Friday, August 31, 2012

Goals and vehicles

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Unschooling shouldn't be a goal. It's a vehicle that's well suited for getting to particular goals. Some of those goals are joyful living, whole children, learning through interests
Unschooling isn't the only vehicle that can get to those goals. And those aren't the only goals.

There's more of that, at this page:
and the ideas are good for non-single parents, too.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Count to ten

About calming down by counting to ten...

Counting to ten only works if you're breathing slowly and deeply and looking at (or thinking of) the sky or something else airy and big and peaceful. The purpose of counting to ten is to let the adrenaline pass and to think of some good options from which you can choose. If you count to ten holding your breath, holding your frustration, with a roaring anger in your ears, the adrenaline isn't dissipating—it's just being focused into a beam of extraordinarily dangerous power.

While you're breathing, you might want to think, "I love these people," or "whatever I say could last forever." Think of what you want to be and what you want to create. See what you want, and what you don't want.

A Loud Peaceful Home
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a sun-show one day at a zoo in India

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Accept contagion

Negativity is contagious. Joy can be contagious, unless one is wielding the sword of negativity, protected by the shield of cynicism.

Don't defend your negativity.

Allow yourself to be infected with other people's joy.

"Happiness Inside and Out"
photo by Sandra Dodd, of flowers growing on drainpipes and ledges in Staines, in Surrey, in 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Who resists learning?

Pam Sorooshian, on her daughters' experiences in college:

Unschooling seemed to have given them HUGE advantages in college. They were, frankly, shocked at the poor preparation and attitudes of most other students. Other students seemed to them to be "going through the motions," but were not really interested in learning.

It is hard to explain, but all three of my kids and all of their unschooled friends who have gone to college have repeatedly tried to articulate that there seemed to be "something wrong" with so many of the other students and that they seemed actually resistant to learning. The unschooled kids were there because they wanted to be there, first of all. They knew they had a choice and that makes a big difference. A sense of coercion leads to either outright rebellion, passive resistance, or apathy and my kids saw all of those playing out among the majority of their fellow students.

That quote is the middle of something longer that's here:
The photo is of Roya Sorooshian, and I don't know who took it.

1) Pam Sorooshian has been a college economics professor longer than she has been a mother.
2) "College," in American terminology, is the early years of what is called elsewhere "university." Sorry for the difference in English-speaking-countries' disconnect on this. In the British system, "college" is what would be our last two years of high school, in a way, sort of; sorry.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Parental improvement

Sometimes parents are needy, and unschooling can help. They can feel fulfilled by being a present, focused, direct parent.

I've gained a lot of happiness from being a good parent. Not "better than," but as good a parent as I could figure out how to be. Better than I would have been if I hadn't focussed on that.
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happiness helps

Happiness helps learning. Biochemically, joy is better than dismay. Optimism is better than negativity.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pleasant and safe

I think putting a child out for turning 18, or 20, or 21 is as arbitrary as putting a child in school for turning five.

If home isn't pleasant and safe, a young adult will leave with just anybody. If "anything is better than home," that creates a dangerous situation.

The quote is from a discussion on facebook,
but here's a cousin-link:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ouija Book

In The Big Book of Unschooling I mentioned on one page that if someone had randomly opened the book to that page, that...

Well there are two such mentions:

If you've turned to this page in random Ouija-Book fashion, welcome! If you arrived here methodically, page-by-page, you won't be surprised at what I'm about to say.
and on another page
Or maybe you've turned randomly to this page without reading anything else and you don't know what I'm talking about. This wasn't a good first-random-page. Maybe flip again, and come back to this page later.
One of the moms who bought the book that first day said she had randomly turned to one of those pages, and was amused by seeing that note.

Don't stay too long.

     Read a little.
           Try a little.
               Wait a while.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New life

When a child’s life is full of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures, people and places, he will learn. When he feels safe and loved, he will learn. When parents begin to recover from their own ideas of what learning should look like (what they remember from school), then they begin a new life of natural learning, too.

Interview published 8/22/12
photo by Sandra Dodd of backyard birdfeeders

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


English has an old word people don't use much anymore which is also used of a person learning on his own. "Glean."

If I read a book and glean something from it, it means I myself took something, a little, that wasn't entirely intended for me to get.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a volunteer sunflower in the compost bin

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Allowed to learn

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Surround your child with text of all kinds and he/she will learn to read. Read to them, read in front of them, help them, don't push them. Children allowed to learn on their own timetable do learn to read at widely divergent times—there is NO right time for all children. Some learn to read at three years old and others at 12 or even older. It doesn't matter. Children who are not yet reading are STILL learning—support their learning in their own way. Pushing children to try to learn to read before they are developmentally ready is probably a major cause of long-term antipathy toward reading, at best, and reading disabilities, at worst.

—Pam Sorooshian
which has been translated into Portuguese by Marta Pires:
Como Ser um Bom "Unschooler"
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wonder and flow

Without wonder—a combination of curiosity and acceptance of the unknown as a potential friend—natural learning won't flow.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Normal for unschoolers

"I tell people that I'm amazed every day by what my kids know and learn. It seems miraculous. It's not, really. It's normal. I see it as miraculous because I was indoctrinated to believe that none of this could happen outside of school and without teachers."
—Alysia Berman
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A small decision

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

The best way for introverts to learn to socialize is with the people they're comfortable with: their family. And then whatever friends they feel comfortable with.

Then when they're older and their desire to get something from a group is greater than their discomfort of being in a group, they'll have the skills they picked up from people they trust.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Janine Davies

Friday, August 17, 2012

Protect the peace

One of my main principles has been that it's my job to protect the peace of each of my children in his or her own home insofar as I can. I'm not just here to protect them from outsiders, axe-murderers and boogie-men of whatever real or imagined sort, but from each other as well.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Learning from Cartoons

Each family discovers the value of choices in unique and wonderful ways. Well, not every family–only those who actually do start giving their children choices, and in which the adults work to see the choices they are making as well.

One surprise is that programs the parents had thought were "stupid" have led to discussion and research on the autobahn, the metric system, classic movies, technology, international sports, geography, segregation, famous speeches, sportsmanship and ethics, live theatre, opera, oil and mining, hygiene, reproduction, Australian food, life cycle of frogs, hurricane formation, trust, cooperation, classical music, Vikings, religion, art, how different animals survive the winter, Galileo, Japanese mythology, cooking, geology… this list could be twice as long without leaving that section of my website.

One trail went from a mummy cartoon to Egypt, to Pharaohs, to slavery, to the Civil War, to Abraham Lincoln, and to other presidents. The Simpsons' parody of Schoolhouse Rock led to a discussion on Thoreau and Walden.

text from page 141 (or 153) of The Big Book of Unschooling
and that page links to and
cartoon portrait by Gina Trujillo, my niece, based on this self-made photo

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Conscious, continuous and mindful

In a partnership, be conscious, continuous and mindful.

It doesn't really do any good to be their partner once a week. If you're mean four times and nice one time, that's not enough.

Conscious, continuous and mindful.

Partnerships and Teams in the Family.
There's a sound file there. It's a good one.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Living where the future unfolds

Brie Jontry, to someone pining for the paleolitic good old days:

Over the past ten years or so there appears to be a resurgence of romanticizing "primitive" cultures, especially in regards to parenting and diet. While one of my favorite things in the world is to sit in front of a campfire and stare at the flames feeling a connection to the people who've come before me and found the same warmth and entertainment in the dancing flames, I think that cherry picking other cultures for their feel-good bits is not only blatantly ethnocentric but also detrimental to unschooling in the modern world.

Brie's writing continues, here:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, August 13, 2012

A bubbly, interesting swirl

Ren Allen wrote:

You can attend a thousand Zen classes at a University and still not understand it because it is something that is internal. You can have a bunch of nice meditation products and still be angry. You can make a big deal out of living simply and still miss all the beauty around you.

It's not about the accoutrements but the "seeing with new eyes."

Sorta like unschooling.

You can read all the books, you can talk to unschoolers, attend a conference and join some lists. But until you GET IT at the internal level, until there is trust and a willingness to extend that trust to your children, unschooling is just a nice idea or philosophy to discuss...nothing more. For those that decide to learn to trust themselves and their children, they soon find their lives a bubbly, interesting swirl of natural learning.

—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd; cool things
in Ericka Mahowald's room in Northborough, Massachusetts


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nest-building tools

To help you prepare for or strengthen your own heroic adventure, there are three tools you need, and a checklist of seven nest-building items for you to collect and protect. Equip yourself with:
good examples
Build your nest with
food           patience
shelter          enthusiasm
love           curiosity

from "Little Tools for an Epic Life," by Sandra Dodd,
published in the June 2012 issue of California HomeSchooler
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gratitude and abundance

Last night I was tired. Holly had gone out for the evening. Marty had gone to bed because he works at 4:30 a.m. Keith was busy. I thought... I'd like to just go to sleep.

Then I looked up and there's food to be put away, and the counter was all full of dinner.

At first I felt whiney, "why me?" and kind of "DAMN it, I'm tired."

Then I thought...
I'm glad we have food. I LOVE that pan I made the sauce in. I got it for collecting savings-stamps at the grocery store. It's heavy stainless steel, and beautifully shaped.

We have containers to make small meals, and I can mix the sauce (which I made in the morning and slow-simmered most of the afternoon) with spaghetti in several little containers, and someone from my family will be glad to find it at some point this weekend, or maybe Keith will save one to take to work for lunch on Monday.

I'm glad we have a refrigerator, and that people in my family not only are willing to eat leftovers, they're glad to find there's some left of something they liked the first time.

We have a dishwasher. That's really wonderful. If all I have to do is rinse dishes and fill it up, that's not much work at all.

I've been listening to World War Z. Marty says some of his favorite stories aren't in the abridged audio book, but that he's heard the audio and it's good.

So I put World War Z to play on the computer, and cleaned up the kitchen I'm glad to have, for the family I love.
photo by Holly Dodd, of the sun through smoke in early summer

Friday, August 10, 2012

Trained like a cat

I had a friend when my kids were single-digit ages. After she hung out with our family a while, she decided she would unschool just like we did. Before long she explained to me her liberal total-unschooling policy on her son's reading. He was eight or nine. She told him he could read any book he wanted to, as long as he finished any book he started.

Quicker than training a cat not to get on the table, she trained him not to start any books at all.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Right here

Holly Dodd wrote a warm memory:

I am seven years old. I am sitting comfortably with a convenient, safe place to rest my face. Safe. On my father's lap . . . Knowing it is not only ok, but expected of me, to fall asleep. Right here where I already am. My dad will tuck me in when he is done holding me, and it will hardly be my business.
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Success and measures

Be careful how you define success, lest what is not success become failure.

Don't let your goal be so small that the rest of the universe is to be avoided.
photo of some onion plants, by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Confident, mindful parents

Frank Smith said in his book Learning and Forgetting that to learn to do or be something, one should hang out with those who already had and valued that ability. So if you want to become a confident, mindful parent, hang out with confident, mindful parents. A conference is the perfect place to do that.

I have a collection of expressions of regret, from parents who stalled about really making a change in their parenting and homeschooling. It's "If only..." ( They say, in various ways, "We should have made this change sooner."

Some people have said that they will go to a conference when their kids are older. It can happen that their kids end up in school because the parents couldn't figure out how to homeschool well on their own, and they gave up. Had they gone to a conference, they might still have their kids home today.

from "Little Tools for an Epic Life," by Sandra Dodd
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, August 6, 2012

Little adjustments

Solve problems before they become problems. (Part of being present!) Notice the direction things are heading and change things. Don't let them get hungry, tired, testy to the point where they're hitting or destroying things. Food. Naps. Go home. Put on a video. Draw one away to do something totally different.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Better is better.

Approach "better."

But "better" is unmeasurable. Too much measuring, too much counting.
Better is perceptible.
Better is a relief.
Better is better.

Arguing with "better is better" is saying that better is not better.
Worse is certainly not better.

From notes for a talk given August 2, 2012.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Decision time

Decision time isn't about what you will do next year or for the rest of your child's life. Decision time is about what you will do in the next five seconds. I recommend getting up and doing something sweet for another person, wordlessly and gently. Never send the bill; make it a gift you forget all about. Do that again later in the day. Don't tell us, don't tell them, just do it.
photo by Sandra Dodd
(I posted part of that quote in April 2011, also with a lawn photo.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Look up!

Those who are negative, pessimistic, and hateful will find it difficult to even want to unschool. Those who are cynical and critical can unschool but their progress will be slow, until they learn to see the sunshine and clouds and trees instead of the dirty cracks in the stupid sidewalk.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Piece of cake

In April 2011, Schuyler wrote this, about a mom feeling underappreciated in her marriage:

What makes you feel good? I like a root beer float and a chip butty when I'm feeling particularly low. It doesn't make anything external better, but it does help a lot with my internals. Stock your cupboards with things that bring you pleasure, fix meals that make you happy, play games that you enjoy. Smile, laugh, swing, skip, dance, listen to music and play. Sometimes it may feel contrived, but try not to dwell on that, try and move it forward to not being contrived, like laugh therapy.

When your husband feels bad, bring him something nice, a piece of cake, a hug, a gentle touch, a thank you for something. Don't see his low point as something that you have to compete with for attention. And don't see it as a personal attack. Just see it as an unhappy moment, a point of stress, a need to express something to a safe ear.

It isn't self-sacrifice to work for your team. It's teamwork.

—Schuyler Waynforth
More by Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hold on

Kelli Traaseth wrote:

Hold onto each day, know how quickly they pass. Kiss those tiny heads of toddlers and babies; smell their heads, as my friend Sandra says. Before you know it, they'll be playing a game together and you won't even need to explain the rules to them. In fact you'll have a hard time comprehending the game.

Time... must you keep marching on? by Kelli Traaseth
photo by Sandra Dodd