Monday, April 30, 2012

Use your words

Someone once wrote:
"In the past my kids have tended to expect to be waited on hand and foot."

I responded:
If you use phrases like "to be waited on hand and foot," you're quoting other people. That usually means the other person's voice is in your head, shaming you. Or it means you've adopted some anti-kid attitudes without really examining them. If you're having a feeling, translate it into your own words. It's a little freaky how people can channel their parents and grandparents by going on automatic and letting those archaic phrases flow through us. Anything you haven't personally examined in the light of your current beliefs shouldn't be uttered, in my opinion. Anything I can't say in my own words hasn't really been internalized by me. As long as I'm simply quoting others, I can bypass conscious, careful thought.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tons of yes

Some advice on going gradually:

Just like getting lots of gifts instead of one big one, if you say "sure," "okay," "yes" to lots of requests for watching a movie late or having cake for breakfast or them playing another half hour on the swings and you can just read a book in the car nearby, then they get TONS of yes, and permission, and approval. If you throw your hands up and say "Whatever," that's a disturbing moment of mom seeming not to care instead of mom seeming the provider of an assortment of joyous approvals.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 28, 2012

An unschooling high

Some years ago, this enthusiastic story was written by a mom named Alexandra:

Today I had an unschooling moment.

We had movie and tv restrictions before, and gave them up after reading here. Today, we were driving somewhere, and went down a road near where the tide comes in (we live near the Bay of Fundy), and after renting The Lizzie McGuire movie last week, and seeing the state of the tide, naturally I burst into "The tide is high..."!!—joined happily by my three daughters.

Sometime after the nth rendition of that song all together, I thought, here we are doing something happily all together, and from that space, anything can happen, questions, answers, laughter, silence. Thank you Lizzie McGuire, thank you people of the message board, I'm not the kind of girl who gives up just like that....

(end of quote)

Just today I was interviewed and mentioned all the writings that were lost when that message board was taken down, and AOL's forum before that, and the user group I used to access when *Prodigy was new. So many ideas, so much writing, poofed away. And I said that's why I wanted to collect and preserve writing now. Thank you, readers, for your appreciation of my hoarding at
photo by Sandra Dodd

The song was part of the credit sequence of that movie, and you can watch and hear it here: Lizzie Mcguire the Movie: The tide is high (and this version was by an English girl group called Atomic Kitten)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Peaceful bedtime

This was written by Joanna Murphy in 2009:

The biggest mistake I made in transitioning to radical unschooling was that I didn't transition. I thought I needed to make a pronouncement about bedtimes and food. I really didn't. I now, many years later, see that I just needed to make MY shifts in seeing how to support them and facilitate their lives—and then do it.

My son asked me, soon after we "stopped doing bedtimes" to please be more present with bedtimes. I had an idea that he "needed" to make these decisions for himself—but that wasn't true for him at all. It was too big and scary, and he stopped wanting to go to bed—probably because he didn't want to face the lights-out transition alone. 20/20 hindsight! LOL I really didn't get that there might be fear and/or abandonment involved—that insight came much later.

We now have a way that works well for us that everyone goes to bed with the last adult (that can stay awake—LOL). It is more important to both my kids to have that help and companionship at bedtime than it is to stay up late. It also supports their desires to do things earlier, since they are still both sleeping about 11 hours. If they go to bed much later than me, the next day is mostly gone when they wake up (as far as doing things with other people).

—Joanna Murphy
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Protect your child from bad guys. Anyone who wants to break up your team or bring your relationship into question is a bad guy. Be your child's protector and defender. Be a hero.

When your child does sweet and tender things for you, don't brush her aside. Pay attention to nurturing gestures. Acknowledge them. Let your child be your hero sometimes, too.

From page 67 (or 72) of The Big book of Unschooling
but a good online match is
photo by Sandra Dodd
P.S. Do not make the other parent your bad guy. That harms your child.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Slight shifts

Unschooling is more like a dance between partners who are so perfectly in synch with each other that it is hard to tell who is leading. The partners are sensitive to each others' little indications, little movements, slight shifts and they respond. Sometimes one leads and sometimes the other.
—Pam Sorooshian

Being your child's PARTNER, not his adversary
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A little bit

It helps a lot to try for better moments not days. Don't judge a day by one upset, judge it as a bad moment and move forward. A little bit better each moment. A little bit more aware.
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Austin, 2011

Monday, April 23, 2012

Examine a word

A parent cannot decipher words for a child. Only the child can decipher written language. You can help! You can help LOTS of ways. One way would be to gain an interest in the words you use yourself, and stop once in a while to examine one, its history, why it means what it means.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spontaneity, more than control

If you want to make the sun come up, first see what time it's expected to rise, and command it right at that moment.

If you want to make children do what you want, find out what they want to do and would enjoy doing, and make it seem like you've provided that thing or opportunity, if you want, at first, if it makes you feel like you made the sun come up. But those who insist that they should and can and will control another person often end up alone, emotionally if not physically.

To have a life of learning and joy, spontaneity is more important than control. Acceptance is more valuable than resistance.

The quote is from page 29 (or 32) of The Big Book of Unschooling but this link will work:

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"What about socialization?"

Sometimes when people ask “What about socialization?” I say "What do you mean?"

And I wait patiently for them to think of a response.

Usually the question is asked by rote, the same way adults ask stranger-children "Where do you go to school?" Most people just blink and stammer, because they don't even know what they meant when they asked it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 20, 2012

Principles instead of rules

The idea of living by principles has come up before and will come up again. When I first started playing with the idea, in preparation for a conference presentation, I was having a hard time getting even my husband and best friends to understand it. Really bright people local to me, parents, looked at me blankly and said "principles are just another word for rules."

I was determined to figure out how to explain it, but it's still not simple to describe or to accept, and I think it's because our culture is filled with rules, and has little respect for the idea of "principles." It seems moralistic or spiritual to talk about a person's principles, or sometimes people who don't see it that way will still fear it's about to get philosophical and beyond their interest or ability.

Rules are things like "Never hit the dog," and "Don't talk to strangers."

Principles are more like "Being gentle to the dog is good for the dog and good for you too," or "People you don't know could be dangerous." They are not "what to do." They are "how do you decide?" and "why?" in the realm of thought and decision making.

The answer to most questions is "it depends."

What it depends on often has to do with principles.

from page 42 (or 46) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Go easy, but have fun!

Some people overstate their cases and say “Our children will never go to school.” We didn’t. First of all, it’s not something any parent can insure. But we didn’t burn our bridges or commit to an unseen future. What we said was “Kirby’s staying home this year.” And then “Kirby’s going to stay at home again.” When people asked the inevitable questions, we said things like “It’s working for now,” or “If it stops working we’ll try something else,” or “If he stops having fun, he can go to school.” Then we were careful to make sure he had lots of fun!

From an interview at "Do Life Right"
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The value of trivia

So what IS trivia? For school kids, trivia is (by definition) a waste of time. It’s something that will not be on the test. It’s “extra” stuff. For unschoolers, though, in the wide new world in which EVERYTHING counts, there can be no trivia in that sense. If news of the existence of sachets ties in with what one learned of medieval plagues in Extraordinary Endings of Practically Everything and Everybody, there are two pointers that tie microbiology to European cities in the Middle Ages, and lead to paradise-guaranteed pilgrimages to Rome. Nowadays sanitation and antibiotics keep the plague from “spreading like the plague.”

Image (a link!) borrowed from The World of Playing Cards


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Take it home and cut it open

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

I've heard of unschoolers who say they never bring home anything for their kids—because they feel that puts subtle pressure on them to learn what the parents are promoting.

I say hogwash to that. I pick up stuff ALL the time. . . . If I see an unusual fruit in the grocery store, I buy it and take it home and put it on the table for others to notice. If a kid is in the store with me I might say, "Oooh look at this. Let's take it home and cut it open."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, April 16, 2012

A danger to your children

If you don’t have any peace in yourself, how are you going to allow your kids to have some? Because if you don’t have any peace and you’re angry and you’re not sure why and you’re just waiting to see what made you angry, then your kids are not safe, they won’t have peace.

From a new transcript of part of an old talk at, bottom of the page.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Odd combos

The connection between humor and learning is well known. Unexpected juxtaposition is the basis of a lot of humor, and even more learning.

It can be physical, musical, verbal, mathematical, but basically what it means is that unexpected combinations or outcomes can be funny. There are funny chemistry experiments, plays on words, math tricks, embarrassingly amusing stories from history, and there are parodies of famous pieces or styles of art and music.
photo by Sandra Dodd, one day at Goodwill

Saturday, April 14, 2012


About kids sharing a computer:

The problem I see with measured turns is that the quality of game play is compromised. If someone sees the clock and that's when they have to stop, they won't play as thoughtfully. They're less likely to look around at the art or appreciate the music. If they're starting to read, they're less likely to take a moment to look at the text and see if they can tell what it says.

The benefits of game play will not come to full fruition if kids' time is measured that way, and they're not learning to share.

If they only have an hour, they will take ALL of that hour, just as kids whose TV time is limited will.

It they can play as long as they want to, they might play for five or ten minutes and be done. I've seen it in Holly, I saw it for half an hour in Marty.

Yes, Kirby wanted it more. He was older and it was his game system and he could play better. And so in exchange for me keeping the other kids away while Kirby was playing as long as he wanted to, he let them play as long as they wanted to, which was never as long as he did.

from "Helping Kids Share,"
photo by Will Geusz, of his pets sharing

Friday, April 13, 2012

John Holt

John Holt's writing is different, and inspiring. He involved himself in schools and saw problems and successes from a different perspective than anyone else I've ever read.

John Holt had no children so he himself wasn't an unschooler, but he inspired others to do things differently from school, to avoid testing and rote learning. He encouraged people to respect children and to give them a great range of experiences and opportunities.

John Holt wrote about learning outside of schools, for about ten years. Since then, many families have raised children to adulthood without any school or schooling at all. I wish he could know Roya, Roxana and Rosie Sorooshian. I wish he could spend some time with Kathryn Fetteroll. How cool would it be if he could pop in for the day at a big unschooling conference in San Diego and meet a couple of hundred twenty-first-century unschooled kids all in the same place?
photo by Holly Dodd, of herself, taken with a camera that was new
when John Holt was teaching school.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A joyful process

Paula L / "Paulapalooza" wrote:

Okay, not all days will leave us feeling as if we are Julie Andrews spinning around on that mountain top singing "The Sound of Music," but so many of my days leave me with just that feeling.
. . . .


You know, I spent a good 30 of my 35 years in some type of structured setting, striving to please others and live up to their standards, which I convinced myself were my own. I feel that I will be detoxing from this for the rest of my life, and it's a joyful process. Living outside the box makes me a person at peace, a person people constantly observe as "always so happy." I used to be very good at "blooming where I was planted," which was of course not true happiness, and the strain inevitably showed. I am finally happy on my own terms, and the difference is obvious to me.
—Paula L
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Intentions matter.

Robyn Coburn wrote:

Intentions matter.

Guidance offered from the place of partnership and Trust has a different feeling, avoids rebellion, and is just plain less focused on the trivial. Guidance means optional acceptance instead of mandatory compliance. Guidance means parents being safety nets, not trap doors or examiners. Guidance facilitates mindfulness. Directives shut it down, and may even foster resentment instead.

The idea of Unschooling is for parents to be the facilitators of options, the openers of doors, the creators of environments of freedom, and the guardians of choice, not the installers of roadblocks and barriers. Unschoolers are making the huge and wonderful choice to renounce our legal entitlements to be the authoritarian controllers of our children's lives, and instead choose to be their partners.
photo by Sandra Dodd, inside a tile shop in Austin

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What (a good) life is all about

Living mindfully
and making conscious choices
for clear reasons
is what a solid, thoughtful life
is all about.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, April 9, 2012

Make it plentiful

Once someone tried allowing her children to choose their own foods, and after a month she was ready to give up.

It's only been a month. It might take more than that for them to get as much candy as they feel they've missed in five or seven years. You scarcified it and made it valuable. Let them gorge. They'll get over it. If you don't let them have it now, they will continue to crave it, sneak it, and pack it in. Make it plentiful, and that will make it less desireable.

Please read all of this: It's by Pam Sorooshian, and is "Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children." It will apply to food too.
photo by Sandra Dodd, at someone else's house

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Announcement and request

The last time I had a "time out" blog I wrote "This is post 250 or so, and I was surprised the blog had lived that long. Nearly three seasons—almost a year."

That post is here:

This will be post 583, I think. And I'm writing for a similar reason. I'm gearing up to leave home for a long time. My speaking schedule will be linked below, but I'm going to be gone for two weeks, to Massachusetts and then Oregon, speaking; I'll be home just a couple of days and then go to Europe; I'll come home and be here long enough to do laundry, sleep, and re-pack, and then go to Sacramento. That's daunting.

The likelihood that I will come up with 90+ original and clever blog posts in that time is small and I want to avoid the stress, so I think some of the summer's posts might be "greatest hits." Maybe you could think of it as an oldies station, with stuff you can sing along to! I hope you will forgive re-runs, if you see any.

There are new readers, though. There are 989 Feedburner subscribers (receiving the posts directly by e-mail) and others subscribing by other sorts of blog feeds and notices, so I can confidently say "over a thousand readers." Thank you! For the new readers, it will be all new.

ANOTHER THING: If you see an older post with a missing photo, please e-mail me a link to it so I can repair it. I moved some things and if some of the photos hadn't been properly labelled as having been used, they might be in a new folder and the link will be broken. I can repair them easily, if I know about it. Thanks for helping me clean up errors you might find! For instance, yesterday's post lead to a page with something by Alex I had marked as 2011; that was a typo for 2012. A reader let me know. Thanks, Dina!
The photo is Kirby, Jill Parmer and me, last month in Albuquerque. I hate to send something without a photo. :-)

photo by Addi Davidson, with my camera

Greater parental involvement

Living by principles rather than rules, neither "never" nor "always" is true. Living by rules of "never," less thinking is required. When there's less thinking, there's less learning. Living by principles requires more thinking, and greater parental involvement. That leads to more learning AND to better relationships.

That quote is the end of something longer,
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Live now

Pay attention to now. Live today.
. . . .

Don't have so much of past and future in your head that you can't live now.
photo by Heather Brown

Friday, April 6, 2012

The best moment

Make each moment the best moment it can be. Be where you are with your body, mind and soul. It's the only place you can be, anyway. The rest is fantasy. You can live here clearly, or you can live in a fog. Defog.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 73 (or 80)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not everything, but something

"We can't magically afford everything—but very often we can afford something."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To be whole...

Ren Allen wrote:

One definition of "heal" in the dictionary is "To become whole and sound; return to health." What a gift we can give our children if we can just allow them to maintain their wholeness in the first place, allow their spirits to take their own form without all the constraints that traditional parenting and schooling place upon a human being.

To be whole, to be sound, balanced, joyful, curious...these are the things I wish for my children. The focus on academic topics and grades seem so irrelevant when contrasted to the really important tools for this life's journey.

Ren Allen, from the exchange at Mindful Parenting
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Blending and mixing

Rather than sorting things out with your children, try to keep blending and mixing. Religion leads to history, to geography, to clothing, to fashion, to business and imports to transportation to law. Law leads to ethics to medicine to religion. Any of those "leads to" points could lead to a dozen OTHER destinations, so even with a list that short, it starts to blanket time and space. Don't resist those weird tangents; jump on them and ride.
photo by Sandra Dodd, at Taco Bell in a mall in Bangalore
(click it to see another Taco Bell sign from that day)


Monday, April 2, 2012

Hear what you say

Saying what one means rather than using phrases without thinking is very, very important.

Hearing what I say as a mom is crucial to mindfulness.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Too good to be true?

"It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. Being connected is better than being controlling. Being interested is better than being bored. Being fun is more fun than not being fun!"

—Melissa Wiley
photo by Sandra Dodd