Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Without measure

Sometimes people measure too much.

Try not to go by the clock or the numbers or the calendar so much as you go by the emotional and personal and physical needs of your child. It will pay you back. It will be a good deal.
SandraDodd, "Unschooling—How to Screw it Up"
photo by Jasmine Baykus

Monday, May 30, 2016


Things change. Babies grow. Young parents get older.

See what you have. Remember what is good, from this moment, from this time.

What is not memorably good, perhaps you can make better for the next moment.

photo by Lydia Koltai, a beautiful selfie

Sunday, May 29, 2016

See the light, lightly

If we concentrate more on politics and the awfulness of school, we're not paying attention to our kids. I won't sacrifice my family on the altar of social change. My family will be a light, not a bonfire.

SandraDodd.com/issues/choice (A Downside of Choice)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Solid improvement

"It's human nature to justify and explain why loving parents did what they did to us. It's also human nature to try to do better for our children than our parents did for us. So those two things together create a tension (like cables on a bridge, holding it in place) that keeps the world from changing so quickly that it's unrecognizeable, but keeps it improving."
—Sandra Dodd

The quote was saved and shared by Susan May on facebook,
from a comment I wrote on a blogpost: "I turned out fine"

(backup copy)
photo by Colleen Prieto

Friday, May 27, 2016


A huge amount of learning is taking place, and the child's internal model of the universe is starting to form up. You can help!

SandraDodd.com/trivia, in a quote that links to SandraDodd.com/piaget
photo by Colleen Prieto

Thursday, May 26, 2016

To help a marriage

Karen James, posting on Always Learning:

Find things you both enjoy and try to make time and space for them. Include the kids or get a sitter. Chat while you're doing things together. Listen well when you have the opportunity. Learn more about your husband. Show him you're interested. Take steps to support him. Share a bit more of yourself—the positive things. The things you love. The things that inspire you. Laugh as often as you can. Smile more. Breathe deep and be present. Those things have all strengthened my marriage.
—Karen James

SandraDodd.com/betterpartner will match.
The original is here.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Find or do things to make people smile.

Smile, when you can, at what people are doing.
Happiness stacking - eating candy floss while waiting for the parade wearing beautiful make up and a Belle dress
photo by Eva Witsel

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


It is ironic when someone shouts "QUIET!"

Hold that image, as a distant cartoon, and let it dissipate.

Just for a day or two, try to speak less, and more softly. If you're already a quiet person, perhaps you can use the time to notice and appreciate that, about yourself. For the quick and too-loud among us, let's try to hear ourselves, and to raise the average of useful speech by letting go of some of the superfluous verbiage.

photo by Charles Lagace,
of the inside of an iglu (inukitut for house)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Water, light, noise and peace

No doubt stone-age children played with toy spears and bows and arrows and atlatls and slings. Surely bronze- and iron-age children played with toy swords. Part of learning about culture and tools and technology, for children, is playing.

Children play with toy guns. Sometimes those guns squirt water, or fire little Star Trek phaser disks, or they shoot light. Some of them make noise.

There is no young-child gun play so violent as a mother saying "NO. I said NO!" to a young child who has dared to pick up a friend's toy gun.

page 229 (or 268) of The Big Book of Unschooling,
which leads to SandraDodd.com/peace/guns
photo by Sandra Dodd, of little Marty, cowboy gun in sword belt

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Feeling peace

If we raise the level of peace our children expect, they will know what peace feels like.

Adults need to know what peace feels like too, though, and some feel it for the first time when they really start to understand unschooling.

photo by Andrea Justice

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fear and other hurdles

In an interview, I was asked "What have you found to be the biggest hurdle that new unschoolers face?"

My response was:

Fear, I guess, would be the answer. But different families have different fears, so it’s a hard question. Some are ready to jump away from schooling, so that’s kind of easy.

Sometimes the parents don’t agree, and that’s always a hurdle. I use the analogy of buying a yacht. It’s a big decision, and one parent can’t do it without the other agreeing. I can’t decide to own a yacht and tell my husband to just deal with it. Maybe I *could,* but would end up losing the yacht AND the husband. It’s a theoretical and a maybe, because I couldn’t even buy a car without my husband’s signature, as I don’t have my own income these days.

One secondary hurdle is when a parent feels overconfident, and becomes unwilling to continue to learn. Some unschoolers get on an odd trajectory and won’t accept help, and won’t check back for advice until they’ve made quite a mess. It’s helpful to stay in contact with other unschoolers, both in person if possible, and in writing.

Interview at Feather and Nest, November 2010
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trusting and close

The urge to control anything, whether it's food or learning or exactly how people sit or exactly what people wear, is bad for the relationship between the parent and the child. Anything that is bad for the relationship is bad for learning, because unschooling is built very largely on a trusting relationship and a close relationship.

Transcribed and saved by Amber Ivey, from UnschoolingSupport's podcast on Food
photo by Hinano

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Enough or not; too much or not

I think there should be 180 great days a year—parents should feel enough pressure that they have as many shiny show-off days as there would be school days. And that leaves 185-186 days per year for "doing nothing."

I don't think anyone should count, but if they feel like they're in a frenzy of doing too much, then that's too much. And if the mom is feeling like maybe she should do more, then she should do more.

Enough "great" that the mom feels like she provided greatness. And enough happy that the kid felt like it was good, too.

The "180" number came from the number of school days required by the State of New Mexico. YMMV.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Flexible expectations

Some people have snow while others have heat waves. Leaves turn red and gold some places while others have year-round greenery.

Some days are full of learning and laughter and others are quieter.

Expect the world to surprise you. Moments, days and years will have different kinds of weather, activity, and learning. The factors are too many to track, so flexibility and the ability to be easily amused or quickly compassionate will serve you well.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hope and gratitude

I hope you find some unschoolers you can trust and respect to help you through the rough spots if you have any, and to share your joys and successes. I know that some of you will become trusted and respected helpers for future unschoolers.

Thank you for the honesty and clarity you might bring to the lives of others now and in years to come.

from The Big Book of Unschooling, page 242 (282 of 2019 edition)
which links to SandraDodd.com/integrity
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Live lightly and musically

Encourage your kids to play with music in all kinds of ways. They're learning and growing. Help them turn the scary music off, if they're scared. Encourage them to appreciate other people's artistry.

Live lightly and musically. And if you have a kid who doesn't seem very musical, don't worry a bit.

quote from a chat transcript linked here: SandraDodd.com/music
photo by Ravi Bharadwaj, at a Rock Band game session years ago

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Structure and transformation

Mathematics could use a better name. Seriously. School has gone and made that one all scary. In addition (she said mathematically), it's not called the same thing in all English-speaking places. "Math" in some places, and "maths" in others.

But it's about measuring and weighing and sharing. It's about making decisions in video games (buy the watering can? risk danger to collect coins?) and it's about how fast music goes and which ladder to use to get onto the roof. It's almost never about numbers themselves, and it's never about workbooks (except for workbook manufacture and purchase).

I went to look for a different word for "mathematics," and I didn't find one. One Old English word was "telling." For arithmetic: "cyphering," or sums. So I went looking for modern, philosophical definitions of mathematics that had nothing to do with school, and I have collected all these bits and pieces for you: Mathematics is a science dealing with the logic of quantity and shape and arrangement; structure, space, and change; logic, transformations, numbers and more general ideas which encompass these concepts.

Structure and transformations? I use those things. Shape and arrangement? That covers art, and music. Flowers in vases and books on shelves.

Unschooling is simple but not easy, and it's not easy to understand, but when math is a normal part of life then people can discover it and use it in natural ways and it becomes a part of their native intelligence.

photo by Holly Dodd, 2010 or earlier

Friday, May 13, 2016


Learning to see learning is a process. It's part of deschooling, for the parents.

When learning starts to show, in its natural state, you will see that children are processing what they do and what they think about what they've done. They'll be making connections to everything else in their history and surroundings, to other experiences and imaginings.

When unschooling begins to really flow, the process of learning is the processing of experiences and connections.

photo by Chrissy Florence

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pleasant, productive and peaceful

Part of unschooling is involving ourselves in our children's lives to the extent that, because we've chosen to do something so different from school and cultural norms, our lives revolve around our children, and we should (if unschooling is to work well) partner with them to make their lives, and the lives of others around them, as pleasant and productive and peaceful as possible.

I wrote this quickly, in a discussion, and then noticed the four "p" words all in a row.
photo by Megan Valnes

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

All the good things follow

“Start with love and respect and all the good things follow—it is not magic, and it is a lot of hard work, especially at the beginning.”
—Marina DeLuca-Howard

Recently quoted by Pam Laricchia here,
and obtained from Quotes for Unschoolers on my site
photo by Sukayna

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Local surprises

Keep your eyes open to newness and beauty—in things you see, and hear; in things you taste, and smell; in things you know, and feel, and think.
photo by Lisa Jonick

Monday, May 9, 2016

Noisy peace

There is a phrase you should break up, in your head: "peace and quiet." Sometimes things seem chaotic that aren't. Sometimes peace can be noisy. Those toys in the photo were making zero noise.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Building trust

"When your words and your actions are in alignment, that's when you're building trust."
—Pam Laricchia

Pam's words came in this interview, at 23:15
photo by Janine

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lean toward it

You can lean—even without moving—with thoughts and decisions toward where you want to be.

Thanks to Rachel Miller for saving and sharing something I said during a presentation in Texas in April 2014.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The giggles

The most rewarding benefits to our unschooling are the ones that are so much more difficult to describe. The soulful gazes, all the giggles, the joy, the "being in the moment," the connections, the love, the peace (very noisy peace), the flow of life (looks chaotic unless you're in it), and soooooooo much more.
—a mom named Rachel

the quote in context: SandraDodd.com/gettingit
photo by Hinano

Smiles and laughter

For children to learn from the world around them, the world around them should be merrily available, musically and colorfully accessible, it should feel good and taste good. They should have safety and choices and smiles and laughter.
photo by Rodrigo Mattioli

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Up and above

Negativity will weigh you down and make life heavy.

Hope and optimism will help you float up and above.
photo by Abby Davis

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Relax now

It will be challenging as long as one is struggling.
It will stop being so challenging as soon as one relaxes.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 2, 2016

Someday you might

We've used "someday you will" or "you just don't yet" about all kinds of things, from reading to caring about the opposite sex to foods. Holly doesn't like green chile yet. She figures she will ("When my taste buds die" she jokes), because her brothers didn't used to and now they do. Kirby lately started liking mushrooms. Marty still doesn't like spinach yet, but we haven't branded him "a spinach hater," and I don't think anyone should consider a child "a non-reader," just one who "doesn't read yet."

I wrote that years ago. I would like to soften it. "Don't yet" isn't as nice (or as true) as "might someday."

They did all learn to read, and I was confident that they would. But spinach, mushrooms and green chile might not be anyone's eventual go-to foods. It can seem to be pressure to say "Someday you will" about some things, but "someday you might" makes sense.

photo by Sandra Dodd