Tuesday, December 31, 2013


We are here now.

We have been other places in the past.

We will be in surprising places in the future.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 30, 2013

Look quietly

Look quietly.

At least once a day, just look quietly.
snowy owl against grey sky
photo by Colleen Prieto

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happier, easier

"There's a common parenting myth that making our kids' lives easier, being sweet and kind
little red wagon
and gentle with them, makes them greedy and unfit for adult life. It is not true. Kids learn from experience. When they experience a lot of kindness, they learn the value of kindness in very real, concrete ways. When we make their lives easier, we make it easier for them to learn more and more richly. And they're happier. And that makes parenting easier, because we're not dealing with kids who are stressed out and frustrated."
—Meredith Novak

New writing by Meredith, a little like SandraDodd.com/spoiled
photo by Sandra Dodd
__ __

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Spend time more joyfully

 photo MarioPolikowsky.jpg"[T]he more willing I am to help Simon and Linnaea to do what they want to do, the less needy they are. And, conversely, the more joyfully I spend time with them, helping them out, the less needy I am of my own space, my time to myself."
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Alex Polikowsky

Friday, December 27, 2013

Do your dishes bother you?

 rice bowls, plates, in the cupboard

We get our dishes from thrift stores, mostly. If one of them bugs me, it can go back to the thrift store.

Sometimes when a mom is really frustrated with doing the dishes, it can help to get rid of dishes with bad memories and connections, or put them in storage for a while. Happy, fun dishes with pleasant associations are easier to wash.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Too much peace?

Can there be too much peace? For learning, yes. Learning requires mental arousal. If an environment is so still and barren that one's curiosity isn't sparked, then people might be closer to a state of sleep than of excited curiosity. Life can be too dull and quiet for learning to spontaneously happen.

Can there be too little peace? Yes, and in many ways. There can be too much noise, stimulation and chaos. So finding the balance place and the comfort level is part of creating a peaceful home.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Enough, and a little bit more

"Kindness, grace, and generosity go a lot further toward creating warm relationships and a joyfully harmonious home than measuring out equality."
—Meredith Novak

photo by Colleen Prieto

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The motion of their own spheres

Looking out at our offspring, they are aligned in a certain way from our perspective, but they're not paused and gazing back. They are in the full motion of their own harmonic and intersecting spheres, spinning ever further away from us, and we marvel to see the celestial show.

photo by Heather Booth, who wrote "My holiday window dream come true."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Living becomes learning.

Living becomes learning. How many hours a day do you live? All of them.
photo (a link) by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Same and different

Learning happens when a child sees what two things have in common, and considers how they are different.

Parents can help, without telling them what "the answers" are. The parent might not see what the child sees.

Give children a chance to find their own answers.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 21, 2013


There are amusing mysteries, spooky mysteries, beautiful mysteries and sacred mysteries.

Sometimes a thing is just a thing, and sometimes it's a mystery.
 photo DSC09642.jpg

Other mysteries here: SandraDodd.com/mystery
photo by Sandra Dodd
(another one)

Friday, December 20, 2013

'Tis the Season for Sugar

"Children that truly have choices, won't feel the need to always choose the most sugary choice, or the choice that gets them away from home the fastest... They have access to it all, so they can make choices based on what they really want or need, not what is most limited in their lives."
—Ren Allen
photo by Sandra Dodd, and it's a link

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Enough trivia?

Enough trivia will create a detailed model of the universe.

photo by Trista Teeter (click it)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Normal or exotic?

patches and souvenir items in a New Mexico souvenir shop

Near you there are many many plain and simple things that you might overlook for being commonplace, everyday, throwaway background sights, sounds, smells, tastes or textures.

What are walls and fences made of where you are? Some other places, it is very different. How does the air feel and smell when it's cold? What's the first plant that might volunteer to grow in a bare spot? What little animals might you see, and what birds do you hear? What do people throw away that a tourist might pick up and keep? What food is readily available, that everyone knows how to make, and has the ingredients for on hand nearly always?

When you look as far to the east as you can see, what is the view? Turn around and look the other way, too.

Where you are is exotic to most of the rest of the world. Most other people will never see it. Knowing that your plainness is someone else's curiosity can make your life richer.

Sometimes, when you look, listen, taste, feel, smell, close your eyes and rest, remember that you are in one special place.

The writing is new, but something to follow with might be SandraDodd.com/deblewis/abundance
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In other worlds...

How many worlds can one world hold?

photo by Julie D (click it for context)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Morning every moment

Somewhere in the world it is morning every moment. Somewhere, light is dawning. Some people, and I’m one of them, believe that any portal to the universe leads to the whole universe, and if that's true we should be able to get to everything in the whole wide world (and beyond) without much effort from something as small as, say, the definition of a word. How about “morning” and its particulars—daybreak, dawn and sunrise?

Read more at SandraDodd.com/morning
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Connections and Adventures

vintage Elivs fan mug, saucer, two Christmas ornaments, little stickers?  In the original box, which says 'Elvis at the Movies'"That's part of the magic of unschooling—information swirls around, connects and reconnects until you're not really sure where learning begins and ends and where any particular adventure will lead you."
—Meredith Novak
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Changing thoughts and actions

dinosaur to ride on a carousel
Unschooling is one of those things that isn't accomplished by recitation or test-taking, but only by changing thoughts and actions, beliefs and relationships. It's not easy, it's not quick, and it's not for everyone.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, December 13, 2013

The past, the future, and the right now

antique pedal car on display in a toy store

I love history, and I like to think about the future, but it's important to bring yourself back, very often to the very now.

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:
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.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 12, 2013

More freedom, more approval

unschoolers in a playground in Leiden

When we're tempted to say "no," and we have that little internal conversation about "Why not?" that can be healing. When I'm there, I think of my mom saying no, and then I picture her having been open enough to say yes more, and I picture my childhood self having a thrill of freedom and approval. There was some freedom, and some approval, but I can imagine up a lot more of it, and shower it on my children.

photo by Julie D

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The best friend you can be

"Be the best friend to your children that you can be."
—Pam Sorooshian
 photo IMG_5412.jpg

photo by Karen James

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wonder and joy

Some people are looking for the easiest way through, with the least amount of effort and attention, instead of looking for how rich and cool life can be if they just lift up their hearts and eyes to the wonder and joy around them.

Marta Pires saved that quote from something I wrote that was longer and not all as cheery, on facebook. So I'm going to link to this instead:
Do it
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 9, 2013

Patient and kind

Being patient and kind makes you a person who is patient and kind.

The quote's not from here, but this might help: Parental Authority
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a picture in a charity shop in Surrey

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gentle, patient and generous

We make choices ALL the time. Learning to make better ones in small little ways, immediate ways, makes life bigger and better. Choosing to be gentle with a child, and patient with ourselves, and generous in ways we think might not even show makes our children more gentle, patient and generous.

photo by Colleen Prieto

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fond remembrance

When stress comes and you need a break, sometimes bringing to mind one shining moment, however small, will help. Remember, if you can, a scent or an emotion, the feeling of the air, or a sweet word spoken another day, another place. Breathe in that remembrance and be at peace in that one breath.

Be grateful for that memory.

The next moment might be easier.

photo by Sandra Dodd, of Holly Dodd in Florida, in warm sunshine

Friday, December 6, 2013

Life becomes easier

snow on trees

If your child is more important than your vision of your child, life becomes easier.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy mom

A mom was worried about intellectualizing too much, and not being fully present with her young child. I wrote:

Nobody's still and at kid-speed all the time. But if you can figure out how to do it sometimes, then you can choose to do it, or choose to go faster, but to bring him along in a happy way.

Instead of saying "Come on, let's go!" maybe you could have picked him up and twirled him around and said something sweet and by the time he knows it he's fifty yards from there, but happy to be with his happy mom.

From the "possibilities and joy" section of Parenting Peacefully
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The wrong window!

"Video gaming is so much more than most people see when they are standing on the outside, looking through the window they call 'screen time.'"
—Karen James

Plants vs. Zombies image by Sandra Dodd
(my gameplay, too)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Don't taint the ice cream

It creates a trap, a trick question, an adversarial relationship, an opportunity for failure, if there is "a right answer" to the question "What do you want to eat?" Or if an overjoyed "can I have some ice cream?" is met with a sigh, and eyes rolling, and another sigh, and a dirty look, and a summary of what the child has already eaten that day, and a reminder of when the next meal is, and a head shake, and a mention of ingredients... or even ONE of those, it taints the ice cream. It harms the relationship. It makes the child smaller. It does not, correspondingly, though, make the parent larger.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 2, 2013

A respected child

carousel dragon

I really believe unschooling works best when parents trust a child's personhood, his intelligence, his instincts, his potential to be mature and calm. Take any of that away, and the child becomes smaller and powerless to some degree.

Give them power and respect, and they become respected and powerful.

This is a good one to read in context: How to Raise a Respected Child
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Step toward...

 boy and bird looking at each other, on a pathTiny changes make big differences.

Step toward what you want and away from what you don't want.
photo by Karen James

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A moment of nothing much

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

Deschooling doesn't work until you let go of structure. Early days unschooling is about learning how to see learning in all things and if you are still looking to the structure of curricula it will be very, very difficult to grasp the fundamentals of unschooling. Having go-to ideas of things to do or engagements to offer is a good thing, but having those things be about education or a passing on of pieces of specific knowledge it won't help you to see the glorious world of unschooling. Those things are best if they are just kind of a fun thing to do in a moment of nothing much going on. Learning will happen.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 29, 2013


Pay attention to your child and help him do/find/see/experience things that will interest him. Help him be his best self as often as you can.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When? Maybe not.

toy oven, doll furniture

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

We can't always fix everything for our kids or save them from every hurt. It can be a delicate balancing act—when should we intervene, when should we stay out of the way? Empathy goes a long long way and may often be all your child needs or wants. Be available to offer more, but let your child be your guide. Maybe your child wants guidance, ideas, support, or intervention. Maybe not. Sometimes the best thing you can offer is distraction.
—Pam Sorooshian

photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A new everything

Someone wrote that learning about unschooling felt like learning a new language.

I responded
It's like learning a new everything, but an all-slightly-better everything.

The photo is Rippy, Graham, Gianluca and Gisele, a lifetime ago.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Be that way

by Bruno Machado 2 photo IMG_6270.jpg Be the way you want your children to be, and they will want to be like you.
Look here or at SandraDodd.com/being
photo by Bruno Machado

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Investing at home

old sailboat, listing, nice reflectionSomeone commented that responses to her questions had hurt her feelings. I wrote:

When he is calm and happy and trusting, THEN you will feel better—not because of things we wrote, or didn't, but because you will BE better. You will see it in your son's eyes.

Don't make it about you. Make it about his range of exploration and his choices and his learning and his happiness. You can live on the interest, if you invest enough in him.

(at Radical Unschooling Info, on Facebook)
photo by Colleen Prieto

Saturday, November 23, 2013

You don't have to make a choice.

Life is FULL of decisions, right?
Some people say no. Some people decided a long time to close their windows and thoughts and… wait. I wrote "Some people decided…" without even noticing.

When unschoolers discuss a vast array of choices, it seems inevitable that newer people will come by and assure us we're full of it. People have to do things, they say. They have to do what they have to do. People can't go around choosing from everything in the whole wide world, because the world isn't that way. Kids need to learn now that they have to live with their lack of choices.

How often do you make a choice?
How often do you think "I have no choice"?

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 22, 2013

Unmeasured and immeasurable

Our days are full and our learning is unmeasured and immeasurable.early sunrise on the Atlantic
photo by Colleen Prieto

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Surprised, repeatedly

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Homeschooled children who grow up in a stimulating and enriched environment surrounded by family and friends who are generally interested and interesting, will learn all kinds of things and repeatedly surprise you with what they know.
—Pam Sorooshian

photo by Joannah Smith of a tiny bridge, Scotland;
sheep can go under, a truck can go over


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Finding without searching

I'm bringing you three links today. First, a quote from an 1998 article I wrote called "Gifts for Guys to Buy" (written before Amazon, before Google, before online shopping):

There are some great commercial toys, but there are some that so many other kids also have that they become background. If you think back to your own childhood, there were probably a couple of special possessions you still remember or still have. Be flexible and open in your
shadows of junk at a flea market
search for gifts, and consider combining several things into one “kit” or “gift basket.” A magnifying glass and a compartmented box could be a rock or bug collecting kit. A flashlight, mirror and some colored lens covers could be an optical physics kit. I can’t predict what you’ll find that kids might love, but I can predict that if you forget to consider “non standard” sources for children’s gifts they’ll miss out on some memorable treasures! *

Looking to see whether I had already quoted that here, I found something else about gifts: Gifts, a Just Add Light post from December 2010.

But the reason I was searching for "search" was to announce that I have added, to my site's search page, a custom search that will check my site, Joyce Fetteroll's and Pam Laricchia's all at once. I'm sure you will stumble upon some gifts.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

History and tradition

Newness can dazzle us, and the future is confusing. But right around you are simple, plain, useful, interesting, solid bits of history and tradition—things that were there before you were born, things with their own stories, whose makers might be gone and forgotten, but the artifacts remain.
The photo today is a stile I saw in Texas. Stiles and fences have existed in various forms for a long time. There are quiet antiques all around us.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 18, 2013

A million ideas

I'm glad to live in a time when photographs are so easily taken and shared, without ever needing to be set on paper or touched with hands. I can show you things I've seen. Just Add Light has had images from four continents, from mothers and fathers sharing photos of their children, and from teens and children sharing photos of things they've seen. A thousand people can see them on the same day. A thousand photos have come through. It's worldwide strewing from which each reader makes his or her own connections. Shared experiences are interpreted differently by each person involved, and connected by each to his own existing knowledge and images.
photo by Sandra Dodd,
and it's one of over 1200,
but I rounded to the nearest thousand

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Rearrangement as a constant

pens and scissors in cups, with framed photos behindIf something comes up in a conversation and then it doesn't come up again later, that's fine. The tide comes in, leaves some stuff on the sand, and goes out; some things stay, some go back out. All of it still exists—the sand, the shells, the water—they're all still there, just rearranging a bit.

On "Always Learning," in response to someone considering
writing down every question her kids asked to look things up later.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Descriptive and unlimited

I think that an unschooler's checklist should look more like the five senses and past/future than like "science, history, language, math, maybe-music-art-physical education."   Because that model is prescriptive and limiting.  And the other is descriptive and unlimited.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 15, 2013


 photo DSC09249.jpgIf the mom changes,
the family is changed.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 14, 2013

More time

The more time parents spend with their children, doing interesting things together, the less they will worry about other things.

Marta saved the quote from a post on Always Learning.
Here's something similar:
photo by Karen James, a few years ago,
in a giant wheel in Japan

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dude, they named a Turtle after him

dad and son feet in shallow waterMichelangelo said that to carve his statue of David, he just chipped away everything that didn't look like David. Or maybe he didn't say that. But clearly that's what he ultimately did.

Chip away what doesn't look like unschooling. It's not as difficult as you might think.

Unschooling: How to Screw it Up (sound file with notes!)
photo by Colleen Prieto

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Emotions and intellect

"Feelings and intellect are not in opposition and not even separate things. All learning involves the emotions, as well as the intellect."
—Pam Sorooshian

photo by Sarah Dickinson