Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Be curious about life

Get interested in things yourself. Not interested in your child getting educated, but in learning for yourself. Pursue an interest you've always wanted to but never had time for. Be curious about life around you. Look things up to satisfy your own curiosity. Or just ponder the wonder of it all. Ask questions you don't know the answers to. "Why are there beautiful colors beneath the green in leaves?" "Why did they build the bridge here rather than over there?" "Why is there suddenly more traffic on my road than there used to be?"

Let your child know that all the questions haven't been answered yet and it's not her job to just keep absorbing answers until she's got them all.
—Joyce Fetteroll

Five Steps to Unschooling
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Monday, March 30, 2020

Nearly natural limits

Kelly Lovejoy wrote:

The world is FULL of natural limits. Our lives are FULL of natural limits. It's the way we deal with those limits that matters. Finding solutions and dealing with obstacles and knowing what limits are real.
—Kelly Lovejoy

From a discussion of Boundaries, at Unschooling Basics
photo by Ester Siroky

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A little peace

It doesn't take much to create a little peace, and then some more.

photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Priceless and profound

One of the greatest benefits of unschooling is the relationship with the child, and the changing attitudes of those in the family toward learning and being. Being a parent one is proud to be is priceless and profound.

The healing of one's own childhood wounds and the recovery from school are like little bonus miracles.

How Robbie saw unschooling in swans
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Friday, March 27, 2020

Laughter helps

Deb Lewis wrote:

Unschoolers sometimes talk about having tools in their toolbox. No, unschoolers are not all plumbers. They're referring to a store of good ideas to shop around in to help in this business of living. I have one tool I use more than any other. A pipe wrench! No, it's humor.
. . . .
Laughter has helped my own family through hard times. Sure we would have come through the hard times anyway, but we came through them with less stress, fewer lasting scars, and lots of great one-liners.
—Deb Lewis

Unschooler's Pipe Wrench, by Deb Lewis
photo by Jo Isaac

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Visions and knowledge

I didn't know how much children could learn without reading, until I immersed myself in unschooling and my children's lives.

As their reading ability unfolded and grew, I learned things I never knew as a teacher, and that I wouldn't have learned as an unschooling mom had they happened to have read “early.” Reading isn't a prerequisite for learning. Maps can be read without knowing many words. Movies, music, museums and TV can fill a person with visions, knowledge, experiences and connections regardless of whether the person reads. Animals respond to people the same way whether the person can read or not. People can draw and paint whether they can read or not. Non-readers can recite poetry, act in plays, learn lyrics, rhyme, play with words, and talk about any topic in the world at length.

photo by Holly Dodd, from inside an auto-rickshaw

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Music lives in the air

Music doesn't live in notes on paper, it lives in the air.

People can be VERY musical without knowing how to read or write music, just as people can be very verbal, tell stories, be poetic and dramatic without reading and writing.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Keys to knowledge

One of a child's best tools is to learn to ask "What's that?" It's one of a baby's keys to knowledge. "Sa-sat?" said one of my kids. Hundreds of times, pointing. "Sa-sat?" Another said, "Aht-dat?"

With names for things, categories form. Some small furry animals ARE "dog" and others are not. "Not" needs another name.

On naming, a researcher named J. Doug McGlothlin wrote, "A child possesses a natural desire to call an object by its name, and he uses that natural desire to help him learn the language. He receives real joy from just pointing out something and calling it by name. He never thinks it is stupid or silly to say something that others might consider obvious. For him, it is delightful."

photo by Cass Kotrba

Monday, March 23, 2020


Peace can be just contentment—to be happy where you are, to like your life.

(the quote is from the sound file at the bottom)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Wouldn't change a moment

"A good chunk of our days are filled with gaming, and I wouldn't change a moment of it. My son is learning so much, is healthy both physically and emotionally, and truly loves his life. What more could I hope for?!"
—Karen James

art by Jalen Owens

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Make the next moment better.

Moments, not days.

Don't think of "bad days." One terrible moment doesn't condemn the rest of the day. One bad moment? Recover. Apologize, smile, be sweet, and make the next moment better.


photo by Karen James

Friday, March 20, 2020

Living Sweetly by Choice

It seems to me the best you can do for your family is to choose to be with them as long and as well as you can be, mindfully aware that you have chosen to do this.

Live sweetly by choice.

From my handwritten notes for a 2004 presentation that was pre-empted for a last-minute speaker.
photo by Sandra Dodd of the cloth from the article here

Thursday, March 19, 2020

First aid for scary, sad days of doubt

I wrote this on March 10, 2000:

Sometimes it's kids, sometimes it's parents.

Let's list ideas for cheering up, and de-funkifying.

I love "breathe."
Whether it's jogging or breath-holding, or laughing, or spinning or meditation—whatever causes a sudden more concentrated and less thought-laden intake of oxygen is relaxing.

I like happy music or funny, familiar movies—the stuff you already know and can put on as background, which reminds you subliminally of more peaceful and carefree days.

I like comfort food, playing with ice cubes, going to the store just to buy something cold (lettuce, apples, ice cream, a small soda for all to share, special juice or fancy tea in a bottle—something cold and soothing, and no doubt this works better in the desert than it might in Minnesota this morning).

Painting—not fancy elaborate painting, but big brush strokes on big scrap paper, or a sign for the dog, or painting on a playhouse outside or something that doesn't involve stress (if it's quickly available).

Mix it up: Wear something you haven't worn for a long time. To assist a kid to do this, get out the off-season clothes and see what's not fitting, or find some funky old thing of yours and see if the kid wants it, or stop at a garage sale and get a t-shirt for a quarter or something. A new color, a new picture, some soft cotton or silk. Marty got a silk shirt at a thrift store the other day for $3. He's thrilled. Wears it like a jacket over t-shirts. Touches the sleeves a lot.

While this stuff is being done/discussed/reviewed, the depressing problem is being dispersed, forgotten, avoided. Next time the depression comes (if it does, if it's a long-term thing) the kid or parent will approach it with a more relaxed mind and calmer body.

More ideas??
. . . .
What works at your house?

Read responses with other ideas here: Conversations with Sandra Dodd

photo by Alex Polikowsky

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Plus or minus

Every little thing a parent does goes into the plus column or the minus column. Each parent is gaining credit or losing credit.

Everything counts—words, tone, patience, generosity, interest, kindnesses and thoughts. It takes more to build your credit back up than it does to waste it, so be careful.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Too good to be true?

"It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. Being connected is better than being controlling. Being interested is better than being bored. Being fun is more fun than not being fun!"

—Melissa Wiley

photo by Sandra Dodd, of bowls I bought in India

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Peace is primary

Tara Joe Farrell wrote:

Peace is THE priority in unschooling. It's primary. No amount of dropping bedtimes or food/media restrictions, no finding the yeses, no rich environment can get a family to unschooling well until someone (the at-home parent, the keeper of the nest, usually the mom) understands how to scan for peace, see where it's missing, and then find a way to let peace grow in that space. That could mean simply planting peace, but it can also mean clearing obstacles (including ourselves). Learning only, ever, thrives where there is peace.
—Tara Joe Farrell

Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
photo by Gail Higgins—rainbow on a waterfall
(click to enlarge)


Saturday, March 14, 2020

At peace, at home

Today is different.

Well every day is different, but this week the world is trying to figure out how to pause and wait. This affects us all. Some people got quiet. Some ran around.

Two important jobs have fallen on parents. Distract children who might be afraid, or sick or restless. Needy children.

Find and share beauty and joy in familiar things—in things you can touch, hear, see, smell, taste, drink from, eat from, sit on, sleep on, tell stories about.

The links below go to previous posts that might help you be at peace, at home.

Live lightly with patience
Arts and sciences
History at your house

photos by Sandra Dodd

(Note added in January 2022: The post above was written as the Covid-19 pandemic was being announced, in many places, and lockdowns were beginning.)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Mushy happy everything

I've come to ask for a roll call on who's seeing, reading, caring. If you have this by e-mail, please respond, with at least a ping, if not a note.

The mailer-report says nobody saw this one: Constant flow of thoughts, which is too bad because there was a cool photo by Karen James of beautiful little plants growing in a crack in a lava flow. If you didn't receive that, I don't know why not, and I hope you'll take a look.

Some people object to "Mushy happy" anything, but I'm pretty sure it's better than dried-up cranky whatever, so if you want happy encouragement, stick around! If not, see if one of these guys has a daily blog for you, and best of luck.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Learning curve

The learning curve of unschoolers has a plateau in the middle, it seems. Don't worry.

photo by Belinda Dutch

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


If you think of controlling yourself, and of your children controlling themselves, it's still about control. If people live by principles their choices come easily.

photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, March 9, 2020

Even though it's natural...

There is a natural need in people to know the "us" and the "them." Those who want an inclusive, multicultural, liberal, accepting life will still have a "them." It's easy to revile "the enemy." It might be impossible NOT to have the idea of "other." But creating a "culture" or nation that is created of a combination of others won't save any individual from their own instincts.

Accept and try to accept what is a natural part of human nature. Then figure out ways to live peacefully, and kindly, and gently, for the sake of your children, and of others.

SandraDodd.com/antagonism (the first part is from there)
photo by Whitney DiFalco

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Constant flow of thoughts

Rebellion for the sake of rebellion is as bad as conformity for the sake of conformity.

photo by Karen James

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Lucky Kirby!

Kirby, my oldest, was born in 1986. I went to La Leche League (LLL). There I learned a crucial concept: my child and I were partners, not adversaries. What was good for him was good for me. At that time I had been going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings for a little over a year, and there I learned that we need to avoid repeating our parents' parenting mistakes, and that by raising our own children gently and respectfully, that we would heal our own hurts.

Lucky Kirby!

SandraDodd.com/unschoolingworks 2002
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, March 6, 2020

Active participants

"Unschooling is not child-led or child-directed learning — that makes it sound like the parent should just be a 'follower.' Not so — parents are active participants and part of the job of an unschooling parent is to keep the child in mind and to fill his/her life with just the right amount of interesting new experience, chances to repeat experiences, down time, and so on."
—Pam Sorooshian

SandraDodd.com/nest—Building an Unschooling Nest
photo by Nina Haley

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Invisible creations

Can a person create negativity?

If so, a person should be able to create positivity.

"Happiness Inside and Out" (quote from the notes)
photo by Jaspreet Boparai

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

A little push

If you're trying to help push someone's car and it's not going anywhere, sometimes pushing harder helps. Occasionally, though, you just have to
say, "Is it in neutral or not?" If they say, "No, it's in first gear, push harder," what are you going to say? You stop pushing and say "You have to put it in neutral first."

So before anyone can enjoy the benefits of unschooling they have to "put it in neutral." They have to take off the emergency brake. Otherwise the car won't move. Too many people say "We tried pushing the car, it didn't move, we bought a new one. Pushing cars never works."

An analogy from 1997, with notes on the "have to" parts here:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

What is "better"?

Approach "better."

But "better" is unmeasurable. Too much measuring, too much counting.
Better is perceptible.
Better is a relief.
Better is better.

Arguing with "better is better" is saying that better is not better.
Worse is certainly not better.

Happiness Inside and Out
photo by Tara Joe Farrell

Monday, March 2, 2020

Not all, but more

Connections won't be the same for any two people, but talking about those connections will help our children, and us, understand more and more of everything. We can't know all of everything, but we can know more of everything.

photo by Jo Fielding

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Bright and conversant

When I was a new unschooler, I sought out reports of college success and social ease. As the years passed, the social ease seemed so central to my children's lives that the college thoughts receded. As they reached the teen years, and their friends (schooled or not) went to the university (or not), they saw college "education" (and partying, and class skipping) as just another part of the infinite fabric of life. They haven't been channeled toward it in the dark, as so many millions have been.

It has been a long time since I worried about whether they would grow up whole and functional. They were whole, functional, bright and conversant all along. They surprise and impress older friends, co-workers and classmates (when those temporary relationships do arise) with their energy and joy.

2006, from "To Be Fascinating at Cocktail Parties"
photo by Sandra Dodd