sandra’s blog, sure there is a lot of useful information, but the “cheerful” tone creeps me out!
A lot of useful information would be sufficient, I think, for a daily blog with over 800 subscribers. But I'm creeping someone out with a "'cheerful' tone"?! First, it's not "cheerful" in quotes, not allegedly cheerful. It actually *is* cheerful. 🙂

Cynicism is poison. It erodes relationships. It saps one's spirit and dissolves faith and hope. I will choose cheeriness over pissiness anytime I can manage to do it, and I hope most of those reading here are able to make that choice too, for the sake of themselves and their families. For their neighbors, for their dogs. For safety while operating motor vehicles and other machinery. For success at work, and joy while grocery shopping.

Negativity sucks. It sucks the possibility of a joyful life directly out of a person, and if it's not stopped, it will spread to others.

Smiles can spread, too, though. Kindness can be contagious. You choose a hundred times a day to smile or to frown, to breathe in joy or to suck in resentment.

Live responsibly, especially while you have children in your home.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in the alley behind the house

Saturday, November 5, 2011


In 1992, someone asked "How do I structure our days and how do I structure our learning time?"

I think it should be "Woke up, got dressed, ate, played, ate, played, etc." In other words, I don’t think there should or can be any “days off” from child-centered "education."

If this seems wrong, try this experiment: Keep your child from learning anything for a few days. Make sure that from the first waking moment there is nothing learned, no new material, no original thoughts to ponder, etc. The only problem is that you would have to keep the children from playing, talking, reading, cleaning or repairing anything, etc.

from page 1 of Moving a Puddle
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 4, 2011

Smell imaginary flowers

When people hear "stop and smell the roses" they think of thorns, and ownership, and the cost of the roses, and whether they require more water than xeriscaping would. That's why deep breathing helps. It makes brains slow down. Although it's usually dolled up as formal meditation or chanting or yoga (which has other benefits, certainly, but for my current argument, the breathing...)... what it immediately does is slow the heart which stills the brain. And then thoughts can step gently and slowly around, instead of trying to jump on the speeding train of brains going the speed of people who are thinking of cost and future and past and promotion and danger and they're breathing fast, fast, fast. And shallow, shallow, shallow.

Deep breaths change everything, for a few moments.

Shallow breathing maintains a state. If you're angry or afraid and you breathe shallowly, you stay that way.
If you're calm (as in a meditative state) then breathing shallowly maintains it, once you've gotten there.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in the village of Tissington

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happy thoughts

It takes practice to separate thought from words, especially while one is reading. There are other non-verbal ways to examine and communicate, but for the analytical thinking involved in learning about something new, or deciding how to react, we often use words, even if only in our thoughts.

Words have the power to harm, to limit and to sadden. So be careful with words. Use the good ones, the happy ones.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

There y'go!

When you know how you want to be, the next step is to make conscious decisions in a "getting warm" or "getting cold" kind of way. Not all steps will be forward, but if the majority of steps are in your chosen direction, there y'go!

"Becoming the Parent you Want to Be," page 194, The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Out of this world?

School has become so much a part of life in the past few decades that it seems to some that taking their children out of school is like leaving the planet altogether. You will be relieved, then, to discover that school takes kids out of the world but unschooling gives it back. I know it can sound wrong and crazy. Keep reading. Keep watching your kids. Listen to your memories of childhood.
photo by Sandra Dodd