Friday, May 31, 2013

Find delight

Find delight in small, everyday things.
apple on top of a macbook
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Let new ideas and experiences astonish you.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a hurricane simulation booth
in a mall in Slough

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Calm in confusion

smallish  carousel horse, wooden statue of Smokey Bear, an iron wheel, other stuff, outside an antique shop in Capitan, New Mexico

Learn to be content with your own puzzlement, and to nurture the puzzlement around you. It's okay not to have all the answers, but to let the questions confuse you for a while as you move in new directions.

You might like
(the quote is not from there, but it's related)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Read, try, wait and watch

Read a little. Try a little. Don't do what you don't understand.

Wait a while. You probably won't see an immediate change. But don't pull your plants up by the roots to see if they're growing. That's not good for any plants or for any children. Be patient. Trust that learning can happen if you give it time and if you give it space.

Watch your own children. Are they calm? Are they happy? Are they curious and interested in things? Don't mar their calm or their happiness with arbitrary limits, or with shame, or with pressure. Be their partner.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 27, 2013

Transcendental moments

Remember that your children will also experience flow.

If you interrupt them while they're playing Rock Band or drawing or spinning on a tire swing, you might be disturbing a profound experience. So interrupt gently, when you must. Treat them with the respect you would treat anyone who might be in the midst of a transcendental moment.

page 207 (or 240) of The Big Book of Unschooling, on Flow
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Good reason

Every choice you make should be made consciously, thoughtfully, for real and good reasons.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Proxy baby

When Kirby was a baby, about ten months old, I was at the library with him. A woman whispered questions to me, in the shelves of books (the stacks). Her daughter had married a foreigner and moved to Denmark. They had a baby she hadn't yet met. She was asking me how old Kirby was and whether he was average size and what size clothes I thought she might send.

She was sad and said by the time she saw her grandson, he would be walking and she was missing all the baby days. We were nice with one another, and said bye, and I walked away.

But after maybe five or six steps, I turned around and hurried back to find her. I said "Do you want to hold him?"

She got tears in her eyes and nodded and she hugged Kirby with her eyes closed and rocked him a little bit, kind of got the feel of him, and the smell of his head, which wouldn't have been as good as her own grandson's, but it was better than nothing.

When she handed him back she seemed much calmer and better. It was therapeutic for her. And I've always been glad that I thought of it before it was too late.
Keith probably took this photo.

For the record, this happened in the stacks by the north wall of what was then called the Wyoming Branch library, behind Hoffmantown Center, in Albuquerque. It was surrounded by rose gardens. Now it has been renamed the Tony Hillerman Library, but in 1987, it wasn't called that.
__ __

Friday, May 24, 2013

Learn about learning

Focus on your kids.
Learn about learning.
 Ninja Turtle pretend-driving toy with s steering wheel and shifter
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Scatter it out and rearrange it!"

"Just Add Light and Stir" is my favorite blog. My "Thinking Sticks" blog is my second favorite. It has examples of the kinds of connections and trails and explorations that I hope unschoolers will come to find in their own lives.
 photo DSC00111.jpg

I took the photo of a deer carcass owned by Bloxie (MD Polikowsky's dog), who arranged it artfully, with a wild turkey wing. Then after I took the photo, she rearranged it less attractively. When it snowed nearly two feet a couple of days later, she went and dug it out of the snow and arranged it on top. I did not wade out and photograph that. Sorry.

Click the photo to see more detail. I hope you can see why I photographed it.

The top of the Thinking Sticks blog says "Scatter it out and rearrange it!"
It was more about divergent thinking than a carcass, but still...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Your kindness makes you kinder.

Just as being kinder and gentler with a child makes one a kinder, gentler parent, being more attentive and concerned about a spouse or partner makes that person, in turn, more attentive and concerned.

It doesn't happen all at once, and you can't send them the bill. You can't count or measure it. It has to be selfless and generous. Your kindness needs to be given because it makes you kinder, not because you want any further reward.

From The Big Book of Unschooling, page 270 (page 311, in 2nd edition)
but here's an online cousin:
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

True freedom and snake oil

Freedom should involve a respect for others, and a respect for logic. And a family might not feel they "respect the law," but the laws still do apply to them, no matter how twinkly-eyed they have become in their newfound "freedom."

So if someone is selling you "True Freedom" (or snake oil, or the elixir of the fountain of life), have respect for yourself and your family and take a pass on it.

from page 220 (or 255) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd (click to enlarge)

"Snake oil" might not be an internationally-known term, so here's this: Snake oil

Monday, May 20, 2013

Understanding is more important.

Respect and acceptance are more important than test scores and "performance." Understanding is more important than recitation.

page 72, The Big Book of Unschooling (79 in new edition)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Christmas candy, still there

 photo DSC08895.jpg

We have a can of candy that was under the Christmas tree this year. We didn't do stockings. We bought the candy kids liked in stockings, put it in this little one-gallon paint can (printed with Christmas candy art) and it was always under the tree from mid-December. I just opened it.

It has half of its original candy. Reese's and Hershey's miniatures. Everyone here likes that stuff, but it could last a long time more, because nobody here is "needing" that stuff. Not craving it. It's just candy.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 18, 2013


"I suspect that any time a parent new to unschooling starts thinking 'This isn't working' it is because they are holding on to an expectation.

"Expectations can get in the way of seeing what is really happening." or Attentes
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a house key in The Netherlands

Friday, May 17, 2013

Much more than half

I've given this advice to newlyweds, and to my oldest child the first time he had a roommate:
Don't aim for 50/50.

If 50% is right, then 49% is wrong, and 65% would be something get angry about.

If you both aim for more than half, you'll meet around the middle, around half the time. If you want the other person to stick around, "around" is the goal.
photo by Sandra Dodd

P.S. Nearly six years later and three houses later, Kirby still lives with that roommate, who is engaged. He and his fianceƩ custom-ordered a new home, designed to accommodate Kirby comfortably.
Don't measure.

2020 update: Thirteen years later, Kirby is married, with three children, in a house in Albuquerque. They all get along sweetly.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Time and Perspective

 photo view from a high mountain of snowy landscape below

As our children get older, our perspective changes, but no matter how lofty the view, we can't see forever.

Deb Lewis wrote:
"In looking back I've not only had the pleasure of revisiting a lot of wonderful moments, but I've also had the surprise gift of perspective, which reveals overwhelming evidence of natural learning. What I always believed to be true is no longer a matter of trust or faith; it is fact.
. . . .
"He is surrounded by the things that interest humans in the twenty-first century. He is surrounded by the whole of human history. He is a citizen of the world in a time when access to information has never been easier. He is learning all the time."
photo by Bob Cogliser

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Being a mother

"If you are choosing to be a mother, move beyond playing at it, and *be* it."
—Pam Laricchia

Are You Playing the Role of “Mother”? by Pam Laricchia
(see also, if you're having fun,
photo by Colleen Prieto

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Just for now

"The big thing is to remember that you don't need once-and-for-all solutions, just for-now solutions."
—Meredith Novak
half a dozen young white ducks
the original quote, on Always Learning
or those who aren't in that group might like
photo by Colleen Prieto

Monday, May 13, 2013

Commitment to unschooling

In response to a question about commitment...

My best recommendation is to create and maintain such a rich and joyful unschooling life that the child won't want to go to school. That's the direction "commitment to unschooling" should take.
two stone archways at a state park in Texas
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Deep and wide and whole

Once someone wrote that her child was doing passive things, and had no interest in learning the basics. Amy Carpenter wrote something wonderful about active learning. This is just a bit of it. There's a link to the rest, below.

We recently took Fisher to a Blue Man Group concert—his first real "grown-up" show. Again, I could see all the connections being made—he watched how the instruments were being played, listened to how the sounds and the rhythms came together, jumped and bopped his head and let it all come together inside of him. His knowledge and awareness of music is growing deep and wide—it's not about "the basics," but about a gestalt, a holistic, systemic approach.

When you ask what component you are missing, this is what I keep coming up with. Are you looking in the wrong places? Are you looking for the basics when in fact, your son's knowledge and understanding is deep and wide and whole? What you see as "basic" are just a few Lego pieces that he'll fill in as he goes—but in looking for those, are you missing the incredibly large, whole creation that he's built up?

from Amy Carpenter's writing, here:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 11, 2013

See them

Find your child's strengths and joys.

 sun peeking over a hill and through a tree

words by Sandra Dodd on Radical Unschooling Info, a facebook group
photo by Dylan Lewis, on a solo trip to Italy
Click the photo to read things by Deb Lewis, his mom.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Leave a message

"I want for my kids to grow up and hear that mommy voice in their head saying positive supportive things—not tearing them down, but encouraging them."
— Pam Sorooshian

3/4 of the way down, on the left
I removed part of a phrase, added a dash, and put a period before it was over.
It's not a perfectly-quoted quote, but it's a perfect idea
and all the words are Pam's.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Something old, something new

two purple iris flowers blooming behind a silver Jeep

If you don't have other plans, here's an idea:

Do something new and different today. Something surprising, maybe.

Also, today, do something familiar and comfortable and soothing.

If that feels good, consider doing it every day.
The photo is a link to the report of a day in 2009.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Choose choices

"Children have to be taught to self-regulate." That "rule" is parroted by non-thinking parents with great regularity. It can be replaced with "I would like to help my child make thoughtful choices."

If you think of controlling yourself, and of your children controlling themselves, it's still about control. If people live by principles their choices come easily.
. . .
When you hear or say "They will self-regulate," think to yourself: "They will learn to make choices."
Quote is from page 56 (or 61) of The Big Book of Unschooling.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What they think

"I'm more interested in learning what they think of the world than in telling them about the world."
—Linnea King
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's a shift

 photo action figures and toys

"Being an unschooling parent means finding something you *can* like in what your kids do. It means finding a way to support them, lovingly. It's a shift away from 'eww' to 'ahh!'"
—Robin Bentley
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Relax into wonder

If you can allow yourself to relax into wonder, your children will have a wonderful mom.
photo by Sandra Dodd

The quote was from something passing, on Facebook.
Other wonderful Just Add Light moments:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Charlie eats an apple

Sarah Dickinson wrote:

I was looking at the photos on my phone tonight and found this (Jack must have taken it, hence the angle). It is Charlie (3) eating an apple in front of the telly right beside of a full pot of sweets. I thought it was a rather lovely illustration of the choices kids make when they have them, and I thought of you because they never would have had that choice without all your writing.
—Sarah Dickinson
photo by Jack Dickinson

Friday, May 3, 2013

Another planet

For some people, it scares them so much that it feels almost like they're moving to another planet and can never come back.

It's not like moving to another planet. You'll still have the same house, same car, same phone number, you'll still be sitting in the same chair. It will just be different. And everytime I've ever said that to anyone, they seemed somewhere between totally relieved and shocked. . . . .

They were flipping out. They were really spinning out, off the planet. Like, "Where will we be? What will happen? How will we ever get back?"

Back to where? You're in your own house.

The quote is about people when they first ask about homeschooling.
It's from a podcast, and this page might help in similar ways: Help
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Clarity in motion

photo apple in the top of a glass of water
Flow is learning to go fast in a calm way. Flow is clarity while in motion. The opposite of flow might be "stuckness"—being immobilized while thoughts and fears swoop and swirl inside you.

Flow is a state of being that unschoolers can reach, in which they are no longer laboring to make conscious decisions about how to encourage learning and to maintain peace and joy. It might only last a few moments at a time, but it will be enough.

page 206 (or 239) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd