Sunday, September 29, 2013

Maybe not too late

Pam Sorooshian wrote in 2007:

"I never 'got it' about chores until it was really almost too late....

"What I regret is that I didn't figure out ways to do stuff like this when the kids were younger. I wish I'd made housework entirely optional, but then made it enticing for them to do it with me or with each other, so that they'd have still helped out, but without the tone of it being demanded. These days, when one of my daughters and I wash dishes together, it is fun, because they really know that they have a choice, that I won't be annoyed if they turn me down, so no resentment on their part. Very very worth the extra work I had and often still have to do."
—Pam Sorooshian

Making the Shift!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Let life change you, in a good way

A heron standing in the woods
Colleen Prieto wrote:

Both my husband and I have, through unschooling, gotten into the wonderful habit of immersing ourselves right alongside our son, in his interests, for as long as he's interested. And we've learned and grown and enjoyed ourselves quite thoroughly in the process.

It is definitely funny, in a good way, how life changes you if you let it.
—Colleen Prieto
quote and photo both by Colleen Prieto

Friday, September 27, 2013

Think in different ways

"Words can shape our thoughts. It's helpful to think in different ways to be different."
—Joyce Fetteroll

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The time will come...

The time will come in your unschooling when you will forget to use checklists, but it won't matter. The child's internal grid will already have given them the need to know what things feel, smell and taste, and what they used to be or will be, and whether it's different in other places. Connections will continue to be made throughout their lives. The universe inside will grow larger and the universe outside will become clearer with every new experience. photo IMG_0695.jpg
photo by Colleen Prieto

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Providing entertainment

In response to:

How did you get comfortable with not racing around and "providing" entertainment for your children?

I wrote, in 2002:


I still provide entertainment for my children (and they provide things for the rest of the family too, because (shhh...) they think that's just how people in families are! They don't associate it with unschooling directly.

photo by Marty Dodd, earlier this year when he was out entertaining his girlfriend on a road trip because she was unexpectedly unemployed and he had a broken arm

P.S. The quote up top is from 2002. I'm still entertaining my kids 11 years later. The other day I subscribed to the last season of Breaking Bad, on Amazon, for Holly, who is 21 and lives at home. New episodes appear after they're aired.

Yesterday, Marty (24, and living separately now) and I were talking about a set of humorous history books I recently bought for him and me (matching sets), and about when Hannibal's Carthaginian army attacked Rome from the mountainous northwest. It was all about entertainment. Marty's current enrollment in a world history class is a trivial sidenote.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How will you know?

How will you know if they're learning?

Teachers need to measure and document because they need to show progress so they can get paid, and keep their jobs. They test and measure because they don't always know each child well.

Parents know a child is learning because they're seeing and discussing and doing things together every day. Not five days a week, or most of the year, but all of the days of their whole lives.
girl on the teacup ride
The quote is from elsewhere, but will work.
In Portuguese, the original quote appears here, #5:

photo by Susan Burke

Monday, September 23, 2013

Action and Creation

"Be who you believe it's best to be. Act according to your own values. Create an atmosphere where making a kind choice is easier than making a hurtful choice. Create an atmosphere where everyone feels safe."
—Joyce Fetteroll
Holly, teen, standing on a chair, using her laptop on top of a TV cabinet
Joyce Fetteroll, at Always Learning in 2013
A good link to go with it might be Building an Unschooling Nest
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 22, 2013


boys holding marmosetsChildren are naturally curious.

Sometimes an adult who had learned not to learn, or had grown up to be self-conscious about enthusiasm and curiosity, rediscovers the joy of discovery.
photo by Julie D, of Adam, Huxley and some marmosets
on the Isle of Wight

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yes, they learn.

I will say this: Any questions you have about unschooling have been answered before. If it didn’t work, no one would do it. Yes, children learn math, music, to spell, to wake up on time, to finish projects and to follow rules.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 20, 2013

Courageous, selfless and honest

The world doesn't always give people opportunities to be courageous, selfless and honest, but being an unschooling parent
flagstone design in concrete
does it every day. Choosing relationship-supporting options over expedient or fear-based options is part of "goodness," in parenting, and marriage, and friendship, isn't it?

"Peaceful Parenting" (page, recording, partial transcript) has ideas about how, in practical terms, to come to make better choices. And "better" requires a compass, a moral compass. And "better" requires discernment.

Parenting Peacefully
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Living thoughtfully

stuffed monkey, stuffed lion, other toys in a museum/storeThere is a danger in living an entirely reactionary life. If you do everything the opposite of what your mom did, it's as bad as doing exactly what your mom did without knowing why. Be discriminating and thoughtful. Don't chuck the ghost of the baby you were out with the bathwater of your emotional memories.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Focus on others

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Wanting your family to be happy, joyful and learning seems a perfectly fine goal! But you won't get there by focusing on what you want. You'll get there by focusing on what they want.

What are your kids interested in? What do they want? How can you support that?
—Joyce Fetteroll has a bit more of that, near the bottom
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Get the world swirling

If you want unschooling to work just because you stick the curriculum under the couch, it won't! Get the world swirling around you (first) and your children (second) so there are sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures for them to process and build their internal model of the universe from. GET MOVING, mentally and physically. (from 2002; pretty old)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thought and belief

Terminology reflects thought and belief.

Sometimes just a slight shift in terminology will release the mental block that keeps people from understanding unschooling.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Joy and optimism!

If joy and optimism seem stupid, don't even try to unschool until after you've gotten some therapy or made direct strides toward recovering from the sooty veil of negativity. Children won't benefit from a life guide who is sure he or she is smarter than all the rest of the world. Arrogant certitude prevents learning.

From the notes for a talk given in 2012 in Sacramento
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 14, 2013

See the light

In 1999, I addressed the note below to unschoolers about something I had written in 1993 to a general homeschooling discussion. As I link this, it's 2013. Twenty years since the first writing! So when I mentioned "40-year-old houses" (in the link, if you go there) those houses (and I) are twenty years older now.

Part of what this sort of exploration takes is the willingness to let go of an "outline" or of a hope that you will find something, and an ability to go with what you do find. It's the big airplane hangar door to unschooling, through which, if you can leave the schoolish building your own mind has built, that has "academics" sorted and stacked against old walls with bad memories, you can see the light of the real world outside. Just move out toward those cliffs and flowers and see what kind of birds are out there.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kotex, The Mummy and the talk

Lyle Perry, who unschooled two boys, wrote:

While watching a movie, a Kotex commercial came on and spawned a lengthy discussion on menstruation, and how all the different methods of protection work, or don't work, the reasons why women pick one method over another, and what did women do back before companies like Kotex existed. Then the discussion moved to the different methods of birth control, then to birth itself, and C-sections, natural childbirth, etc. All from one little Kotex commercial.

While watching The Mummy (cartoon), we talked about Egypt and the pharoahs, and then slavery, which eventually led to the civil war and Abe Lincoln, and then on to other presidents that had done "great" things.

That's just a few off the top of my head, but the main thing to remember is that none of these discussions were planned, and it's always the kids that initiate the talks, and when they stop asking "why, when, how, who and where" the talk is over. They may come back at a later date and want more information to add to what they know, or they may be satisfied and leave it at that.

TV is not a "bad" thing. TV can be very, very cool.
—Lyle Perry
or (bonus link):
photo by Dylan Lewis

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Living in the world

If unschooling is living in the world, then creating a sub-world defeats the purpose. I don't object to conferences, but I think people should go to a conference or two a year, maybe visit some unschooling friends, and also do other things, and have other friends. Mostly they should live in the town or city where they live, and not in an overlaid fantasy world.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Many options

Video games became one of the many options to chose from once I was able to remain calm and look at the child in front of me and see the passion, the connections, the light in his eyes, and excitement in his voice when he is playing a game he really loves.
—Heather Booth

Video Games Are Just One Of The Many Options To Chose From
photo by Joannah Smith

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Little things connect

Small objects have stories, connections, histories, uses and alternative uses. Objects can be researched, compared and shared on the internet. We can learn a little or a lot.

I love the internet.

reproduction of Madonna and Child in an ornate metal frame, in the palm of a hand
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a piece of art,
from the Vatican, where I have not been

Monday, September 9, 2013

Play lightly

All my life I was given advice like this:
Be serious
Act your age
Don't take this lightly.
Now, though, that I'm involved with unschooling I say to adults and to children alike, take this lightly. Play around.

Play with words, with ideas, with thoughts.

Play with music.

Play in the rain.

Play in the dark.

Play with your food.

But play safely. Play is only play when no one involved is objecting. It's only playing if everyone is playing.
photo by Sandra Dodd (click it)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Relationship building

"One interaction at a time. Just make the next interaction a relationship-building one. Don't worry about the one AFTER that, until IT becomes 'the next one'."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Colleen Prieto

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Teaching is a problem.

"Teaching" is a problem, in an unschooling light. Learning is the goal, and teaching gets in the way.Holly's profile against the museum-lit Bayeux Tapestry
photo by Leon McNeill, of Holly Dodd looking at the original Bayeux Tapestry,
in France in 2005

Friday, September 6, 2013

All kinds of answers

Principles produce all kinds of answers where rules fail.
photo by Julie D

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Sometimes parents talk too much.

Practice being quiet.
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What do babies want?

What do babies want? They want to learn. They learn by touching and tasting and watching and listening. They learn to be gentle by people being gentle with them, and showing them how to touch hair nicely, and to touch cats and dogs gently. They want to learn which foods taste good. They want to learn how to walk, but you don't need to teach them.
They'll want to know how to go up and down stairs at some point. They will eventually want to know how to get things off shelves and out of boxes. They will want to see what else is in the house, and in the yard, and you can help them do that safely.

A baby doesn't want to look at and touch the very same things day after day after day any more than you would want to watch the same movie every day for a year, or sit in the same place in your house all the time. Sing different songs with him. Play different finger games. Change what he can see in the bedroom sometimes.

A rich world for a baby is similar to a rich world for anyone else. A baby is a person. A lucky baby has an adult partner who understands that.
photo by Anand Hariharan

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's whimsical.

Holly, posing with mannequins, in Camden Market

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Sometimes learning looks like flitting from one thing to another. But it's more like gathering a collection of something. If you imagine collecting world stamps or coins, seashells, leaves, 80's heavy metal CDs, Pokemon ... you don't begin with A, collecting only those that begin with A until that's complete, ignoring ones that are there right in your reach but out of order. You gather what interests you as you find it. It's whimsical.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Jasmine McNeill

Monday, September 2, 2013

How will you be?

How will you be, as a parent, and why? What's keeping you from being the way you want to be?
photo by Bea Mantovani

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ponder the wonder

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Get interested in things yourself. Not interested in your child getting educated, but in learning for yourself. Pursue an interest you've always wanted to but never had time for. Be curious about life around you. Look things up to satisfy your own curiosity. Or just ponder the wonder of it all. Ask questions you don't know the answers to. "Why are there beautiful colors beneath the green in leaves?" "Why did they build the bridge here rather than over there?" "Why is there suddenly more traffic on my road than there used to be?"
photo by Colleen Prieto