Sunday, March 31, 2019

Positivity from dark days

I have had a rough month. I hope yours was better! How can we know what is "rough" and what is "better," though, without considering the range of possibilities, or the variations in our own lives, at least?
March 31 is my wedding anniversary. People might read this afterwards, but in 2019, it's 35 years. And if you read this in 2019, my husband has been in the hospital since March 3. He had three cardiac arrests in one day. He's recovering well, though, which is statistically unexpected. It's easy for me to see this month as "bad." But is that fair? Keith is alive, and is in rehab getting his strength back, and telling me which bills to pay when, and from which account.

There are others reading who are grieving, or afraid, displaced, in dispute with a co-parent. Find the light moments, and the laughter, with your child. Be as soothing as you can be, because soothing them will also soothe you.

Be sweet; be well.
Comparisons and judgments
photo by Amy Milstein

Friday, March 29, 2019

One deep breath leads to another one.

When I was younger I lived too much in my head and would look through the lens of what should be, or could be, or might be, instead of stopping for two seconds to consider what actually, at that moment, was. If I'm not careful I can be cranky before I know I'm tired, and head-achy before I know I'm hungry.

Now, while I'm taking stock of how and where I am, I take a deep breath while I'm considering it, and that one deep breath leads to another one, and no matter where I started, I'm better already.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a "dripping rainbow"

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Gentle touch

When you touch them gently, you're experiencing gentle touch yourself.
photo by Sandra Dodd
in 2011; info in comments there

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Shimmery reflections

It can't be helped, and it's really fine, that different people in a family remember things a bit differently, or have different emotions around a situation. Something might be a big deal to one or two family members, and not even be remembered by others.

My sister and I learned, when my dad died, that our relationships with him were very different, and both true and valid. We were in our early 20s, and each of us had fond memories of our dad that didn't involve the other at all, and some frustrations, similarly unrelated.

Even self-reflection can be different at different times. Things I used to be proud of look different, years later. Some decisions I was stressed about and unsure of as they unfolded look quite noble, now, from a distance.
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, March 25, 2019

Waking up happy

If my children wake up in Albuquerque, happy to be who and where they are, I hope they can maintain that feeling every day until they wake up in the middle of the next century and look out—I don’t care what they’re looking at, whether it’s the Alps, the Rio Grande, the back of their own filling station or the White House Lawn—and they’re still happy to be who and where they are. Who could ask for more than happiness? Don’t wait. Get it today and give it away.
The quote is from an article written in 1996. My kids won't make it to the middle of the 22nd century. The oldest was nine when I wrote that. He's been waking up in Austin for most of four years now, where he moved for a job he loves.

original 2011 post, with a couple of comments
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a little bit of a sunrise in Albuquerque

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The good stuff

There are probably things in your house that would fascinate your children but you haven't thought to offer or they haven't found the good stuff yet. Consider interesting things you have that might be of interest for being old, foreign, specially made or obtained under special circumstances:

dishes / pots /molds
silverware—even one old piece you know something about
egg beater
flour sifter
can openers (“church keys”)
old bottles or other containers
old clothes from the 60's or 70's
recordings—reel to reel, 45's, 78's, 8-tracks
manual typewriter
push mower
pre-transistor radio

More of that list, and the parent article are at
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, March 22, 2019

Unexpected differences

A different approach to life yields a very different set of results.
A tiny change of course
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Protect the peace

One of my main principles has been that it's my job to protect the peace of each of my children in his or her own home insofar as I can. I'm not just here to protect them from outsiders, axe-murderers and boogie-men of whatever real or imagined sort, but from each other as well.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Slowly amazing

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

It is amazing that the epiphanies seem to come so frequently in this life. The other day I was baking a cake and David got back from the grocery store and had to deal with the leaking coolant on the car and needed help putting the groceries away. I was up to my elbows in batter and asked Simon and Linnaea if they could help.

They both came in and put all the groceries away and went back to what they were doing. It was so sweet, so not coercive, so not eye-rolling. Just this generous gift of service. It came with an epiphany, an underscoring of these unschooling side effects that I see and read about from other people.

As you say, the proof is in the living! The rightness, the evidence, the closeness, the joy, those are all found in this life. You can read about them, but to experience them you have to get down on your hands and knees and play and hang out and tell stories and cuddle and talk and share and be willing to listen and to apologize and to work to make it better. And if you can do that without any other intention than enjoying being with them, without any ulterior motives, it plays out in ways that nothing else that I've ever seen does.
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, March 18, 2019

What proof do you have?

A response to this question:
What proof do you have that it is working? How would you suggest parents reassure themselves that this path is providing everything their children need?

Well starting at the end, there is no path that will provide everything for a child. There are some [paths] that don't even begin to intend to provide everything their children need. Maybe first parents should consider what it is they think their children really need.

As to proof of whether unschooling is working, if the question is whether kids are learning, parents can tell when they're learning because they're there with them. How did you know when your child could ride a bike? You were able to let go, quit running, and watch him ride away. You know they can tell time when they tell you what time it is. You know they're learning to read when you spell something out to your husband and the kid speaks the secret word right in front of the younger siblings. In real-life practical ways children begin to use what they're learning, and as they're not off at school, the parents see the evidence of their learning constantly.
photo of a kaleidoscope (and Holly) by Holly

Holly was six when the response above was written,
and nineteen when she took the photo.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Time Out

Time out, please. I have tried to keep up here as though everything is normal, but I've missed a couple of days, and had more re-runs than usual. Tonight I'm too tired, but will share two things. #1 is this photo of me and baby Kirby Athena, taken by her dad yesterday; and #2, that her only grandpa, who is also my husband, has been in intensive care for two weeks. Today he's better than he has been, but it has not been steady improvement over the two weeks.

I might miss a few more posts in the coming days, or share more of the "greatest hits" or special forgotten posts from the past eight-and-a-half years.

Be happy with your families, please! Be grateful for all good things.

photo by Kirby Dodd, the Elder

Saturday, March 16, 2019

A path over water

Parent and child, crossing water, smiling.

This image, or any one like it, is inspiring. For anyone, of any age, bridges can seem a little magical.

Another bridge post
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, March 15, 2019


Pam Sorooshian, in a 2009 chat/interview, wrote:

Every time someone starts thinking they should do something because someone else said it was a good idea, they should stop. And they should think right then about their own child and about whether it is a good idea for that actual real child. When people call themselves experts, warning lights should probably go off.

Real expertise shows itself by the good ideas, the modeling, the understanding you get from them. Real experts don't need to call themselves experts or promote themselves as such.

—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, March 14, 2019

All these connections

Farming, vocabulary, art, colors, geography, botany, shapes, textures, joy, comfort, gifts, humor, lunch.

Most things are many things.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Be afraid of fears, maybe

Joyce Fetteroll, on unfounded fear:

It's natural to want to be safe rather than sorry. In fact it's natural to listen to fears. Evolutionarily speaking if an animal runs when frightened but is wrong, nothing is lost except dignity. If an animal doesn't run when frightened but there is something wrong, they're dead. We're wired to listen to our fears.

But these warnings aren't about known dangers like earthquakes in LA or tornados in Oklahoma. This is about protecting your kids from shadows that might be dragons.

So while your family hunkers down behind dragon-proof walls, your kids' friends will all be out playing happily as though dragons don't exist.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Karen James

Monday, March 11, 2019


Read a little, try a little,
wait a while, watch.
photo by Colleen Prieto\

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Be where you are

This is a great illustration of principles over rules. What is the purpose of a fence? Of a tree?

It could also represent the intermingling of interests and needs in a partnership.

Then I thought it was more like openness to experience, and the willingness and adaptability to change a plan.

photo by Sylvia Toyama

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Morning every moment

Somewhere in the world it is morning every moment. Somewhere, light is dawning. Some people, and I’m one of them, believe that any portal to the universe leads to the whole universe, and if that's true we should be able to get to everything in the whole wide world (and beyond) without much effort from something as small as, say, the definition of a word. How about “morning” and its particulars—daybreak, dawn and sunrise?

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, March 8, 2019

Shadows in the sunshine

I like shadows. They are temporary and insubstantial, yet where I live, they can be a lifesaving break from unrelenting heat, in summer. In winter, they can preserve some snow for a while, when all the rest is gone. That's a lot of strength and power.

So maybe it's the bench, the bars, the beams, the building that so powerfully provide a shade.

Something about this is powerful.
photo by Heather Booth

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Living becomes learning

Living becomes learning. How many hours a day do you live? All of them.
photo (a link) by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Passion and optimism

"What it takes to build a rich life is you ... your time, energy, imagination, openness, passion, and optimism."
—Claire Horsley
The quote is from elsewhere, but this is a match:
How to Be a Good Unschooler
photo by Sandra Dodd
(not in New Mexico)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Unmeasured and whole

If you are not required by law to test your child, don't choose it.

Because a test score is never ignored, tests affect the relationship between parent and child, and many unschoolers want to preserve their child’s journey to adulthood unmeasured, uncompared, and whole. It might seem crazy from the outside, but the disadvantage of testing is real.

The second paragraph above is from
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Color and light

Physically, visually, emotionally, metaphorically, and in the sound and feel of the words we use, our days are prismatic, moving collections of brightness and shadow, of sharpness and smooth curves. We hear sweet, soft music sometimes, and loud, rough, noisy sorts before long.

When a baby needs to be entertained, you might clap, or dance, or make funny mouth noises. If a child is sleepy, don't do those things. Rock, and hum and touch softly, through cloth maybe.

All these contrasts and changes can be appreciated, and picked through to choose the best for the purpose, the most useful for the moment. Keep the sharp, dangerous things in safe places, and remember that the light and mood will change on their own, in various ways.
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A kind of good

It is possible that one can go out and be a kind of good that is transmitted to others, or which induces goodness in those others around them.

Enthusiasm, kindness, helpfulness, generosity of spirit, attention to others' moods—being that kind of good can make the difference between just-a-day and a really good day. If three or five people are all in that mindset it can make everyone's day better, because it spreads.

Sweetness and goodness
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Friday, March 1, 2019

Beyond normal

Being a good parent, not according to a list in a magazine, or vague memories of what grandparents might have thought or said, but being a good parent in the eyes of one's children, in one's examined soul, is a big thing most parents never even see a glimpse of.

We can go beyond normal.
photo by Janine Davies