Sunday, December 31, 2017

Quickie life improvement

Deep breaths change everything, for a few moments.
Smell imaginary flowers
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rainbow connections

If you can't connect ponies, rainbows, unicorns, Kermit, joy and immersion, read at the link below.

But I suppose you could, with a little thought, connect all those things one way or another.
photo by Amber Ivey

Friday, December 29, 2017

Better than perfect

"Better" is better than perfect.

Don't be competitive, with yourself or others.
Aim for peace and improvement.
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding learning

Finding learning in play is like the sun coming out on a dank, dark day.

That quote is old, and when I looked for a photo to go with it, I found one with great light (look at the rays from behind the people on the right), but no sun coming out, no day. Cool!

Learning happens at night, too.
photo by Janine Davies

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Sometimes the frame is as interesting as the view.
photo by Diana Jenner

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Consideration and learning

Unschooling should be about peaceful, supportive relationships, about modelling consideration and thoughtful choicemaking, and about learning.

Too Far, Too Fast
photo by Kate Hoskins

Monday, December 25, 2017

Fully to this moment

Caren Knox, writing about meditation:
I came across the concept of "householder yoga", which is different than "monk yoga". I came to allow mothering to be my practice, which benefited both my kids and my meditation. I realized expecting my practice to be like that of someone who sat in a cave for 30 days, or sat with a teacher for hours every day, wasn't beneficial; whatever brings me fully to this moment is., or In the moment
photo by Megan Valnes

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Plants and fruit, paper boxes, tins of cookies... they're not to keep for life.

Enjoy and appreciate things and times and thoughts. Be grateful for sweet memories.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 23, 2017



"Dreamy" can be attractive, or otherworldly.

Dreams only take a moment, some say. "Dream big," others say.

Let ideas float and flit, dreamlike, through your waking and sleeping. You don't need to catch them all.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Friday, December 22, 2017

Seen and appreciated

Life is made of little moments.

A good life is made of moments seen and appreciated.
photo by Karen James

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Real and good

Every choice you make should be made consciously, thoughtfully, for real and good reasons.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"I can do better next time."

If something goes wrong—car breaks down, electric bill isn't paid, yard flooded... What can be changed to help prevent it in the future?

One needs the ability to calmly look back and see what (if anything) they contributed to the failure.

I could say "Fords always break down; the power company SUCKS; my yard is stupid." But it's better to think "I should check the oil more often; paying the bill early is better than waiting til the last minute; I need to clear that drain so the water can flow out."

Spiritual/Existential Intelligence chat transcript
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Natural / unnatural combo

"A big part of natural learning is absorbing ideas and letting them swirl around in the background. They clarify. They form connections. If the subject comes up again in a few months, you may be surprised how differently you're looking at what you were wondering about."
—Joyce Fetteroll

Sometimes natural and unnatural things combine in surprising ways, and that can be a fun part of the swirl.
Christmas cactus art and photo by Janine Davies

Monday, December 18, 2017


Many things have lots of layers.

"In-depth knowledge" is about knowing more than just the surface of an idea.
photo by Sandra Dodd (up above the front door of my house, one day)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Simple and life changing

Unschooling is not as easy as some people think it is. It can be fun, and simple, and life changing, if it is done deeply and thoroughly.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Different ways, different days

My children discuss behavior and social interactions as easily as they discuss Nintendo or their own cats and dogs. When I was their age, psychology, comparative religion and anthropology were far in my future. My kids might not have much formal terminology, but they're extremely conversant and certainly can think in those areas without knowing they're too young (by the book) to do so. They understand well that there are many versions of historical events. They understand that there are different ways to act in different situations, and with people who have particular beliefs and preferences. Some adults could use knowing that.
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, December 15, 2017


"Time passes, they grow and they change and they move on in their interests and abilities."
photo by Julie D

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hard paths and soft ones

Some paths are solid and man-made. This one has beautiful tile on the step risers, but few people ever see it.

Some paths are worn into the dirt by animals, like cow trails. Sometimes kids can follow them where adults don't fit.

Other paths are proverbial, mental or imaginary. They lead from one thing to another, and on out of sight.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mess with chess

Sink-Like-a-Stone Method: Instead of skimming the surface of a subject or interest, drop anchor there for a while. If someone is interested in chess, mess with chess. Not just the game, but the structure and history of tournaments. How do chess clocks work? What is the history of the names and shapes of the playing pieces? What other board games are also traditional and which are older than chess? If you're near a games shop or a fancy gift shop, wander by and look at different chess sets on display. It will be like a teeny chess museum. The interest will either increase or burn out—don't push it past the child's interest.

When someone understands the depth and breadth of one subject, he will know that any other subject has breadth and depth.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

All seasons

Time out.

It's December, and I live at a high elevation at 35 degrees latitude. It's freezing.

I like this butterfly photo from Chrissy, though. And it's good to remember that Just Add Light and Stir has readers near the equator, in India and Hawaii; in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa; in Alaska, Canada, Scotland. Maybe it's winter, maybe it's summer, maybe the days are long, or short.

We can all share this butterfly and blue sky today.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gentle with a child

We make choices ALL the time. Learning to make better ones in small little ways, immediate ways, makes life bigger and better. Choosing to be gentle with a child, and patient with ourselves, and generous in ways we think might not even show makes our children more gentle, patient and generous.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Theoretical broccoli

If my kids watched TV for hours each day, I might not be a good person to listen to about this, but I'll say it again: Unlimited access to TV and to food in my house has produced kids who only watch TV when they want to, and who only eat what they want to eat which is NOT a bunch of candy.

Holly asked for broccoli Tuesday. I bought some and cooked it before I knew she had gone to her friend's for an overnighter (she got the invite and left while I was shopping). So yesterday she asked about it, I reheated it and brought it to her at the TV where she was playing a game, waiting for the Simpsons to come on. She finished that bowl of broccoli, salt and butter, and asked for more with less butter.

I cooked the rest of it, and she ate most of it.

When The Simpsons ended she was done with the TV.

This isn't theoretical broccoli or TV, it was yesterday.

[It was 2001, sixteen years ago, but I wrote it the day after it happened.
Holly was nine years old.]

True Tales of Kids Turning Down Sweets
photo by Kate Green-Bagy

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Practice being accepting of whatever cool things come along, and providing more opportunities for coolness to unfold.
photo by Janine

Friday, December 8, 2017

Running in the fog

Once there was heavy fog at our house. Kirby was four or five. He had never seen it at all, and this was as thick as I have ever seen fog. He wanted to go and touch it. I yelled "Let's go!" and we ran up the road, and ran, and ran. About seven houses up we got tired, and I said "Look" and pointed back toward our house, which was gone in the fog.

I did not say "See? You can't touch it, really, it's touching us, it's all around us."
I didn't say "Let's don't bother, it's just the same wherever in there you are."

I let him experience the fog. He learned by running in fog and smelling it, and losing his house in it.

Learning to See Differently
photo by Sandra Dodd, of snow on plastic netting

This post first appeared in February 2011; there are comments there.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The abundance around you

"On our walk, I was contemplating finances, and was stressed 'til I remembered to notice the abundance around me: uncountable leaves on a tree, innumerable blades of grass... Yes, my life is rich. Nice."
photo by Gail Higgins

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Joy and connection

I felt very limited when I needed me time. I was needy and restentful when I didn't get it. I'm glad I don't feel I need it nightly anymore. I'm glad I have been able to find the joy in being around Austin even after the sun goes down and find times for myself throughout the day if needed. I'm glad that I can find connection with my husband even when Austin is still awake. It feels so free! I wish I could help everyone feel this free!
—Heather Booth, 2011
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, December 4, 2017

Coincidence and confluence

I don't believe in magic, but I find joy in wonderful coincidences and confluences. I like looking at a digital clock right at 11:11, for its pattern and symmetry. When planets line up I'm happy, even though I believe it to have no effect whatsoever on humans on earth outside the happiness they might have if they know about it.

The quote is from Magic Window,
which was written about my kids about this time ten years ago,
when they were 16, 18 and 21.

photo by Chrissy Florence

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Learning everywhere

Kids want to learn. When people unschool their kids, the relationship with the kids becomes the driving force, and it becomes the environment for more learning and more happiness, which primes the pump and you can’t stop it. Try not to learn. You can’t do it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Right in front of them

Had I just taught my kids to read and then unschooled, they would not be the calmly confident people they are today. They might be saying "Okay, mom, time to teach me division" or "Mom, you didn't teach me to spell yet." Instead of that, I help them learn whatever is in front of them.
photo by Brie Jontry

Friday, December 1, 2017

Living better in the world

Unschoolers live in the same world as other people. If you plan ahead, you can live in that world even better than most people do. If you stubbornly cling to frustration or fantasy, you can find yourselves isolated, and angry about it as though the isolation was imposed on you from the outside.

Don't pine for "unschool-world."

The problem of "Unschool World"
photo by Megan Valnes

Thursday, November 30, 2017


If you've seen all the cool things on the shelves at your house, look at other people's shelves!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


"What I like most about rivers is
You can't step in the same river twice;
The water's always changing,
Always flowing."
—Stephen Schwartz lyrics, for Pocahontas to sing

Just Around the Riverbend
photo by Lydia Koltai

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Colorful Colours

Natural colors, accidental designs, artist-chosen combinations. However you spell it, find and name some coloured colorations that you might have missed otherwise.

Learning to see Differently
photo by Joyce Fetteroll

Monday, November 27, 2017


Keith and I installed that peekhole in our front door when Marty was little. Now Marty is 28 and lives in that house with his wife of three years, who is expecting a child.

What you see from your own house, through your own eyes, starts small. The way you see the world as you're growing up can be like a peekhole. We will never be able to see out through others' front doors, as they do. We can't see through their eyes.

Remember your view, no matter how vast it becomes, is personal and limited.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Some children have seasons of wanting to cocoon at home (some adults, too). Sometimes an unschooled child will go through a year or two of not wanting to go out. And some are inclined to be inward-looking.

I think in Howard Gardner's intelligence theory, this might perhaps involve more intrapersonal intelligence than average. But there are artists and writers who prefer a great deal of time alone, too. And even among those with kinesthetic intelligence, there are some who prefer hiking, climbing or skiing. There are those who practice sleight-of-hand and juggling for many hours alone. There are musicians who play a thousand hours in private for every hour they might share with others.

Slightly edited from the page Time for Solitude
photo by Sabine Mellinger

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Arts and sciences

Art, engineering, form and function. See beauty not only in exotic or historical things, but also in newer, serviceable objects.

Even brooms and dustpans are designed and created to be attractive and serviceable.

Some art is seasonal and fleeting. Does someone in your family wrap gifts beautifully? Make beautiful cookies?
Everyday Art
photo by Broc Higgins

Friday, November 24, 2017


Conditions change for many reasons. Comfort levels vary.

Even one small improvement can positively affect a moment, a mood, a person, a family.
photo by Karen James

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Visits make memories. I still remember places I visited when I was very young. I recall things I ate, saw, heard, discovered, and learned. The houses and places are like characters in the book of me.

For everyone who has hosted my kids when I wasn't there, I'm grateful. They have memories of many things I didn't see.

My life is richer for visits as an adult, being able to see architecture in neighborhoods unlike my own, happy homey artistry and collections of everyday things, oddities, back yards and gardens.

Take your kids visiting. Have guests. What is small and routine for you might last forever in them.

Unschooling Very Well
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Clarity and focus

Clarity and focus make things easier.

Muddly confusion make things harder.
photo by Janine Davies

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Preserve joy

With kids in the house, wanting mom's positive attention, the creation and preservation of joy provides a better environment for the whole family.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 20, 2017

Helpful and supportive

I have suggested to parents of infants to imagine that a child comes with a book of coupons for saying "No" 200 times (pick a number; I've said 300 before, too). That is how many times a parent can say "No," and the child really listen.
So it's good not to use them all up in the first year or two, because the child won't hear you anymore. It's good to save a few dozen for when they're teens and it's crucial.

To extend that to marriage, how many hateful statements can a relationship endure? How many fights will crack the foundation? Keep hate out of your house. Only say helpful, supportive things.

Parents who wouldn't dream of telling a child he is stupid seem not to notice saying similar things to that child's other parent. Don't be hateful, and save your fights for very important things in the distant future. (If the rest of this goes well, you might never need those.)
photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mom in the middle

The mom is in the middle. She's the pivot point, the center, the way in which all these people are related.

A mom was worried about being in the middle, in a situation involving her husband and four children.

Being a Happy Mom
has other encouragement for moms.
photographer unknown, but the mom is "jakesmom"/Vicki

Friday, November 17, 2017

Real learning is intangible

Karen James wrote:"Real learning is a breath. Ethan said something kind of funny to my husband recently. He exclaimed "Now you are breathing consciously!" We all became aware of our breathing in that moment. Learning can become as effortless as unconscious breathing when we it happens without prejudice or too much attention to its presence. It's so big it permeates through everything we do, yet so intangible at times we can only guess at its influence and significance."
Becoming an Unschooler
photo by Heather Booth

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Truly worthless

Truth can still be worthless, and a worthless statement might still be true. Cosmic. So profound I need a nap.

I think this illustrates the commutative property of cosmic profundity.
I wrote it in a collection of worthless statements, here.
Photo by Sandra Dodd, of a miniature golf hole in Rochester, Minnesota.
Miniature golf is not worthless, but that's not real water.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Abundance and gratitude

"If it's not one thing, it's another."

People usually say that of problems or frustrations. But what about gourds, and little girls, and music, and humor?

If you practice finding abundance, if it's not one thing, it will be another.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


"Round" is whole, and strong. Something circular can represent completion or continuation.

When everyone has had a turn that's a round of cards, or a round of play in a boardgame. At a celebration, "a round" can mean everyone has a drink.

Around. Surround. Some things, you think of as being "all around" you, or "all around" everywhere. You might be surrounded by things like ... air. Potential friends. Opportunities. Love. Surprises.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a carousel near a round barn in Vermont

Monday, November 13, 2017

Do one thing better

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

Insecurities about something big like unschooling, is natural. What I've done with those thoughts, is to actively do one thing better. Then another, and another. And another.

Unschooling is built on these small and thoughtful acts that change the bigger picture over time. Each change or tweak, or alteration we make that positively impacts the way we interact with our children, can really only help. Without those little changes, we stagnate. We don't grow. And as a result, unschooling doesn't become better.
Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Quite quiet

look without narrating.
Think without voicing.

Too much commentary can make words less valuable.

See shadows and sunshine and shapes and children without always saying so.
photo by Sandra Dodd, who talks too much

Saturday, November 11, 2017


It's not about "success," it's about progress, and living in the moment as well as possible.
photo by Sabine Mellinger