Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Easier, more fun, more peaceful

With my oldest in particular it took me a long time to switch gears from, "How as the adult can I get them to listen to me?" to "How as the adult, the person with the most resources and the most developed brain, can I make this easier, more fun, more peaceful for everyone?" That shift will make the transitions easier, but it takes time and should be done slowly.

photo by Lisa J Haugen

Monday, April 29, 2019


Sandra's writing from 1993:

People want to see the first step and hear the first words of their babies, they say, when they don't put their children in daycare. I was lucky to be able to afford to stay home with my kids and I am thrilled to be the first to see them respond to their first-whatevers.

A couple of weeks ago I got to see the look of amazement on my six-year-old's face when he colored a Mobius strip and then cut it in two (or, rather, not in two) lengthwise. When I told him he would be ten or fourteen the next time there was an inauguration, I saw Lights Come On! Walking and talking aren't everything.

photo by Lydia Koltai

Sunday, April 28, 2019


When people ask me "are you always going to homeschool them?" I say (very truthfully) "I don't know. It depends on them. I'm willing to, but if they decide they would rather go to school, that's fine."

The only people who have ever been unhappy with that response are those who are rigidly, defiantly homeschooling with a vengeance.

photo by Cathy Koetsier

The words are something I wrote in January 1993,
that popped up this week, 26 years later.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

When others worry

Sometimes others worry about our kids. Laurie Wolfrum wrote:

If it is a close family member, relative or friend, try to have compassion and understanding. Look at things from their point of view. Likely they love you and your children and want the very best for them, just like you do. It may help to foster good relations between you, your parents and your children if you assume positive intent and make an effort to share what the kids are up to and interested in.

Something that might help in any case is to explain that –
Periodically we evaluate how things are going.
Nothing is written in stone.
For now, this works for us.
We’ll see how things go.
—Laurie Wolfrum

"Pass the bean dip."
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, April 26, 2019

History, in a word

A parent cannot decipher words for a child. Only the child can decipher written language. You can help! You can help LOTS of ways. One way would be to gain an interest in the words you use yourself, and stop once in a while to examine one, its history, why it means what it means.

Here are some fun practice words you can probably figure out without looking them up, maybe.

These days, you might be able to ask Siri or Alexa for the etymology of a word.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Dodd-house Unschooling, 1994

What is below was written in 1994. I wanted to make it easier for other families to understand and try unschooling, and have been doing that ever since.

Our daily plans are nebulous, and although we might schedule a trip to the zoo or a papier-mâché day (something that takes a clean table and a lot of setup and no big interruptions), we don't have something scheduled on most days, and we don't "educationalize" trips to zoos and museums and such. We just go, and what we read or see is discussed, but not in a scheduled, checklist way.

There are several ways that I get ideas and resources. I have e-mail friends. I have a few local friends who homeschool but the homeschool scene is too structured for my tastes. I'm a member of the state organization and I get some good ideas from their newsletters. When I was beginning to homeschool, I got reassurance from a friend who has four older children. Her philosophy is that as long as they know things by the time they go on dates or get married, it doesn't matter how soon or in what order they learn them. Family Fun Magazine has some good ideas and I have some books on arts and science projects. Nothing has helped as much as reading Growing Without Schooling.


Update, 25 years later:

Earlier this week, Keith and I were at the old house (the house we were in when kids were young) watching Ivan (Marty's baby, who's 16 months old). I commented on the brick floor I had put in the entryway, and said I don't know how I had the energy to do that, but I liked the pattern, and it was still in good shape.

The friend mentioned above is Carol Rice (with the four kids and the good advice). Just recently, for a few months, she and Kirby were both working at Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless—she as a permanent employee, and Kirby as a contract IT guy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Snowy rocks

One of the trickiest of philosophical ideas must be time, and permanence. An hour can seem long or short. Four hours with an unhappy baby can seem like twenty hours, but a year later, the tiny baby is missed, and the parents would love to hold her again, but now she's off running and climbing.

Rocks last longer than snow, but neither lasts forever. Rocks might be moved, or broken. Snow will come back again.

Frustration hurts, but gratitude feels good. Frustration is inevitable, but gratitude takes conscious thought.

photo by Lisa Jonick

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quietly alert

If you can choose to be more aware over less aware, that will help.

One aspect of awareness is working on your ability to be quietly alert, like a mother hawk, aware of the location of your child, her mood and your surroundings.
A Loud Peaceful Home
photo by Karen James

Monday, April 22, 2019

Be open to learning

When something someone heard from a friend or read on a blog is stated adamantly as TRUTH, rational thought has been batted away. Some people have the fervor of conversion upon them, having heard that there is an easy way to SAVE their families from disease and death, to make their children smarter, and better behaved; to make themselves strong and beautiful into old age. It is partially fountain-of-youth stuff. It is partly an attractive excuse for controlling children (and spouses, sometimes).

The quote is from a page about food as a religion, but it's really about control
(being too easily influenced, and then trying to pass it on)
photo by Amy Milstein

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Read, try, wait and watch

Read a little. Try a little. Don't do what you don't understand.

Wait a while. You probably won't see an immediate change. But don't pull your plants up by the roots to see if they're growing. That's not good for any plants or for any children. Be patient. Trust that learning can happen if you give it time and if you give it space.

Watch your own children. Are they calm? Are they happy? Are they curious and interested in things? Don't mar their calm or their happiness with arbitrary limits, or with shame, or with pressure. Be their partner.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Smell your child's hair

Smell your child's hair. They say dogs can smell fear, but moms can smell love, or something, when they smell the top of a young child's head. Something biochemical happens, and something intellectual can happen.
A Loud Peaceful Home

Friday, April 19, 2019

Just Say No

Sandra Dodd, response in 2000 to: Can anyone explain to me "unschooling"?

It's like "just say no."

Just say no to school years and school schedules and school expectations, school habits and fears and terminology. Just say no to separating the world into important and unimportant things, into separating knowledge into math, science, history and language arts, with music, art and "PE" set in their less important little places.

Most of unschooling has to happen inside the parents. They need to spend some time sorting out what is real from what is construct, and what occurs in nature from what only occurs in school (and then in the minds of those who were told school was real life, school was a kid's fulltime job, school was more important than anything, school would keep them from being ignorant, school would make them happy and rich and right).

It's what happens after all that school stuff is banished from your life.

Several Definitions of Unschooling
photo by Catherine Forest

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Use your words

Someone once wrote:
"In the past my kids have tended to expect to be waited on hand and foot."

I responded:
If you use phrases like "to be waited on hand and foot," you're quoting other people. That usually means the other person's voice is in your head, shaming you. Or it means you've adopted some anti-kid attitudes without really examining them. If you're having a feeling, translate it into your own words. It's a little freaky how people can channel their parents and grandparents by going on automatic and letting those archaic phrases flow through us. Anything you haven't personally examined in the light of your current beliefs shouldn't be uttered, in my opinion. Anything I can't say in my own words hasn't really been internalized by me. As long as I'm simply quoting others, I can bypass conscious, careful thought.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Learning to live better with children makes one a better person. Being patient with a child creates more patience. Being kind to a child makes one a kinder person.

Simply put...
photo by Chrissy Florence

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Live lightly with patience

1. Most dangers are temporary.

2. Even clear and lit-up things might cast a shadow.

3. Everything around you is exotic to someone else somewhere else.

4. Many beautiful things lack permanence.

photo by Sabine Mellinger

Monday, April 15, 2019

Transcendental moment

Remember that your children will also experience flow.

If you interrupt them while they're playing Rock Band or drawing or spinning on a tire swing, you might be disturbing a profound experience. So interrupt gently, when you must. Treat them with the respect you would treat anyone who might be in the midst of a transcendental moment.

page 207 (or 240) of The Big Book of Unschooling, on Flow
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What is "natural"?

The other day on facebook, someone asked friends to share their most recent photo of nature. I looked through my photos, back two months, and though some were of the sky or mountains, there were buildings in the foreground. Those of plants were plants in the yards of humans.

Is a photo of a bird playing in a puddle more natural than a bird in a human-built birdbath? Is a bird's nest or a beaver dam more natural than a human's home?

For a long time, and still, some people have wanted to keep human life and thought far away and separate from animals, and to deny that we are related to other mammals, to other primates. I suppose it's human, and natural, to wonder where the line is between what is natural, and what is human.

photo by Amy Milstein

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Seasons, in and out

Seasons change, and yet it's the same old seasons, in the same old order.

People can change, but they're still people, who get excited about snow, and then frustrated with the same snow, and then tired of snow.

Snow is natural, and it's beautiful. It is natural for people to have short attention spans, to want to make things better, to see what could be, should be, might be, and to think about that instead of what *is*, in that moment. Accept that human nature, like snow, can be welcome, beautiful, irritating, and sometimes dangerous.

Be careful walking, and driving, and help others be safe.

photo by Amy Milstein

Friday, April 12, 2019

Museum of the Random

I love thrift shops, charity shops, yard sales, flea markets, car boot sales. In The Netherlands, on the King's birthday, people are allowed to put things out in front of their houses, to sell. Then they need to wait a year. Albuquerque has an ordinance that says a family can have a garage sale or yard sale twice a year. Most people never do, and some have one nearly every week, so it all evens out.

I have some wonderful things with good stories, bought off a little table at a casual local fair at a hill fort in Cambridgeshire in 1979. From a yard sale in Colorado Springs in 1970, I got a Chinese Checkers board made of wood, with a set of marbles I still have. But even the names of the places are exotic and collectible: Wandlebury. Colorado Springs (called more locally "C-Springs" or "the Springs").

When digital cameras came along, I bought fewer things and spent less money for other people's used treasures. As museums and ever-changing collections, they are wonderous. Unlike "real museums," if you love something, you might be able to buy it! But you can probably pick it up and examine it, even if you don't take it home.

photo by Sandra Dodd, at Family Thrift, not far from the house,
a shop to benefit programs for veterans of the Vietnam War

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Practice, quietly...

Sometimes parents talk too much.

Practice being quiet.

photo by Robbie Prieto

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

...in a small pond

"Big fish in a small pond" is a phrase used to belittle someone's confidence, sometimes, but there ARE small ponds, and they DO have important aspects!

Find joy in letting people be as big as they are, right where they live.
Thoughts on Growth
photo by Kes Morgan-Davies

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Artsy collections

This photo is of home decorating, artistry, collecting and storytelling. Everything in the picture has a story. Some might be "found it," or "made it," but those stories would involve where, and how, and when.

Not everyone can arrange a collection interestingly or harmoniously. One of the greatest forms of artistry is arranging a display of paintings in a museum, or organizing a gift shop so that the visit itself seems a gift.

But wait! Look at the duck shadow! Beauty pops up wherever you see it.

Tree of Knowledge Motif is an example of an online collection.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Monday, April 8, 2019

Naturally capable

A very basic tenet of unschooling: Surround the child with a swirling, wonderful, exciting, stimulating and rich environment and the child is naturally capable of learning from it.
—Pam Sorooshian
(almost a direct quote)

photo by Roya Dedeaux

Sunday, April 7, 2019


Make each moment the best moment it can be. Be where you are with your body, mind and soul. It's the only place you can be, anyway. The rest is fantasy. You can live here clearly, or you can live in a fog. Defog.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 73 (or 80)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Courage and reason

"Once a fear has created a movement, it's easy to cynically say, 'Follow the money.' And it's not that fear hasn't been created then exploited to make money. But sometimes it begins with a circle of fear and comfort that supports the fear. Only later does it lead to money."
—Joyce Fetteroll

The quote is from
but two other nice destinations are Becoming Courageous and Logic
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, April 5, 2019


There is something special about light, when it's dark. Small illumination is a great dark space can be beautiful. A camp fire, or a candle flame. A torch or flashlight. Neon, or the lit-up name of a store. A traffic light in a rural place. The familiar porch light of a favorite house. Fireworks.

Appreciate casual light shows. Maybe create a bit of light, for its special beauty.

photo by Amy Milstein

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A safer home

Deep breaths change everything, for a few moments.
When a parent learns to calm herself, or himself, many things happen. The home becomes safer. The parent becomes more reliable and more trustworthy. The children can make more choices without fear.

When a parent can learn to take one deep, calming breath while deciding what to do, the parent becomes wiser and more patient.

When a person knows how to calm herself, she can help others.

When children learn how to calm themselves, because the parents have helped them, because the parents understood how to do it, the children have more personal range and power, because they will be more reliable and trustworthy and able to maintain their calm, thoughtful, rational minds.

photo by Gail Higgins

P.S. It doesn't work every time, but without practice, it won't work any time.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A new view

Deschooling means dismantling the overlay of school. Gradually (or just all of a sudden, if you have that ability) stop speaking and thinking in terms of grades, semesters, school-days, education, scores, tests, introductions, reviews, and performance, and replace those artificial strictures and measures with ideas like morning, hungry, happy, new, learning, interesting, playing, exploring and living.

photo by Cathy Koetsier

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Buying time and peace

A mantra like "We're going to try this for now" can buy you time and peace, both internally and externally.
Cautions (chat transcript)
photo by Sarah Lawson

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ages and stages

Yesterday I bent over and picked an inch-tall tumbleweed sprout from a crack in a sidewalk. It was a tiny bit of community service.

The wind is blowing here, and all the big tumbleweeds will pass through chain link fences, or barbed wire, and scatter themselves into thousands of seeds. It happens every year.

A tiny baby hardly resembles adult forms, or the changes that take place in old folks. Where you are now is young compared to where you'll be later. Those changed old folks are always saying you will miss having those young children, and I found it to be true. It also irritated me for someone who was sleeping in a quiet, clean home to tell the baby-sticky, frazzled younger me that these were good days I would miss.

"Truth" is irritating, when we're sprouts, sprigs, teens, new parents, but just as the winds blow, people express the wisdom they gained as they aged and discovered that they missed having children in the house, as those other older older-folks had told them that they would.

"Results" (a half-random link)
tumbleweed photo by Holly Dodd