Monday, December 31, 2012

Refreshed and alive

Parents should keep life flowing, clear, refreshed and alive.

not a quote from, but goes with
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Count to one.

Because a test score is never ignored, tests affect the relationship between parent and child, and many unschoolers want to preserve their child’s journey to adulthood unmeasured, uncompared, and whole.  It might seem crazy from the outside, but the disadvantage of testing is real.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Learning isn't just for children!

Thinking Sticks
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy and humming

The parents don't need to know what the child is learning in order for learning to be happening.

If a child is bored and agitated, she's not learning. If she's happy and smiling and humming and engaged with what she's thinking, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching or smelling, then she's learning.

Sandra Dodd, on the Always Learning discussion September 2012
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Whole people, now

Your children are not works in progress. They are whole people, now and from the day they were born. If you can try to see that, rather than think people are not finished until they're finished, it might help you.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of Adam Daniel picking out a souvenir shirt
at the Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Don't live there.

I've been a teacher. From that point of view the world IS most definitely revolving around years and semesters, school districts, standardized test schedules, federal title monies, school bus contracts, cafeteria funding, library cuts, parking-lot pavement... all kinds of stuff that has nothing much to do with kids, their hearts, spirits and ideas. Shuck it away. Don't live there.
photo by Sandra Dodd of a carousel at a carnival in Leiden

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The whole of life itself

The better we handle the trust given us by a child, the better people we are, and the better the child's young life, adulthood and old age will be. We're not just dealing with little children. We're dealing with the whole of life itself, which will outlast us all. We are dealing with joy and with eternity.

The quote is from something I wrote in 2004. There is Music.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 24, 2012

Be that kind of person

Be the kind of person you want your child to be.

Nurture your own curiosity and joy.

Find gratitude and abundance.

Explore. Make connections, on your own.

Sandra Dodd, on Unschooling, for the Do Life Right Teleconference 2012
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Richness in details

"Sometimes the simplest details lead to more mindful living. The richness of abundant living is in the details."
—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a tree made of plastic water bottles

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Let it go, let it flow

Shelter your kids from what you know is ugly. Shelter me too, if I'm around.

It's really okay to "cherry pick" in regard to the stories you let into your day. There's enough horror somewhere on the planet at any moment to make us all suicidal, so make it a habit NOT to collect or dwell on those stories. You have a responsibility to create as safe and peaceful a nest as you can for your own family.

Thank you, Heather Booth, for saving that and putting it where I could find it again.
art and photo by Sandra Dodd
(the switchplate near our kitchen sink)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Loving touch, touching love

Touch someone, or something, in a gentle, thoughtful way. Feel with your fingers, or cheek, or hand the warmth or smoothness or softness of something or someone you love.
Keith, Kirby, Marty and baby Holly Dodd
November 1991

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Savor the present

Taste your food, or holiday sweets, and feel the familiarity that you might miss someday.
clickable photo by Sandra Dodd
(well all photos are clickable, but this one leads somewhere)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Listen for beauty.
Holly made the animated gif in 2009,
from photos John Yaeger took during The Monkeyplatter Festival.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The scent of life

Be willing to appreciate a scent that reminds you of something soothing.

Recently it smelled like the mountains right outside my front door. Later I read that the wind of the day before had blown the wintery pollution out of the valley, and that's what I smelled—the air from the nearby mountains on a frosty day.

Baby powder gave me good memories another day.

A Loud, Peaceful Home ("Smell your child's hair. ...")
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 17, 2012


Look for beauty in little things—patterns, or colors.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A calming surprise

I have kids who can sleep as long as they want, who set their alarms and get up; who have all kinds of clothes and no rules, who dress well and appropriately to the situation; who don't have to come home but they DO come home.

Something important is happening.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wouldn't change a moment

"A good chunk of our days are filled with gaming, and I wouldn't change a moment of it. My son is learning so much, is healthy both physically and emotionally, and truly loves his life. What more could I hope for?!"
—Karen James
art by Jalen Owens

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just do the nice things

I think the role of a partner is not to train the other person, not to shame the other person, not to find a time to say "I told you so."

If you just do the nice things, that's what good partners do.

Sandra Dodd: Partnerships and Teams in the Family
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bored No More

The most to be accomplished from punishing or sending bored kids away is that the kids will learn not to go to that parent for advice and ideas.

Sometimes the real message behind "I'm bored" is "I'm little and feeling agitated and vaguely unhappy and I don't know what I can do to get over this uncomfortable feeling. What would you do if you were my age, in this house, on a day like this?"

I think that deserves a helpful, respectful response.

Lego art by Robbie and Robert Prieto (photo by Robert)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A world of difference

Mary Gold wrote:

Just a little change in point of view can make a world of difference.

I used to HATE the resentment of "Why should *I* do this?" and so I just decided to change what I thought about what "this" was and why anyone had to do it. It was a philosophical shift.

BINGO! It's the shift that makes all the difference.

—Mary Gold
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Circumstances and consequences

Questions such as "How important is this, really?" and "What's the worst that can happen?" change people's perspectives in several directions. They might decide the project really is pressing and urgent, but the difference will be that they considered the circumstances, the consequences, a range of choices, and made that decision.

From "Changes in the Parents," page 268 (or 309), The Big Book of Unschooling
which links to
photo by Sandra Dodd

If you think that photo has been used before, you might be thinking of this one, from a different London city bus, at the same museum.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A curious cat

Keep your ideas bouncing in unpredictable directions! Let them spring and fly.

"Rum Tum Tugger hooks up" (on the Thinking Sticks blog)
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finding abundance

Neediness expresses itself differently with different kids. Abundance expresses itself similarly in all.

A family can learn to find abundance rather than lack, even if they're not wealthy.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Foundations of unschooling

Because my children learned to read without having been taught, they have no doubt whatsoever that they could learn anything else. Few things are as important or as complex as reading, yet they figured it out and enjoyed doing it. If I thought I had taught them, they too would think I taught them, and they would be waiting for me to teach them something else.
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, December 7, 2012

Share wonder

No matter how your children learn, take a few more opportunities to share wonder and discovery with them. It will enrich you all.
All Kinds of Homeschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Some people can't leave school because they're carrying it around like a snail and his shell. They live there, still. School became an ingrown, hard part of them. They still define themselves by their school failures and successes.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a bus my dad turned into a camper
and later my aunt lived in for a while

I had snail photos, but used them already. Doh!
A snail from England and a snail from my yard in New Mexico


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New view

Deschooling means dismantling the overlay of school. Gradually (or just all of a sudden, if you have that ability) stop speaking and thinking in terms of grades, semesters, school-days, education, scores, tests, introductions, reviews, and performance, and replace those artificial strictures and measures with ideas like morning, hungry, happy, new, learning, interesting, playing, exploring and living.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Walking re-set

"I have found that when things get tense, a short 'meditation walk' will really help re-focus my energy...or if the kids come along, we all see new things, and find our joy again by being in a new setting."
—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 3, 2012

Luck in life

People come and go and we change each other. We amuse each other if we're lucky and frustrate each other if we're not so lucky.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Where learning happens

All the learning takes place inside the learner. None can be inserted by a teacher.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Knot tying can lead to all kinds of history and geography. Hunters, traps, climbing, ships (wrapped bottles, in addition to all kinds of sail rigging and tethering knots), and cowboy stuff, and... or
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 30, 2012

Watch movies proudly

Watch movies proudly.

Don't be embarrassed about what other people think.

Let the movies lead 18 directions. Use the remote. Pause, rewind, use IMDB and google to find out more, more more!!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Toy guns

No doubt stone-age children played with toy spears and bows and arrows and atlatls and slings. Surely bronze- and iron-age children played with toy swords. Part of learning about culture and tools and technology, for children, is playing.

Children play with toy guns. Sometimes those guns squirt water, or fire little Star Trek phaser disks, or they shoot light. Some of them make noise.

There is no young-child gun play so violent as a mother saying "NO. I said NO!" to a young child who has dared to pick up a friend's toy gun.

page 229 (or 268) of The Big Book of Unschooling,
which leads to
photo by Sandra Dodd, of little Marty, cowboy gun in sword belt

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Better answers

During a drought, what is lacking?

The recommended answer: rain
Young Marty's answer: a boat ride
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Less practice, more life

Probably some families make rules so that their kids will learn to follow rules. It's possible. Too much practice can kill the joy, though. Being forced to play an instrument can create an adult who doesn't even bother to own one of the instruments he knows how to play, because how he's out of school he doesn't "have to." If someone made me practice eating before every meal, I wouldn't be very hungry.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time, change, learning

What advice do you have for families who are new to homeschooling?

Don't spend money at first. Read, meet other families, let your children have time to do what they're interested in, or what they weren't allowed to do before because of school.

If they want to read or play in the yard or ride bikes or watch movies or draw or paint or play games, make that possible for them.

While the children are recovering, the parents can learn about what they want to do and why, and how. There is more online about homeschooling than anyone could ever read. Find the writers and ideas that make sense to you, and pursue that. Don't rush into anything. Parents should learn to be calm and thoughtful instead of panicky and reactionary. It's better for health and decision-making, and it sets a good example for the children. Don't live in fear when you can live in joy.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a fence my sister made

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What is

Don't look at what can be learned. Look at what IS learned. If the parents can change their point of view and expectations and understanding well enough, they will see learning all the time.

There's no advantage in looking at what you wish or hope a child will learn. Look at what he learns.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Read a little, try a little...

Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch. Read a little more... try a little...

Gradually you will notice more and more learning, and soon it will be happening all the time!

Sandra Dodd, on Unschooling, from the Do Life Right Teleconference 2012
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seeing through eyes of gratitude

Ren wrote:

Seeing our life work, our choices through the eyes of gratitude changes everything. When financial difficulties set in, I can be grateful for our health, for our togetherness and the true wealth we DO enjoy in this country. When I'm sick, I can be grateful I have family to care for me and that I can recover from whatever is ailing me, unlike many folks suffering much worse fates."
—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 22, 2012


The wonderfulness of others will not diminish you. Your realization of the wonderfulness of others will enlarge you.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of Holly Dodd

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blue Suede Shoes

Some time back there was a request for songs to be sung which would be educational. As music itself is a discipline, I think any music can be used as an educational tool. It can tie in with physical activity, mathematics, physics, history, geography, art, language, and it can be used to get kids excited and awake, or calm and asleep, or anything in between. I don't mean singing about math or history, either, but discussing the form of the music, the rhythm, the moods, the origins, the instruments on which it is traditionally played, the length and pattern of the verses (or phrases, or whatever), what its purpose is (a march, background music for a movie or for an 18th century fireworks show, a lullaby, a love song), etc.

Don't miss this fun and easy opportunity to tie different "subjects" together by using a song as a jumping off place to many different discussions. If you need ideas, name a song here and see how many suggestions you can get for it!


What's above was written in 1993. Someone named "Blue Suede Shoes," thinking it wouldn't net much. I just wrote and wrote that day, and luckily I printed it out and saved it. The link below leads to my response, commentary and a video of Elvis doing another song, that leads to another song, and... you know.
photo by Sandra Dodd (of some art right behind my house)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kind, tender and sweet

Unschooling isn't anarchy. Being kind to a baby isn't anarchy; it's tender protection of one's young. Being sweet with a toddler isn't anarchy; it's opening up the world to a human being seeing it with new eyes.
photo by Julie D

Monday, November 19, 2012

Choosing freely

Wanting to learn, and making the choice to be in a school when one has the choice to leave without shame or punishment is a world apart from "no choice" and "have to."
(the quote is from page 262 (or 303) of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy to remember

Deb Lewis wrote:

You don't get another chance to be the mom to these kids right now, today. When they are grown and gone from you, you can have the cleanest house in the neighborhood. But what is the most important thing today? What will you be happier remembering in your old age; that your house always looked nice or that your kids were happy? What will your children be happy to remember about their time with you? Dirty houses always wait for you to get around to them. Children don't, and shouldn't have to.

Happy, happy, happy.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New to the world

We treated our children as guests, in many ways, as they were new to the world and we invited them into our home by having children in the first place.

Quote is from page 11 of The Big Book of Unschooling
but there is related information at
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hearing their voices, seeing their eyes

When deciding whether it's worth the money to go to an unschooling conference, factor in the money you saved by not buying a curriculum for each child. Count it as research for the parents, a learning experience for the children and a vacation for the family.
. . . .

Meeting other unschoolers, hearing their voices and seeing their eyes will give you a connection that books and websites cannot provide.
photo by Tim Mensch, December 2011

I realize that not everyone can attend a conferences,
but for those who can, it can be a great advantage. —Sandra

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Do the best you can.

When rules are shaken off and principles are in play, it wouldn't make sense for a teen to think and then choose something really horrible. If the parents were saying "Consider all the factors you know and do the best you can," why would someone "rebel" against that?
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sweeter water

Water handed to you nicely is a lot nicer than water slammed at you and sloshed.

It's got to be better for you, because you can drink it calmly and sweetly, without trying to choke it down when you feel like you're going to cry.

Be gentle.
(The quote about water is from
Partnerships and Teams in the Family.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Living harmoniously

Some parents label unschooling as "child-led learning," and so they think they're going from "parent led" life to "child led" life, but the balance point is that the family learns to live together harmoniously.

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 (right between none and a full dozen), go with harmony instead!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 12, 2012

Great confidence

Don't rob your children of the experience and of the knowledge that they can learn to read without help. If someone can learn to read, surely he can learn other things. I don't mean to say that after he learns to read he can learn other things by reading. I mean that reading is complex, moreso in English than some other languages, and if your child knows that he learned to read, he will have great confidence in his ability to learn. (So will his parents.)

The Deeper Effect of a Child Learning to Read: Confidence
(the quote is from page 86 of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Sandra Dodd