Thursday, January 31, 2019

Light up the world

I try not to use similar photos too near to one another, but look at these, by four different moms, who saw the sun, made an image, and shared it with Just Add Light readers. For this beauty and generosity, I'm grateful.

Light can come from you, today, in small ways. If you are gentle and patient when you help a child, that creates peace and comfort. If you smile at a stranger, give someone a seat, or hold a door, you have transformed a moment. The light you add to their day can warm your own soul, too.

Kindness lights up the world.

photo by Lisa J Haugen

photo by Gail Higgins

photo by Karen James

photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A quiet, soft place

What kind of partner did baby Kirby Dodd need? He needed someone to pay attention to him if he was uncomfortable, and to make sure he was safe. He needed someone to help him access the world, to see it, to experience it safely. He needed a quiet, soft place to sleep. Maybe it was on me or on his dad, in a carrier of some sort, or a sling. Maybe it was right next to me in the bed.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of art on the wall outside Bhava Yoga, in Albuquerque

There is another baby Kirby now, Kirby Athena Denise Dodd, born July 3, 2018. She's at our house three or four times a week, lately, and we help her see things, and help her sleep sometimes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Partners in growth

"It's much better to be their partner than their roadblock. If you become an obstacle they'll find a way around you. Is that what you want for your relationship with your kids?"
—Joyce Fetteroll,
Unschooling Basics,
June 2008
photo by Jo Isaac

Monday, January 28, 2019

Choosing "better" better

Jen Keefe wrote:

Choosing peace over anything else seems so obvious. Except when I didn’t know there were more peaceful options I thought I was choosing them. I guess I thought the least unkind or least chaotic choice was choosing peace- if I even realized there was a choice, or that peace was a goal.

Last night the kids and I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. watching The Office. We typically go to sleep earlier than that but we were so into the show (we are binge watching and are at the place where Robert California took over).

We stayed up later so we slept later. So we went and got subway for lunch and brought it to the pool. The kids got chips and cookies and soda. That’s not a big deal anymore, but it used to be.

Now they are swimming so happily while I sit here typing this and chatting with them. It’s so... peaceful. As much as I loved my kids and was learning to parent gently this is not the way I was headed. I wouldn’t have had this moment, or the moments last night, or those moments this morning when we snuggled in bed right after we woke up, watching more of The Office. I wouldn’t know who my kids are.

This is better. It’s just better.
—Jen Keefe
(March 2018)

There is a bit more of that at Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
photo by Janine Davies
__ __

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Will they "catch up"?

Q: If they decide to go to school, will they be able to catch up?

Some are already ahead. Maybe their handwriting won't have as much use, or they might need to learn mathematical notation and practice writing numbers by hand if they've been using computers and calculators and phones to to do calculations and to communicate.

So in a way they can be way ahead, but give the appearance of "being behind," because kids at school are using paper and pencil, rather than computers.

Another way to think about school is that when someone moves from a very different culture—Kenya, Japan—where the writing system or culture or language are extremely different, they catch up in a year or two. Someone from the same culture and language shouldn't have much problem.
photo by Stephanie Cone-Early

Saturday, January 26, 2019

"The" path

Lots of the photos I have these days are of paths. I love them. They're taken by people who were there, about to walk that very path, seeing things to the sides, hearing birds, or the wind, or other people. But we only see one view of one path.

The symbolism and the idea of a person being on his own path can be confusing and restricting, if others are trying to manage who walks where, and how. Path, trail, course, curriculum—they all can be about a pre-determined, inflexible way to go.

We only see our own paths by looking backwards. Find joy, today, in options and twisty turns. You're still on your path.

Hard paths and soft ones
photo by Amy Milstein

Friday, January 25, 2019

Meaningful learning

Learning must be meaningful. When a person doesn't see the point, when they don't know how the information relates or is useful in "the real world," then the learning is superficial and temporary - not "real" learning.
—Pam Sorooshian

Principles of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd
(of booted feet of Holly D. and Heather B.)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Danger and beauty

Some things can't be seen from home.

Which came first...
photo by Samuel Siroky

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Providing entertainment

In response to:

How did you get comfortable with not racing around and "providing" entertainment for your children?

I wrote, in 2002:


I still provide entertainment for my children (and they provide things for the rest of the family too, because (shhh...) they think that's just how people in families are! They don't associate it with unschooling directly.

2013 Original with notes, from then
photo by Marty Dodd

Tuesday, January 22, 2019



Literally, scattering something out, like rose petals or herbs or straw on a medieval floor.

Figuratively, leaving interesting things out where they will be discovered.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of Australian things Schuyler saved to show me

Monday, January 21, 2019


The sign probably pointed toward a trail to the waterfall, but a different perspective can make humor, beauty, profundity, or a mess.

Be careful to consider other angles, and don't believe everything you read.
photo by Gail Higgins

Sunday, January 20, 2019


We don't know, when we meet a person, whether we'll see them again, at all, a little, a lot.

We can't always know, when we have a wish, whether its fulfillment would be good for others or ourselves.

Probaby the best thing to do is to relax and say "Hello!"
(These words aren't there, but others are.)
photo by Janine Davies

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Curiosity, exploration, acceptance

What cannot bend can break, so ease up on solid knowledge, in favor of curiosity, exploration, acceptance—all the things that create a learning environment.
original, on facebook, about food restrictions
photo by EsterSiroky

Friday, January 18, 2019


For building a good relationship, relax about what you think you know. Part of deschooling is reviewing how we learned what we know, and how legitimate that knowledge is.
photo by Jo Isaac

Just for fun, the story of a time when arguing facts was a Bad Idea.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Faith and trust

Many times parents have created a situation in which a child trusts advertising, or trusts strangers. Sometimes, it comes from the mom being so pushy that the child wants to push back. Other times, it comes from the moms being so definite and inflexible, that when one thing she said proves not to have been true, the child loses faith in other things she says.

original, on facebook, about food restrictions
photo by Janine Davies

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Clear good sense

A mom wrote:

My children (11 and 7) have eaten more sweets than if I had controlled and restricted them, but our relationship wouldn't have been as sweet, and they would have had stress and longing, sneaking and guilt, and none of that would have been healthy. They wouldn't have had a good sense of what they feel like eating, and what they don't. Those internal senses don't come through clearly, when you're pressured and shamed and stressed.
—Cathy Choo
(in a comment here)

photo by Sandra Kardaras-Flick

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The clock isn't hungry

Perhaps "eating by the clock" has roots in European manor houses filled with servants, where the lady of the house got to choose the times of meals (within the narrow window of what was considered right and proper). In more modern times, eating by the clock has to do with factory lunch breaks and with school bells.

Don't be the clock's mother. Don't watch the clock to see if it's time to eat. Watch your child. Or watch the clock to see if it's time to offer another snack, but don't let the clock say "not yet" or "Must EAT!"

It isn't good parenting or self control for an adult who has reproduced to be looking to a mechanical device to make decisions for her. Clocks are great for meeting people at a certain time, but they were never intended to be an oracle by which mothers would decide whether to pay attention to a child or not. Your child knows whether he's hungry. You don't. The clock doesn't either, never did, and never will.

from page 163 of The Big Book of Unschooling (page 182 of newer editions)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, January 14, 2019

Peaceful and stable

Jen Keefe wrote:

Every day my husband and I understand better how to create an environment so that our kids can learn. This involves making our home more peaceful and stable, making sure our kids have food, water, comfortable clothes, and good places to sit, work and sleep. It involves paying attention so that we can find resources to offer to support whatever thing they are currently learning about. It requires that they feel safe, respected, valued, appreciated, and loved.
—Jen Keefe

Jen, on facebook
(If you don't have facebook, look at Building an Unschooling Nest, maybe.)
photo by Renee Cabatic

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Life itself

Amy Milstein wrote:

What is Sandra's message? If I were going to sum it up, I would say it is that life itself always presents opportunities for learning, but that often we miss it, or dismiss it.
—Amy Milstein,
years ago,
on her blog
photo by Becky Sekeres

Saturday, January 12, 2019

People are different

Julie Daniel wrote:

One of the things that I really liked about the home education group was that the children were all different ages so Adam never realised that he was unusual in being able to read so early. Of course he knew that some children at the group could read and that some couldn't but in his mind that was just part of the concept that everyone is different — some children could run really fast and some were slow. Some children could go all the way across the monkey bars without letting go and some couldn't. Reading was like that. Some could, some couldn't. He didn't seem to notice until he was quite a lot older that he was an "early reader". And I liked that. It wouldn't have been possible in a school environment.
—Julie Daniel

The lead-up to that is here:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, January 11, 2019

Be the calming comfort

Sometimes life is spooky and frightening. Sometimes children are afraid.

Be the comforting, safe partner. Don't be another source of spooky discomfort.

Practice being braver and calmer so that when life is scary you have enough courage and confidence to share.
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Step by step

Schuyler wrote:

I can almost pinpoint the minute when I turned from feeling a need to have my own needs met in a separate but equal kind of way to seeing how being with Simon and Linnaea was meeting my needs in the most involved and deep way....

For me, it was very clearly incremental, it was a step by step building from small changes to a point where I was in a position to find personal fulfilment in being with my children. It wasn't martyrdom, or it didn't feel as though I'd sacrificed myself for their joy. It did help to get the almost kinetic memory of being kind to them, of meeting them where they were instead of expecting them to meet me where I was.
—Schuyler Waynforth

Read more; it's good:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A memorable thing

We can't remember everything we see, or hear or do. Sometimes for one person, for some reason, something can become the sort of memory that visits happy dreams.

photo by Nicole Kenyon

Monday, January 7, 2019

Ideas, pulled in

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Teaching is pouring knowledge over a child. Whether a child takes it in is not in the teacher's power. Which is why teachers punish and reward to make not taking in an idea less pleasant.

Learning is a child pulling in ideas. Those ideas are most full of life when those ideas connect to other ideas the child is fascinated by. It makes no difference if those ideas connect along a particular path. Which is why natural learning looks so chaotic and meandering compared to school.

It makes it hard to create an environment for a child to explore freely and pull in what fascinates them when someone is unschooling through a fog of TEACH.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Amber Ivey

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Pause it!

I remember having younger video-game playing kids, and asking "Does this game pause?" Or one of them, knowing which were "pausable," would just demand of a sibling "Pause it!", if there was a reason to interact, a question to ask, or something to say.

With my own thoughts and actions, it's good to know when I can "pause it" if someone needs me.

photo by Crystal, Sorscha's mom, a dozen years ago,
for If you give a cat a Nintendo...,
a tongue-in-cheek directory page

Saturday, January 5, 2019


One breath,
one pause,
one gaze...

A moment of stillness can make the next word or action more valuable.

Calm and quiet
photo by Gail Higgins

Friday, January 4, 2019

Invest in your future grandchildren

Every negative word, thought or deed takes peace and positivity out of your account. Cynicism, sarcasm—which some people enjoy and defend—are costly, if your goal is peace.

Biochemically / emotionally (those two are separate in language, but physically they are the same), calmer is healthier. I don't know of any physical condition that is made better by freaking out or crying hard or losing sleep or reciting fears. I know LOTS of things that are made better—entire lives, and lives of grandchildren not yet born—by thoughtful, mindful clarity.

It's okay for mothers to be calm. There are plenty of childless people to flip out. Peek out every few days, from your calm place, and check whether their ranting freak-out is making the world a more peaceful place. If not, be grateful you weren't out there ignoring (or frightening) your children helping them fail to create peace from chaos.

A message to your grandchildren
photo by Jo Isaac

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Deposit the good stuff

When people ask about being happier and more positive, the answer can't help but be the same. BE happier. BE positive.

But as with any accounting (think a bank account), withdrawals deplete your reserves. Every negative word, thought or deed takes peace and positivity out of your account. Cynicism, sarcasm—which some people enjoy and defend—are costly, if your goal is peace. (which is really about positivity)
photo by Janine Davies

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Positively happier

When people ask about being happier and more positive, the answer can't help but be the same. BE happier. BE positive.

More positive
photo by Karen James, "the last sunset of 2018"

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hope and mystery

A new year comes with hope and mystery.

Hope and mystery, with good humor and curiosity, warmed in your heart and kept safe, might become wonder.

Relax into wonder
photo by Sandra Dodd, of ice on a chain, and a cat, near the gas meter, in my side yard.