Sunday, January 31, 2016

Keep the world safe!

A child who can recite prime numbers or reel off the infinitesimal pieces of pi might not be able to wipe his own ass. What kind of gift is that for anyone? It's just a thing, like being able to pogo stick for an hour, or to learn all the dialog and songs in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It will neither save nor destroy the world.

Keep your child safe from pressure and labels. Have a happy life.
The first paragraph is from The Big Book of Unschooling
and I made the last part up just now.
Neither is on my website.

photo by Jasmine Baykus

Saturday, January 30, 2016


"Meredith Meredith" wrote:

If you value something, make it part of your life. If you value music, play music, listen to music, dance and sing. Invite the people you love to join you—maybe they will. If you value scientific thinking, think like a scientist. If you enjoy math, play with numbers and relationships. The catch is to live your own values without trying to foist them off on other people—because that's not a very good way of sharing what you love, and because personality matters. All your singing and dancing won't make your kids musicians if they're not so inclined—but they'll know a few things about music. If you push music at them, they may associate what they know with drudgery and unhappiness—and then you've failed and failed more utterly than if you never sang a note in their presence.
—Meredith Novak

photo by Sandra Dodd, of Marty kid-art

Thursday, January 28, 2016

This moment

What can I do now to make this moment better?
—Eva Witsel
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Slowly 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 Evelyn Torrales (Celeste Burke's mom)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Problem solved!

Joyce wrote:

If we're creating an atmosphere of power struggle, the kids will fight back to win. If we're creating an atmosphere of problem solving, the kids will feel part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Monday, January 25, 2016

All kinds of things

"Homeschooled children who grow up in a stimulating and enriched environment surrounded by family and friends who are generally interested and interesting, will learn all kinds of things and repeatedly surprise you with what they know."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Abby Davis

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Becoming, and being

Becoming the sort of person you hope your child will be, or that your child will respect, is more valuable than years of therapy. And it’s cheaper.
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Joy, gratitude, abundance and peace

I'm not interested in helping people battle or fight or struggle. I want to help them find joy, gratitude, abundance and peace.

Fighting a lack of peace isn't creating more peace.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bounce, spring and fly

Keep your ideas bouncing in unpredictable directions! Let them spring and fly.

Rum Tum Tugger hooks up
photo by Lydia Koltai

Thursday, January 21, 2016

In peace, at home

Alex Polikowsky wrote:

Some people go to school, have Special Ed for many years, have labels and they still cannot do things they way they are "supposed to." Those will still carry all the harm from feeling less than, and broken. I would not want that for any child.
photo by Cathy Koetsier, of an old waterwheel, in France

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Never too late

Where learning is concerned, it's never too late and everything counts.
photo by Eva Witsel

Monday, January 18, 2016


The structured homeschooling that involves buying a curriculum and teaching at the kitchen table on a schedule is not the control group the school system needed. Those who practice “school at home” serve to reinforce the school’s claims that they could do better if they had more teachers and better equipment. When a structured family has high test scores, the schools say “SEE? We could do that too if we had one teacher per three or four students.”
. . . .

Scientifically speaking, my children are not a control group. They’re not isolated and kept purely away from school methods and messages. But what is unquestionable is that there are now thousands of children who are learning without formal teaching. They are learning from the world around them, from being with interesting and interested adults doing real work and real play. Instead of being put away with other children to prepare for life, they are joining life-in-progress right at birth, and never leaving “the real world.”
photo of Holly Dodd and Adam Daniel, by Adam's mom

Repeated, photo and all, from October 11, 2011. Holly is twenty-four years old now, and Adam is ten.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


It seems that once unschooling is going that it covers everything, and there are no wasted moments, or wasted thoughts.
but you don't have to take my word for it:
Shockingly efficient
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, January 16, 2016


Priorities are what will help one decide whether this moment's next step should be to the left, or the right, forward, or back, or just to stand and wait.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Friday, January 15, 2016

Getting there

You get to a place by physically getting there, by emotionally getting there, by mentally getting there.
photo by Rodrigo Mattioli

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Be thankful

Karen James wrote:

Be thankful. Notice little things throughout the day that are simply good. The health of your children. The pattern on the soap bubbles in your kitchen sink. How perfect a favourite mug feels in your hand or looks on a shelf. A laugh. An easy moment. The breeze. The sunshine. A connection with a loved one. A touch in passing. A deep breath. A full moon. A cat purr. A hole-free sock.
—Karen James
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Capable and loved

Schuyler wrote:

I am often struck by how much of an effective method unschooling is. Maybe effective isn't the right word, but it feels right, or apt. I don't know of any other approach to people that helps them to feel more themselves, more powerful, more generous, more capable, more loved. And what an outpouring you get in response. And I feel so much better as this parent than I did as the parent I used to be.
photo by Sukayna

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Remodel your mind

Once upon a time a confident and experienced scholar went to the best Zen teacher he knew, to apply to be his student. The master offered tea, and he held out his cup. While the student recited his knowledge and cataloged his accomplishments to date, the master poured slowly. The bragging continued, and the pouring continued, until the student was getting a lapful of tea, and said, “My cup is full!” The master smiled and said, “Yes, it is. And until you empty yourself of what you think you know, you won’t be able to learn.”

Weird Al says it a different way in “Everything You Know is Wrong,” and Christians say “You must surrender yourself.” Before that Jesus said, “Unless you become as a little child…”

What it means in homeschooling terms is that as long as you think you can control and add to what you already know, it will be hard to come to unschooling. The more quickly you empty your cup and open yourself to new ideas uncritically, the sooner you will see natural learning blossom.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of paintings on glass by Hema Bharadwaj

Monday, January 11, 2016

Learning to listen

"Listen to your body" isn't the best description. There are ways to pay attention to bodily clues that our culture and language came to ignore and deny.

In response to someone talking about her children self regulating, I wrote:

"Self regulate" means to make a rule and then follow it yourself. They're not self regulating. They're making choices. It's different. It's better!

My friend Bela sent me the following story, which has a good description of mindful living:
One zen student said, "My teacher is the best. He can go days without eating."

The second said, "My teacher has so much self control, he can go days without sleep."

The third said, "My teacher is so wise that he eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's tired."
My kids did that!
photo by Beth Lamb

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Plan B

Twice since the beginning of January, I've missed posting Just Add Light. I had a head cold, and it was snowy, and I stayed in bed long hours, at odd times. I'm sorry! I'm better.

As Plan B, I hope that any day you notice there was no post that you'll go to the blog and click the randomizer in the upper right. There are some great posts from years back. Odds are you'll find a good one!

Randomizer, upper right
(If you're on a phone, you could wait until tomorrow,
or get on a computer! The blog is prettier there.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Invisible weeds

Weeding out terminology we would prefer not to mean improves thinking.

A hundred times or more people have said "just semantics" and "stupid" about me saying "don't say teach," which I've been doing for years. Every time someone says "taught" or "teach" they can slip back into the whole school thing and be seeing the world through school-colored glasses. If they do what it takes, mentally and emotionally, to recast their reports and then their thoughts in terms of who *learned* something, then they can start to see the world in terms of learning.
is where the quote came from
but the "Mindful of words" page
might be good to see.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tools and equipment

If you want to unschool, there's no curriculum to buy and you and your children will be discovering the secret passages and magical destinations without a schedule or a map.

To help you prepare for or strengthen your own heroic adventure, there are three tools you need, and a checklist of seven nest-building items for you to collect and protect.
Equip yourself with:
good examples
Build your nest with
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Parallel play

When a family is used to being together most of the time, it's easy to accept that one person could be having thoughts or experiences that don't match anyone else's, and people can still be happy in the situation. In a game, or looking at a display, or climbing, different people's experiences are their own, and learning will be happening within and around you all.

Shared experiences are not identical experiences.
photo by Janelle Wrock

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


When thinking of new things to do, consider the five senses—taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing. Not all people have all five, but try to do new and different things. There will be connections, and children will do unexpected things. Be flexible in your acceptance, when activities don't go the way you envisioned them.

Home-made play dough can have texture, scent, color, and by trapping some air in there, you can probably get sound out of it. There are recipes online for edible versions, but there's a good recipe on the "Young Children" page, along with dozens of other ideas.
photo by Julie Markovitz

Monday, January 4, 2016


Digital cameras provide the best opportunity ever for children to take photos. Offer them your phone or camera sometimes, and let them look in new ways. (Neck straps or wrist straps can be good.)

Save their photos for them, if you can.
See what they see.
photo by Marin Holmes

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Being mindful

Try to be a good unschooling parent, a generous freedom-nurturing parent, a parent providing a peaceful nest, a parent wanting to be each child's partner. Try to make your decisions in that light.
The text above paraphrases something I wrote there.
photo by Brigita Usman (click to enlarge)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Light, or joy

Several weeks ago, I requested photos that had "something to do with light, perhaps, or joy."

Thirty-four people sent at least two photos. Some sent more. Nearly a third of those had a similar photo—water play, usually in waves, near a shore.

I hadn't thought that there might be a predominant, iconic image of light and joy, but I think playing in water might be it!

The second most frequent theme was snuggling, or carrying another person. Sometimes it was parent and child, and other times siblings.

In third place for repeats was Lego!

Andrea Justice's set of five photos included a beach AND Lego!

You'll be seeing more of all of those over the next few months, and thank you all for letting us peek into the light and joy of your lives.
photo by Shannon Loucks