Monday, September 30, 2019

Investigation and exploration

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

I do not refer to unschooling as “child-led learning” and I encourage others not to use that term because I think overuse of it has led to some pretty serious misunderstanding of what unschooling is really like.

The term, “child-led learning,” does emphasize something very important — that the child is the learner! I couldn’t agree more. However, it also disregards the significant role played by the parent in helping and supporting and, yes, quite often taking the lead, in the investigation and exploration of the world that is unschooling.
—Pam Sorooshian

(Read the rest at the link below.)

Unschooling is not “Child-Led Learning”
photo by Karen James

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Accidental art

Deb Lewis spotted these beautiful shadows, that don't match what we see and think, of bees. The sun doesn't know it created that accidental art. The water was unaware. I doubt the bees were looking.

Deb saw, though, and now we can see.

Does it matter than the bees are gone now, and the water, too?

You will see things, in your children, for a moment, that others don't see or know. Let the moment pass; look forward to new surprises.

Impermanent beauty
photo by Deb Lewis

Saturday, September 28, 2019


Be sweetly and courageously creative.

Old and New (creativity)
photo by Lydia Koltai

Friday, September 27, 2019

Connections build and grow

Once you start looking for connections and welcoming them, it creates a kind of flow that builds and grows.

Once you start looking for connections...
photo by Amy Cromwell

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thoughtful choices

"One of the wonderful things about unschooling is that we come to understand that children are learning all the time. Knowing that, we can make thoughtful choices about how we'd like to influence that learning. We cannot control what is learned, but we can create an environment in which joyful learning can thrive."
—Karen James

photo by Sarah Anderson Thimmes

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Connections and thoughts

Remembering, considering, thinking, playing, resting—all of those are part of learning.

What a person thinks isn't as important as the thinking itself is.

Connections are being made.

Quiet idea-journeys
photo by Janine Davies

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Change is coming

Things are going to change. You are going to change, too.

Keep your balance!

Knowing in advance that winter is coming, or summer—it still kinda surprises me.

Be prepared to be accepting.

Thoughts on Changing
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, September 23, 2019

Action, rethinking and healing

For me, the action/rethinking/healing all work together. I have comforted my "inner child" by comforting my own children. I have felt like a stronger, better person by being a stronger, better mom. Then it's not imagination, it's reality.

Helping them grow up whole helped me feel more full and whole myself.
Changing the present, healing the past, hope for the future
(from a comment I made there)
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Play with your food

You can play with your food and eat it too.

Cass Kotrba wrote: "I am enjoying making vegetable art lately. Today we have scarlet nantes, atomic red and purplesnax carrots posing for a photo shoot before becoming pickled ginger carrots."

Artsy Collections
photo by Cass Kotrba

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Learning not to teach

The more a parent thinks that something needs to be taught,
the less faith they'll have that things can be learned.

photo by Karen James

Friday, September 20, 2019

Many little changes

Regret and remorse, about things that can be rectified and improved, are valuable. If a mom sees even a tiny way she might do better, and she tries that out, and her child smiles or relaxes, maybe she could do it again later that day or the next day. From that new position, she might try one more little change.

How many little changes would move someone from stress and frustration to a more relaxed, a more comfortable place? It can be the very same *physical* place—same kitchen, same car, same bedroom—but can the children feel more at ease? More heard or seen or loved?

Thoughts on Changing
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Grasp relaxation

Where are your feet? Where are your hands?

Can you do something kind or useful with them? Something gentle and generous?

Where are your thoughts?

Question Platitudes
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wet agapanthus

Be interested, and interesting. Be the bearer of minor good news, with a smile.

People in wet climates value dry, sunshiny times. I live in the desert where people LOVE the rare rain.

These differences are special, and good.

Normal or exotic?
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Living, seeing, knowing

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

The proof is in the living! I will keeping on living the life that I'm living, because I KNOW it works, I SEE it. I don't doubt it at all! Other people will have to come to their own epiphany. I really like that word for KNOWing unschooling. I have little epiphanies all the time and on occasion a big one.
—Jenny Cyphers

This writing is what Schuyler referred to in Slowly amazing
photo by Megan Oriah

Monday, September 16, 2019

What "is" isn't all.

Words, ideas, reality... it's fun to rearrange and examine what we see, and claim, and name.

It's good, sometimes, when kids can do "real things"=—the things adults do. Useful things, maybe dangerous things. Historical things. Traditional methods, or modern high tech, or what was high tech in the industrial revolution.

Science, history, language, technology, materials, mystery and manufacturing—revel in your knowledge and discoveries! Let life be exciting.

Most things are many things
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Lovely assistants

Learning is internal. Teachers are lovely assistants at best, and detrimental at worst. "Teaching" is just presentation of material. It doesn't create learning.
photo by Sandra Dodd, out the front window

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Feel full

If you dwell in the empty half of your glass, life will feel empty. If you dwell in the full half of your glass, life will feel full.
—Joyce Fetteroll

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 13, 2019

Interesting information

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Take them to the grocery store.

...While you're there, look at the weirdest thing in the produce department. Bright orange cactus? BUY one. Go home and get online and try to figure out what to do with it. Or just slice it open to see what is inside.

Or buy a coconut—shake it to see if it has liquid inside. Let the kid pound on it with a hammer until it cracks open. While they're doing that, do a quick google on coconuts so you have some background knowledge. Don't "teach" them—but if something seems cool, just say it as an interesting, cool thing to know, "Wow, coconuts are SEEDS! And, oh my gosh, they sometimes float in the ocean for years before washing up on some island and sprouting into a coconut tree."

How about a pineapple—bought one fresh, lately? Talked about Hawaii? Just say, "Aloha," while handing the kids a slice.
Or, maybe you'll get really into the whole idea of Hawaii and you'll see connections everywhere—Hawaiian shirts at the thrift store, flowers to me leis, someone playing a ukelele, a video of a volcano exploding (maybe that will inspire you to want to make your own volcano with baking soda and vinegar).

I'm not saying to prepare a lesson on cactus or coconuts or pineapples. I'm saying that if you're not already an interesting person with interesting information to share with your children, then you'll have to make an effort to be more interesting. The way to do that is to develop your own sense of curiosity, wonder, fascination, and enthusiasm.
—Pam Sorooshian

Building an Unschooling Nest
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Escape, Relaxation, Stories

Escapism isn't a bad thing.

Relaxation is a great thing.

Taking in stories and ideas is a healthy human thing that's been happening since cavemen sat around fires (or since Adam and Eve started comparing notes about what they might've seen or eaten that day, if you prefer that).

When I came to see whether the quote above had been used,
I searched for "cavemen" and found
Elvis, Barbie and Rebellion.
The quote above is from "Safe on the Couch"
photo by Jo Isaac

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The river of newness

Emily Strength wrote:
"The pop culture of today is the history of tomorrow."
I responded:
This is true of music, clothing, food, hairstyles, slang, cars, kitchen design, dishes, shoes, musical instruments (think of pianos or guitars you have known—which were from the 19th century, maybe, or early 20th, or 1970's, or recently made by Yamaha which kicks musical... butt).

Any of those topics could lead to very many trails involving technology, international trade, cultural borrowings, religion (why didn't I say "kicks ass" above? It would have disturbed some people, and now it still can; sorry), superstition, money...

The science of today is the "What were they THINKING!?" of tomorrow [as we shake our heads and roll our eyes about scientific fallacies of the past, until they are (many of them, individually, sometimes randomly) shown to have been fact after all].

The proper language and punctuation of today will irritate those not yet born, in 35 years.

Find this river of newness becoming history that's flowing right around and through us all, and learn to ride it openly and happily if you can!
—Sandra Dodd

History and Unschooling
photo by Amy Milstein

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A very peaceful quiet

Esther Maria Rest wrote:

At first I thought we should go out and do something somewhere today, to do some kind of 'activity', but then if I felt into what I really wanted it was just to spend time in the garden and with my boys, and they were fine with that. When we were all outside, one in the hammock, another one observing the frogs, and me weeding and planting I remarked on how quiet it is, and my oldest said, 'yes, but it is a very peaceful quiet'. And we all enjoyed our very peaceful, quiet day, studying what interests us, playing games, laughing, thinking, and just being quiet, together.
—Esther Maria Rest

Parenting Peacefully
photo by Lydia Koltai

Monday, September 9, 2019

Inside the learner

Joyce Fetteroll wrote, on Quora:

Here's a good collection of thoughts on the difference between Teaching vs. Learning. The primary difference is where the focus is. When the focus is on what's happening inside the learner, it doesn't matter what the source is. It can be TV, a mother, an activity, a mistake. It doesn't matter. When kids are engaged, they're learning. When the focus is on the teacher (or source) it shines a spotlight on the presentation rather than the effect. If the students aren't engaged, the teacher might as well be singing and dancing in an empty room. Engagement is what matters, not teaching.

What Teaching Never Can Be
—Joyce Fetteroll

Can those who didn't/couldn't/wouldn't "learn", teach teachers anything?
photo by Lisa J Haugen

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Rational responses

There's a very old joke about a man saying "Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this," and the doctor replying, "Well don't do that."

When someone comes to a radical unschooling discussion to complain about their children's response to bedtimes or limits or "having to" read, they won't get the help they think they want. They will get advice to stop doing that. People will point out that the parents' actions and expectations are the problem, and the children's responses are rational and maybe inevitable.

Where is the edge of unschooling?
(quote from page 38 or 41 of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Saturday, September 7, 2019

It's not magic.

Joyce Fetteroll wrote, on

So much stress could be avoided if parents had realistic expectations of their child's development. If a child's actions say, "I'm not ready yet," they aren't ready.
. . . .

It’s important to note that you aren’t seeing a random sample of children at restaurants. The wise parents of kids who aren’t yet ready to handle a restaurant meal don’t bring them to restaurants. It’s not magic. It’s wisdom.
—Joyce Fetteroll

(Question about children in a restaurant)
photo by Jill Parmer

Friday, September 6, 2019

The mom I wish I'd had

"Being the mom I wish I'd had has been very healing. It's been the closest thing to having that mom I could achieve with the cards I was dealt."
—Jessica Hughes
Sydney Andersen's Guinea Pig
photo by Jen Keefe

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Different and ever-changing needs

"'Unschooling' bed time and meals is about responding to each child's different and ever-changing needs."
—Holly Blossom

Learning that children's needs are different and ever-changing is the path to mindful parenting.

If a parent can be aware and responsive in one area, it's easy to expand into others. Some parents understand it first with "academic learning" (before they accept the connections in all learning). Some understand it first about food, or clothing. It will all connect, though, the same way the trivia children learn will coalesce into a body of knowledge.

The Holly Blossom quote is from writing newly added to the Bedtime page.
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Temporary elephant

Talia Bartoe:
This picture reminded me of all the interesting pictures in the "just add light and stir" posts. The kids had big smiles for the "elephant cloud."

Sandra Dodd:
Seems it would have a trumpeting sound! :-) It's very cool, and lit up!

Talia Bartoe
The lighting was perfect. It was funny to us as we had spotted elephant statues earlier at a new-to-us park.
photo by Talia Bartoe

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Informal and natural learning

I don't really know the magic words to get people to be calm and realistic about expectations and results. To proceed without looking into the school-windows-of-their-minds all the time.

There is no switch I can flip. Just as with other teaching/learning situations, all the learning takes place inside the learner. None can be inserted by a teacher.

If budding unschoolers will look at how they learned things outside the classroom, and use that as a model and a goal, that helps. They don't really have to hunt down other unschooling families, although it doesn't hurt. A family isolated from other unschoolers might do well to brainstorm examples of things they've learned informally and naturally, and to look around for other people learning things in the same manner.

An Interview with Sandra Dodd by Emily Subler, 1998
photo by Ester Siroky

Monday, September 2, 2019

Nine Years of Adding Light

September 2 is Just Add Light and Stir's anniversary! Thank you for reading.

Nine was one of my favorite age, in childhood. I was able to do new and bigger things. I liked my teacher. I felt strong, and smart. If you have a nine-year-old child at your house, think of me. 😊

If your only or oldest child is younger than that, this blog will be filled with posts and photos you've never seen! Have fun. There is a randomizer, on the web version, upper right. If you usually read this on a phone, consider spending some time at a computer, where the format and colors are nicer, and there are resources in the sidebar.

Having forgotten I had written and scheduled the tasteful, quiet note above, I came in and worked long on the following fizzy-whizzy post. The one above is better, but I hate to throw all this out. So, BONUS! I'm sending both as one.

I didn't make a cake this year. 😊 It would have been a good year for it. I have a granddaughter who spent a lot of the summer learning to decorate cakes, but I didn't plan ahead.

Last year, on the 8th anniversary, there was a cake photo and I wrote "May the richness and riches of this trove of words and photos seep into your soul and give you sweet dreams and good ideas."

At the end of Year 7, I posted from the Free to Be conference, in Phoenix. There's a photo of me and some others there. I wrote, in part, "I hope some of the posts have helped you be patient, and to smile. Thanks for reading!"

For the sixth anniversary, in 2016, I confessed to having not noticed the fifth.

Fourth anniversary, another homemade cake. My shared message that day is still good:

"Thank you for looking, for reading, for thinking. Thank you for being a conduit for peaceful ideas."

By then there were way over 1000 posts. Somehow I hadn't projected very far out into the future. I do think more in words than in numbers. 😊

I didn't remember the third anniversary, but I made a post worth remembering. When I went to get the link, I stabilized and repaired the photo a bit too, so good!
How will you be?

Second anniversary, I wrote "Thank you for reading, for trying these ideas at home, and for sharing them with your friends." I set up a gift exchange. I should do that again for the 10th anniversary! Postage outside the U.S. has become very expensive, though. I might need only flat gifts outside the U.S. I could probably do well with that, if I plan ahead, though! This cake, I bought:

On the first anniversary, I wrote about my methodology and concerns, and everything there is still true.

And the first post ever, about having created the blog at someone's request: The Very First Post, and why, September 2, 2010.

Best wishes to all readers, and to those who will randomly come across this in the future!

About Unschooling (site news)
photos by Sandra Dodd (photos are links)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Peaceful communication

Peace, in an exchange, has to do with tone of voice, eyes, posture, attitude, intention, compassion—all the non-verbal communications that go with words and actions. Don't underestimate your child's ability to read beneath and around and beyond your statements. You would do well to try to read behind his words, too.

Parenting Peacefully page of The Big Book of Unschooling
(Page 243 of new edition; 209 of older version)
photo by Sandra Dodd, at an old house in France