Sunday, September 30, 2012

Enjoy your child's interests!

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Instead of trying to figure out what a child is getting out of anything, take it on faith that their interest indicates that, without a doubt, there is something of value in it for them. Support it. Enjoy it. Expand it. Connect it to other things. Pursue it. Look for ways to explore it more. Take great pleasure in it!"
—Pam Sorooshian
about Disney Princesses and any other interest
photo by Sandra Dodd (not a good photo; sorry) of Disney Princess seats so that girls in Holland can take their dolls in "baby seats" on their bicycles (click it to enlarge, or click here for more photos of the bike shop)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's a marvel.

Meredith Novak wrote:

"Kids learn because they are full of curiosity and wonder. That's big. It's a marvel. Wondering is what takes people—including children—from observation to something else, to asking questions and looking for answers. To trying and finding out. Wondering is one of the reasons people push through challenges—climb real mountains and metaphorical ones. You can't Give someone that kind of motivation; it only comes from deep within. Sadly, you can take it away, and teaching someone who doesn't really want to be taught is a proven way of doing so."

The quote in larger context is at the link above,
and you can read more about wonder here:
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a WWII pillbox outside a UK aircraft factory

Friday, September 28, 2012

Feel it and believe it

When you say something to your child, remember to feel it and believe it, or you'll be sending mixed messages, and the tone might be louder than the words. And with babies and toddlers, the tone might be the entirety of the communication.

The quote is from page 208 (or 241) of The Big Book of Unschooling,
which references this webpage: Tone of Voice and Joy.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Amsterdam

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Learn to use "learn"

If people learn to use "learn" instead of "teach," it helps them move to another angle, to see things through a different lens.

Some people see experienced unschoolers ("experienced" meaning in this context people who have done it well and effortlessly for years, who aren't afraid anymore, who have seen inspiring results) mention classes, and they think "Ah, well if the experienced unschoolers' kids take classes, then classes are good/necessary/no problem."

But if beginners don't go through a phase in which they REALLY focus on seeing learning outside of academic formalities, they will not be able to see around academics. If you turn away from the academics and truly, really, calmly and fully believe that there is a world that doesn't revolve around or even require or even benefit from academic traditions, *then* after a while you can see academics (research into education, or classes, or college) from another perspective.

Learning to See Differently
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A flow that builds and grows

Once you start looking for connections and welcoming them, it creates a kind of flow that builds and grows.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of the Rio Chama near Abiquiu

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shine a light

"Shine a light ahead for them, and lend them a hand, but don't drag or push them."
—Pam Sorooshian

How to Be a Good Unschooler, by Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, September 24, 2012


As with so many other things (every other thing, maybe) in our lives, it wasn't that single slice that "worked," it was the whole set of everything. They trusted me because I had spent years being trustworthy.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quicker and sooner

\The more quickly you empty your cup and open yourself to new ideas uncritically, the sooner you will see natural learning blossom.
photo by Sandra Dodd
Yvoire, on Lake Geneva

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How and what to change

Pam Sorooshian, eight years ago, on becoming the parent you want to be:

Stop thinking about changing "for good and not just for days or moments." That is just another thing to overwhelm you and you don't need that!

Just change the next interaction you have with the kids.

Stop reading email right now and do something "preventative"—'something that helps build your relationship with them. Fix them a little tray of cheese and crackers and take it to them, wherever they are, unasked. Sit down on the floor and play with them. If nothing else, just go and give each of them a little hug and a kiss and say, "I was just thinking about how much I love you."

Okay—so that is one good, positive interaction.

Again—just change the next interaction you have with the kids. Focus on making the next interaction another one that builds up your relationship.

I appreciate that Pam Sorooshian has let me collect her writing and quote her for many years. There are others who have been similarly wise and generous. It is a gift I enjoy every time I come across their words. —Sandra

Becoming the Parent you Want to Be
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a prairie dog a couple of miles from my house; behind him is the root of some old dead tree (in case you were trying to figure out what that was)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Words, ideas, pictures and knowledge

About words, and learning:

As they got older, and war games, movies about history, and international celebrities came over their intellectual horizon, so did trivia about the borders of countries.

What's with Tibet? Taiwan? When did Italy and France settle into their current borders? Why does Monaco have royalty? The Vatican really has cash machines in Latin? What's the difference between UK and Great Britain? Is Mexico in north or central America? Were Americans REALLY that afraid of and ignorant about the Soviet Union in the 60's?

In answering those questions, the terms and trivia of history, geography, philosophy, religion and political science come out. The words are immediately useful, and tied to ideas and pictures and knowledge the child has already absorbed, awaiting just the name, or the definitions, or the categories.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Building trust

"Make a mental note of those times when you know in your soul that this is really working well. That act helps you gain understanding, confidence, and ultimately build trust in the process of unschooling, and in your children. The deepest trust happens when you see it in action for yourself, when your understanding meshes with your experiences—that's when you 'feel it in your bones'."
The quote is from the manuscript of Pam Laricchia's forthcoming book, Free to Live, which should be available by the beginning of 2013,
and is used with the author's permission.
photo by Sandra Dodd
2020 update: That was Pam's second book and there are others now, too!
Pam Laricchia's Books

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't finish everything you start

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.
(There is new art there, by Karen James.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aware and conscious

My children are mindful, thoughtful, aware and conscious of the choices they make.

Life is full of decisions.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, September 17, 2012


How might a parent act on a really busy day?

If the mom learns and then demonstrates that giving can make a person feel happy, *then* she might have children who are also generous and kind. If the mom acts pouty and whiney and martyrly, she will have children who are confused and needy and resentful.

Being a Happy Mom
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Remembering negativity

When people are very cynical, they seem to imagine that if all the things they think are stupid are eliminated, what's left will be non-stupid. Smartness. Cleverness. Art. Good music. But once so many things are eliminated, what's left is a cynical person who has rejected half the world, and has the memories of all the details of that negativity.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Flowing clearly

Clarifying thought, it turns, out, is what unschooling is all about, for the parents. When the parents are clear, then learning can flow around them.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nice and often

Be as nice to your child as you can be, as often as you can be.
Partnerships and Teams in the Family
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beneath, around and beyond

Peace, in an exchange, has to do with tone of voice, eyes, posture, attitude, intention, compassion—all the non-verbal communications that go with words and actions. Don't underestimate your child's ability to read beneath and around and beyond your statements. You would do well to try to read behind his words, too.

page 209 (or 243) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Marty Dodd, of Ashlee and himself

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don't do this at home

Almost any piece of routine damage school can do to a child, parents can do at home. Parents can make their kids hate math. They can make them never want to read a book again. They can make them want nothing more than to grow up and get away. So with unschooling, when people ask me what I think makes it work, I tell them the kids have to have a choice.

from Living Unschooling with Sandra Dodd
photo by Sandra Dodd

Note: I do avoid "have to" but in an if/then situation, sometimes there's something a person has to have to enable the desired condition. If unschooling is going to work, kids have to have choices. Parents do not "have to" give their children choices. Unschooling parents will find themselves choosing to do so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Examined lives

Today I'm quoting Joyce Fetteroll:

If a parent has found something that works for their family without understanding why it worked and how much personality played in it, then for others it's little better than rolling dice and picking some technique at random.

On the other hand, those who are living examined lives. thinking about and discussing why something works in the context of growing relationships, that's way better than dice! And no one should swallow what's said uncritically. They should take it in, turn it over, ask questions and examine it for themselves.

Critical examination is better for reaching clear goals than pretty sentiments of "following the heart" and "mom knows best."
photo by Sandra Dodd

A collection of bad ideas: "Support"
A collection of good ideas: my Joyce page

Monday, September 10, 2012

Support children's interests

"A child can only be six for one year. And sometimes there is a small window of time where a child finds a thing intriguing and wonderful and if it's missed it can never be experienced again in quite the same stirring and magical way."
—Deb Lewis

Read what this was about here:
photo by Sandra Dodd

The quote was found and shared on facebook by Allison Hollis Batey. I fixed up its home page after she quoted it. Thanks, Allison!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beautiful, fragile thoughts

Let your children make discoveries with their own new eyes. Don't show-and-tell them into a helpless stupor. Be with them, pay attention to what they're seeing for the first time and be poised to explain if they ask, or point out something interesting if they miss it, but try to learn to be patient and open to their first observations and thoughts. Like bubbles, or dandelion puffs, they are beautiful and fragile and if you even blow on it too hard, it will never be there again.

Practice being. Practice waiting. Practice watching.

Let them experience the world with you nearby keeping them safe and supported.

from page 124 (or 136), "Experiences," in The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Swirly World

Because of school, many people think of geography as maps and nothing more. There is a story in every line on every map. There's a story in the name of each nation and region, and in the difference between what they call themselves and what the neighbors call them. When a map is in a certain language, it affects the names of everything. The English word for "Germany" is not what will appear on a map in German, nor in French, nor in Icelandic. Looking at those names is a study in the history of Germany. People who speak any language in Europe have a relationship and history with what English speakers call "Germany" (which we have from the Roman "Germania").

The world is all a-swirl with music and maps and photographs of interesting architecture, costumes and ancient weaponry and technology. Gypsy carts and camel caravans and steam locomotives have their places on the planet, and nobody has to memorize anything to sort them out into their times and cultures.

The first paragraph is from page 81 (or 89) of The Big Book of Unschooling.
The second one is from

photo by Sandra Dodd, of a children's maze in Windsor U.K., and tennis courts, road markings, and hedges, taken from an observation wheel. Click it to enlarge. If you click that enlargement, you might see men playing bowls to the left.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What are teens thinking?

Pam Sorooshian, on teens' natural fears:

Sometimes teens need a LOT of reassurance. So just keep showing him your confidence in him at the same time that you understand and sympathize with his fears. It is sometimes harder on our unschooled kids at this age than their schooled counterparts because our kids are entering adulthood eyes wide open—they "get it" that they are moving into adult responsibilities, etc., and they are (justifiably) sometimes freaked out by it all. The schooled kids more often don't really grasp what's coming—they're just following orders, going through the expected motions. Our unschooled kids are thinking—and their thoughts can be overwhelming and scary and they can easily feel inadequate to face the future.

—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd
of directional signals
on a retired London bus

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Strong Wholeness

Integrity is a strong wholeness....

Part of the integrity of some of the young adult and teen unschoolers I know comes from their having grown up relatively undamaged. They have a wholeness most young people are never allowed to have, or which is destroyed by the realities of school's grading system and its too-glorified "socialization."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


A mom named Leonie once wrote:

My then-six-year-old once, when we were chatting to a priest friend over coffee, gave a quote from Shakespeare. The priest said he was impressed by our homeschool curriculum and a six year old knowing Shakespeare. I said so was I, since we didn't have a curriculum, and I wondered how my son knew the quote. I asked. "From reading Asterix comics" was his answer!
photo by Sandra Dodd, of ironwork on a gate at Windsor Castle

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Do it.

Until a person stops doing the things that keep unschooling from working,
unschooling can't begin to work.
title art by Robert and Robbie Prieto

Monday, September 3, 2012


People can believe that there is centeredness, balance, and right-living without any belief in God.
photo by Sandra Dodd, Windsor UK

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Year Three Begins Today

I hope the ideas and links on this blog have helped you and your family live rich and peaceful lives. I am honored by the number of readers and by the positive feedback.

Thank you for reading, for trying these ideas at home, and for sharing them with your friends.

Through the month of September 2012, I am requesting assistance and will send gifts. If your life, learning or relationships benefit from this information, please consider participating.
Gift Exchange Information:

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Being means being

Pushpa Ramachandran wrote about being with her child:

“Being” with her means being mindful...

“Being” with her means being available to play...

“Being” with her means being emotionally available...

“Being” with her means being connected. In body, spirit and mind. Connection translates to being curious about something that she might have found. Connection translates to trying to find more things that might tie into something that she might have liked before. Connection could translate to being excited about a bug or a thread or a cartoon. It means creating a life that is full of rich experiences, some of which might be jumping in puddles, or holding a snake. Others might involve just going grocery shopping or scrubbing the kitchen floor. The idea of connection at the core, I think, is to feel alive, rejoice in her feeling alive and live those moments together.

Estar con los hijos (translated by Ana Paulina Maya, in Colombia)

Being with my child
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran