Tuesday, December 31, 2019

It's this:

Being a good parent is not martyrdom. It's this: Being (in essence, in life, in thought, in action) a good (not bad, not average, but quality/careful/positive) parent.

I don't know where I first wrote it, but Karen James saved and shared it in 2012.
Becoming the Parent You Want to Be is a fair match.
photo by Belinda Dutch

Monday, December 30, 2019

Wrapped in comfort

"Being the parent to my kids that I needed when I was younger has wrapped my own self in a comfort I never got to have before."
—Jen Keefe (here)

photo by Kinsey Norris

Sunday, December 29, 2019

If/then do more

Anytime an unschooling mother thinks she's not doing enough, the simple solution is for her to do more.
Here are some ideas: http://sandradodd.com/checklists
photo by Kinsey Norris

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Nothing you "have to" hate

Try not to hate anything more than you "have to," and once you get to thinking more positively, you might find there's is nothing you have to hate.

photo by Lydia Koltai

Friday, December 27, 2019

Warmer and more comfortable

Make conscious choices, in little ways, in ways that make your family warmer and more comfortable. Not a few big decisions, but a hundred of little decisions in the next 20 hours. Tone of voice. Smile/no-smile. Patience/rush. Gentle/jerky.

about stepping up and getting calmer
photo by Jo Fielding

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Night lights

Small kindnesses are the best kind.

photo by Heather Booth

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Let it be

Let it be what it is.

photo by Janine Davies

Monday, December 23, 2019

Warm, glowing traditions

A pretty thing, about New Mexico...

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Minor and temporary problems

SandraDodd.com has been moved to a new server, and minor problems are being dealt with. Unrelated to that, the site where many of my older photos are stored is having problems, and that affects my website and hundreds of older posts in this blog. Things will be back to normal, but it's not happening today!

Please don't forget me if things are glitchy and incomplete for a litle while. I will share some happy wintery photos for a few days, and I hope those of you with holidays to celebrate this week have many smiles and joys.

photo by Sandra Dodd, of an "adobe" gingerbread house
created by a happy committee of kids, teens and parents
at Kim Archuleta's house in 2007.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Sharing life

I expected unschooling to cause me to be closer to my kids, when they were young, than I might otherwise have been. As time went by, though, I found that I was being kinder to my husband and nicer to my pets.

Others have reported this effect, and their surprise. As unschooling principles became a deeper part of their lives, they discovered a gentler homelife, and an expectation of kindness.

Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling
photo by Meredith Dew

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Is learning fun?

Kathryn Baptista wrote, in a discussion about formerly-schooled kids who assert that learning is not fun:

Playing games is fun. Watching tv is fun. Reading can be fun (if it's something you like and you're doing it for...well...fun.) Playing with (and maybe even taking care of) the dog is fun, pretending to be a pirate, making things, using the computer, maybe cooking... Fun.

You get the idea. And most people who are here, even the beginners, will recognize that for any and all of these things that kids choose to do for fun during the day can be a source of remarkable learning.
—Kathryn Baptista

CONNECTIONS: How Learning Works
photo by Lourdes Garcia

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A place to rest and dream

I believe there is a sacredness in sacrifice.

People are embarrassed by the idea of "the sacred" in everyday life. They reject it, often, unless it's part of a specific, brief ceremony (grace before a meal; Friday night candles and formal meal; bowing to a family altar). The idea that making a bed for someone could be about love and preparation of a special place to rest and dream seems too mushy, I think.

From this page which was following on some discussion of sacrifice.
Two words were added to the top line, above,
but the topic was understood in context.
photo by Whitney DiFalco

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Limited and limiting

It is very common for people to see school as the center of life, the universe and everything. That's the way the world looks when one sees it mostly in textbook photos, or through whatever classroom windows haven't been papered over or painted out, and from the windows of a schoolbus on the way home to finish homework before going to sleep early because it's a schoolnight. That world is limited and limiting.
the whole wide world and what schooling isn't
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Accept contagion

Negativity is contagious. Joy can be contagious, unless one is wielding the sword of negativity, protected by the shield of cynicism.

Don't defend your negativity.

Allow yourself to be infected with other people's joy.

"Happiness Inside and Out"
photo by Sandra Dodd, of flowers growing on drainpipes and ledges
in Staines, in Surrey, in 2012


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Real decisions

I think it's as important to turn away from "self control" and "self regulation" as it is to turn away from schoolishness itself.

When people have the opportunity and encouragement to make real decisions for real reasons, and they know why the're doing what they're doing, and they're not doing things that don't seem to have a purpose, then "control" and "regulation" don't factor in at all.

I know it sounds crazy, and I also know a LOT of families who thought it sounded crazy and now have that same feeling about serious discussions of "self control" or "impulse control."

Choices, choices!!!!
photo by KathrynRobles

Friday, December 13, 2019

Resource Treasures

Written at "Always Learning," by Megan Valnes in August 2018:

"Mostly our unschooling journey is unfolding beautifully using the guiding principles I learned from this group. Just Add Light and Joyce’s unschooling cards are my daily resource treasures."
—Megan Valnes *

the Always Learning discussion has moved to groups.io
photo by Joyce Fetteroll

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Interesting choices

Joyce Fetteroll, on choices:

When kids are given the choice between doing things they like and things they don't like, they choose things they like. When kids are give the choice between things they are allowed to do and things they aren't allowed to do, "aren't allowed" looks intriguing.

Have you ever seen a sign on a boring door that says "No Admittance" and felt the urge to open it? If there were no sign you'd not give the door a second glance. But that "No Admittance" sign makes it intriguing, like there's something special back there that you can't have.
—Joyce Fetteroll, 2004

Choose a point...
photo by Lydia Koltai

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Looking, and finding

"I seek happiness each and every day. The best place I find it is in my children."
—Nina Haley

Waking up happy
photo by Meg Oh

Monday, December 9, 2019

When is it art?

Whitney DiFalco arranged those buttons within a circle, and photographed the result. Each button was created as utiltarian art, by other people, other places, other times. The photo is here for you to see. The buttons are probably back in whatever tin or box they were in before.

After some recent snow and rain, water ran off the roof into a plastic half barrel. The top froze, about two inches thick. Leaves had fallen on one side, and the ice locked them in.

My husband, Keith, took it out and set it upright so the light could shine through. His artistic decision was what would be "the base," so the mostly-embedded leaves hung down nicely. He didn't tell me about it; I happened to notice, and took a photo from my car.

The ice is gone, the leaves are on the ground with many others, and someday the photo will be lost.

"Art" isn't just in the arrangements or the photos. I think art arises with someone's appreciation of the shapes, colors, textures, and light.

The Spirituality page has a title made of a photo of temporary patterns.
Someday that page will be gone.
photos by Whitney DiFalco and Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Sometimes a gate is calling me to walk through it. Sometimes a gate hasn't been opened for years, but it's a pretty part of the fence.

I like the phrase "six of one; half a dozen of the other." It can mean "I don't care," or "it makes no difference to me," but in its most peaceful, positive light it might mean "I will be happy whether I go through that gate, or whether I never do."
Overcoming Fear
photo by Belinda Dutch

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Learning without lessons

I wrote this in 1997; I added the ages in 2019

My kids have learned to read on their own. Kirby (11) is fluent and uses reading for all kinds of things. Marty (8) is irritatingly phonetic, but will become fluid with more practice.

First of all, Pam Sorooshian and such folk would probably be able to point out or draw out dozens of things I did with/to/for my kids that helped them learn to read, but I didn't "teach" them to read, any more than I taught them to play Nintendo (although I did buy them a Nintendo, let them rent games, and bought some game guides and magazines).

I didn't teach them to do tricks on the swing set, but we did put the swing set up and maintain it and keep it clean and available. I didn't teach them to ride bikes, but I did make sure they had bikes and opportunities to ride places other than just right in front of the house. I didn't teach them to sing, but I did sing to and with them a lot, take them places to hear others sing, play videos and recordings of different kinds of singing, etc.

They read.
They know that something as hard as reading can be learned without formal lessons.

That's a heck of a thing for kids their age to know.
There are adults who don't know it.

Life in progress
photo (fuzzy, but Marty) by Sandra Dodd

Friday, December 6, 2019

Intangible gifts

For many families, this can be a time of stress and love and joy and exhaustion and fear of failure, concerning procurement and presentation of food or presents.

Remember intangible gifts. Remember to be kind and quiet and sweet, around and through the sound and swirl. Be grateful and express your gratitude to others, for help, for health, for being, for smiles, and for love. Touch and speak gently.

photo by Meghan Pawlowski

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Consciously, thoughtfully

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A house full of "ok"

Our house is really very peaceful. A house full of "no" can't begin to be this peaceful.

Written in 2006 when my kids were teens and all still home,
and shared again on Always Learning in December 2019
photo by Belinda Dutch, of her warm family

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Non-emergency services

People who will read about unschooling very regularly, and think about it every day, and DO IT, increasingly better, all the time, are not likely to have sudden emergency needs. The whole idea is to move ever nearer to understanding how to live like an unschooler in every aspect of one's life—not to "act" like an unschooler, but to think like one.

That was written at How to Discuss Unschooling, about what makes unschooling discussions work well for members and their families.
photo by Jihong Tang

Monday, December 2, 2019

Gradually, humorously and merrily

It's not good for a family that's had rules to drop them suddenly. It confuses the kids, and robs the mom of a hundred chances to go "Hmmm.... Sure! Why not?" and keeps the kids from those hundred joyous moments.

Better to move toward it somewhat gradually, humorously and merrily than to just say one day "Eat anything and everything, and never go to sleep." That's not comfortable.

The quote is from Principles of Unschooling?
but it's about Gradual Change.
photo by Kinsey Norris

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Preserve some instincts

Allow children to reject food they don’t like, or that doesn’t smell like something they should eat, or doesn’t look good to them. Don’t extinguish a child’s instincts because you-the-parent seem sure that you know more, know facts, know rules.
. . . .
Instead of looking for exceptions to knock my ideas away with, read a little (of this or anything else), try a little (try not forcing food OR “knowledge” into children), wait a while (and while you’re waiting, ponder the nature of “fact”) and watch for the effects of the read/try/wait process, on your own thinking, or on the child’s reactions and responses, or on the relationship.

Reading science; food, and instinct
information on a situation in which
Twinkies are better food than alfalfa sprouts,
and when lettuce might be very dangerous

Photo by Sandra Dodd of bell peppers (which I don't much like) stuffed with things lots of other people don't like or can't eat. I didn't do it on purpose, the recipe was just all beef, onion, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, pine nuts...

Friday, November 29, 2019

Artistry with color and food

When you choose, clean, cut and set food down, be there.

Sometimes, consider the texture, color and shapes. A few minutes spent seeing more clearly, and moving more purposefully, might make memories for those who see your momentary artistry, and will give you a moment of presence and success.

Play with your food
photo by Lisa Kae

Thursday, November 28, 2019


When you look up, literally or figuratively, life is better than when you're stuck looking down.

The air, the light, the expansive sky, are not down under your feet.

Look way up, and smile.

photo by Megan Oriah

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Kids' stuff, and sunrise

At the age of eleven, Holly has had very little exposure to the idea of what is kids' stuff and what is not, and so her television and movie tastes are personal and calm. She will watch Teletubbies on the same day she might watch Stand By Me or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. She likes music, she understands The Green Mile, and she's analytical about the messages various PBS children's shows intend to present, about school or self esteem or history or math. It's fun for me to watch her watch TV.

Seventeen years after that was written...
We have a toddler watching Teletubbies at our house sometimes now. Holly saw a sunrise that reminded her of the intro to that program, and sent it to me for Just Add Light and Stir.

How Unschooled Kids Watch TV
photo by Holly Dodd, November 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Who thinks what?

[For unschooling to work...]
The parents need to be truly interested in their children as people, not just as symbols or irritants or mistakes or property. They need to care more what their children think than what other adults think, and that is very rare in the world.

I don't know where I wrote it, but Tiffani M. shared it on Facebook in 2012.
I'm glad she saved it.
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Monday, November 25, 2019

Tangents and connections

How many ways can you categorize a scene or a situation? Here is a photo of a bridge.

I see geography, weather, water, engineering, technology, materials, transportation, history, finance, artistry, reflection, photography, generosity, audience, storage, reference, stored in fleeting pixels.

Play with your ability to see things more than one way. Enjoy hopping from one connection to another.

photo by Karen James

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Think it up

Think of something that could make a child's life better.

Act on that thought.

Inventory Your Tools
photo by Sarah S.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Supporting the soloist

What is your relationship with your child? The boss? The friend? VARIES depending on project—sometimes I'm the coach or the lead. Sometimes I'm not.

Sometimes I'm a stagehand. Sometimes I'm the soloist. Sometimes my child is the soloist.

What happens with partners is that when one is the soloist, the others still sing backup, or sit in the audience supportively, and meet them at the stage door, figuratively or literally.

Some thoughts about partnerships
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The cool thing is...

The cool thing about partners is, if they win you win.

Partnerships and Teams in the Family
photo by Tessa Onderwater

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Whole people, with lives unfolding

I see my children as whole people whose lives are unfolding now. They may have memories as vivid as mine. What I do and say now will be part of their lives after I’m dead. And do I want to be the wicked witch? Do I want to be a stupid character that they grow up and live in reaction to and avoidance of? And so if I see them as whole, then I see that as they grow bigger, I grow smaller in their universe.

Improving Unschooling (transcript, and recorded interview)
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Same sun

The sun I see today will be the same sun you all see. In Maharashtra, in East Sussex, in New Mexico, the horizon is different but the sun is the same.

Children learn by playing, asking questions, trying things, watching and thinking. The house, objects and the other people are different, but unschooling works the same way.

photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Monday, November 18, 2019

The way to be

The way to be an unschooler is to change the way you see and think,
so that you can change the way you act and react.

problems with unschooling lists
auto-generated word cloud with words from some posts here

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Building the foundation

Caren Knox wrote:

In addition to this time being short, and precious, you are building the foundation of natural learning in your home. Learning flows when needs are met, connections are strong, and kids can absolutely trust their parents, and know their parents are there for them. Some of the core values of natural learning are trust, support, joy, and freedom. You are putting up scaffolding for years and years of learning by the choices you make now.

—Caren Knox

"Are we stuck?"
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Give your kids so much love and self-confidence that peer pressure will mean nothing to them. They will be pressure-proof.

photo by Holly Blossom

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Intense learning

I was just telling a young (22) friend the other day that my kids were always the most exhausted not after a day of physical activity, but after a day of intense learning. If they saw things they had never seen, got to do something they’d never done, met new people and played and talked, they slept like rocks. But those days might not have looked like something to write a transcript about.

Sometimes the most intense learning of all looks like play. And that is central to what makes unschooling work.

Chat with Sandra Dodd on Mommy Chats, 4/25/07
photo by Kinsey Norris

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Learning and peace

Peace and calm help learning.
Stress and pressure never help learning.

If you set your priority on learning and peace, it makes other questions easier.
Peace and calm
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 11, 2019

Information to consider

I don't care if people disagree with me. I wouldn't want anyone to agree with me blindly, nor disagree blindly.

Nothing personal to me—I just want to present information for people to consider.

That was written in the mid 1990s, in an online workshop
about detoxing oneself from schoolishness.
It is preserved here:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Learning everything

If you think of knitting as “good for learning math” it isn’t good for knitting. 🙂

EVERYthing is good for learning everything.

Chat with Sandra Dodd on Mommy Chats, 4/25/07
photo by Ida Maria Stenild Coltau

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Compare and appreciate

When trying to decide whether unschooling is working, remember to compare it to what would be going on if your kids went to school. They’d be doing six different things (homework) not of your choosing or theirs. And you would be expected to oversee/help.

They would have been taught by school NOT to fraternize with others; they would be less likely to play together.

So don’t compare it to your imagined ideal. Compare it to other real options, and then appreciate what you have.

The big upside
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Friday, November 8, 2019

Try, discuss, explore

What makes unschooling work is that children learn by playing. Older kids too. Adults, too. People learn by playing.

People can learn without “work” and “study.” They can learn by trying, discussing, exploring.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Real, actual unschooling

I don’t mind “radical.” I just hear it as “real” or “actual.”

Radical Unschooling is...
photo by Cass Kotrba