Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Models and miniatures

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is a chapel. It once belonged to a Catholic girls' school. It was built as a half model of another chapel in France, but after it was being built, they realized a half-sized stairway wouldn't work. Mystery and adventure ensued.

There is much history, physics, artistry and varied purposes in such things.

Toy soldiers were quite the rage in England at one time. That led to kids who knew military tactics as well as some kids know their favorite video games now. That led to lead, though—lead based paints on lead figurines, and there's some biochemistry involved that they didn't know about yet in those days. (Some were tin, and now they're other metals, or plastic.)

Follow those trails, and things you didn't know were even out there will connect to things that are already in your own knowledge and experience.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a detailed miniature carousel

If you click the image above, you can see my other photos from my visit to Hollycombe Steam Collection, on their music box day, in 2013. There were collectors of mechanical music devices, and of miniature fair rides.

This is a first run of a trick Vlad Gurdiga has arranged for my site to do—a tool for using folders as slide shows. Vlad's pretty great. For me, the photos loaded quickly on my MacBook, semi-quickly on an iPad, and a subset of them loaded, after a while, on my iPhone.

The first photos are pub lunch in Liphook, animals on the property near the car park, some of Hollycombe's collection of wagons that travelling-fair workers used to live in, and of various things inside the park.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Expansive Connectness

circus poster taped inside glass door in Capitan, New Mexico
When I was sixteen, I was in a humanities class taught by Sam Jamison, my chorus teacher. I remember how it felt when I realized that science, art and history were all the same "subject," and that it included people and language and music. It was a feeling of expansiveness, of blossoming. I remember exactly where I was sitting. Whatever he had said, or whatever connection I had just made from something I read or saw in that textbook changed my life right then and there.

When I was an English teacher, I always tried to include connections and references to other subjects, hoping to induce that awakening in my students, or at least to give them the parts they needed to assemble that during an idle moment sometime in their future.

Subject Areas and Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Work at playing

Usually it looks like we're just playing around. When it doesn't look like we're playing, I work on it. Unschooling works best when we're playing around.

Jubilation and Triangulation
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Perspective and math

a brick wall viewed through the fork of a tree
Two responses to a newcomer's question: "How do you approach math?"

I wrote:
The real answer is not to "approach math," but to learn how to see all of the patterns, measuring, relationships, weights, game play, sports stats, poker hands that are math in its natural environment.
Jo Isaac wrote:
The question you really want to ask is how do you deschool enough that you know you don't need to 'approach math' at all.

The longer answers are on facebook here.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 25, 2020

Pre-electric recordings

Before electricity, and even before wind-up/crank record players, there were music boxes, calliopes and player pianos. Music met engineering centuries ago, in many different places.

What is pictured here is a steam-powered calliope, in England. It has wooden pipes, that sound like loud flutes (because of the notch cut in them, and their sizes), and air passes through holes in a heavy card-stock board, fastened to the next and next. They are fed through, and refold themselves fan-style on the other side.

The history of science, the history of technology, and in this case art and music, too, can help fill in a lot of connections and timelines.

Today's link goes into the wilds: Some history of music boxes, with links
and info on Calliopes
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Three-phase appreciation

Sometimes sunlight seems to do a magic trick.

I suppose it always involves something between us and the sun, or the angle from where we're viewing it in a certain moment. It's more fun for me to think the sun is showing off, for fun.

First I need to notice it, though.

Second, I try to pause to think gratefully of what I am seeing.

Third, maybe I can share it by pointing it out, photographing it, reporting it, painting it...

Maybe one form of sharing is to remind my own self to look more often.

photo by Karen James

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Service as a gift

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

It's amazing to see doing for others as a gift. It takes the whole angst about servitude away

There isn't any servitude in it when it's a gift.

—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Amber Ivey

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The day it was picked

Sometimes people get the chance to eat food that was just picked that day. Those doing the picking might get to taste things right in the garden!

Life allows us to eat food all year that wouldn't have been available without trucks, trains, and ships. There's an upside and a downside.

I live in such a dry place that without import and transport, I would never even have seen most of the foods I can buy. I'm grateful for both—fresh local, for those things New Mexico can produce, and for those foods that needed different climates and seasons.

Live lightly and sweetly around food.

Joy / Live Lightly
photo by Belinda Dutch, in Brighton, England

Monday, September 21, 2020

Organizational skills

Most skills take more than one intelligence. The organization of tools and supplies probably requires nature intelligence (knowing which things are similar, in various ways), and spatial (seeing patterns and relationships in how things can fit, and be accessed).

People survive without being as organized as Tara Joe's kitchen, but it's good to appreciate the artistry of organizational ability.

If you see someone's desk, or sock drawer, or tools, or fruit bowl nicely arranged, maybe mention that you noticed.

photo by Tara Joe Farrell

Sunday, September 20, 2020


"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."
—Pushpa Ramachandran,
part of Being means being

Thread literally is a tiny cord, but thread figuratively is a series of connections, and so it comes full circle.

photo by Nina Kvitka

Friday, September 18, 2020

Over, under, in between

Where we are in relationship to others changes all the time, with physical realities of space, place, size and age, mood, waking and sleeping. We move; they move.

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

"Unschooling is more like a dance between partners who are so perfectly in synch with each other that it is hard to tell who is leading. The partners are sensitive to each others' little indications, little movements, slight shifts and they respond. Sometimes one leads and sometimes the other."

—Pam Sorooshian

Being your child's PARTNER, not his adversary
photo by Jo Isaac

Thursday, September 17, 2020

All kinds of doors

Sometimes doors are open, and sometimes they're not. Sometimes it costs money to go through a door, or it's private, or it is so locked or sealed that it's just part of the wall.

Real doors open up to mysteries, beauty, food, something scary, or boring. All kinds of things have doors.

Metaphorical or figurative doors, ditto!

Sometimes the door is interesting even if it's not open to everyone.

Hidden secret rooms and magic doors
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


Beautiful moments of stillness and calm are around us all the time. Sometimes we notice.

Look Quietly
photo by Annie Regan, who wrote "Possibly my favourite spot in the whole world.
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, just on sunrise in this photo"


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Same old appreciation

Same old sink, same old dishes. Same house, day after day.

But look how, randomly, the spoon and fork handles all pointed in different directions. Look how the light hits things. The sky reflected down into my sink!

I am grateful to have that sink and those dishes. My house keeps us safer, cooler in summer, warmer in winter, day after day.

A dirty pot means we had food, and a stove to cook it over. Dirty bowls mean people ate. That is something to be happy about.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, September 14, 2020


There were days not long ago when we did things that now seem problematical. Running in a bubble another kid would run in next. Hugging and kissing people in public. Crowding, laughing, into shared vehicles or public transportation to go and ride and climb and slide and explore.

I've lived past and through things that seemed terrible, but I knew my parents and grandparents had seen worse. In each and every case, the world went back to normal, and sometimes better, in one way or another, or in many ways.
Things can seem grim and limiting, but somehow, it will rain and shine and plants and trees will grow, and children will run and play in more and different places.

I'm impressed with every family staying home with children, when it's hard to do. I salute you. I hope you can live it one more day, and then again, in sweet, creative ways.

Make happy memories, however you can.

photo by Amber Ivey

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Tension of the best kind

The term "tension" can bring to mind "nervous tension," or "feeling tense," but there is a bigger, better concept to envision when thinking about relationships and of living well with children for years.

Uplifting forces should be balanced by weighty, anchoring, solid foundations. Both together are what can create a solid structure within which to live a safe yet expanding life.

Tension (the useful kind)
photo by Tara Joe Farrell

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Optimistic happy people

Alex Polikowsky wrote:

Surround yourself with optimistic happy people. Do not engage in conversation when people are complaining about their children or husbands. If a friend comes to complain about her kids I try to turn around and point out to them how that characteristic could be good or some other great thing about their children. Or I change the subject.

Look at what you have, not what you do not have. If all you focus is in negative things that is all you will see. If you always look for the positive slowly you will, more and more, see the positive and the beauty around you and that will become who you are.

—Alex Polikowsky

photo by Daniel Moyer Artisan

Friday, September 11, 2020

Listen, honestly

Robyn Coburn wrote:

How do we as parents show that we respect our children, that we are parenting respectfully? One big way is by genuinely listening to them. One way is by being honest with them about our own feelings, and telling the truth about events, or unexaggerated truthful reasons about why things can or cannot occur.

—Robyn Coburn

Thoughts on Respect
photo by Cass Kotrba

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Exploring, playing, relationships

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

We have chosen to listen to our children, to pay attention to their needs and their wants instead of telling them that they must conform to our needs and our wants.

It means that for me if Simon (my 8 year old son) asks me to help him play Tales of Symphonia on the gamecube and I happen to be doing the dishes I may ask that he wait the 10 minutes or more likely than not I may just let the dishes soak and come and play with him. The dishes will be easier to clean when I empty the sink and refill it with warm water and I will have gotten to spend an hour with my son talking and exploring and playing and continuing to forge a relationship that makes me so happy I cannot begin to express my joy.

That was from an unusual (for Schuyler) rant in 2007.

Here are some newer words from this ever-thoughtful unschooling mom:
Schuyler Waynforth Interview

photo by Sandra Dodd, of Schuyler's cat in 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Simple, warm and homey

Any moment or memory that is simple, warm and homey is a success.

Peaceful moments can be very simple.

photo by Caroline Lieber

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Breathe like you mean it

People breathe all the time. People are not always conscious of it, though, and so their breathing simply keeps them alive.

Beyond basic function, there are heights of mindfulness and awareness you can reach up to with conscious breathing.

Breathe before you act. Breathe before you speak. Breathe before you play. Breathe before you work. Breathe before you sleep. Breathe when you wake up. Breathe when you think of your child.

Breathing and Safety
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Monday, September 7, 2020

A thousand or three choices

If there are a thousand choices, or even three choices, how do you choose? Some people like to live without choices, so they can say "I had no choice."
So how do you choose? You decide where you want to go before you decide to turn left or right, don't you?

Just like that.

The way to know the right direction is to identify the wrong direction.

How to Screw Up Unschooling

original, on Always Learning, April 2009
photo by Karen James

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Invisible growth

You can't see what a child is learning. You can't know for sure what she knows.

She probably doesn't know what she's learning either, but all the little pieces will be connected to new information as time passes.

I don't usually know what I'm learning, until I look back and see how my thoughts and experiences crossed, connected and unfolded to bring me to today.

You can't see it all
photo by Elaine Santana

Saturday, September 5, 2020

An outpouring of growth

Schuyler Waynforth wrote:

I am often struck by how much of an effective method unschooling is. Maybe effective isn't the right word, but it feels right, or apt. I don't know of any other approach to people that helps them to feel more themselves, more powerful, more generous, more capable, more loved. And what an outpouring you get in response. And I feel so much better as this parent than I did as the parent I used to be.

photo by Cass Kotrba

Friday, September 4, 2020

Travel, or memories

This is not the greatest travel season of the century, but some families are able to go, a bit, to camp or hike.

Memories, or sharing stories and photos, might be the best substitute for a while. "Armchair traveling" might make a return, though Facebook and Youtube, films and documentaries can make it more interesting, and vibrant, with music and voices.

Pleasant thoughts while only looking at photos of distant places are better than grumpy thoughts, no matter where. Happy travel will return someday.

The photo above was taken in Kansas. Scientifically, is Kansas flatter than a pancake? There is a graph here:
photo by Karen Lundy

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Something completely different

Business, an offer, excuses, a thank-you:

If you're expecting e-mail from me, ever, save this: aelflaed@gmail.com and put Sandra Dodd on it, in your address book. Because of the dismantling of my old site, moving it all out of and away from yahoo small business and photobucket storage, my main/default e-mail is now my gmail address. Sorry.

To encourage people to save and try that out, if you want a Christmas card from me, or a post card (if you'd rather), send your mailing address to aelflaed@gmail.com

I have finished ten years of Just Add Light and Stir. If you're reading this on the blog, there is a randomizer and it says

Another Good One
of over 3500 posts

Ten years mighta shoulda yielded 3,650 posts, but I'm short. I have 3,552. Sometimes I was traveling, or fell asleep, or both. A time or two I was sick. A few, I deleted because they were business posts a bit like this one (but not JUST like this one!).

Here is what I look like this week:

Several people sent donations, for which I'm grateful. I would like to send notes, but if they come from the e-mail address up above, they might go into spam folders so please elevate aelflaed to a known entity. Thanks!

I want to thank Vlad Gurdiga, again, for the time and ability he offered freely to rescue so much unschooling writing over the past year. He's a hero; remember his name. He moved my entire website to another hosting company, and found a way to enable me to edit online as I was used to doing. He figured out the mystery of how to move all my many photobucket folders (from three accounts) to my site, too.

When Yahoogroups said they would no longer maintain the archives of groups, Mr. Vlad Gurdiga, my hero, rescued archives from Always Learning, Unschooling Discussion, and Unschooling Basics. You might have noticed links to some of those, where they reside on my site, as I have come across great quotes in there to share here. It's too much to read through, and there's no good "next," but things come up in site search now. It is wonderful.

The entryway might be prettier someday, but feel free to poke around. Watch your step!


To lead you to peaceful things, here are some posts with photos of water in them.
I'll be back tomorrow with a regular post, most likely!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A good person

Someone wrote:

"I wanted to say that this blog, out of all the blogs in the blogosphere, encourages me the most. It lets me know, that my actually natural inclinations as a parent (to love, to focus on relationship, to care for the inside more than the outside) are what I should be listening to. It is so easy in this world to get mired down in how we *should* do something. I admit to falling for this time and time again. I just wanted you to know this blog to be a true inspiration for how to be not only a 'good' unschooling parent, but just a good person. Thank you."

That comment was left by "unknown," when the blog was three years old, in 2013.

Just Add Light and Stir is ten years old now.

Thank you for reading.

The comment was at Gradually Climb, October 22, 2013.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Climb up a notch.

Tina Bragdon wrote:

For all you negative people out there, you really can change, but you have to want to change. That concept of changing the next moment is so powerful, especially if you feel overwhelmed like I did at the thought of a total life overhaul all at once. You can chose to read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch, and "climb up a notch." And even if it is "just" a tiiiiiinnny notch at first, the positivity and joy builds on the next moment and perpetuates itself, an beautiful ongoing circle as you climb up out of being cynical and negative.

And, the view is great up here!

—Tina Bragdon

Seeing and Avoiding Negativity
photo by Renee Cabatic