Saturday, February 29, 2020

Shining light on it

Nikki Zavitz, interviewed by Pam Laricchia in early 2020, shared a mental model of unschooling, including deschooling. It's wonderful, and there's a link to hear it, below.
I always had this visual for unschooling for me, I picture it being this big giant house and it’s got like a million rooms in it. And there’s closets and doors everywhere. And for me, I’m walking around this house with this lantern and the lantern is like unschooling for me. And I have to open up doors and shine the lantern and look under the beds and look in the closet and I’m finding all these new, dusty things that have come from my life and have created this uncomfortableness and this kind of scary eerie feeling for me. And the unschooling is the light, like walking through shining light on it, considering it, asking questions, and eventually more lights are on, and the closets aren’t as dusty anymore, and the rooms are more open and free to go in and out of.

I kind of see that—I've always pictured my unschooling journey like that—and then everybody’s house is different. Everyone has a different unschooling house, and I just love that visual for me, I’m always picturing it like that. Like, "Oh, I found another room that I have to look in," and "I haven’t been in this room yet. I’m going to just step my toe in this room and then step back out and maybe I’ll come back again later," and I just love that.
—Nikki Zavitz

The million-room house image is at 43:26 in Deschooling with Nikki Zavitz,
Episode 216 of the Exploring Unschooling Podcast, by Pam Laricchia.
I think that link will take you right to it. You can see Nikki's face light up.
Let her share her vision with you!

I didn't add a photo this time, because the imagery is all in the words.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Attentive and sweet

Be attentive and sweet to your children. That might be one of your best healing tools.
photo by Janine Davies

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Learning what's important

In 1997, someone asked how unschooling moms stayed patient.

Other moms have told me they think I'm patient. It makes me feel guilty because I have the internal list of all the times I've blown it, but a few things have helped me.

The biggest was Adult Children of Alcoholics, an al-Anon group. I went to meetings for four years and learned a lot of calming and encouraging things. One of those is to remember what I wanted and needed as a child. Then I try to give those things to my children. I don't mean toys or books. I mean listening, and smiling, and joking, and letting them climb on stuff even if it made me nervous, and not making such strictly-to-the-minute rules like "be back at 5:45 or else" and other arbitrary control-junk. One of the quotes/sayings from that learning-time is "How Important Is It?" and thinking that little mantra can help a ton all by itself. If we waste our energy and our relationship with our children on how they wear their socks and where they keep their toothbrush between times, there's nothing left for important things. I try to save it for important things, and I try not to be the defining judge of what's important. There are things the kids consider very important, and I force myself (at first, until I calm myself and remind myself to give) to pay attention to their stuff too. No "That's nice dear" while I ignore them. When it happens, occasionally, that I've done that, I feel bad and I sometimes go back and say, "Tell me again about that game. I'm sorry. I wasn't really listening."

Next biggest influence was La Leche League. There I learned that children have within them what they need to know, and that the parent and child are a team, not adversaries. It reinforced the idea that if you are loving and gentle and patient that children want to do what you ask them to do, and that they will come to weaning, potty training, separation from mom, and all those milestones without stress and without fear if you don't scare them or stress them! Seems kind of obvious, but our culture has 1,000 roadblocks.

From having studied meditation and Eastern religion, I learned the value of breathing. I think what it does is dissipate adrenaline. I remember in the 1960's and early 1970's it was Big News that yogis could *actually* slow their heart rates at will! WELL duh. People had been doing it in church (those who cared to actually "be still and know") for hundreds of years, but nobody thought to wire up contemplative Christians.

When people (parents or kids) are agitated and are thinking for a moment that something has to happen JUST THIS WAY and RIGHT NOW, breathing helps. Deep breathing, slow, and full-as-possible exhalation. This is, in Western terms, "count to ten." Calm down and let the adrenaline go. Some people have biochemistry that's not easy to control, and some people count too fast.
(read aloud as an intro, in the recording at the bottom of the page)

photo by Sandra Dodd of the neighbor's tree seen through an inch-thick piece of ice from a bucket of water on a cold day

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Then ZOOM!

Like a bicycle not quite catching the sprocket, sometimes people are moving along, roughly, and they're unschooling, but something isn't quite smooth, and then ZOOM! The chain catches and they're really going.

Did your own unschooling ever change gears that way? Do you remember something that caused a leap in your knowledge or comfort?

"Getting It" transcript
photo by Rachel Cooley Green

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Our own real thoughts

We can't really think until we think in our own words without the prejudicial labels and without mistaking the voices in our heads for our own real thoughts.
photo by Alison Eiffe

Monday, February 24, 2020

Too hard; too soft; just right

Goldilocks and The Three Bears is an odd story, but for very little children what sticks is the "too hot; too cold; just right" pattern.

When it's hot summer, parents should provide a cooler place for children to hide. When it's cold, they need warmth. Parents can help children find "just right."

If you don't do it, they might sneak into the homes of bears. (Maybe that's not what that story means; it's hard to say.)

"Just Now"
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran
of stored, unused bricks, slightly softened

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sharing a moment, together

When we "give someone our time," what is it we give? Sometimes attention, or service. Maybe assistance, or advice.

Instead of thinking that I "give" my child my time, it helps to think of us sharing a moment, together.

"Being there for and with the family" seems so simple and yet many parents miss out on it without even leaving the house. Maybe it's because of English. Maybe we think we're "being there with our family" just because we can hear them in the other room. There is a special kind of "being" and a thoughtful kind of "with" that are necessary for unschooling and mindful parenting to work.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Cool and cheery

Help them live without having things to be angry about. Promote peace. Be a cool, cheery cruise director.

Arrange for less anger to be around you. What they're angry about—avoid those factors.
from a chat on Spiritual/Existential Intelligence
photo by Meredith Dew

Friday, February 21, 2020

It's a good thing.

"Joy really is infectious, so it's a good thing to grab and share whenever you can."
—Sylvia Toyama
Still cheerful
photo by Cass Kotrba

Thursday, February 20, 2020

When you breathe...

When something makes you sad, breathe in a lovely thought.

When you're worried, breathe in hope.

When you're afraid, breathe in calm.

Let breathing bring you closer to better, for your family and for yourself.
photo by Jo Isaac

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

All that verbal stuff...

Pam Sorooshian, on writing:

Good conversation is really writing development. Sometimes I see parents who kind of shush their kids or get obviously bored when their kids are telling them a rather long drawn-out story (like retelling a movie plot). But retelling a tv or movie plot or telling everything that happened, in order, in a video game are really great for writing. In fact, all that verbal stuff—conversation, summarizing movies, persuading or arguing, playing games, etc.—is MUCH better for developing good writing than practicing writing in the artificial ways that schools do it.
—Pam Sorooshian

Other Just Add Light and Stir posts about writing
photo by Belinda Dutch

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Remember "partnership"

Being patient and compassionate with a child who is sad or hungry or tired or maybe teething or frustrated with his friends is good. Feeling good makes you calmer and more confident. It will give you stores of calm and clarity so that you can remember that your spouse might be sad or hungry or tired, maybe aging, aching, or frustrated with his co-workers and friends.

If you have come to feel adversarial in any way toward your partner, remember "partnership." Help him or her follow interests or hobbies or to take care of collections, or to see a favorite TV show. Support his interests. Being nicer makes you a nicer person.
photo by Joyce Fetteroll

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The horizon and beyond

"What you're dealing with is a very well-meaning person who is convinced the world is flat and is worried that you're so clueless that you want to head off across the horizon. It's a lot healthier and more useful to listen to the people who've been across the horizon than to the person who fears it."
—Joyce Fetteroll

The Big Book of Unschooling
(The quote is not from there, but the words and image both remind me of it.)
photo by Renee Cabatic

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Better, kinder, stronger

Robyn Coburn wrote:

"Everyone who is unschooling is on a daily journey of making choices based on unschooling principles that move them either towards or away from unschooling, towards or away from better, kinder, stronger relationships with their children. Life impacts us, emotionally and practically. Some days I think I was more fully connected to my daughter than others. But she is happy and fulfilled, and not hungry in any negative connotation of that word."
—Robyn Coburn

What Problems can Come?
photo by Cass Kotrba

Friday, February 14, 2020

A little separate time

The more people one's children know and trust, the easier it will be for the parents to find some separate time, but I don't think time apart should be a high priority.
photo by Janine Davies

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Approaching solidity

There is a danger when someone's own understanding and practice of unschooling is shaky, and she wants the approval of others more than the solid joyful everyday life of her family. I've seen a few of those.

Another problem comes when someone's reasons for unschooling are not about learning and family relationships, but about being way cool and out there, and cutting edge, and anti-this'n'that. But that sets the stage for lots of problems in insecure people, when they want to glom onto something that's wild and new and shocking.

Unschooling is...
photo by Alex Polikowsky

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Voices in your head

In your head, you have some repeating-loop messages. Some are telling you you're doing a good job, but I bet some of them are not. Some are telling you that you have no choice, but you do.
Scanner image by Sandra Dodd (it's a link)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


Reflections are beautiful to see—in still water, in windows, or mirrors.

If there are waves on the water, or leaves, or plants, or ice, the reflections might not be as clear. If a glass surface is wavy, or curved, or broken, the reflection will be distorted. Sometimes that's fun.

houses reflected in water in Luxembourg by Orion Larson

People "reflect on things," cognitively, mentally. The plainer one's mind and thoughts are, the easier it will be to reflect.

Looking back
photo by Orion Larson

Monday, February 10, 2020

Beauty and hope

Find beauty and hope wherever it can be found. Say and think sweet things about your children. If people can be positive and sweet, it doesn't matter so much where they do it. Being better is better.

Deposit the good stuff.
photo by Jo Isaac

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Joyful, fearless moment

Right now, it's much more important to live in the moment with your kids, absorb information about who they are and what they like, and present options with joy and free of fear, than to focus on what this will look like when they're grown, or next year, or even next week. Fear and worry transmit to them.

It helped me to remind myself when they were choosing lots and lots of sweets or cakes and I was still afraid it would harm them physically (it never did), that a belly ache is far easier to mend than broken trust.
—Jessica Hughes
photo by Tara Joe Farrell

Friday, February 7, 2020


Do your best to do your best.

You won't regret making more positive choices. on my site
"Better" on Just Add Light and Stir
photo by Renee Cabatic

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Like fluff, like play

uphill path through grass in Scotland
Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Compared to school, with unschooling what you see on the outside looks inconsequential to what they'll be doing as adults. It looks like fluff. It looks like play. But as long as they're in a rich environment with parents who are curious about and engaged with life themselves, when kids explore what interests them, they pull in what is important to their right-now selves and create the foundation for their future selves.
—Joyce Fetteroll

Joyce Fetteroll, interviewed by Sandra Dodd
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Hot and cold

Life moves and swirls with cause and effect, from snow to the visits of relatives to what's on sale at the grocery store. It's easy to wish for things to be different, but the best move is to find the benefit and beauty in what the day brings. If grapes are inexpensive today, you might not even be able to find any next week. Icicles are famously temporary. Your own smile can lift another's face. If you sing a song, it will remind someone of another song.
photo by Cass Kotrba

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Enjoyment, joy and health

Peace and calm are really good things all in and of themselves.

Enjoyment/JOY is better for health than all the "health rules" in the world.

Help with Teeth Brushing
photo by Belinda Dutch

Monday, February 3, 2020


I think "grow up" can be shortened to "grow" and then we don't ever have to stop.
photo by Vlad Gurdiga

Sunday, February 2, 2020

What does it take?

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

We cannot inject unschooling into anyone. Unschooling is not accomplished by joining an unschooling discussion. It takes time, gradual and increased understanding, effort, desire, attention, change.
photo by Linda Malchor

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A few cool things

Knowledge only comes incrementally. Ditto experience.

Do a few cool things today. Build on that tomorrow.
photo by Sarah Elizabeth