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