Monday, April 19, 2021

Present and open

Listen, feel, look. Something will be beautiful, even just for a moment, if you are present and open.

How much beauty would make a beautiful moment?

What could be set aside so that beauty could fill its place?

Turn your face toward beauty.
Turn your heart toward beauty.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 18, 2021


"It isn't self-sacrifice to work for your team. It's teamwork."
Piece of Cake
photo by Marta Venturini

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Peace in the bank

Do what will help your baby. Be the gentlest, sweetest, most attentive mother you can possibly be, and you will be putting peace in the bank for you and your whole family.
Though that was written about infants, it could work with older kids, too!
photo by Lydia Koltai

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Making a family's life better

Some have written that unschooling made their family life better. In every case I've seen, making a family's life better is exactly what makes unschooling work well. So which comes first? Neither grew wholly in the absence of the other.
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Surprising changes

Sometimes deschooling works best when there are surprising (maybe even shocking) surprises, or stark refutations of what the mom has “guaranteed will happen,” or is positive can ONLY happen—that having candy out all the time will make kids throw up, have cavities, get fat. The stories of kids in the presence of the same old bowl of candy asking for vegetables and fruit are important stories to share.
Choices can’t happen without choices, and choices don’t happen well with a mom hovering around and predicting negative outcomes. Lots of people have reported that their experiences with food, and unschooling, changed everything. Seeing kids learning about food, and making choices about food, made other choices seem to make total sense.
from Always Learning, 05/07/19
photos by Ester Siroky (mushroom basket) and Elise Lauterbach (mushroom golf)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

More than one thing

I always like the idea that most things are many things. Language is both too big and too small, sometimes.

If a chart is made of food or food can by played with; if a house is a home and a brownstone and a townhouse; if music is noise, and a pet is a dog and a stray and a mutt, it's even more impressive that kids can learn English (or whatever native language they find themselves born or brought into).

A sweet shortcut to more peace at your house is to allow things, and people, to have many facets and designations. I'm a mom, a wife, a sister, a writer, a mender, a joker, and sometimes I sing. Not so long ago, I became a grandmother. I maintain a webpage, and this blog. You, too, and each person you know, is more than one thing. Let your imagination and calmness extend that to chairs, tables, and blankets.

This post might be soothing or irritating, helpful or long. Same with lunch, or the next story someone tells me.

Find ways to be happy through all those words and thoughts.

photo by Cátia Maciel

Monday, April 12, 2021

Connections, respect and learning

Kristiva once wrote:

I was very prejudiced and fearful when my son (12) first started spending lots of time playing (FPS) games on the xbox and minecraft on the computer. Long story short, I realized that everytime I rejected his interests I was missing an opportunity to connect with him. And connection became my priority. Even before I understood anything about video games besides my shallow observations and judgements. As soon as I shifted to respect, a whole new world opened for me. I also learned some amazing things about my son.
—Kristiva Stack

Nicole Richard wrote, of photos she sent:

I love this. Estrella built a block tower and the boys honored it in Minecraft."


Embracing Minecraft
photos (links to larger images) by Nicole Richard, of her children's art

Sunday, April 11, 2021

More power

Help your children to be powerful. Let them have all of their power and some of yours.
(quote is from page 171 or 194 of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Janine

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Directly and clearly

Read some, do some. Think. Rest. Watch your child directly and as clearly as you can, without the filters and overlays you might be used to. If you think of any terms other than his name as you're looking, shake those off and think his name. Don't think "small, ADHD, rough, shy," or "girly, bright, verbal, musical." You might get back to some of those sometimes, but try to see "Holly, touching a leaf," or "Marty, eating soup." Sometimes the school-colored glasses can keep us from seeing anything but "is doing school work" or "is doing nothing." Unschoolers don't do school work, and "nothing" falls right off the radar.

from "Beginning to Unschool," page 36 or 39 of The Big Book of Unschooling
See also: Practice Watching elsewhere on Just Add Light and Stir
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Friday, April 9, 2021

Your relationship with learning

You can't wait until you understand unschooling to begin. Much of your understanding will come from the changes you see in your child and in your own thinking, and in your relationship with and perception of learning itself. You can't read a touch and then go and unschool for a year and then come back and see what you did wrong; you could be a year in the wrong direction.

from "Beginning to Unschool," page 36 or 39 of The Big Book of Unschooling
(I changed "it" to "unschooling," in the first line above.)
photo by Janine

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Smoke and fire; hobbies and jobs

Some things are more interesting to a child at one age or another, or too dangerous, but the ages vary with different people. Principles are better than rules, for interests and safety.

Physical conditions matter, too. A fire on grass is safer than a fire in a dry desert in autumn, or in the windy Springtime.

Interests that are wonderful and richly full of learning for one child might seem repulsive or as dry as the desert to another child. Good! That's fine! Paying attention to what they like could help you let them know of hobbies, volunteer work, or jobs they might consider, as teens, or as adults, that match their interests and strengths.

The link below goes to a long list of jobs, from various discussions over the past fifteen years. It might be fun, as you read through them to consider jobs that were rare or nonexistent before the past year or two, or jobs that might fade away within a few years.

(That page works better on a computer or something with a wide screen, than on a phone.)
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Better living through priorities

...picking up in the middle of an exchange...

It doesn’t seem good for learning, to stop them from doing what seems interesting to them in the moment.

If you set your priority on learning and peace, it makes other questions easier.
Chat with Sandra Dodd on Mommy Chats, 4/25/07
photo by Kinsey Norris

Monday, April 5, 2021

Value and priorities

floor scenario with kitchen bottles and toy dinosaursSize, age, volume, cost...
Value and priorities, for unschoolers, might begin to surprise you and continue to do so.

Don't judge importance too quickly.

Learning is everywhere.
photo by Lynda Rains

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Sometimes thinking is shared

Though thinking is usually private and quiet, sometimes it shows easily. Games and projects often involve discussions of strategies, or analysis of error or success. Working on projects together puts the supplies and the thoughts all out on the table.

If a child wants to share his thoughts with you, take it as a compliment. Be honored.

Honor him by listening to him as a full human sharing real ideas.
Those are the moments faith and trust are made of. Be a person he'll come back to next time, next year, when he's grown.
photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Thinking is private

Some who is swinging, looking out the window, fidgeting with a little toy, doodling or drawing, is probably doing some serious thinking. Let them.

In the same way that you might be quiet for someone taking a nap, it could be courteous not to interrupt the thoughts you can't see or hear.

Being nearby and available in case there's something the other person wants to share might be a good idea, but give thoughts space to flow.
The writing above is new here, but the page about needs is somewhat related.
Also, perhaps, other posts about parents being quieter.
photo by Ester Siroky

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Critical Thinking Day

Don't believe everything you read or hear today! It's April Fool's day, and people will be trying to trick you or trip you up.

All the rest of the year? Don't believe everything you read or hear then, either.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

One step. Breathe. One step.

I think "struggle" comes with a dramatic martyrdom, wrapped in "You wouldn't understand." How many steps does it take to step out of that puddle of pity and onto solid clarity? I think one. Stop struggling. Breathe and try to think clearly.

If that doesn't come naturally, or seems mysterious, here are some ideas:

Thoughts about doing better
photo by Rosie Moon

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Words and pictures, sent to you!

When I was in first grade I decided I wanted to be a teacher. All through school I paid attention to what teachers did and how, and why (when I could figure that out, which was pretty often). And I asked the other kids what they liked about teachers and what they didn’t. So I learned LOTS and lots about how learning works and what factors work for different kinds of people.

When I was older, 13/14 or so, I wanted to become a missionary (still teaching-related), or to work at a magazine. And it seems all those rolled together are what I’ve become. I write, and I help people have happier more peaceful lives, and it’s all about learning. So in a natural-learning way I’ve been working up to this always.
I wrote the above in an online exchange for Mothering Magazine in 2017.
Recently, I remembered another writing-related profession I had seriously considered for a short while in my late 20's. I had read that the Hallmark Cards company was hiring writers, in Kansas City. I thought I could do that! I knew nothing about Kansas City, and decided I didn't want to move, but while I thought about applying, writing mushy or funny or inspiring words to go with an image sounded easy and fun.

Then, with this blog already ten years old, when I remembered that, I saw that Just Add Light and Stir is much like a greeting card collection. Some are funny, or mushy, and many are inspiring. Some are seasonal, and some are about babies. This is post #3744. I guess I have inadvertently written some greeting cards.

I used posts once for the imagery for Choices and Incremental Change—an online presentation in 2015. Turn the sound off if you want to watch in peace and think of greeting cards. [If you're seeing this by e-mail and the player won't work, click through to the blog.]

Monday, March 29, 2021

Carefully and confidently

Gradual is better, but when people jump, the reaction of the children to that is really a reaction to all of the controls from the past. And though it's difficult for the parents, it's a crop they planted.

Gradual is better. Pass on to anyone who listens to any of you about unschooling to change gradually and not to jump far.

Too Far, Too Fast
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Regular mysteries

Some things will be a mystery to most people.

It's good to accept that we won't understand everything, because here's a fact: No one understands everything. There are mysteries. Don't let that disturb your peace.

Practice saying "I don't know" to children is good practice for saying it to ourselves when the children aren't around.
photo by Ester Siroky

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Language first

Whole language involves language as communication, rather than as separate parts (writing / reading / spelling). First language; details later.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 93 or 102, "Phonics and Whole Language"
webpage connections: Phonics or Spelling
photo by Kirby Dodd

Friday, March 26, 2021

Playing with them

PLAY with your kids. Playing can be the single best way to really get to know your kids. Get down on the floor, follow their lead, and PLAY with them.
—Lyle Perry
How to NOT Screw Up Your Kids
photo by Kinsey Norris, "Rat Town"

Thursday, March 25, 2021


"To nourish" someone goes above and beyond food. "Good food" served with shame or pressure loses all its goodness, to a child. A loving relationship can last forevermore. Ice lollies and popsicles are gone in no time.

Let their memories of treats, and of meals, of childhood, and of parents, be warm and comforting.
Advantages of Eating in Peace
photo by Elaine Santana

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Normal, functional art

I like museums, but if you can see the whole world as a museum, your life will light up!

If you can see art in normal, functional things, your life will lighten up!
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a dam and some tumbleweeds

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Comforting and comfortable

Life can be based on comforting others, on finding ways to be comfortable ourselves. I don't mean comfortably wealthy, I mean being at peace—not making other people uncomfortable.

There are emotional and mental and physical comforts most people never knew existed, but unschoolers have learned to get used to them!

"Comforts", The Big Book of Unschooling (page 12, any edition)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, March 22, 2021

Arranging some quiet

Sometimes "bored" means tired,
 a sleepy seal
low on energy, needing a break from conscious thought and responsibility. Arranging a nap, or putting on a soothing video (even for older kids—a romance instead of an action flick, or light drama instead of comedy), leaving a pillow on the couch and herding the rest of the family in other directions might result in an unplanned but needed nap.
photo by Karen James

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Patience, please

Be patient with your kids and with yourself, please!!
part of a longer facebook comment, about the effects of the pandemic on people in general, and unschoolers more particularly
photo by Daniel Moyer

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Something Different

Things you are used to are exotic to others. There are things you see every day that some people might never, ever see in person.
Lightning storms.
Cargo bikes.
Lifts / elevators.
Shave ice.

tugboat with truck tires mounted on it for pushing and bumping

Inventory your special local treasures!
photo by Sandra Dodd
(click it for a video)

Friday, March 19, 2021

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Enthusiasm and curiosity

Sometimes an adult who had learned not to learn, or had grown up to be self-conscious about enthusiasm and curiosity, rediscovers the joy of discovery.
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

An atmosphere of wonder

Think in terms of creating an atmosphere of wonder where people are genuinely curious about life and where there are intriguing things to be curious about.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Cally Brown

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Learning so many things

When unschooling is equated with alternative school, it can blind people to the possibilities of full-on radical unschooling. No matter how extremely great or different a school is from a traditional school, or the default standard, it is still a school.

Parents who are unschooling as a whole way of life, can discover what no school can find, and the core aspect of it is the family as a base for learning—for learning about family, for learning about relationships, and resources, money, food and sleep, and learning about laughter.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Monday, March 15, 2021

Lighter light

"Add light" can notch us up into the... lighter light.

It's not just sunshine that's light. There is firelight, candlelight, the glow of an iPad on a happy face, a flashlight under the covers, moonlight.

There can also be light from within—bright eyes, and a warm smile.

Light as in not heavy or ponderous—lighten up in that way, too.

Light humor. A light step. Light music, with a light lunch.

I hope this will bring to light some ways for you to light up your own life and some of the lives around you.
photo by Hannah North

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Being gentle

What do babies want? They want to learn. They learn by touching and tasting and watching and listening. They learn to be gentle by people being gentle with them...
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Live a Learning Life

"Child-led, 'wait til they ask'" isn't the way radical unschooling works. It's a way for unschooling to fail, if the parents are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the child to lead, or ask to learn something.
photo by Karen James, of stained glass by Ethan James

Friday, March 12, 2021

Brave, calm, happy

Be brave,

     be calm,

          be happy.
Becoming Courageous, by Deb Lewis
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Peace might not be so quiet

In English there's a phrase, an idiom, a lump of words: "peace and quiet." People speak wistfully of "peace and quiet" as though one requires the other, but I haven't found that to be true in practice.

Is quiet always peace? I can think of lots of times I held my breath to be quiet, out of fear. I've seen families where people passed through the house quietly, out of nervous avoidance. Sometimes "Quiet!" can be very scary and dangerous. Some families live in fear and quiet, not peace and quiet. Quiet anxiety is not peace at all!

A Loud Peaceful Home
photo by Alex Polikowsky

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Very slow movement

Sometimes people make a conscious decision to change. All unschoolers have done that and then worked consciously to create and to stay on a smooth course.

Some people say "I will never change," but you will, because change is what time and life do.
Thoughts on Changing (
Slight, subtle change
photo by Brie Jontry, of icicles s-l-o-w-l-y sliding off the roof

Monday, March 8, 2021


Karen James wrote:
If parents wonder whether they should be more generous with their children, I would say yes. The more the better. Not in a give-them-everything-they-want kind of way. More in a give-them-as-much-of-yourself-as-you-can kind of way. Be open. Be generous. Be understanding. Be trusting and trustworthy. Be present. Be loving. Be compassionate. Be patient. Be helpful. Be kind.

You will be amazed at what you see.

—Karen James
photo by Kinsey Norris

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Be soft and grateful

Someone wrote once
"I really have to be vigilant on myself and try not to control."

I was amused, but responded, in part:

Being "vigilant" sounds like absolutely exhausting effort. Relax. You do not "have to be vigilant." Especially not on yourself. That's you watching yourself. Way too much work. Let go of one of those selves. Relax inside the other one. Have a snooze. Don't be vigilant.

When you wake up, think. Am I glad to be here? Is this a good moment? If so, breathe and smile and touch your child gently. Be soft. Be grateful. Find abundance. Gently.
photos by Rosie Todd

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Offer loving answers

Why does...?
Who will...?
When did...?
Where are...?
What is...?
Do you...?
Can I...?
I think...
Let's ask...
We can look...
As far as I know...

Treasure your child's questions and offer loving answers.
Relationships are built of these things.

photo by Sandra Dodd
re-run from 2010

Friday, March 5, 2021

Just being

There's little so sweet and grounding to me as being loved for who I am and appreciated for all I choose to spend my time doing. If we want our children to really know what that feels like too, we should stop standing on the sidelines, and start joining in.
It's a simple gift we can all give to our children that will have the potential to last a lifetime.
—Karen James ("A Simple Gift")
photo by Cass Kotrba

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The possibility of restoration

So with radical unschooling it is possible for a family, even who skipped that part—even who didn’t have infant bonding—to, as much as possible, restore a relationship between the parents and the children, where the parents really do care about what the children think and want, more then they look in the book and see what a six-year-old should think or want.
This was inspired by Family Bonding, Amy Childs interviewing me,
and there is a transcript!
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Perspective, attitude, emotion

I love my children and think they're really important, and that it is part of my privilege to be their mom and to introduce them to the fun and interesting parts of the world, and I hold them in esteem. They are of higher value to me than other things and other people. That isn't respect they had to earn. But it's emotional and it's attitudinal, and it's relative to me.
—Sandra Dodd, in 2010
This and a bit more, near the bottom of a page on respect.
photo by Sandra Dodd (sprouts growing in my kitchen recently)

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Being at peace

No life is peaceful at every moment, but the more peaceful moments you have, the more peaceful are the lives of all concerned. The lives of those indirectly affected are also closer to peace.
photo by Sophie Larcher

Monday, March 1, 2021

Change one thing.

Change a moment. Change one touch, one word, one reaction. If you try to change your entire self so that next year will be better, you might become overwhelmed and discouraged and distraught.

Change one thing. Smile one sweet smile. Say one kind thing.

If that felt good, do it again. Rest. Watch. Listen. You're a parent because of your child. Your child. You should be his parent, or her parent. Not a generic parent, or a hypothetical parent. Be your child's parent in each moment that you interact with her.
photo by Jennie Gomes

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Promote calm

In the smallest of decisions and actions, if you can choose what will promote calm and avoid tears, you will be moving toward a more peaceful way of being.

photo by Theresa Larson

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Unscheduled brilliance

"Let go of the fear of missing out; it will hamper your ability to be open to the cornucopia of unscheduled sparkling brilliance."
photo by Sandra Dodd
of an Australian possum I saw, thanks to Jo Isaac