Saturday, December 31, 2016

Does TV create violence?

Deb Lewis wrote:

Does TV create violence, really? Maybe guns create violence. Knives. Baseball bats. Hammers. Axes, shovels, saws? Rope? Dynamite? Sharp sticks, rocks? Maybe it's language causes violence because most killers spoke. Maybe it's books. Clothing? Day time night time wind rain snow trees birds frogs.
For lots of kids, even the bad guys on TV are nicer than the real life crazy people they live and go to school with.
—Deb Lewis
photo by Tara Joe Farrell

The page also has this quote:

"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?"
—Dick Cavett

Friday, December 30, 2016

A real human being

Learn to see your child not as an ideal or a model or the memory of what a child should be like from their childhood, but as a real human being growing right there, as a real human being who's seeing and learning, and learning things that are beyond the parents' production and teaching.

They learn things that we don't know! It's awesome.
(rephrased slightly for this post, but the original is at the link)
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp Saran

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A fascinated adult

Because John Holt was SO interested in children, every time he interacted with one, he saw a child interacting with a fascinated adult. THIS is one of the things unschoolers need to remember. When the adult brings boredom, cynicism, criticism and doubt to the table, that's what he'll see and that's how he'll see it, and it will be no fault of the child's whatsoever.
photo by Lisa Jonick

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Billy the Kid reminds me of my grandmother. She lived in Lincoln County, New Mexico, in the nineteen-tens and a while after, when the events were more recent and richly local. She had been places he had been, and collected articles and booklets about him.

Louise's children remember one castle by giant ice cream cones they had there, and another by lollies.

Any association that help us recall or connect ideas is a useful part of our personal web of knowledge. In school, it is possible to cheat. In school, there is "trivia." In the real world, though, learning is learning.
photo by Louise Mills

Monday, December 26, 2016

Thirty, twenty-seven, twenty-five

All three of my children were here for Christmas. The youngest is twenty-five.

Twenty-five years ago this summer, we did not register our five year old for kindergarten; we registered him as a homeschooler. That's a long time.

I've been explaining unschooling to a growing number of people over all those years. No wonder I'm tired!

The quote is partly lifted from Twenty-five and twenty
photo by Sandra Dodd; window snowflake by Irene Adams (my sister)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Quite small

Appreciate small moments, small gestures, small ideas. Small things make up a rich life.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Saturday, December 24, 2016


In words, music, dance, art, sometimes beauty is in the sparseness and simplicity. Directly, simply, surprisingly beautiful. This is elegance.

Sometimes in parenting, or being a partner or a friend, there might be an elegant gesture. I hope you are the recipient of a few such behaviors, and the provider of some.
artistry and photo by Karen James

Friday, December 23, 2016

Still cheerful

Five years ago, someone wrote, of Just Add Light and Stir:
I really didn’t like Sandra’s blog, sure there is a lot of useful information, but the “cheerful” tone creeps me out!
Below was my response at the time. Nothing has happened in five years to make me doubt my stance. There are twice as many subscribers now.

A lot of useful information would be sufficient, I think, for a daily blog with over 800 subscribers. But I'm creeping someone out with a "'cheerful' tone"?! First, it's not "cheerful" in quotes, not allegedly cheerful. It actually *is* cheerful.

Cynicism is poison. It erodes relationships. It saps one's spirit and dissolves faith and hope. I will choose cheeriness over pissiness anytime I can manage to do it, and I hope most of those reading here are able to make that choice too, for the sake of themselves and their families. For their neighbors, for their dogs. For safety while operating motor vehicles and other machinery. For success at work, and joy while grocery shopping.

Negativity sucks. It sucks the possibility of a joyful life directly out of a person, and if it's not stopped, it will spread to others.

Smiles can spread, too, though. Kindness can be contagious. You choose a hundred times a day to smile or to frown, to breathe in joy or to suck in resentment.

Live responsibly, especially while you have children in your home.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Little things

"There will be conversations about the cats about the dog about the fish about whatever. There will be a chase around the house at some point in the day. There will be cuddles and play and connection. And tea."
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Depending where in the world you are, today is the shortest day, or the longest day of the year. Readers in Hawaii and in India won't see much difference. Those in Canada and the UK begin to slide back to more light, and New Zealand and Melbourne-ish readers might be relieved to have less sun as days go on.

Look forward to familiar sameness and to coming changes.
See the beauty.

No Time Out
photo by Jo Isaac

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Fireworks, candles and seasonal decorations create glowing moments marking the passing of time. None of them will last, but your memories might.

Help your children glow. See the light in them. Time is passing. Childhood won't last, but your memories might.
photo by Jo Isaac

Monday, December 19, 2016

Kind of a big deal

The better we handle the trust given us by a child, the better people we are, and the better the child's young life, adulthood and old age will be. We're not just dealing with little children. We're dealing with the whole of life itself, which will outlast us all. We are dealing with joy and with eternity.

The quote is from something I wrote in 2004. There is Music.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Prevent preventions

Suspicion and cynicism prevent wonder.

Unschooling requires wonder.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Saturday, December 17, 2016


It's worth looking into the concept of process vs. product. People learn from figuring out how things work. One doesn't need to build a computer just to mess with computer repair or examine parts. Someone can play with yarn and needles and do a simple scarf without being made to feel like a failure for having no interest in making sweaters and socks.

Unschooling is about learning, exploration, peace and love. It shouldn't be about pressure, shame and failure.
photo by Megan Valnes

Friday, December 16, 2016

Check your settings

Anyone, no matter how well they're doing at parenting and unschooling, can get so tired, so distracted, so sick, hungry, or some combination of those things, that they default to their original settings (possibly doing what their own mom would have said or done). So there's no point coming at which all danger is past.

Deschooling needs touch-ups and updates along the way. Be sweet and good.
photo by Jo Isaac

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Use your power for good

"Life can never be perfect, but mothers have the power to make it a little better, a little better, and a little better."
—Sandra Dodd

La vida no puede ser perfecta, pero las mamas tienen el poder de hacerlo un poco mejor, un poco mejor...
—translated by Yvonne Laborda
from an interview in Spanish and English
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Investing your time

The question was: "When do you find time for yourself as an individual?"

My response, once:

When children are very young, their lives ARE the mother's life. The more time the mother spends with the child when he's young, the easier it will be for him to separate freely on his own. It goes against some of the assumptions of traditional parenting (although it might not in India, and my comments might be too western here), to suggest that fulfilling all of a child's needs will make him more INdependent, but when a child is needy and feels ignored, he will be more demanding, not less.
As my children got a little older, I found other families to trade time with. Their kids would play at my house while the mom shopped or something, and she would reciprocate. If a mother is encouraged to look for more and more time without her children, though, it can make her feel unhappy thinking she's doing something wrong and should "find herself." Rather than encourage mothers to feel they have lost their individuality, I've found that helping them become the sort of parents they're proud to be can make them feel much better than outside interests might have. As children get older, mothers have more time, until someday the children are grown. People say it and hear it all the time, I know, but when they're little it seems it will never happen, and when they're older, it seems it took no time at all.

The more people one's children know and trust, the easier it will be for the parents to find some separate time, but I don't think time apart should be a high priority.

The graph was created for this article:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Step away from school

I've been a teacher. From that point of view the world IS most definitely revolving around years and semesters, school districts, standardized test schedules, federal title monies, school bus contracts, cafeteria funding, library cuts, parking-lot pavement... all kinds of stuff that has nothing much to do with kids, their hearts, spirits and ideas. Shuck it away. Don't live there.
photo by Sandra Dodd of a carousel at a carnival in Leiden
This post is a repeat from four years ago, Don't live there.
Turn away, and live in the rest of the big world.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Today I have a game for you to play with your family, or friends, or me online somewhere. Think of circular things, like a wreath, like a wedding ring, a crown or a halo. Think of them in art, architecture, cooking, machinery (ancient or modern), sewing, astronomy, games, baskets, botany, hats, Venn diagrams. Look around with the eyes of a child, of a spy, a painter or an anthropologist. Think of their symbolism, realities, of naturally-forming circles, and do it today, but don't stop doing it when today is over.
wreath and photo by Janine Davies

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Newness and excitement

Energy is shared, and that's how unschooling works. Whether I'm excited about something new, or my children are excited about something new, there's still newness and excitement enough to share.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Friday, December 9, 2016

Joy and wonder

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Let life flow

"If we live our values, it's likely our children will value them too. If we impose our values, it's likely our children will reject them."
—Joyce Fetteroll

How can TV in any amount be okay?
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Variable, thoughtful lunch

Some days lunch is medicinal—one child is sickly and could use soup or juice. One is off to a sports event, and carbohydrates are a good idea. One is sad, and would like comfort food. One is bored, and her sandwich could use a face.

Be as loose as a dancer, as variable as an actor, as thoughtful as a chessplayer, when you decide what to make for lunch sometimes!
photo by Hinano

The words are from Little meals make big memories

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Be reliable

It will add calm, value, and solidity to your life if you're reliable, honest, and trustworthy.
(Thanks to Amber Ivey for saving a quote I could build from here.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sometimes be quiet and wait

Very often parents find themselves in a situation where they might not see a way to make things better, but they could easily make things worse.
The quote isn't from there, but the information could be helpful.
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

Twinkling choices

There are all kinds of descriptors each of us could use for our kids. Choose the good ones, the ones that make them twinkle in our eyes.
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Just because

If someone gives you a blanket when you need a blanket, just because they know you need one and think you might like to have one, it's better than a hand-quilted show-piece given to someone who had blankets.
photo by Janine Davies

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Quietly and gently play

Jigsaw puzzles are wonderful, and you can get them at yard sales and thrift stores for less than a dollar. Greeting cards cost $2 now, but you can get a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle for 50 cents and so what does it matter if it might have a piece or three missing? Cheaper than a greeting card. Work it and throw it away.

While you’re working it, the picture on the box will inspire questions, stories, ideas, tangents. The shapes of the pieces will remind people of other connections in their lives. Except for those toddlers who eat puzzle pieces, puzzles can involve people of all ages together. There are some on the market now with big pieces at one end, medium in the middle, and small for the rest. Some bright parent thought THAT up. They’ll be coming soon to a yard sale near you.
That was written in 1999; greeting cards can be $4 and $5 now, and used puzzles might be $2.

image by Sandra Dodd, made with a scanner (pieces set face down)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Whether it's warm outside or cold, the sun through the window is the same.

Be light.
photo by Wendy Neathery-Wise

Sunday, November 27, 2016

If then learning

The parents don't need to know what the child is learning in order for learning to be happening.

If a child is bored and agitated, she's not learning. If she's happy and smiling and humming and engaged with what she's thinking, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching or smelling, then she's learning.

Sandra Dodd, on the Always Learning discussion September 2012
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fragile and beautiful

Be ready to discover temporary fragile beauty.
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Friday, November 25, 2016

Every day or two

Strewing is a little like at school, when they change the bulletin boards for different seasons, or museums when they change displays.

It's restaging the learning area.

Unschoolers don't need to wait weeks or months to restage, though. Something interesting might be set out every day or two.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 24, 2016


See what is beautiful, even briefly.

Appreciate what is, even for a moment.
photo by Gail Higgins

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

the choose-joy light

Someone else's question, and part of my answer:

As much as I read,... I seem to slide right back into schoolish ways. How long does it take to really break that bad habit?


If you think of it in negative terms ("bad" and not just "break" but "really break"), you will just sit in that negativity, frustrated, forever. You will feel there had to be a winner (you) or a loser (you) and you will be angry with yourself.

The change you need is to live a different way. Step out of the grumpy dark into the calm decision-making choose-joy light.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 21, 2016

Future memories

"Remind yourself that each moment we're creating memories. Think of those moments as photos in a photo album. We have no control over which pictures they'll keep. Ask yourself, 'Is this a moment I want my children to carry with them forever? Is this how I want them to remember me?'"
—Joyce Fetteroll

Techniques for Change at Joyce's site
photo by Chrissy Florence

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Just like that.

So how do you choose? You decide where you want to go before you decide to turn left or right, don't you?

Just like that.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Together every day

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.

Os pais sabem que a criança está a aprender porque eles estão a ver e a discutir e a fazer coisas juntos todos os dias. Não é cinco dias por semana, ou a maior parte do ano, mas todos os dias das suas vidas inteiras.
(Sandra Dodd, traduções em Português por Marta Venturini Machado)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 18, 2016

Watch your step!

Meredith Novak wrote:

I don't think too much focus on either rights or liberty is good for unschooling. When parents are invested in their rights, it's easy to step on kids' liberty. Worse, it's easy to step on kids' hearts."
—Meredith Novak

(I dropped one clause, above, because
it referred to someone else's quote. —Sandra *)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cameras and light

Cameras weren't around, 200 years ago.

A hundred years ago, people needed to be very still, to have a photo taken, and they were in black and white.

Now, wonderful photos can exist without needing to be printed. That's good! But they are sometimes less permanent than the older, paper images people framed and handed down. Use your cameras, but let images come and go. Pixels, like light, can be beautiful and be gone again.
photo by Holly Dodd, of herself

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Familiar things

Favorite tools, stored in the same old way, make your home special, and will be part of a child's memories. Love your normal stuff.
photo by Sandra Dodd of some familiar things at Polly's house

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How long?

How long should you be calm?

Longer than you think you need to be.
Thanks to Amber Ivey for saving a quote from a workshop I ran in Arizona.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 14, 2016


Props and costumes can help children to perceive the world in a slightly different way, and those thoughts add to their knowledge.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What we know

We can't tell by looking at a child that learning is taking place. When unschooling is working well, though, we begin to know know that if they are interested, engaged and thinking, they are making their own connections, large or small.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Deposit the good stuff.

When people ask about being happier and more positive, the answer can't help but be the same. BE happier. BE positive.

But as with any accounting (think a bank account), withdrawals deplete your reserves. Every negative word, thought or deed takes peace and positivity out of your account. Cynicism, sarcasm—which some people enjoy and defend—are costly, if your goal is peace. (which is really about positivity)
photo by Janine

Friday, November 11, 2016

A useful gate

"Rather than experiencing you as a gate that either opens or closes, let him experience you as someone he can depend on to help."
—Joyce Fetteroll
in a discussion November 10, 2016, on facebook
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Food and art

Food can be art, and there is art about food.

Some thing are obvious, like cake decoration, or piemaking. But even when you make a sandwich, it can be cut artfully and arranged nicely on a plate. You could use matching dishes, even if you're only feeding one child.

Aesthetics! Look for beauty, and create a bit of it.
photo by Jacki, Hannah's mom, long ago

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What do you call it?

This photo shows healthy, blooming native plants, layers of natural hillside, and hand-hewn cedar fence posts.

Or I could tell you that there's a state highway up above a mis-matched bunch of broken-down fence around an overgrown cemetery.

Both are true.
Which made you feel better?

Help others to see beauty and to feel abundance.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Confidence deepens

Karen James wrote:

"Be present. Be engaged. Celebrate the joy of a child doing anything and everything they feel thrilled about. Notice what they're learning as they play and watch. It's all pretty amazing. Build on what you learn about your child. Confidence deepens when a child is supported in whatever they find captivating. Confidence grows for the parent when they're paying attention to what the child is learning from their chosen activities."
—Karen James
photo by Janine Davies

Monday, November 7, 2016


Another year, another hemisphere, flowers now gone.

Orion in New Zealand

Seasons and flowers are variable, and local. Deserts and jungles, mountains and shorelines, all have special things to discover at different times of the day, and of the season, and of the year.

Be still and appreciate the many peaceful moments. Store up gentle memories.
photo by Jihong Tang