Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trees let the light in

When the shady days end, deciduous trees do us a favor and let the sun shine through to help keep the ground warmer.

If you've seen this happen 20 or 40 times before, remember that to children it's exciting and wonderful. Slow down and see what they're seeing.

Happy Springtime to readers in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

Equatorial folk, keep enjoying your tropical flowers and birds. Know that you live with beauty that most others will never see in person.
photo by Andrea Justice

Friday, September 29, 2017


Get oxygen into that part of you that fears the tiny monsters.
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Luck in life

People come and go and we change each other. We amuse each other if we're lucky and frustrate each other if we're not so lucky.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Learning about food

Moms feel self-righteous when they worry. And they sometimes feel fantastic when other moms approve of their concerns. While the moms are congratulating each other about being so controlling, the poor kids are sad and hungry.

Chat transcript, discussing the pages on food in The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by JR Terry

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Purposes and principles

Something that inspired me to choose principles over rules:

We were at my mother-in-law's house and I offered to help with dishes, so she set me to dry, as she washed. The dish towel got so wet it wasn't doing any good, so I asked for a dry one. She said "Just use that one."

I continued to "help," but it was NOT helping. I was just wiping a wet cloth on already-wet dishes, which wasn't drying them at all.

If the principle of helping is to make things better, and if the principle of drying dishes is to wipe them dry, I was twice removed from what I had intended to do.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, September 25, 2017

Effects and causes

I liked the shadow this basket was making on the wall and floor of my bathroom. You can see inside the basket which part the light shone on to make the pattern. Every bit of the shadow corresponds to part of the basketweave, and to the angle of the light.

What you do shines on, and sometimes through, your children. You affect them, and others can see the effect.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Live here now

Live with your children in the moment, and the moment is not in the past.
Live with your child in the moment, in the world where you are.
photo by Megan Valnes

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Everything is better

The better people have examined and come to peace with their childhoods, the better they are in every moment. Not just with children, but with other adults and alone with themselves. Sleep is better, eating is better, everything is better.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 22, 2017

New eyes

Joyce wrote:
Don't teach. Just look at *everything* with new eyes....

Just live life amazed.
—Joyce Fetteroll

To read the long middle part I left out, go to:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Really out there

Ronnie Maier, years ago:

The collected minds on were my primary inspiration. Actually, my first reaction was, "These people are really out there!" But as I read a lot (LOT) of information about homeschooling, those unschooling voices kept calling me. The seeds were planted, and I began to see in our lives—even while our kids were in school—what the people "out there" were talking about. By the time we officially pulled our kids out of school, I was 80% an unschooler. One math lesson after that, it was closer to 90%.
—Ronnie Maier
(The message board named was once marvelous, but is long gone.)
photo by Chrissy Florence

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Knowing differences

"Compare and contrast," in school assignments, could have been called "tell how these are the same but different."

Here is a view through an old fence into some pens, in Maine. This isn't what old fences look like in New Mexico. I recognize it as a wooden corral, but they might not even use that term in Maine. It is the same, but different.

Our vocabularies, our understandings, our ability to think clearly—all can be expanded by considering "same but different" about animals, ideas, children, houses, music, stories, clothing, clouds... Don't dismiss children's questions, nor your own, with "it's just the same." It's probably just as different.
photo by Sandra Dodd
(and here was one in New Mexico)


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Courtesy, and teens

I posted this story in 2006 when it was six years old.
Now it is eleven years old. Our family looked like this, when the story was new:

A story slightly involving allowance, but a snapshot of how kids who aren't desperate for money can act:

Two of Marty's friends were going to pick him up to go run around, but they ended up staying here. Then another friend came over to see all my kids. Then a friend of Kirby's from work came over. I hadn't met her before. She was nice. So my three (14, 17, 19) plus four more (17-21) were all having a great time laughing and looking at stuff on Kirby's computer and around our house, and Marty's big Lego Viking village, and so forth.

They decided to go out for ice cream and then to see "Over the Hedge." I asked Holly if she needed money, and she didn't. (She saves her allowance up.) Every other person there has a job. Outside of Kirby possibly having an interest in the girl from work, there were no couples. Two of those kids do have steady others, but didn't bring them over. So it was four teenaged girls, four teenaged boys, no romantic tension (unless Kirby and new-girl; didn't see any).

And here's the big success part. They asked Keith if he wanted to go. I didn't know they had, when Marty came and asked me if I wanted to go. So they would have taken me, or Keith, or both of us, with them.

We separately thanked them and declined and found out later they had asked us both. Pretty sweet!

We didn't "teach them" to invite their parents to the movies. One advantage of our not going was that then they could fit into the big van and didn't have to take two cars.

The van they went in:
Sweetness in Teens
The photos are links.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Falling asleep

For the first MANY years of their lives, our kids fell asleep being nursed, or being held or rocked by dad or mom, or in the car on the way home from something fun. They slept because they were sleepy, not because we told them to. So when they got older, they would fall asleep near us, happily.

We never minded putting them in the bed after they were asleep. It was rare they went to sleep in the bed. They would wake up there (or in our bed, or on the couch or on a floor bed) knowing only that they had been put there and covered up by someone who loved them.

Going to sleep wasn't about "going to bed."

Kirby, four, fell asleep while playing.
photo by Sandra Dodd, 1990

Sunday, September 17, 2017

In bits & pieces

Caren Knox wrote:

I don't even think about learning any more. It's not something I can quantify, or say how it's happening for anyone other than me — and quite frequently, I can't for me, either. It's organic. It's in bits & pieces so small we don't notice.

It's in this or that conversation, chance meeting, or something we come across on google. I can say, "I want to learn the lyrics to I'm Yours" so I google that, but who can say what I learn along the way?...

How do they learn? (Caren Knox responding)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Experience and confidence

Don't rob your children of the experience and of the knowledge that they can learn to read without help. If someone can learn to read, surely he can learn other things. I don't mean to say that after he learns to read he can learn other things by reading. I mean that reading is complex, moreso in English than some other languages, and if your child knows that he learned to read, he will have great confidence in his ability to learn. (So will his parents.)

The Deeper Effect of a Child Learning to Read: Confidence
(the quote is from page 86 (or 95) of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Sarah Wassinger

Friday, September 15, 2017

"What's that?"

In reviews or analysis of...projects, new words certainly came up. The great thing was we were naming things they had already mastered or begun to understand, in discussing why something worked well, or didn't, or why a ball thrown fast against the wall could come back and hit you really hard. And so we came to words about physics, and force, and vectors, pulleys, gears, and materials. Anatomy lessons came free with sprains, scrapes and bruises. Biology just bubbled up when stickers or insects or rusty nails punctured skin. In the course of answering questions and trying to explain what went wrong or what might work better, we used new words. Science lessons for their own sake, or vocabulary lists, would have done little good (and some harm) but naming what they had already done, felt, tried and accomplished was just a bigger-kid's "What's that?"
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Here is a mother and a child. It's a tiny copy of an original sculpture. It's not real ivory or solid gold, but is representing real ivory, or perhaps alabaster, in a real gold frame.

If you don't know who that mother and child are supposed to be, it can be any mother and child.

The piece of art came from the Vatican. There is much symbolism around and within the Vatican. I haven't been there. Someone who had been there brought me that pin. I kept it for a few years and gave it away to another friend, yet it can be still in my hand, because I have a photo. And now I've shared it with you.

The pose of my hand in that photo has some symbolism. A hand position can have a subtle meaning, or an overt one. Gentle and inviting; threatening or forbidding. Communication by symbology. A handshake. A caress.

On my hand is a ring really made of gold and symbolism, representing details of particular relationships, and stories.

Stories, meanings and connections are not always told in words. Be open to seeing more, in smaller ways.

Connections (a game without equipment)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

All directions

Be open to input from all directions.

Be willing to go in different directions, over the years—with your feet, and with your thoughts.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Winchester

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Just Do It

"Just Do it — show your kids by your actions that their needs and feelings are important to you."
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sit and look

If you sit in a new place,
you will see some new things.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of someone else's
bench and fence

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trees need...

A good analogy for helping children grow in their own ways is the growth of trees from seed. An apple seed cannot grow an oak tree. Each seed has within it all it needs to know what kind of roots and leaves it will make. What young trees need is good soil, enough water, and protection from damage.
photo by Janine Davies

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Fun, home, family

Fun / home / family is more welcoming (and helpful for unschooling) than not-school / your-behavior / autonomy.

from Radical Unschooling Info
photo by Lydia Koltai

Friday, September 8, 2017

2500 posts

Thank you for reading Just Add Light and Stir! If you receive this by e-mail, or see it on facebook or on my website somewhere, please do click through to the blog where it lives.

If you usually see this on a phone, occasionally go in with an iPad/tablet or computer, and click through to some of the older posts while you're there. Phones don't show it nicely. There are 2500 pieces of art there (word and photo combos), carefully formatted, with links to related posts. Use this resource happily and well, and may unschooling continue to blossom and flourish in your life.

Thank you for recent assistance, those who sent gifts.
(there's a great list of milestone numbers there)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Live safely

A common question is how to "make" children hold the mom's hand. It helps to live in such a way that the child wants to hold the mom's hand.
. . . .

Make yourself your child's safest place in the world, and many of your old concerns will just disappear.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 67
(pages 72-73 in newer edition)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Sometimes an adult who had learned not to learn, or had grown up to be self-conscious about enthusiasm and curiosity, rediscovers the joy of discovery.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a horse at Polly's house

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Learning like a kid

One indication that unschooling is working, or has succeeded, is that the adults see the world with child-like eyes. It might just be occasional, at first, but as time passes, wonder should return.
photo by Janine

Monday, September 4, 2017

The beautiful side

"Being there unconditionally for our children nurtures the beautiful side of the human spirit that resides in each one of us. It cleans it. Reveals it. Keeps it fresh."
—Karen James
photo by Karen James

Sunday, September 3, 2017


"Three deep breaths are magical."
—Caren Knox

from a presentation called "Swimming in This Moment," September 2, 2017
photo by Amber Ivey

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Seven Years of Adding Light

Just Add Light and Stir was started in 2010 as a daily inspiration. Somehow it didn't occur to me that it might last seven years. So here begins Year #8.

I hope some of the posts have helped you be patient, and to smile.

Thanks for reading!

Last request for donations until 2020:
beautiful stripey photo by Jill Parmer

Sorry I missed posting yesterday; I was up late
playing Chronology at the Free to Be Unschooling conference.