Saturday, June 30, 2018

Generosity pays

I have known children with nearly nothing who suffer preventive deprivation by parents who don't want to spoil them, who are bullies away from home and always clamor to have their way, to be first, to have more. I have known children who are given their way, an opportunity to be first, and more than they ask for, and they are fine with going second, with sharing, or with giving up the best seat to someone who just really wants it.

There is no magical prevention for bad attitude, but if parents are modeling a bad attitude with their own unreasonable selfishness or arbitrary system of denying children, they should expect their children to show arbitrary selfishness to others.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, June 29, 2018

Touch and calm presence

The more touch and calm presence parents can give a baby, the better, and if they can maintain that as children get older, it might turn into unschooling.
Quote matches Infants, Babies, Toddlers—source material for German translation of some of my writing published March 2018 as Sei ihr Partner, nicht ihr Gegner

photo by Ashlee Dodd
__ __

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Maintain and replenish

If you think you haven't done enough for your children lately, do more. The richer and safer your children's environment,the more interesting and open to input and entertainment and encouragement, the more learning will happen, whether you're at home or in the car or on another continent.

Maintain and replenish your children's learning environment.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Brighter than I am

One time my neighbor's tree was brighter than the sky.

Sometimes my kids are brighter than I am. The older they get, and the older I get, the more often they outshine me in many ways. I do not mind one bit.
Photo by Sandra Dodd, in November 2010

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What is not a clock?

I do love clocks and calendars and the history of time measurement, but it is good to remember that we are not clocks, and our children are not clocks.

The clock is not hungry
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a sundial in Chichester

Monday, June 25, 2018

Artsy imaginings

Art, arrangements, sculpture—any art—is based on a vision or a mental image. Viewers interpret that, and respond, sometimes with thought, words, or responsorial art of some sort. Then someone will see that art, or comment, or review, and reference it somehow.

These are connections, sometimes wordless, and that is learning, even when it's far from facts and figures.

Art about Art
photo by Heather Booth

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hearing yourself think

Hearing what I say as a mom is crucial to mindfulness.

If I don't notice what I say, if I don't even hear myself, how can I expect my kids to hear me?

If I say things without having carefully chosen each word, am I really communicating?
photo by Eileen Mahowald

Saturday, June 23, 2018

One layer, and another....

Like layers of an onion someone can understand unschooling, and be calm, and then discover... Oh! I could extend these principles to my spouse.

For people with young children, it will be about just the surface of an onion. Maybe that's the concreteness of it. "How can you recognize an onion when you see one?"

Text is a smoothed-out quote from Becoming an Unschooler
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, June 22, 2018


"I want my kids to feel empowered, so I empower them."
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Different and better

The change you need is to live a different way. Step out of the grumpy dark into the calm decision-making choose-joy light.
. . . .

Leave the old habit to wither. Don't try to break it. Move to making better choices so that what you used to do and used to think will be left in the "choices I don't consider anymore" category.
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Women, mummies, Abe Lincoln

Lyle Perry, who unschooled two boys, wrote:

While watching a movie, a Kotex commercial came on and spawned a lengthy discussion on menstruation, and how all the different methods of protection work, or don't work, the reasons why women pick one method over another, and what did women do back before companies like Kotex existed. Then the discussion moved to the different methods of birth control, then to birth itself, and C-sections, natural childbirth, etc. All from one little Kotex commercial.

While watching The Mummy (cartoon), we talked about Egypt and the pharoahs, and then slavery, which eventually led to the civil war and Abe Lincoln, and then on to other presidents that had done "great" things.

That's just a few off the top of my head, but the main thing to remember is that none of these discussions were planned, and it's always the kids that initiate the talks, and when they stop asking "why, when, how, who and where" the talk is over. They may come back at a later date and want more information to add to what they know, or they may be satisfied and leave it at that.

TV is not a "bad" thing. TV can be very, very cool. or (bonus link):
photo by EsterSiroky

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Not what, but why?

When someone expressed shock that unschoolers felt TV was okay in any amount, Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

I wouldn't say that books are ok in any amount because it isn't *what* a child is doing that's important, it's *why* the child is doing it.
A child who reads all day long because he has many options and his parents appreciate the value in choosing what you want to do is in a good place. A child who reads all day because his mother picks at him constantly when he's in her presence isn't in a good place.

I feel that TV is a resource like any other and that given the freedom to do so kids will use it when they need it and not use it when they don't, just like any other resource.

["TV" could be video, games, YouTube...]
photo by Heather Booth

Monday, June 18, 2018

Grow into learning

In the middle of something a little longer, about becoming an unschooling parent, Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Overly self-centered people can't do it because it requires a lot of empathy. People with too many personal problems that they haven't addressed in their own lives probably can't do it because they are too distracted by those.

People who are too negative or cynical can't do it because they tend to crush interest and joy, not build it up. People who lack curiosity and a certain amount of gusto for life can't really do it.

On the other hand, we grow into it. Turns out that we parents learn, too.

So—when we are making moves, taking steps, in the direction of unschooling, turns out the trail starts to open up in front of us and we get more and more sure-footed as we travel the unschooling path.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Amy Childs

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mindful enrichment

When people ask about unschooling "success stories," perhaps we should ask them to define "success" rather than simply name unschoolers who have gone to college or who have impressive (or just sturdy and steady) jobs. Treating that as a simple, sensible question channels attention away from the broader, deeper benefits of unschooling and of living a life of mindful enrichment.
photo by Karen James

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Right and good

Deb Lewis wrote:

"There is a moral and ethical foundation to radical unschooling. It's right and good to help, support and partner with people we care about, to help them navigate the world, to give them security. It's right and good to not injure them, frighten them or shame them. Those are the things that lead to learning and emotional growth and well being."
—Deb Lewis

The quote is from

More by Deb Lewis
photo by Eva Witsel

Friday, June 15, 2018

Still growing

I can't really speak to any "end results," because they're still growing and experiencing the newness of many firsts in their lives. If there is ever an "end," the results won't matter anymore. But as long as life continues, the results unfold.
photo by Amber Ivey

Thursday, June 14, 2018

See their wholeness

Sometimes people have a sort of social hypochondria—every problem that's described, they identify with, or fear the danger will get their children. They would do much better to spend more time and attention with and on their children so that they see their wholeness, rather than imagining their vulnerabilities.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A new understanding of service

Clare Kirkpatrick wrote:

One of the things that has enabled me to really begin to understand unschooling has been a new understanding of the word 'service'.
. . . .

Now the word 'service' has only positive associations for me and is linked with the words 'honour' and 'privilege' and 'joy'. And I think also 'gratitude'. There is nothing richer than making someone's life more joyful and I get to do that at home and at work for the people in our society who need it the most.
—Clare Kirkpatrick

Longer original (you'll see what I slightly changed), lower right:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bigger, friendlier world

Karen James wrote:

Unschooling, done with too much attention on the one way of living being the only right way, can make the world seem smaller, scarier and full of confrontation.

Unschooling done with the understanding it's one choice among many, makes the world a bigger, friendlier, more dynamic place.
Find your options
photo by Hinano

Monday, June 11, 2018

Little lightshow

Somewhere in your house is a little lightshow. Be ready to appreciate it.
photo by Brie Jontry

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Choices, and benefits

Once upon a time, someone complained about me in a discussion: "I am quite sure you have nothing better to do."

What would be better for me to do than helping people who honestly want the help?

That day I responded:

"Nothing better to do" was intended to be an insult, surely, but choosing what to do in any given moment is part of living a mindful life. Some people choose to insult. Some people choose to explain. Some choose to leave. Some choose to stay. But THIS isn't where unschooling is. Unschooling is in the relationships between parents and children. That should be the topic of every post—what will help parents find ways to be unschooling parents for the benefit of their children and of the family as a whole. Because there can be secondary benefits.
And, that day, I linked to this entry in Just Add Light and Stir:
Good person, good parent
photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, June 9, 2018


"It's *hard* to shift your thinking from the answers that are easier for you to the answers that are harmonious and respectful and fun for everyone. It takes more work and energy for sure.
. . . .
"Scary? Yep. Worth it? Beyond yes!"
—Michelle Thedaker

The longer quote is at
photo by Lisa Jonick

Friday, June 8, 2018

Not just the world....

If by "change the world" a person means "make the world better," then step #1 must be to decide right then not to make the world worse.

If you replace "world" with "marriage," that idea could still change the world.
Other words you could use insead of "world":
  • party
  • road trip
  • dinner
  • visit
  • camp-out
  • bathtime
  • grocery shopping...
photo by Ester Siroky

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Are you positive?

Everyone has the freedom to be negative. Not everyone has thought of good reasons to be more positive.
photo by Gwen Montoya

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A safer, softer parent

There's something about patience that's biochemical. Some people are more naturally patient than others. When an impatient person has a child, though, and especially if that impatient person wants to be an unschooler, it's good to look at ways to become a safer, softer parent. It's win-win, if stress is minimized and life is smoother.
photo by Marji Zintz (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Live here and now


Nobody kept their kids home for 18 or 20 years just discussing life with them, hanging out, playing games.

We probably wouldn't be either, if it weren't that we're biding time until the clock runs out on compulsory education.

So even as we unschool now (and I'm not talking about people with toddlers who aspire to become unschoolers over the years), it's in reaction to the culture around us, it's finding a way to live in an alternative fashion within this culture.

People can't actually leave the planet and can't actually go back in time. The only place we can live is the here and now.
photo by Ester Siroky

P.S. A few people have left the planet for a while, but they don't get very far, and no unschooling family has yet done so.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A path around obstacles

A Joyce-quote today:

One thing that keeps me responding after all these years is because I understand. To me it makes perfect sense *why* parents get stuck on certain thought pathways. I understand why they can't see the view the child sees, why school colors their vision, why fear colors their vision. I enjoy helping them see the walls they thought trapped them are just obstacles. I enjoy helping them find a path around the obstacles.

But it can't work unless people see the obstacles aren't part of who they are, unless they can step back to observe the obstacles objectively so that they can let go and move around them.
—Joyce Fetteroll

"It's not Personal"
photo by Karen James

Sunday, June 3, 2018

"Why do we do this?"

Even in the long term, unschooling is not about the completion of a project at all. It’s about becoming the sort of people who see and appreciate and trust that learning can happen. And who can travel with children, not just drag them along or push them along, but who can travel with children along those interesting paths together not until you get there, but indefinitely.

And for beginning unschoolers that sounds also a little esoteric, a little foofy. And not solid. They want to know what do I do when the kids wake up in the morning? So, the beginning information is very often, “What do I do?” But the information that will get people from the beginning to the intermediate is why. "Why do we do this?"

Changes in Parents
photo by Ester Siroky

The quote is from a podcast episode of Pam Laricchia interviewing me.
I tweaked the quote just slightly, capitalizing "even"
and using "unschooling" rather than "it."

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Investing in foundations

"More and more I'm discovering it's not so much about giving, as it is about building, and, as Sandra has said, investing. You are setting the foundation for your daughter's future interactions with the people she will come to hold dear (yourself included)."
—Karen James
photo by Cátia Maciel

Friday, June 1, 2018

Life is a gamble

I cannot make my children's lives good. I can't ensure their success. I cannot make a tree grow. I can water it and put a barrier near so Keith doesn't hit it with a lawnmower, and ask my kids not to climb in it while it's young.

I could destroy that tree, all kinds of ways. I could do it damage. I could neglect it. But I can't predict where the next branch will grow, or whether it will double in size this year or just do 1/3 again of its height. Not all years' growth are the same.

I could mess my kids up and make them unhappy and keep them from having access to things, but I cannot make them learn. I can't make them mature. I can give them opportunities and room to grow, and food and water and a comfortable bed.

I can't guarantee anything for anyone else, nor for my own family. I know what does damage, and I know what might help.
photo by Ester Siroky