Saturday, March 31, 2012

Surprising changes

When my firstborn son was four and we decided not to enroll him in kindergarten that fall, I thought I could foresee the future. I knew unschoolers. I knew alternative education. I knew it could be really fun, and good. What happened over the next nineteen years surprised me. Because of unschooling, I changed. My husband changed. The way we interacted with the world and other people changed, all for the better. Our relationships with all three of our children surpassed any of our imaginings.

The text was the written introduction to a talk I gave in 2009. There is no recording of that day, but this one, later the same same year, is similar: Transformations (sound file, photo, and notes there).

The photo is by David Jio, of a light too bright to see directly, and the more-detailed shadow/projection of what it really looks like. That light is has been in our front room for years. Sometimes a very intense thing can hardly be perceived directly, but the effects and afterimages can be examined.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The world changes slowly

The world changes slowly, but it tends to stay changed! Flight was not possible before balloons. Food storage and transportation were difficult before canning and refrigeration. Without today’s wealth of books, videos and online information, home learning would be much more difficult. We can live in the light of our shared knowledge and ideas, in freedom and with confidence, at the cutting edge of education’s future.
photo by Sandra Dodd; a hot air balloon visible out our back gate

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A better way

When a parent is very needy, they might need extra help to get to the stable spot where they can parent their children thoughtfully. I don't know a better way than for them to move quickly toward unschooling.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Don't bring school home

From a newspaper article twelve years ago:

Whatever the long-term plans are, Dodd has some advice for those considering home-schooling or even the more radical step of unschooling:

"Don't rush. This is a hard but crucial piece of advice. Rush to take him out of school but don't rush to replace it with anything. Bring your child home, don't bring school home. You don't even have to bring their terminology and judgments home. You can start from scratch, brush off the labels, and find your son where he is. Forget school. Move to life."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cursive! Foiled Again

Years ago my granny complained that I didn't know how to use a fountain pen or milk a cow. I never learned to use a slide rule, either. I did learn to type on a manual typewriter with a blank keyboard. Things change. I don't know how to send text messages, though I do finally own a cellphone. My kids all are whizzes at it.
The quote above was written in 2007. I can text now, awkwardly.

Yesterday at the Apple store, getting a battery replaced in Holly's MacBook, the guy handed me a charge-card reader and said "Sign with your finger." Luckily, I've been playing Draw Something all week, and have been writing with my finger on an iPad, so I just did it. No stylus, but "sign with your finger."
photo by Sandra Dodd

When this first went out, it said "without a blank keyboard." I had fumbled the phrase when I first wrote it, and I fixed it on the webpage, but had pasted the original here. I guess I started to write "without the letters on the keys." In summer school, when I was fourteen, I took a typing class and got to 42 words per minute. I'm faster now, but can still type in the dark, without looking at what's on the keys. My current keyboard has the letters a, s and e worn through. They light up from below, at night. Others notice and ask how I can type, but I don't look at the keyboard.

So because of that, I worry about people who aren't "touch typists"—how can they type? Well, turns out they can type on miniature keyboards, with thumbs or index fingers; they can type from phone-number pads; they can type on flat screen pictures of keyboards, just as well as they can on "a real keyboard." My prediction of what they "need" to know how to do is as antiquated as my granny's was of me.

Sometimes more is better

Leah Rose wrote:

I've been thinking about that saying "All things in moderation." Next time someone says it to me, I think I might just ask them: "Do you mean we should have joy in moderation? Should we have peace in moderation? Kindness in moderation? Patience in moderation? Forgiveness? Compassion? Humility?"

Honestly, I used to think it sounded like a very wise and balanced philosophy. Now, the more I think about it the less sense it makes.
—Leah Rose
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sweetness in teens

Once upon a time, in 2006...

A story slightly involving allowance, but a snapshot of how kids who aren't desperate for money can act:
Two of Marty's friends were going to pick him up to go run around, but they ended up staying here. Then another friend came over to see all my kids. Then a friend of Kirby's from work came over. I hadn't met her before. She was nice. So my three (14, 17, 19) plus four more (17-21) were all having a great time laughing and looking at stuff on Kirby's computer and around our house, and Marty's big Lego Viking village, and so forth.

They decided to go out for ice cream and then to see "Over the Hedge." I asked Holly if she needed money, and she didn't. (She saves her allowance up.) Every other person there has a job. Outside of Kirby possibly having an interest in the girl from work, there were no couples. Two of those kids do have steady others, but didn't bring them over. So it was four teenaged girls, four teenaged boys, no romantic tension (unless Kirby and new-girl; didn't see any).

And here's the big success part. They asked Keith if he wanted to go. I didn't know they had, when Marty came and asked me if I wanted to go. So they would have taken me, or Keith, or both of us, with them.

We separately thanked them and declined and found out later they had asked us both. Pretty sweet!

We didn't "teach them" to invite their parents to the movies. One advantage of our not going was that then they could fit into the big van and didn't have to take two cars.
photo by Sandra Dodd,
whose kids are not teens anymore, but are still sweet,
of a movie theater in Austin, unrelated except for the movie part


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sometimes be quiet and wait

Very often parents find themselves in a situation where they might not see a way to make things better, but they could easily make things worse.
The quote isn't from there, but the information could be helpful.

photo by Sandra Dodd, of rain, in India, on a beautiful surface
with pebbles between some sections, and grass between others

Friday, March 23, 2012

Some road leading somewhere

Deb Lewis wrote:

"Our town is small and we've been to the museums here more than once but we still find new things to do here. A new store opened so we checked it out and talked to the owner. The radio station moved from the residence of the owners to a building downtown and we took a tour. The mom-in-law of my employer got a bunch of fancy chickens and we drove out to see them. She showed Dylan a coffee table book about chickens. She showed us her little sun room where she grows orchids.

"There's always something to do, someone to talk to, some road leading somewhere."
photo by Sandra Dodd of a road splitting in Owslebury; the left goes to Longfields

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Like your life

Peace can be just contentment—to be happy where you are, to like your life.
(the quote is from the sound file at the bottom)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

All the time

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Learning happens all the time. The brain never stops working and it is not possible to divide time up into 'learning periods' versus 'non-learning periods.' Everything that goes on around a person, everything they hear, see, touch, smell, and taste, results in learning of some kind.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a sunrise in Bangalore
with a kite flying (a bird they have there)


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interesting byways

Ronnie Maier wrote:

What matters is that they are bright, happy, interesting, accomplished, engaged and engaging. Unschooling doesn't only work for kids of "above-average intelligence," or kids whose parents are teachers, or kids who can recite the alphabet while twirling a baton, or any other limiting factor.

Unschooling works because the unschooled individual has the time and support to follow the interesting byways that lead to real learning.
—Ronnie Maier
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a lost-and-found potato

Monday, March 19, 2012

Positively better

The second you have a positive attitude, even fleetingly, your life is better, right then., any page
photo by Sandra Dodd, a library in Bangalore

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Joyfully health-filled

"It's often more helpful to kids when parents step back from focusing on the kids' health and focus on their own. Focus on being joyfully health-filled rather than grimly health conscious."
—Meredith Novak
the quote is from the middle of this Always Learning post
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Better, kinder tools

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Someone said that principles can be summed up in one word. Rules can't. I'm not sure if I can always do that but it's a helpful distinction to get someone started on figuring out the difference.

For instance a principle might be kindness. A rule is "Don't hit your sister." If there's a principle of treating each other kindly then there isn't a need for a rule that says "Don't hit." "Don't hit," only says "Don't hit." Kids do pick up that it doesn't say don't pinch, don't poke until she cries, don't pull hair ... But as a child is helped to find better (kinder) tools to use to get what they want and their understanding of kindness grows it's understood that anything that hurts someone is unkind so there isn't a need to spell out every hurtful thing that kids aren't allowed to do.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, March 16, 2012

Maintain and replenish

If you think you haven't done enough for your children lately, do more. The richer and safer your children's environment,the more interesting and open to input and entertainment and encouragement, the more learning will happen, whether you're at home or in the car or on another continent.

Maintain and replenish your children's learning environment.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Up out of the hole

Starting toward this kind of peaceful parenting is like starting down in a hole. There are rumors that it's brighter over the hill, but other people are trying to keep you in the hole with them, in the hole where you've always been.
photo by Joyce Fetteroll

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Puzzles without pressure

Jigsaw puzzles are wonderful, and you can get them at yard sales and thrift stores for less than a dollar. Greeting cards cost $2 now, but you can get a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle for 50 cents and so what does it matter if it might have a piece or three missing? Cheaper than a greeting card. Work it and throw it away.

While you’re working it, the picture on the box will inspire questions, stories, ideas, tangents. The shapes of the pieces will remind people of other connections in their lives. Except for those toddlers who eat puzzle pieces, puzzles can involve people of all ages together. There are some on the market now with big pieces at one end, medium in the middle, and small for the rest. Some bright parent thought THAT up. They’ll be coming soon to a yard sale near you.
That was written in 1999; greeting cards can be $4 and $5 now, and used puzzles might be $2.

image by Sandra Dodd, made with a scanner (pieces set face down)

Monday, March 12, 2012

More time

The best thing that ever happened to me was that being a present, attentive, happy mother became one of my passions. When moms start sorting their "own time" from their children's time, their time as a mother from their time as a person, then they're going to be unhappy, or their children will be unhappy. If a mom can become a partner to her children, they are less needy and she will have more time. It seems crazy, but it works. 🙂
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How will their learning be used?

Pam Sorooshian wrote this:

The time spent mothering and playing is not time away from real learning—not to be rushed through to get to "the good stuff" as some may think of it. It is essential to real learning and, really, to allowing the child to grow up as a whole, integrated human being.

Homeschoolers think a lot about learning—but they often focus on learning to read, write, do math, or learning science or history, etc. Unschoolers tend to take that kind of learning for granted, it happens along the way. Instead, as we get more and more into unschooling, we tend to focus on things like kindness and creativity and honesty—all those character traits that will determine "how" their learning will be used in their lives.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Unnecessary talking

When I was in elementary school the lowest grades I got were in "conduct" or "deportment." Turns out my greatest gift was interpersonal, and I was able to help other kids with their problems. School didn't encourage that in those days in any way, and so once I had to write "Unnecessary talking in class disturbs others" 2400 times or so, and other times I just got a C in conduct for being too social.

"You're not here to socialize," I was told. All the more ironic for me that most people's first question about homeschooling is "What about socialization?"
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, March 9, 2012

Waking or sleeping

When the kids were babies they would go to sleep with us, nursing, or in dad's lap, and we'd put them in bed. That evolved into them going to sleep where they wanted to, or in a carseat, or a backpack (hiking/frame-pack) or beside us on the couch or on a blanket on the floor where one of us was doing something, and we'd put them in bed.

Getting up used to be "get up by noon," when they got old enough to want to stay up late on the computer or watching movies or playing games.
Then it became "Sleep as long as you want to, but at noon others are free to make noise." We still try to keep it quiet until noon or until everyone's awake, whichever comes first.
. . . .
When Marty worked at a grocery store, he woke himself up at 5:30 to get there at 6:00. He had a very timed and regular routine for himself. The first few weeks I got up too to make sure he'd be up, but he worked there full time for over a year and was only late once.

The lack of a "regular schedule" has never kept our kids from getting where they needed or wanted to be on time without trouble. When Kirby was very young, eight or so, he used to wake up at 6:25 a.m. to record Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at 6:30. He would pause for the commercials so they wouldn't be on the tape, and then when the show was over he would go back to bed. He has them all on tape, marked in his little-kid writing.

The account above is from 2007, and is similar to some things here:
photo by Sandra Dodd, of stained-glass light falling on a young friend's lovey.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

As happy as dancing

Learning about music can be as happy as dancing in the back yard, singing in the car, or going to watch a bluegrass band at a street festival. Listen to different oldies stations. Play with online song sites. Rent videos of concerts or operas and musical theatre. Don't "make" anyone watch them. Watch them yourself, and others might come to join.

page 83 (or 92) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Serious learning"

I still see "subject areas" everywhere, but I haven't taught those categories and prejudices to my children. Science has much more to do with history than geology has to do with microbiology, but in school geology, biology, astronomy and physics are all "the same thing," and history is different altogether. Yet the best parts of history involve the knowledge cultures had and how they put it to use, whether in shipbuilding or iron tool use, medicine or communications.

Holly asked yesterday about when people discovered the world wasn't flat. I told her there was no one date or century because people discovered different things at different times, and some were shushed up when they said the world was round, or that the sun didn't orbit around the earth. I also told her, "Ask your dad, because he's really interested in the history of science."

I noticed when I said it that I had "named subject areas," but I didn't feel too bad. She's twelve, and reading, and after all "the history of science" was never part of my schooling. A science teacher wasn't certified to teach me history, and vice versa. Only outside of school did I figure out that scientific discoveries were history, and that music was science, and that art was history.

School served to prevent connections for me, but I overcame that, with difficulty. It is a problem my children never had. If Animaniacs completed a circuit for them between Magellan and WWII, well it's a circuit school would never have completed for me under any circumstances. If learning for fun creates more connections than "serious learning" did, I can no longer look at "serious learning" seriously.

The School in my Head, 2004
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

the JOY of discovery

Some people have expressed surprise at their own newfound love of learning. At first they learn along with their children, and then they move on to discovering things they think their children will love, and then they come to a phase in which they're more excited about learning and might not even think to share it with the kids, because the kids are making their own discoveries. Sometimes an adult who had learned not to learn, or had grown up to be self-conscious about enthusiasm and curiosity, rediscovers the joy of discovery.

Mindful Parenting
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Finish what you start." NO, wait...

Once someone wrote in an unschooling discussion:
"I just have one concern. I want my children to finish what they start."
I responded:

If you start a book and decide you don't like it, will you finish it?
If you start eating a dozen donuts, and after you're not in the mood for donuts anymore, will you finish the dozen?
If you start an evening out with a guy and he irritates or frightens you, will you stay for five more hours to finish what you started?
If you put a DVD in and it turns out to be Kevin Costner and you don't like Kevin Costner, will you finish it anyway?

The only things that should be finished
are those things that seem worthwhile to do.

When I'm reading a book, I decide by the moment whether to keep reading or to stop.

Even writing this post, I could easily click out of it and not finish, or I could finish it and decide not to post it. Choices, choices, choices.

Wanting your children to learn to ignore their own judgment in favor of following a rule is not beneficial to them or to you. It will not help them learn.
photo by Sandra Dodd
of a fat black widow in the back yard (and its shadow)


Sunday, March 4, 2012

A better environment for learning

(About online discussions of unschooling:)

Pointing out the words people use is never a waste of time.

Showing people that they have expressed their thoughts in writing in words of their own choosing and posted them is often THE BEST, the most effective way, of moving them from the plateau of *thinking* they get it, because they can recite back the answers, and really, truly, honestly getting it in a way that creates a better environment for learning and being.

Mindful of Words
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kids can get excited

I keep them happy. I keep them fed. I let them sleep when they want to sleep, I let them say, "I don't want to do that right now," when they don't want to do that right now. And it makes a big difference because then the level of arousal when they are excited about something is real. They don't have to fake being excited; they really can get excited. Because they know they can really say no. That level of freedom and choice is unusual in our society.

Living Unschooling with Sandra Dodd
(transcript of a radio interview)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sound file and text, same interview

Friday, March 2, 2012

Be gentle

For all the "be gentle" that parents give their babies about how to touch cats and dogs, the parents themselves aren't always so gentle. Over the years of having children grow up around our dogs and cats I became more compassionate toward the pets. Having learned to communicate with and to understand non-verbal babies, I was better at understanding "non-human-speaking" animal companions.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don't repeat history at home

"The media" is a broad topic, and usually refers to the frontier edge of "the media." Newness is often reviled. If you look back at what was "objectionable" and forbidden, it's video games and internet now, but was TV, and comic books, and paperback novels, and radio serials, and ANY novels or secular books, and writings by authors unapproved by the church. People have been arrested and punished and had their materials confiscated for centuries. If a teacher ever took a comic book or a Gameboy away from you, you probably remember the anger and frustration.

Much of the damage schools do to kids can be reproduced by parents at home, but it's not a good idea.
photo by Sandra Dodd