Thursday, May 31, 2012

Barbie World

These Barbies belong to a girl named Ericka, who generously let me use her bedroom recently. I bring them to join my collection.

Some of Jayn's (from a few years back) and of Holly's (similarly historical now).
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It shows.

"Much of what they're learning as unschoolers is the 'true grit' of living: communication, interaction, observation, exploration, etc... and it shows!"

—a mom named Sandy
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feed passions...cake.

Feed passions.

Unschooling depends on children being able to follow their interests, but just as with food, it's hard to know whether they want to just taste it or finish off a case.

If a child wants to bake a cake, you don't know in advance whether she just wanted to mix the batter once or whether she will end up creating wedding cakes for millionaires. You don't need to know.

Feed Passions
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 28, 2012

The precious principle of abundance

Leah Rose wrote:

I had an amazing experience with [breathing] last night. At bedtime (which is about midnight in our family) I had just tucked in and said goodnight to our two youngest (8 and 11 yo boys) and was climbing into my own bed when I heard one of them calling me. My knee-jerk reaction was a blast of annoyance—very typical of me in that situation, exacerbated by the fact that I'd felt crummy all day and was really looking forward to collapsing into bed.

I huffed out an angry breath, started to head back to their room and suddenly had a thought from something I'd read here recently (or maybe on Sandra's website or the RU Network): "First, breathe and center yourself." So I took a deep breath, and as I inhaled I felt my whole being kind of slide into place—it was weird, almost a tangible sensation—and suddenly I felt completely peaceful. I walked into their room with a smile on my face and asked if either of them had called me. It was ds 11, he wanted me to set up his extra pillow (which was on the floor leaning against his bed) behind him so he could sit up and read for a bit.

Normally in this circumstance I'd have walked into the room annoyed and impatient and would have responded to this request by going on a rant about why he couldn't just reach down and pick it up himself, why he had to call me all the way back into his room for that, how tired and crummy I was feeling and there is no reason why I have to be the one to do it since he's perfectly capable himself! (You get the picture.)

Last night I just said, "Sure!" and set his pillows up behind him and gave them both another kiss goodnight and then went to bed feeling exhausted but very peaceful—and very thankful for my networks of unschoolers, from whom I'm learning the precious principle of abundance.

—Leah Rose
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Osmosis and television shows

A cranky person wrote to me:
I do unschool but I obviously do not subscribe to your radical view of unschooling where children are expected to learn by osmosis and television shows.
To the Always Learning discussion list I wrote:
When the environment is rich, children learn by osmosis, if the membrane through which ideas pass is their perception of the world. What they see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think becomes a part of their experience, and they learn. And they learn from television shows, movies, paintings, books, plants, toys, games, movement, sports, dancing, singing, hearing music, drawing, sleeping.... as if by osmosis, they live and they learn.
photo by Sandra Dodd of a tractor covered in lights
Albuquerque Bio-Park's "River of Lights," 2011

Saturday, May 26, 2012

About food...

You don't know what your children need. They won't know either, if they're never allowed to live in such a way that they will learn to pay more attention to their bodies than to a book or a menu, a calendar, a clock, or to their parents' fears and prejudices.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 25, 2012

To have a better life

To have a better life, stop doing what makes life worse.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quiet idea-journeys

From my point of view and from my experience, if art and music lead a kid-conversation to Italy, and they make this connection at 10:30 at night, I could say say "Go to sleep," or I could get excited with them, and tell them the Ninja Turtles were named after Renaissance artists, and that all the musical terminology we use, and most of early opera, came from Italy. That maybe the Roman Empire died, but Rome was not through being a center for advanced thought. Or however much of that a child cares about. And some of that will work better with an art book out, and maybe a map of the world. Look! Italy looks like a boot for sure, and look how close it is to Greece, and to the Middle East. Look who their neighbors are to the north and west, and how much sea coast they have. Look at their boats.

Maybe the child is seven, though, and Italy isn't on the state's radar before 8th grade geography.

So I don't look at the state's requirements. I look at my child's opportunities. And I think the moment that the light is on in his eyes and he cares about this tiny bit of history he has just put together, that he wants me to say "YES, isn't that cool? I was much older when I figured this out. You're lucky to have great thoughts late at night."

And if he goes to sleep thinking of a camera obscura or the Vatican or gondoliers or a young teenaged Mozart seeing Italy with his dad, meeting people who thought they would remain more famous than Mozart... I think back to the circumstances of my own bedtimes as a child and I want to fill him with pictures and ideas and happy connections before he goes to sleep, if that's what he seems to want. I could be trying to go to sleep and being grouchy and he could be in another room trying to go to sleep and being sad, or we can go on idea-journeys and both go to sleep happy.

Other stories of Late-Night Learning
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Geography and everything

Geography can be about people and what they do, and believe, and wear. It can be about mountains, rocks, rivers, and where the rivers empty. The stories around a river that flows to the Hudson Bay will be different from the stories of rivers that flow into the Mediterranean. And with what you know of language and history and geography, can you look at "Mediterranean" and figure out why they called it that?
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The awful control beam

If the "control force" is great with you, maybe use it to control your own clutter or organize your papers or rearrange your books or clothing. File your photos and negatives. Scan some stuff. Don't turn that awful control beam on people you love.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to be

Be the way you want your children to be, and they will want to be like you.
Something I said at the ALL in May symposium May 20, 2012
photo by Sandra Dodd, of the gagaball pit

Sunday, May 20, 2012

See beauty in...

It's easy to see beauty in nature.

It's good to learn to see beauty in tables, cloth, air, spoons, socks, switches, handles, doorknobs, words, sounds, air, clouds, breeze, and ideas.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gentle amusement

Funny songs, stories, pictures and poems amuse babies and adults all. Amusing food and unusual table settings can be fun. Comedy movies or TV shows are good for relaxing, passing time, and for exposure to different geographical, social or historical settings.

HOW Unschooled Kids Watch TV
photo by Jacki (Gold Standard)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Interesting things

Choose, find, make, sing, draw, eat interesting things.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a dragon by Ericka Mahowald

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Surprising thoughts

Surprises help with learning, and so a humorous situation is more likely to be memorable than a humdrum one.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A better direction

Is the cup half empty, half full, defective or overflowing?

One mindful step in a better direction can be joyous. You don't need to reach a destination to have joy.

The Big Book of Unschooling
page 318 (or 275, if it's yellow)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Avoid thwarting

Put your frustrated energy into a burst of mixing it up.

Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted.

That was part of some advice I gave in 2003 to a mom whose husband "wasn't onboard," as people say.

"Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted" wasn't suggesting her husband was thwarting it, but that passivity and a lack of sharing it with a spouse thwarts it.

I like the sound of the word "thwart."

Don't thwart unschooling by using it to divide the family. Move toward it methodically and thoughtfully. Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch. Note and share the results with your spouse. It can take a while to come to shared confidence, but don't fail to see it as a family-improving project.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 14, 2012

Clarity magnified

Online discussions of natural learning and parenting give people a serious opportunity to practice communicating clearly and carefully. For some people, an unschooling discussion will be their first "real writing"—the first time they've written real things for real people, rather than practice things for teachers. Those who stick with it or who have a native talent for it will find themselves getting direct and immediate feedback from other parents who have taken the ideas or examples or stories and used them to change their own real children's lives, and that is bigtime.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 235
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What is "fair"?

In an attempt to "be fair," parents can be very UNfair. Children don't all need the same things for the same amount of time. Measuring with rulers and timers and charts is often shortchanging one child or another. What they could use more than that is the opportunity to decide when they're finished for their own reasons.
photo by Sandra Dodd of a naturally-occuring basket of Nerf guns

Saturday, May 12, 2012


When one person says "I like science" and another says "I don't like science," I remember school science textbooks that had geology, astronomy, chemistry, botany, biology, agriculture and physics all in one book.
. . . .
There are many fun things to do and explore that could be called "science," but why not just call them skate boards or miniature golf or basketball or piano or water play or rescuing wounded birds or making goop or collecting rocks or swimming or drawing pictures of clouds or taking photos in different kinds of light or growing corn or training a dog or looking through binoculars or waiting for a chrysalis to open or making a sundial or making a web page or flying a kite or chasing fireflies or building a campfire or finding out which planet that is by the moon on the horizon, or wondering why snowballs take so much snow to make, or how a 4-wheel-drive truck works.

from page 82 (or 90) of The Big Book of Unschooling
and some more science clues, tricks and connections are at
photo by Marty Dodd

Friday, May 11, 2012

A simple gesture

Taking food to someone who is reading or playing a game or watching a movie and just putting it where he or she can reach it without any instructions, warnings or reminders is a great gift. It is a simple gesture, and a profound service.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A font of "yes!"

Years ago, in a discussion of whether kids should need to ask, or what to think about kids asking for permission for things even though the mom is going to say yes, I wrote:

Maybe they're coming to you as a font of "yes!"

That's a cool thing, if every time they want something loving and positive, they run to mom, huh?
. . . .
My big guys still ask little things, like "Can I have this last soda?" What that means is "had you dibsed it?" or "Is this perhaps NOT the last soda, so I'll feel better about taking it?"

If I say "Sure," they're drinking a soda I gave them, and I bet it tastes better than one they snagged knowing they had "the right" to drink it, but they wanted the blessing.

Be grateful for opportunities to be kind to your children.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A good nest

The nest I built for my children even before I knew we would homeschool was made of toys and books, music and videos, and a yard without stickers. It was a good nest.

from "Books and Saxophones," 2003:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 7, 2012

Learn to love

A new unschooler wrote:
"I hate when people say that adhd isn't real."

Any unschooling parent who hates anything is at a disadvantage.

If an unschooling parent REALLY hates something, or five things, or ten, the spaces around those dark places will be harder to fill with wonder, joy and curiosity to learn.

Hoping to begin unschooling while clinging to hatred isn't healthy physically, socially or philosophically.
photo by Marty Dodd

P.S. You don't need to learn to love everything, but learning to move toward neutrality from "hatred" (even using the term "I hate") WILL make a difference in parenting and unschooling.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Learn to see everything!

"How will they learn everything they need to know?"
Do the best of the high school graduates know everything they need to know? No, and at some point, ideally, they start learning on their own. Some fail to get to that point, though. Unschooled kids have a head start. They know how to find what they need to know, and they have not been trained to ignore things that won't be on the test.

When parents see how and what their children are actually learning instead of just scanning for the half dozen school-things, unschooling will make sense to the parents. If you wait for school to congeal from a busy life, you'll keep being disappointed. If you learn to see everything instead of just school things, unschooling will start working for you. When you see it you will believe it.
photo by Ashlee Junker

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Minor little stories

My granny had a button box, in a fruit-cake tin. The kind with Texas pictures on it—a star, a cowboy, the Alamo.

I still see those tins sometimes. Even when I was older and went to her house I would ask to play with those. Partly she didn't have much to do. Partly it was fun to see which ones I remembered, and to look at them with more experience. At first, when I was little, I could only tell the big ones from the little ones, and sort by color or number of holes. And there used to be the BIG coat buttons from the 1930s and 40's.

As I got older, they got older and more "antique." And as I got older I could tell that some of those buttons were older than my grandmother. Nothing special in there, just the collection of her life, and she hardly ever sewed anything but quilts, and she crocheted. Most of the dresses and aprons she made just tied.

I wish I had thought to put them out and talk about them, in those days, but they were private with me, and she would have told me to get them off the table, probably, anyway.

They talked over quilting, she and the older female relatives. My papaw didn't have a truck. But the men talked walking slowly down to fish, and while fishing, and while walking slowly back.

Doing Two Things at Once
Similar tin to the one I remember, image lifted gratefully from an eBay listing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Being online is good because...

If time spent here keeps you from poking and prodding and pushing your kids, that's good.

If time spent here gives you confidence to unschool that will save you TONS of money and energy and worry and heartache and interpersonal repair, that's good.

If you took a course on unschooling and had to go to class a time or two a week, with commuting time, and reading and paper-writing time, and if it cost what a college class costs in tuition, but you could just do THIS instead, that would be good. (And hey! It's true!)
photo by Sandra Dodd, of the mailbox out front

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hooks to hang Hamlet on

Sometimes it's even easier if the humor comes first and the "real" information later. Someone who has seen Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the Simpsons episode about Hamlet, and the Reduced Shakespeare Company's little Hamlet will have many hooks to hang the real Hamlet on, if and when they see it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Change the world

If by "change the world" a person means "make the world better," then step #1 must be to decide right then not to make the world worse.

Accidents sometimes make the world worse, and carelessness, and flukes of weather and acts of God. But if a personal decision makes the world worse, then what?

There are different levels of "oops"—didn't know, didn't think, forgot, didn't care, was pisssed off or drunk, was furious and wanted to do damage... What can be undone? What can be atoned for?

The world starts to get better when people stop making it worse, and a person's life starts to get better when he consciously decides to do what is better instead of what is worse in any given moment.

Philosophy, or That's what it's all about!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Atmospheric conditions for unschooling

Think in terms of creating an atmosphere of wonder where people are genuinely curious about life and where there are intriguing things to be curious about.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Joyce Fetteroll