Saturday, August 31, 2019

Learning however and whenever

Learn however and whenever you can, and remember no one person has everything you need.

That's what I wrote about what I took from the film "Searching for Bobby Fischer," from 1993. If you haven't seen it, consider watching it with unschooling in mind. The image is a still from that movie.

It's based on a true story, and the actor (Max Pomeranc) was a highly-ranked chess player for his age. They cast a chess player so he wouldn't need to pretend to be playing chess in the film.

If you want to know more about the person he was playing, and what happened in later years, the real Josh Waitzkin wrote this: The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. He tells some chess stories, but the book is largely how he became a martial arts champion in his twenties. He reads his own audiobook. I've heard it. His ideas about formal learning are not as unschooling-friendly as the story in the movie is, but hearing it (or reading it) from an unschooling point of view won't change your satisfaction about what you and your children are learning.

Just in case films and audiobooks make you feel guilty, there's a new page on my site:
What about Audiobooks?

Friday, August 30, 2019

One peaceful moment

There is a song from the 1950's that is sometimes sung in churches and meetings, and the first line is "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Every bit of peace makes the world more peaceful. If you can engineer one peaceful moment, you can have two or ten.

from "Comforts," page 12 of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Words and thoughts

Words and thoughts are what you will use to change your beliefs and behaviors.
Mindful of Words

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Live well

Don't "model" and "teach." Live. You will be a giant step nearer to radical unschooling if you can see that difference.
photo by Samuel Siroky

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Inevitable needs

"Reading is inevitable in a nuturing atmosphere where the person sees a need to read.
. . . .
Teachers, even specialists in a particular field of learning, are experts *only* on schooled kids who have school goals to meet by a specific age. They don't realize that those kids aren't natural kids. They don't realize that school is a huge contributing factor in the children's behavior because school, like oxygen, is apparently universal. They have no idea what a natural child is like.

—Joyce Fetteroll
Some Thoughts about Learning to Read
photo by Brie Jontry

Monday, August 26, 2019

Willing to learn

One of the best things about radical unschooling is how much parents can learn, if they are willing.

Sometimes, a little examination
photo by Joyce Fetteroll

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Impermanent beauty

The peaceful beauty of a sleeping child, a young woman, beautiful food, a flower, a building—nothing lasts forever. Beauty might only last a moment, a day, a year, and will change.

See what is lovely.

Love what is loveable, and remember to expect it to slip away.

photo by Karen James, of found art
and another, found by Lisa Jonick

Now that I think of it, though, most photos are of found and fleeting art.
I'm grateful to all those who have let me share their photos here.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Choose to have fun!

"Choose to have fun! Fear will hold you back. Guilt and shame will set in to cloud thinking and stunt progress. Having the courage to have fun in whatever pursuit thrills you most will most likely lead you to places you never expected to go."
—Karen James
photo by Lisa Jonick

Friday, August 23, 2019

Being appreciated

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Be someone they want to do things for. We can't make people appreciate us. But we can become people they feel appreciate them and they will want to return that appreciation.

Be someone people will want to show appreciation for—and much of this applies to how we treat our spouses (and friends) too!
—Joyce Fetteroll

Getting kids (and spouses!) to appreciate what you do
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Some ideas for beginning

Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch.

Though homeschooling is becoming more common, it is still confusing to outsiders. That's understandable, as it can be quite confusing from the inside.

Don't do what you don't understand.

Beginning Unschooling: Some ideas
photo by Lisa Jonick

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Better, kinder tools

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Someone said that principles can be summed up in one word. Rules can't. I'm not sure if I can always do that but it's a helpful distinction to get someone started on figuring out the difference.

For instance a principle might be kindness. A rule is "Don't hit your sister." If there's a principle of treating each other kindly then there isn't a need for a rule that says "Don't hit." "Don't hit," only says "Don't hit." Kids do pick up that it doesn't say don't pinch, don't poke until she cries, don't pull hair ... But as a child is helped to find better (kinder) tools to use to get what they want and their understanding of kindness grows it's understood that anything that hurts someone is unkind so there isn't a need to spell out every hurtful thing that kids aren't allowed to do.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Save some tickets.'s the idea that when a baby is born, the parents get a coupon book of "NO" tickets. After they're gone, they're gone. Some parents say "no" so much to a baby and toddler that she's through listening to them by the time she's three. You need to save some for the big stuff, when they're teens, and the big win is if the child grows up and the parents never used 300 Serious "NO" tickets.

Someone quoted me in 2011, with the words above. I don't know where I wrote it, or spoke it. Sometimes I've said 200 tickets, for that story.

Save some tickets. 😊

Don't use up all your tickets
Rationing "No"
photo by Ester Siroky

Monday, August 19, 2019

No food fights

“Child-led weaning” and all the food awareness that went with that did a world of good for us, too. We never had fights over food with our children. They wanted to try what grownups were eating, and they were never pressed to eat anything they didn’t like the look or smell or taste of. They were free to spit it in my hand if they wanted to.

I’m sure the common La Leche League phrase “child-led weaning” resulted in the phrase “child-led learning” which many apply to unschooling, but after nearly 20 years of unschooling, I think “child-led learning” is a detrimental concept that keeps parents from creating and maintaining busy, rich lives with lots of choices.

About attachment parenting, in this interview from 2009
monkey platter by Robyn Coburn

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Reading will happen.

Reading will happen, and if it takes longer for your child than you think it will, keep them happy and distracted in the meantime. As their experience and vocabulary grow, their reading will be that much more effortless the day they're fully equipped to understand the written word.

Three Readers
photo by Quita Gray

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Hobbies and interests

My children’s interests affected mine, and ours affected theirs, and so there’s not a great dividing line between my hobbies and interests and friends and theirs. They have friends of all ages, as do I. I have hobbies I’ve had all my life, some of which one or more of my kids have picked up and some of which are still just mine.
photo by Ester Siroky

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Happiness and joy

Cynicism and pessimism are poison and will destroy families and learning.

Happiness and joy will create more happiness and joy. Families and learning and the individuals within the families will be better off!

20 Unschooling Questions: Sandra Dodd from NM, USA
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Changing focus

"I focussed on making sure that my son's life was better, bigger, more sparkly, and had none of the 'have to's' that my life had."
—Jo Isaac

The path to peace
photo by Jonathan Medina
__ __

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Set the stage

Radical unschooling works the same way for every child. Pay attention to what he's interested in. Don't force things. Provide interesting items and situations, be patient and loving, and learning will happen. The more it happens, the more it will continue to happen.

Kids want to learn
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Curiosity reignited

"Once I started to see how interesting so many things are, it reignited my curiosity about life. Now, my kids and I have a great time following our own, or mutual, curiosities together and one thing *always* leads to another. Always!"
—Jen Keefe

photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Becoming solid

When people first come to unschooling, when they want to be unschoolers, they're basing this on something they read that resonated, or someone they met that they'd like to be more like, which is the way I came to it, but I don't think it will really stick, and be solid in that family or in that person's way of being—in their behaviors and their thoughts—until they see that in their own children.

Until you're doing it not because you think it will work, or because you've heard it will work, or read it will work, but because you've seen it work.
. . . .
Until people get to that point in unschooling, they could relapse. They could easily forget that they wanted their kids to be more like someone else's kids.

But once they get to the point where their confidence in unschooling is not faith in other people, but certain knowledge, direct experience of their own children learning and being at peace, and of the parents learning to see the natural learning that happens when kids just draw for hours, or just play video games for hours, or ride their bike, or play with the dog—when they start seeing those things as equal in learning value, to things that look academic, then it's hard to relapse from certain knowledge.

20:45 in the sound recording of the interview at this link
photo by Emma Marie Forde

P.S. By the time you get to that point, you probably won't want your kids to be different, but the comparisons are normal before deschooling, and can fade as unschooling ideas permeate and pervade.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Just right

This was originally written in 2010,
so "recently" and "new" are nine years old now.

When I was little, I always liked the musicality of the story of The Three Bears, with its "too hot, too cold, just right" and "too hard, too soft, just right."

Recently I was interviewed and responded to a question about what can be a hurdle for new unschoolers, and what advice I would give to beginners:

"Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch." That's my new improved advice for anyone about anything. Some people think they can read their way to a change, or discuss themselves into unschooling.

It's important to find out what others have discovered and done, but nothing will change until the parents change the way they respond to the child. But if the parents change EVERYthing about the way they respond to the child, that creates chaos, and doesn't engender confidence. The child might just think the parents have gone crazy or don't love him anymore.

One solid step in the direction a parent intends to go is better than a wild dance back and forth. And if that solid step feels right, they can take another solid step.

the full interview, by Kim Houssenloge, of Feather and Nest
Photo by Linnea, with Holly's camera

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Do it gradually, now.

There is a page in The Big Book of Unschooling called "Cautions" (page 8), about changing gradually, and a webpage linked below with lots of ideas to help with that.

There is another page on my site called "Do It," about not waiting too long.

Gradually move toward doing it right now.

Halfway between "very gradual" and "do it right now" is the place to be, while you're learning about unschooling.

Gradual Change seems to contradict "Do It!", but you need both.

Here is another Just Add Light post with advice about how that works:
Shifting gears

photo by Amy Milstein

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


"It costs nothing to voice appreciation, and yet is so incredibly valuable!"
—Amber Ivey
photo by Roya Dedeaux

It's all inside

Nothing on paper is learning. Nothing recited is learning. Nothing in a conversation is learning....

Learning is putting information together in one's own head so that it makes new and different sense. It always and only happens inside the learner.

The Problem with Teaching is...
photo by Lydia Koltai

Monday, August 5, 2019

Share the glow

One of the best parts of unschooling (of deschooling, really) is reviewing childhood hurts and puzzlements, and NOT passing them on. By being kind to a child, we can feel that kindness for our own childhood selves, and share the glow.

Being your child's PARTNER, not his adversary
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A better 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.

Accidents sometimes make the world worse, and carelessness, and flukes of weather and acts of God. But if a personal decision makes the world worse, then what?

There are different levels of "oops"—didn't know, didn't think, forgot, didn't care, was pisssed off or drunk, was furious and wanted to do damage... What can be undone? What can be atoned for?

The world starts to get better when people stop making it worse, and a person's life starts to get better when he consciously decides to do what is better instead of what is worse in any given moment.

Philosophy, or That's what it's all about!
photo by Amanda Maillett

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Earn your children's trust

Live your life in such a way that other people will trust you. When you make decisions, make generous, selfless decisions so that others benefit. When you say something, do your best to say what is fair and right and true. When you write, write things you don't mind people taking out and sharing.

A person is only trustworthy if he has earned trust, if he is worthy of being trusted.

BENEFITS beyond just "be a better parent"
photo by Marty Dodd

Friday, August 2, 2019

See what you weren't looking for

If you know what you hope to see, you might miss seeing what is showing itself.

Rejecting a Pre-Packaged Life
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 1, 2019

How Important is your child?

If your child is more important than your vision of your child, life becomes easier.
photo by Sandra Dodd of Marty (in front) and Kirby (in red)

2019 Update:
A newer edition of The Big Book of Unschooling is available.
A wedge of the photo above appeared on the cover of the first edition.