Sunday, July 12, 2020

You don't need to break your bad habits

Leave the old habit to wither. Don't try to break it. Move to making better choices so that what you used to do and used to think will be left in the "choices I don't consider anymore" category.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, July 11, 2020

They learned and learned

Caren Knox wrote:

I undertook learning how to be a good unschooling mom, and in that learning, experienced some
of the most powerful personal growth and healing I’d ever seen in myself. I learned how to be vulnerable with and genuinely present for my guys.

They learned - and learned and learned, without having to be subject to someone else’s imposed timeline of when to learn what, without being limited to staying in a building 6-7 hours a day, five days a week, without having to pretend to learn something to pass a test, without having their grades determine their path. They freely explored their interests, utilized their own strengths and perspectives, and learned, and, as adults, continue to learn.
—Caren Knox

Original, on facebook
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, July 10, 2020

Kids are people

Except in the few obvious ways, I don't treat my children in a lesser way than I treat my husband. It has been crucial to our interactions as an unschooling family that the kids were people first, and kids only incidentally and temporarily.

That was written nearly 20 years ago,when Always Learning was new
Now they're adults, so it was true! They were only temporarily children.
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Helping relationships

can help relationships
in all kinds of ways.

Broken relationships
can harm unschooling
in all kinds of ways.

Benefits of Unschooling when the Teen Years Arrive
photo by Daniel Moyer Artisan

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Gradually and sensibly

It's a Very Bad Idea to "start unschooling" before you know what you're doing. The more rules a family had, the more gradually and sensibly they need to move toward saying yes.
The happy ideas to go with that are at Gradual Change.
photo by Janine Davies

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The best of bad dreams

I went to school for 15 years straight, and most summer sessions from 8th grade through university.

Beginning in the 4th grade, I had a nightmare the night before the first day of school every single time, and I came to count on it as a checklist. The first few were small and kind of standard, like I got off the bus in only my slip, or I had my house shoes on, or I didn't know whose class I was supposed to be in.

Over the years these dreams blossomed into extravaganzas of mishap, and they were always so real I'd wake up in a panic thinking I'd gotten off to such a horrible start the whole year would be a total disaster. Then I'd realize the whole year was still ahead of me and I'd get out of bed and do all the things right that had gone wrong in the dream.

The night before my first day as a classroom teacher I dreamed I didn't have a grade book or a pen. Next day I did. That one, my first checklist dream as an employed adult, made me start to wish for more.

I wrote all of that in the early 1980s, before I had children. Checklist dreams have continued, or stress dreams where I had lost a child's shoes, or had forgotten to order a cake, or didn't have gas in the car.

If you can make checklists out of fears, worries, and stress dreams, and your life is better because you think "Well I won't let THAT happen," what a gift!
Use happy advantages wherever you can find them.

Disposable Checklists for Unschoolers
photo by Sandra Dodd

[P.S. for those who are good with numbers, and didn't like "15 years": I didn't go to kindergarten, and graduated from public school a year early. Four years of university, graduated in May 1974, turned 21 that summer. Then I taught for six years. I was quickly learning about learning!]

Monday, July 6, 2020

Warm food

Offering a child food instead of waiting for him to ask has been frowned upon by some people as being pressure. I think that's wrong.

Asking for cold pantry-food, or needing to ask someone to cook something isn't nearly as good as smelling food cooking, or seeing nicely-arranged food that's immediately available if you want it.
The Full Plate Club
photo by Jen Keefe

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Warm (not cold)

If every conscious decision is taken with the intention of getting closer to the way one wants to be, then in a "getting warm / getting cold" way, it's not nearly as distant as one might have thought. You never even have to leave your regular house, car, family. It's right where you are, only the thoughts are different.

May you have warm relationships, warm feelings, a warm home, warm food and a warm bed.

The top paragraph is a quote from
photo by Sandra Dodd

In 2011, this went out in January, during summer in the southern hemisphere. Greetings, readers in Australia and New Zealand! Have some warmth in a better season. I don't think Brazil or South Africa need much heat, and most other readers are equatorial or northerly.

The whole world could use the warm relationships and feelings, and I wish everyone good options!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

What is needed?

There is personal growth in quietly providing what is needed.

The world is made better by those who notice and attend to needs.
photo by Gail Higgins

Friday, July 3, 2020

What ARE these things!?

In 2007 trying to talk someone out of using "screentime" for purposes of limiting a child:

When you're driving, the glass in front of you can be called a windscreen. Americans usually call it "wind shield." But is that screen time?

I think you should call things computer, tv, movie, etch-a-sketch. But even computer, sometimes I'm watching movies, sometimes I'm writing. Sometimes I'm reading e-mail or looking at my kids' MySpace. Sometimes I'm shopping. Sometimes it's research (quite a bit lately, reading in and about 16th century Bibles in English, early editions of The Book of Common Prayer). So I can't even call it "computer time" as though it's all the same thing.

Sometimes Kirby is playing World of Warcraft. It's partly keyboard, and partly talking to his team on a headset.
Sometimes he's playing Guitar Hero, with the guitar controller.
Sometimes he's playing stand-up-and-move Wii games.

Are those three "screen time"?

The original is about 2/5 of the way down at My 4 year old and the DVD player
Newer (post-MySpace) writings about screentime are at Screentime Index Page

photo by Belinda Dutch

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Playful lives

My three children grew up around adults who played, not just putting on feasts and tournaments and building
medieval-looking camps, but also playing strategy board games and mystery games, having costume parties when it wasn't even Halloween, and making up goofy song parodies on long car rides.

Maybe because I kept playing I had an advantage, but I don't think it is beyond more serious adults to regain their playfulness.
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Sharing time and space

Connections are the best part of learning, in unschooling, in life, for fun. But if it’s too noisy too often, a quiet moonrise over a lake will get all sound-polluted. And one person’s thoughts of beauty might be overrun by someone else’s free associations.

Gaze without speaking / Explore Connections
photo by Janine Davies

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Easier to jump

Humor is a great warm-up for any thinking. If one's mind can jump to get a joke, it will be easier for it to jump to synthesize any ideas, to make a complex plan, to use a tool in an unexpected way, to understand history and the complexities of politics. If a child can connect something about a food with a place name or an article of clothing, parents shouldn't worry that he hasn't memorized political boundaries or the multiplication table.
photo by Janine Davies

Monday, June 29, 2020

Changes in the parents

I think the most common changes parents have reported are that they are happier and calmer, and have become clearer in their thought processes. The "reports" I hear are often in online discussions, so that might explain the latter. When people help each other work through confusions in thinking, writing becomes clearer.

Slack and other rare and priceless things
photo by Elaine Santana

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thinking, feeling, living, learning

How are you thinking?
How are you feeling?

How you are thinking and feeling is how you are living and learning.
Sandra Dodd; March 7, 2007
not in an unschooling context, that first time

photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Relax, see, appreciate

If you hold on to all your old ideas and fears and images of learning, every bit of that builds a curtain of "what should be" and you can't relax, see and appreciate what is.
Unschooling:Getting it
photo by Elaine Santana

Friday, June 26, 2020

From the inside...

"From the outside, unschooling may look like no chores, no bedtimes, no education, no discipline, no structure, no limits, etc. But from the inside, it's about learning, relationships, living with real parameters, partnership, navigating turbulence, making connections, joy, curiosity, focus, enthusiasm, options, following trails, fun, growing understanding, opening doors..."
—Debbie Regan
the original
photo by Kathryn Robles

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The beginning of paths

Karen James, in a comment once:

"Question everything"...I love it! As a kid I was told I asked too many questions! As a parent, questions are the beginning of paths to places we have yet to visit, and are so exciting for that reason!
—Karen James
in response to this
photo by Jo Isaac

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Being the same

Even when it's not as clear as you're used to, the sun is as bright as can be behind the clouds.

It's the same sun.

Even when it's not as clear as you're used to, love is as bright as can be behind fear and frustration.

It's the same love.

Today, be present and patient.
photo by Beth Fuller

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Doors might stay closed a while

We can't see how today will affect tomorrow. There are gates and walls that might have beautiful things on the other side, but there's no hurry to know.
Skills—mad skills, normal everyday skills, abilities, aptitudes, intelligences
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, June 22, 2020

More and more cheerfully

You should help him pick up his toys, and the more cheerfully you do that, the more cheerfully he will help you.
photo by Meredith Dew

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Breathe and smile

Who you are, no one else can be.

Who you are now is not who you were before. Who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow.

Breathe and smile and step toward your future.
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Bigger and smaller

One of the easiest things is to try to keep something the same size all the time. It's easy to try, not easy to accomplish. People and their surroundings change. What was cozy can seem too small. The size of a problem, or a thought, a dish or a bathtub, can seem to change depending on circumstances, and on what you're thinking when you look at it. Children grown and change.

Still unschooling endures, and Zann Carter, who took this self-portrait, wrote "to me unschooling is as positive as unchaining, unbinding, unleashing, unfolding, unfurling, unlimiting...."

Zann's beautiful writing helped many people understand unschooling, when the ideas were newer.

Unfolding, unfurling
photo by Zann Carter

Friday, June 19, 2020

Limit limitations

If you limit things, kids just want them more.

If you wouldn't limit books or Lego-playing time, why would you limit the
other things?

Unless they really have choices they aren't really making choices.

Mindfully and Deliberately
photo by Renee Cabatic

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Right there, right then

Pour kindness and generosity out, and there will be more kindness and generosity right then.
photo by Chelsea Thurman Artisan

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Being means being

Pushpa Ramachandran wrote about being with her child:

“Being” with her means being mindful...

“Being” with her means being available to play...

“Being” with her means being emotionally available...

“Being” with her means being connected. In body, spirit and mind. Connection translates to being curious about something that she might have found. Connection translates to trying to find more things that might tie into something that she might have liked before. Connection could translate to being excited about a bug or a thread or a cartoon. It means creating a life that is full of rich experiences, some of which might be jumping in puddles, or holding a snake. Others might involve just going grocery shopping or scrubbing the kitchen floor. The idea of connection at the core, I think, is to feel alive, rejoice in her feeling alive and live those moments together.

Estar con los hijos (translated by Ana Paulina Maya, in Colombia)

Being with my child
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Needs all met!

I often think back to the things I learned in La Leche League, from readings and other moms.
If you nurse a child a long time does it make him dependent on the mom? Seems to be the opposite. If you hug a child every time he wants a hug, does it make him want a hug-a-day for life? You WISH!

The more they get, the less they need.

Quote from a very-early online chat for homeschoolers,
late 1995 or early 1996,
photo by Elaine Santana

Monday, June 15, 2020

A living, breathing thing

Unschooling lives (is alive; breathes; functions) where the learning is happening. The learning is supported and fed by the relationships between the parents and children.
Not changing (where unschooling is compared to fire)
photo by Ester Siroky

Sunday, June 14, 2020

What's important?

Debbie Regan wrote:

What is important for your family—peace? joy? doing fun things? well-being? growing and learning? comfort? delight?...

What can you do to enhance what's important—more flexibility? more listening? more engagement? more calm? more kindness? more fun ideas? more soft places? more interesting/happy options? more generosity? more creativity?...
—Debbie Regan
photo by Eleanor Chong

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Lot of choices

I used to remind my kids [that] I had a moral and legal obligation to clothe them appropriately, and I didn't have the option to ignore that. I could give them lots of choices, but within the bounds of what was appropriate to the situation and the weather and the laws.

When a family starts talking about "ultimate" freedom or total freedom, or any of that, they just haven't thought about it very clearly.

from "Always Learning," in 2011
photo by Sarah S.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Surrounded by generosity

"When I get up and get a glass of water for my child, while I'm filling the glass, I imagine that cool water going into their mouth and down their dry throat and how cool and sweet that feels to them—how their thirst is being quenched. And I very very often give them the glass along with a kiss on the top of the head or at least a smile.

"Being generous in a zillion little ways surrounds the kids with generosity. That's the environment I wanted to create."
—Pam Sorooshian

(the original writing was on facebook)
photo by Sabine Mellinger

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Cool! Lucky.

I don't look at the state's requirements. I look at my child's opportunities. And I think the moment that the light is on in his eyes and he CARES about this tiny bit of history he has just put together, that he wants me to say "YES, isn't that cool? I was much older when I figured this out. You're lucky to have great thoughts late at night."

Late-Night Learning Comments
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Learning by looking

"When my son was little, we would go to the zoo and try to show him the animals—any animals. His attention was on the lights, grates and plumbing of the zoo! He observed these everywhere we went, no matter the place!"
—Karen James
Little Things, where Karen left that comment in 2010
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Before long, it was most of the time

What helped me, when I had babies, was breathing before I spoke or before I decided, and eventually, taking a breath when I felt my thoughts get zippy-fast. I didn't always do it, but increasingly, many times a day, I did. Before long it was most of the time. That was growth. That was good.

I wrote that as a comment at Growth is Good.
photo by Kayla Wenzel

Monday, June 8, 2020

Every leaf is for real

"Practice" is the actual doing of a thing. Some people practice patience, therapy, medicine, or Buddhism.

Sometimes a person will use the word "practice" when it would be better to use "experiment" or "drill" or "train." In that "experiment" or "work until it's right" way, trees never "practice" making leaves. Every leaf is for real.

And so it is with learning. "The practice of learning" is actually doing it.

Each bit of learning is real learning.

Photo by Holly Dodd, 2010

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Responsible for, and to

You are responsible for the child, but also responsible to the child.

—Marina DeLuca-Howard

A teen boy out with his mom—what's "the secret"?
photo by Sarah Elizabeth

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Open to the moment

Sometimes it's hard to know whether to look at the flower or at the leaves or at what might be in the darkness behind, or up at the sky, or to turn around and ignore the flower completely. There might be a bird in a nearby tree, or an interesting sound coming from a window.

Plans change. It can be good, upon occasion, to just listen and look and explore. Sometimes it's fine to just see a flower and not say a word about it.

We could call those moments restless confusion and indecision, or we could consider ourselves being open to the moment, in a state of wonder and curiosity.

Keep a positive light on what's outside you and within you, and your world will be a better place.

Being present in the moment
(Text is repeated from 11/19/10, but other details changed.)
Photo by Gail Higgins

Friday, June 5, 2020

Everything is bumpy

Today's text is taken from my FB memories yesterday, things written by others:

2010: "I wish people who think unschooling is about doing nothing could know that it's about everything!"
2011: "I have enjoyed reading Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling. It has been my "go to" book that helps me to get over some bumps in the road."

SandraDodd's Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

The photo is from 2013, when Joyce Fetteroll and I visited Marta's family in Portugal, and spoke there. It's a Moorish castle near Sintra, built in the 8th century, captured and claimed by the first Portuguese king in 1147. It was in the same "memories" set.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Invisible learning

You can't see what children are learning. If you're lucky, they'll give you clues, but even they are unaware of how much foundation is forming for what they will encounter tomorrow and next year.

"The more things something can remind you of, the more you know about it, or are learning about it."

CONNECTIONS: How Learning Works
photo by Elizabeth Anne

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Better than perfect

"Better" is better than perfect.

Don't be competitive, with yourself or others.
Aim for peace and improvement.
photo by Gail Higgins

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A clearer, brighter light

Sandra Dodd:
Principles that applied to the kids applied to the adults, too, and we all experienced and shared more patience and understanding.

Karen James:
The deeper we applied the principles of unschooling to our lives with our son, the more we saw each other in a clearer, brighter light.

Each quote above is slightly longer at this link,
Spouses / Partners, where Karen's is in the first comment.
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, June 1, 2020

Providing for your child

Once, long ago, a mom came to complain about her son wanting a toy. I wrote this:

If the begging is on the increase he's needy, but not for robots. Give him something: time, back rubs, a new tape or CD of something he likes, or rearrange his room, or make his favorite food. There are cheap and free things you can load onto and toward a needy kid. He's not being selfish to actually need more attention, more mom, more recognition of self. And you won't be spoiling him to meet his needs any more than you would be spoiling him to make sure he has a blanket on his bed, and a pillow, and a bath sometimes and toilet paper for his butt. There are necessities, and attention and direct one-on-one regard is one of them, bigtime.
(the December 2001 original)
photo by Cass Kotrba

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Positively add more things

Debbie Regan wrote:
In moving towards unschooling, I think it helps to *add* things rather than "eliminate" things. Adding is more likely to be positive—more flexible and open-ended. "Eliminating" is not many steps away from a rule, from rigidity. Yes chores / No chores. Both are rules—rules which intrude, regardless of what's really important.
—Debbie Regan

the original writing (longer)
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Hundreds and thousands

Say "yes" hundreds of happy, surprising-to-the-kids times, about whether they can stay up a little later, or have another cookie, or visit the neighbors, or jump off the porch. Hearing "YES!" is a huge thrill to kids who have been told "no" thousands of times.

That advice is about how parent can move gradually toward unschooling,
rather than jump too quickly,
photo by Chelsea Thurman Artisan

Friday, May 29, 2020

Avoid thwarting.

Put your frustrated energy into a burst of mixing it up.

Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted.

That was part of some advice I gave in 2003 to a mom whose husband "wasn't onboard," as people say.

"Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted" wasn't suggesting her husband was thwarting it, but that passivity and a lack of sharing it with a spouse thwarts it.

I like the sound of the word "thwart."

Don't thwart unschooling by using it to divide the family. Move toward it methodically and thoughtfully. Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch. Note and share the results with your spouse. It can take a while to come to shared confidence, but don't fail to see it as a family-improving project.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 28, 2020


I love this photo of Karen Lundy's kitchen utensils, laid out artfully and photographed.

I like things. I like tools. The similarities and differences in things has always interested me—the patterns and departures, in objects, people, games, songs, foods, trees, and ideas.

Some people think "I have too many things." Some want things they don't have. Few think "I have the perfect number of things." I miss things I used to have, sometimes. Attachments are not ideal, but things can be art, comfort, tools, toys, and portals to history, stories, science, exploration and possibilities.

Be at peace with things, when you can be.
photo by Karen Lundy

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Be positively positive!

Negativity is contagious and cancels out joy and hope. Some people are just casually negative without realizing it. Their first response to anything is likely to be derisive. It's like a disease, and they infect their friends and relatives. Eye rolling, tongue-clucking, dramatic sighs... It's emotional littering. Save them for emergencies.
Seeing and Avoiding Negativity
photo by Shonna Morgan

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

When water is love

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

I was at homeschool park day and someone's son asked to drink from his mom's water bottle - she said, "Sure have a sip." She said he'd do that often but it wasn't because he was thirsty, it was because it was his way of creating a quick and momentary reconnection with her. I saw that. There was a little moment there, for them. It was sweet. It had nothing to do with her drink or his thirst. She could have easily said, "Go get your own, you left it in the car," or something like that.

We often don't know, really, what it means to another person, especially our own child, for us to do some little thing for them and we never know what we've missed if by not doing something.
—Pam Sorooshian

I left out "just last week" from the quote above, because that child and parent are both seven years older. It is very likely that many things went better, in those seven years, because the mom was sweet to him early on.
photo by Mary Lewis

Monday, May 25, 2020

Give happily

"When you give, give as happily as you honestly can, and give with the receiver in mind more than yourself. That spirit shows, and is meaningful. The older your son gets, the more he'll see and understand and come to appreciate it."
—Karen James
photo by Jamie Parrish

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Listen, advise, love, laugh

Marina DeLuca-Howard wrote, regarding a teenager:

In the past when someone with a younger child in tow has asked for "the secret" to all this respect I seem to receive I notice they can't *hear* the answer. I gave a lot of respect, choices and did a lot of trusting. I didn't ignore him. I was the resource. I listened, advised, and loved and laughed and supported.
—Marina DeLuca-Howard
A teen boy out with his mom—what's "the secret"?
photo by Tara Joe Farrell


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