Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Children WANT to act in adult ways, so it's important for unschooling parents to be the sort of adults children want to emulate, right then. Not when they grow up, but now.

From a facebook discussion about helpful unschooled kids.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bafflement and befuddlement

Wonder is great—that kind of respectful awe. But if you were in a state of wonder all the time, that would be bafflement.

The note above was written on a piece of paper I was carrying around with me. Probably I was working on a presentation on wonder. I like the word "bafflement" and I liked "befuddled," but try not to stay in those states long, because your kids need for you to be clear and sharp.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Slowly amazing

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

It is amazing that the epiphanies seem to come so frequently in this life. The other day I was baking a cake and David got back from the grocery store and had to deal with the leaking coolant on the car and needed help putting the groceries away. I was up to my elbows in batter and asked Simon and Linnaea if they could help.

They both came in and put all the groceries away and went back to what they were doing. It was so sweet, so not coercive, so not eye-rolling. Just this generous gift of service. It came with an epiphany, an underscoring of these unschooling side effects that I see and read about from other people.

As you say, the proof is in the living! The rightness, the evidence, the closeness, the joy, those are all found in this life. You can read about them, but to experience them you have to get down on your hands and knees and play and hang out and tell stories and cuddle and talk and share and be willing to listen and to apologize and to work to make it better. And if you can do that without any other intention than enjoying being with them, without any ulterior motives, it plays out in ways that nothing else that I've ever seen does.
—Schuyler Waynforth

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Create calm

Demonizing food creates a demon. Being calm creates more calm.star-shaped cake
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, April 26, 2013

Change the World

"When I stopped seeing my daughter as adversarial it changed the world for us."
—Joanna Murphy

photo by Marty Dodd

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Plain and good

Plain milk tastes WAY better if it's your choice than it does when it's plain because someone else wouldn't let you put chocolate in it.

Without free choice, how can a person choose what is plain and good?
 photo Phone_0043.jpg
photo by Sandra Dodd
(I painted the stripey glaze;
Holly did the spots in the same colors,
when she was four or five.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Science here, there and everywhere

photo Stromboli.jpg
In school, science is
"a subject."

In the real world, science is a way of seeing, and thinking. Curiosity, observation, speculation, examination, comparisions, openness to surprises, and practice with rational thinking help one learn about things seen and unseen, small and large, from a smoking volcano to a shell on a beach to an icicle in the sunshine.
photo by Dylan Lewis, in Stromboli

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Soft and Sweet

Be soft and sweet, or else your children won't have a soft and sweet mother. Keep your house happy and calm, or else your children won't have a happy and calm environment.a cat and a flounder doll, on the bed.jpg
photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy monkey

toddler getting new shoes

I went to the grocery store alone. It was crowded and people were moving fast, but were calm and smiling. I saw three young children. Their relatives were being very sweet to all of them. In other families, older kids were being helpful.

On the way to my van, a man who was 35 or 40 was happily riding the back of his shopping cart down the hill toward his car, with the wind blowing his hair.

On the way home, I thought of the cutest thing I had heard. A young mom had been holding a toddler, and he said something and touched her mouth. She said, "Monkey?"

He indicated that she was right.

"You're a monkey?"

"Happy," he said.

"You're a happy monkey? Happy monkey!"

And he was. He was very happy.

So easily, we can tip two degrees over into the sorrows and fears of the world. Without trying, we can fall into a pool of despair and take our friends and families down with us.

Not everyone can be happy today, but if your child is whole and well, for one moment or for ten do your part to help him be as happy a monkey as he can be.

photo by Julie D

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Be careful with "can't"

About reading:

English has one word that, unfortunately, helps charge this whole subject with emotion and doom. I learned this from an exchange with Marty, when he was four. I wrote it down at the time, and have quoted it a few times since, but I've never connected it with reading until now.
Wed, Jul 28, 1993
The first thing [Marty] said after “good morning” was “Mom, if you count to infinity, is it illegal?”

I explained to him about infinity, with a million plus one and a “gadillion” plus one. He was fine with the explanation, and I said, “Who told you you can’t count to infinity?” He said I did, so I explained the difference in things that are impossible and things that are illegal (have consequences)

"Can't" sounds pretty permanent. We were careful not to say, in our kids' hearing "Marty can't read." We would cheerfully say, "Marty doesn't read yet" (or Kirby, or Holly). With that, every time it was discussed we were clearly indicating that we thought the child WOULD read before long, and it was not a concern. They were certainly learning in many other ways, as anyone close enough to discuss their reading could see!

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Where we live

photo teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures in the sewer hideout.jpgMost of us live in a town, or near one, or in a city. Many of us live in houses—some attached, some stacked up, some with wheels. But all of us live in the present, in our families, in our bodies, and in our minds. We live, in part, in the thoughts of others. We live, sometimes, in peace and joy. We live in our imaginations, and in our dreams, and in our memories.

Stand in the place where you live...

photo by Sandra Dodd, at a museum in London
but there was such a playset at our house
and I wish I had more photos of it

Friday, April 19, 2013

A smile instead of a frown

"Love that sunset. Want to tell you that magnet sits on the door of my fridge and the words have allowed me to move forward so many times when I would have been stuck in a negative place. Sometimes just knowing you can give a smile instead of a frown is all it takes."

Photoshop by Holly Dodd
Photo and quote by Sandra Dodd
(The magnets are business-card sized, not as big as the image here.)

That photo with more sky, no words: Waking up Happy

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Any gaps?

Nothing can guarantee that a child will "have no gaps" in his education, and no one knows today what a young adult will need to know fifteen years from now.

 photo old iron gate, hanging open, in a stone wall in a cemetery in New Hampshire.jpg

photo by Colleen Prieto

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good judgment

 photo DSC05688.jpgWithout "judgment," how on earth can someone "use good judgment"?
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rich and lush

They're learning, we're learning, we're all expressing ourselves, and when life is very rich and lush, learning grows like crazy.

from SandraDodd.com/panel, a page I had forgotten about
photo by Irene Adams

Monday, April 15, 2013

Wholeheartedly and happily

Someone asked me, "Are the unschoolers more successful and clever? And do they have more chance to find good jobs as adults?"

I wrote:

I can't say. Even if most were, your own kids might not be. Even if most weren't, your own kids might be.

If what you do is better than school, for your kids, keep doing that. If school would be better than what you're doing, for your kids, in their real lives, then do that.

If you're going to unschool, do it wholeheartedly and happily.

(That page can help people see what they can do to be good unschoolers;
the quote was from e-mail.)

photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Simply being

"Being there for and with the family" seems so simple and yet many parents miss out on it without even leaving the house. Maybe it's because of English. Maybe we think we're "being there with our family" just because we can hear them in the other room. There is a special kind of "being" and a thoughtful kind of "with" that are necessary for unschooling and mindful parenting to work.

photo by Pam Sorooshian

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Monkey Platter

When my kids were little we went to the zoo one day when the primates were being fed and they had been given big trays of cut up fruit. It looked good; I guess we were hungry. When we got home I made a "monkey platter" for the kids, and it has been called that ever since.
monkey platter and photo by Casey Young
(Here's mine.)

Friday, April 12, 2013


Logical-mathematical intelligence applies not just to straight-out numbers, but to seeing and thinking in patterns, and of being scientific and analytical. Clarity of thought is logical/mathematical as surely as being a numerical whiz is.

screenshot of a FlipPix Art game in progress

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"The journey of a lifetime"

photo medieval gate, France
There are several sayings about the journey of a lifetime beginning with a single step and such. One step isn't the beginning of a journey if you keep one foot in the yard. You have to get away from the starting point completely.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Peace and patience

"I will always remember something Richard Prystowsky said about being a peaceful parent...something about the way to become a peaceful parent was to be peaceful. There was no path, you just had to BE peaceful.

"It's really that simple. Slow down and make room for peace amongst all the mess and fun and tasks and STUFF. All of that daily stuff is your practice, so make it peaceful and happy and there ya go!"

—Ren Allen
 photo black cat on top of a pile of 8 game boxes of Dominion
photo by Kirby Dodd

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Children reach for food

Because of La Leche League and natural weaning, and the idea that children will reach for food when they want some, so you don't have to schedule and spoon it into them, it was easy for me to see the smallest seedling-root beginnings of how our culture creates the eating disorders they bemoan. Letting kids decide what THEY think is good and bad, instead of labelling things good and bad in advance for them, allows a child to think spinach is wonderful but donuts are kinda yucky.

Without choices, they can't make choices. Without choices they can't make good choices OR bad choices. In too many people's minds, "good" is eating what parents say when parents say (where and how and why parents say). That doesn't promote thought, self awareness, good judgment or any other good thing.

Food is for health and sustenance. Eating with other people can be a social situation, ranging (on the good end) from ceremonial to obligatory to courtesy. There's no sense making it hostile or punitive.

photo by Sandra Dodd
__ __

Monday, April 8, 2013

My heart leaps

Susan May wrote:

Even though my mind believes in my childrens' abilities, my heart sometimes need some validation. And every time one of my children does something for the first time, completely of their own volition, my heart leaps and then pumps joy to every cell in my body. Each time this happens the truth: that children will learn all they need to, in their own time—becomes etched a little deeper in my bones. And this is where the magic lies—not so much in the "firstness" of each new skill or idea, but in the fact that they completely own these moments."
—Susan May

photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A message to your grandchildren

Your children are developing a holographic internal image of you, complete with voice and emotion. The things you do and say are being recorded for posterity; make them sweet and good. What you choose to say and do now will affect what your children say to their children, and what your great grandchildren will hear after you're long gone.

Live like you're their last hope.

photo by Julie D

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Learning and fun

The separation of learning and fun is the only thing that keeps learning from BEING fun.
photo of a hand held up to the sun, at the beach

photo by Kathryn Dubay

Friday, April 5, 2013

Unschooling breathes life into learning

"Unschooling is not an easy educational and lifestyle choice. It takes energy and dedication to do it well. But it is absolutely a viable alternative to the conventional system—even more so with each passing year. It focuses on each person as an individual and breathes life into the concept of lifelong learning. It also calls for developing strong relationships with your children—relationships that will last far beyond their compulsory schooling years. It's life."
—Pam Laricchia
photo by Holly Dodd

Thursday, April 4, 2013

For now

fruit tarts and little cakes, in French bakery

I learned early on to say, "This is what we're doing for now," or "It's working now. If it stops working, we'll do something else."

Unschooling and Yoga Philosophy – An Interview with Sandra Dodd
in that podcast, at 9:36 on the counter
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Growing slowly, incrementally

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

The other day Linnaea commented that she thought she and Simon would have struggled at school. I replied that I thought everyone struggled a bit with school, but they would have figured out their way in time. What I didn't say was how I don't know if I would have grown into the parent I am today, the generous and joyful parent that I am, if I hadn't chosen unschooling. I think it is possible to be a generous and joyful parent with schooled children, but it is harder to rebuild yourself in the ways that I feel I have done, slowly, incrementally, with unschooling.
—Schuyler Waynforth
in a passing discussion

photo by Sandra Dodd
of old stairs in France,
on a day I was with Schuyler


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Light and happy

One of my intentions from way back, before unschooling came around in our lives, was to keep the tone of the house light and happy.

antique storefront, bicycle, cobblestone street

The quote was from a chat, but this is a good match: SandraDodd.com/happy
photo by Sandra Dodd of a place in Leiden, in The Netherlands

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Past, the Future and Now

If you're living in the past, that's a problem for now.

If you're living in the future too much—
       in the future that you're imagining,
       in the future that you're predicting,
       in the future that you would like to imagine you can control,
       in the future that you'd like to imagine you can even imagine,
              that's a problem.

So it's good to aim for living in the moment in a while way—your whole self, not separated from your past or your future, but also not really over-focussed on it.

If you bank on the future, literally, that's a good idea. Savings is a good idea. I'm not saying not to have life insurance or things like that—that's great. But banking on it figuratively can be a big problem.

SandraDodd.com/listen/london2011 (at 10:15 in the sound file)
photo by Sandra Dodd of layers of ice that formed in buckets of colleced rainwater in which hulls of bird seed had fallen, pulled out of the buckets, for fun