Friday, July 31, 2015

Own your own

If parents retain ownership of their children's learning, the children cannot learn on their own.stone steps, up to an arch, at a state park in Texas
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Electric in my memory"

Karen Angstadt wrote:

"I saw SO MUCH MORE learning happen because I was watching so closely. It was like a big curtain was lifted that had been preventing me from seeing clearly.carousel zebra When I think back today about that moment, it feels like THAT was the real beginning of unschooling for me. It still feels electric in my memory—all the connections I made that day about learning and its value to the learner within the place and time it is learned. I am so grateful for Learn Nothing Day."
—Karen Angstadt

(Longer version here.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Parents get pretty good at noticing when a child is tired, hungry or frustrated. It's important to see those things in yourself. Keep your family safe from your more dangerous moods and states. If you're too hungry or too tired to be kind and safe, ask for help. Or admit you're feeling stressed, and be more careful. Don't use your mood as an excuse to be harsh or dangerous. Learn to do what you need to do to stay in a workable, safe zone.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Signs and other excitement

A mom once wrote:

We left the house and headed to the subway, (we live in Manhattan). On the way there, Logan spotted a number of street signs. He commented on their shapes and colors, he gets very excited by this. We got to the subway, and he said we were taking the "A" train, so we sang the song together. At 14th Street there is an elevator to get out of the subway, so he talked about going up and down. We were headed downtown to a really fun water playground. He had a blast playing in the water, filling up a cup and spilling it out. He also practiced his climbing to get to the big curly slide. Logan also got to socialize with lots of kids of many different ages. Sometimes that takes some negotiating...he's learning. After a few hours we headed back home.
When we got off of the train, Logan wanted to go to Central Park, which we call our back yard. There is a small lake near us, and he loves to look at the ducks. We watched the ducks; he counted sticks and threw them in the water, looked at trees, flowers and squirrels. Sometimes we see Raccoons too. As an added bonus, there was a troop of actors performing Shakespeare. There was sword fighting, so Logan wanted to watch the show.
. . . .
I never had this much fun, or got so much out of a day in school.

—Meryl, Logan's mom
A Great Day
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a sign in Austin, not Manhattan
click for clarity

Monday, July 27, 2015

See them looking

If we wait to see where a child's gaze falls, and wait a while for a question or comment to form, our observation and readiness to assist if needed, or to converse casually will be better than any pre-scripted lesson could ever be.

It will be personal, and real, and at exactly the right moment.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Museums and historical markers can be fun, but most of the history around us is unmarked and undocumented.

Every little bit of trivia gives you a hook to hang more history on.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Looking at our real kids

"For unschooling to flourish it means taking out our fears and examining them. It means looking at unschooled children to find out what really happens rather than what seems like would happen (from knowledge of schooled, controlled kids). It means shutting off the expert voices that tell parents what they should be seeing and looking at our real kids."
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 24, 2015

Give it a rest.

Don't click anything.
It's Learn Nothing Day.
Art by MD/Daniel and Alex Polikowsky in 2008

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why unschool?

Amy: Here is Sandra Dodd with a simple definition of unschooling.

Sandra Dodd: Creating an environment where natural learning can flourish.

Amy: What’s natural learning?

Sandra Dodd: Learning from experience, learning from asking questions, following interests, being.
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Better? Better!

shrine to Mary, based on an old tire

Ultimately, "better" and "good" will be seen in retrospect, or in realizations that things are WAY better than they used to be. That "better" is between children and parents, and happens when it happens, not because of anything anyone here says or thinks.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Many, many ideas

Joyce wrote:
There is probably not an idea about how to be with kids that you have that we haven't seen and turned over. (Sounds a bit snooty!) What I mean is, that 1000's of people have wandered by us with the ideas they have. We've held them up for examination to see "Is this respectful? How does this help a child? How does this hurt a child? Is there a better way that will nurture him *and* help him?"
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Karen James

Monday, July 20, 2015

Go forth and soak it in

To understand what Unschooling is, it helps to understand what it is not. It can also help to see some of the best examples.
. . . .
Explore! Decide you want to learn, go forth and soak it in, sort it through, spread it around to dry.
—Sandra Dodd
photo by Cathy Koetsier, click to enlarge

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A better emotional neighborhood

Good people make better parents. Better parents make better unschoolers. If some of your transitional energy is spent being a better person, your child's working model of the universe, which only he or she can build, will have a better foundation. It will be built in a better neighborhood, with cleaner air and purer water.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, July 18, 2015

As good as a nap

An attitude of abundance and gratitude can be as good as a nap.




photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 17, 2015

One week of learning

One more week, and then stop. Learn Nothing Day is coming, July 24.

If you're new to unschooling, you might think this is easy. But if your life has progressed to the point that learning is woven into all your activities and you've learned to see it, this will take some planning and some effort.

School kids get half the year off, if you add up all the weekends and holidays. Before someone accuses unschoolers of not learning, they might want to know we have ONE day off, and here it comes. Good luck.

Learn Nothing Day, the blog
art by Holly Dodd and Sandra Dodd—it's a link

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pretty cool.

Kids really can (and do!!) learn *so* much in the absence of school and teachers. They learn so very well when they are allowed the time to explore and examine, question and Google, ponder and wonder—and they learn even better when they have the support of parents and other such people as they go after and capture the skills and knowledge that they desire. Pretty cool.
—Colleen Prieto
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

La la la la, I'm not listening

old rusty sedan in a field in Texas

Speaking or writing without thinking is a little like driving a car with a blindfold. Others get hurt, we get hurt, the car gets wrecked.

Speaking or writing without thinking is like operating a relationship with a blindfold, with ear plugs, going "LA LA LA LA, I DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO MYSELF!!" all the whole time.

How can one see her own child directly without hushing, pulling out the earplugs, and looking at him?
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Straight, meandering, twisting

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Instead of thinking there are real interests versus momentary ones (as if those momentary ones are not also real or true), our time and energy are better spent encouraging and supporting the interests that our kids actually do have.

Picture a large piece of paper with circles of all sizes drawn all over it. Each circle represents an interest. A kid moves from circle to circle—they are like stepping stones. sign shaped like an arrow that says 'look closer,' pointing at flowersThe child creates his or her own path by moving from one stepping stone to another. Some are part of a path that goes straight to some ultimate goal or achievement, others are part of paths that meander and let the person have a variety of experiences. Some are part of paths that twist and turn. Sometimes the kid sits on one of them for a really long time. Sometimes the path leads away from the current interest to something seemingly unrelated. And so on.

Looking back, we can often see the path pretty clearly. But we can't look ahead and know what the path is going to be.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Chrissy Florence

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lots of jobs you forgot about

"I was a picture framer for ten years before we moved to the US. I loved that job. I got to frame so many objects, including a snowboard, a wedding dress and a gun from the US civil war—first time I had ever held any of those items in my hands. I got to handle and look up close on many wonderful works of art, and hear so many stories about why different things were meaningful to different people. Children's art was some of my favourite to frame."
—Karen James

This is just one of LOTS of stories on a page with a list of a couple of hundred jobs people can ease into by volunteering or on-the-job learning or by becoming certified while doing related work. Reading there will give you other ideas, and stories to tell, and friends to remember.
foot-pedal self-portrait of Sandra and a quilt made by Lori Odhner,
and it's a link

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Busy and varied

(From a recorded interview you can read in transcription or listen to at the page below.)

So we find it to be really fun to discover things, but it’s easier to discover things when they are there to discover. Maybe strewing is a bit like hiding Easter eggs, but not to that extent. There just might be a couple or three things out and about. It’s like a conversation piece. It’s like putting out a pretty book on a coffee table, or an arrangement of flowers; it’s no more than that, only it’s more likely to be a puzzle. And although it’s incidental, that’s the core of my method (if you want to call it a method)—to just keep our lives so busy and so varied that incidental learning happens all the time.
—Sandra Dodd, 16 March 2004
photo by Sandra Dodd, of two waffle irons at my house

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Help them navigate the world

stone building with window boxes, and steep wooden staircase to a second-floor window, in a French town on Lake Geneva

Marta Pires wrote:

I could've easily been one of those moms who thought that saying anything to my child would be limiting her, and who could've been afraid of her daughter's sensitivity. I can see clearly now that they don't learn how to handle these situations simply from seeing us do things one way or another (although it's important, of course), but we need to give them information and find out the best way to do it, having our own child in mind. That's not damaging them or limiting them at all, quite the contrary—I think it's helping them navigate the world and become respectful, considerate, polite adults.

—Marta Pires
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bases and basics

"Base" means foundational—the heavy, bottom part of a structure. The basis of an idea is its underlying solidity. These ideas are literally basic.

Base your life in basic things. "Cover your bases." Don't let fantasy or "what if" pull you off base.

Accept and admire beauty if you can, instead of dismissing things as "just..." Just a stump. Just a dandelion. Can you see the beauty in the stump? It might be a safe place to stand after a rain. To a child you love, it might be a chair or a mountain. Dandelions are flowers that make puff-toys for children to blow on. They grow without our help. They might be the only colorful flower you'll see, some days. If a child loves them, can you follow?
photo by Sandra Dodd, of unimportant things, in Tiguex Park

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Clearer and better

Karen James wrote:

Be precise in the words you use to describe those you love, aim to support and care for. Be as generous as you can too. The clearer you see your child, the better you can respond to their needs. The better you learn to listen to them, see them, and be of useful service to them, the more they will have confidence in your ability to have their best interest in mind.
—Karen James

Karen James
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Solid and reliable

Integrity is a strong wholeness. The fabric of the being of a thing can't be broken. A bucket with one hole in it is lacking integrity. It's not a good bucket. A frayed rope lacks integrity. No matter how long or strong the rest of the rope is, that frayed part keeps it from being a good rope.
. . . .

It's exactly why every person who hopes to have a positive influence on any other person needs to figure out how to find and maintain as much integrity as possible.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Grapes for breakfast

A mom named Evie wrote:

Everything I've read about has really happened. The first couple of days, my youngest ate nothing but Twinkies and Spider-Man snacks. Then, amazingly enough, he got up the next morning and asked me for grapes for breakfast. You could have knocked me over with a feather! It truly didn't seem possible until I experienced it for myself.
painting by Gerard David, long ago (and it's a link)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Limiting limitations

fruit display at an outdoor market

There are arbitrary limits that parents just make up, or copy from the neighbors. Then there are limits that have to do with laws, rules, courtesy, tact, circumstances, traditions and etiquette.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, July 5, 2015


When children's lives are opened up and and made peaceful, they might, if they're lucky, have the opportunity to discover some things that they consider to be REALLY GOOD, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves deeply and fully into that temporary experience without someone breaking that spell by saying "move around, listen to me, go to the bathroom."

The quote above should be read in context here:
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Gone in no time

We always have ice cream in the freezer—he rarely eats it, but an apple or watermelon will be gone in no time.

A mom named Kris wrote that ten years ago, of a child who is probably grown now.
photo by Sandra Dodd, taken from a distance,
of watermelons now long gone

Friday, July 3, 2015

Help them explore

"Children will flourish if their needs are joyfully met as they explore the world. Creatively support your child in what he's genuinely interested in."
—Debbie Regan
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Free of (some) sorrows

It can be healing for parents to think back to their own sorrows and then to their own children's freedom from those experiences. (What unschooled children will not know)
photo by Sandra Dodd
of a sculpture in Old Town

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Weights and measures

five glass oil lamps, lit, in a dark room

In an attempt to "be fair," parents can be very UNfair. Children don't all need the same things for the same amount of time. Measuring with rulers and timers and charts is often shortchanging one child or another. What they could use more than that is the opportunity to decide when they're finished for their own reasons.
photo by Sandra Dodd