Friday, December 31, 2021

Beautiful, spectacular, happy world

end of a beautiful, anonymous account of gratitude and of change:

I know I have changed the world by starting with myself and my own family. That’s awesome.

Know what I love more, though? This gorgeous, beautiful, spectacular, happy world I live in.

I didn’t have it when I was a kid—though I always wanted it with my whole self—but I have it now. Even better, my kids have it now. There’s nothing in this world I’d ever want more.

"When you can see all directions, for a moment"

photo by Sarah S.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Help them navigate the world

stone building with window boxes, and steep wooden staircase to a second-floor window, in a French town on Lake Geneva

Marta Pires wrote:

I could've easily been one of those moms who thought that saying anything to my child would be limiting her, and who could've been afraid of her daughter's sensitivity. I can see clearly now that they don't learn how to handle these situations simply from seeing us do things one way or another (although it's important, of course), but we need to give them information and find out the best way to do it, having our own child in mind. That's not damaging them or limiting them at all, quite the contrary—I think it's helping them navigate the world and become respectful, considerate, polite adults.

—Marta Pires
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Bringing snow inside

Laurie C. wrote in a discussion once, of snow play:

"On the snow days that are entirely too cold for the children to go outside, or even when it is too dark outside we bring buckets of snow inside. We put the snow into the bathtub and allow the children to sit on the outside. Reaching into the tub they can use their action figures, trucks, barbies,or other misc. toys to play in the snow. When they are finished playing the snow runs down the drain and leaves very little clean up. (We have also allowed the children to make and throw a couple of snowballs at the shower wall)"

Newer Sandra note:

If you know it will snow, you could put containers out the night before, for children too young to go out, maybe, or for some extra, warmer snow fun even if yours do have the outfits and the inclination to brave the real thing.

Snow Days, from the UnschoolingDiscussion archive
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Learning floods in

When our schoolish expectations start to dissolve, learning floods in from all directions.
Learning for Fun (interview)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 27, 2021

Gratitude and Abundance

Whether or not you like it on pizza, it is likely that you can buy pineapple, wherever you live. Thanks to technology and to trade between regions and among nations, thanks to grocery stores, things can be purchased from around the world, in places where they could never grow.

When the market is out of something I wanted, I think of horse-drawn wagons, and sailing ships, and remind myself that there were times when such things were the best people had, for transporting food.

Even in seasons when it's popular to be cynical and critical and to complain about things, it's healthier and happier to see the marvel and opportunity in life around us.

Abundance and Gratitude
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Showing respect quietly

Some people confuse respect and courtesy. Some people confuse nicey-niceness with respect. But real respect changes action and affects decisions.
. . . .
Respect can be shown sometimes by being quiet. Sometimes it can be shown by thinking about what someone says and not dismissing it half-heard.

Some problems with respect
photo by Karen James

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Gifts, boxed

Within that little library box are books. Each book is like a box of stories and ideas. Each scene within could be a gift to one reader or another. Some books have pictures.

Video (on tapes, discs, YouTube, streaming services) is all made up of pictures, and probably voices, and maybe music. Those, too, are boxes of gifts of stories and ideas.

If you feel stuck, remember the gift of escape into stories of other times and places.

MOVIES AS A PLAYGROUND, as tools, as portals
... sharing movies with our kids

photo by Gail Higgins

Friday, December 24, 2021

International this'n'that

That ornament is on my Christmas tree, in Albuquerque. It's not new this year, but was mailed to me from Julie, in England. She got it at Tesco; I like Tesco. She sent tea, too.

Santa is based on a Saint who lived in Asia Minor, and in this felt model of the Christmas character St. Nicholas evolved into, he's riding a llama. Llamas are from the Andes mountains in South America. The ornament itself might have been made in India, or in Nepal. There are people reading this in South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. We have subscribers on six continents. Some shop at Tesco; some might have llamas; some are celebrating Christmas.

Best wishes to all readers of Just Add Light and Stir. This is post #4,000.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Safety, comfort and joy

I don't treat my children as partners. I was, from the time they were babies, partnered with them. I was the older, more experienced, more responsible partner. I protected our team, which often meant I sheltered them from things that would have upset them or that they didn't care anything in the world about. I've done that for my husband, too, who's been my official legal partner since 1984 when we declared our partnership in front of relatives and friends, God and the State of New Mexico.

With my kids, it was a posture I took, partly physical, partly mental, in which I accepted and recognized that I had the power to make them unhappy, and the easy ability to allow them to be in danger (from me, in part) if I wasn't really mindful and careful to focus on their safety, comfort and joy.

"Partners," examined
Photo by my friend Annaliese, with my camera, in 1998, for sending to Keith who was working 1200 miles away. Click it to enlarge, and to read more about those kids, those days.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Peaceful Memories

Being gentle can relieve stress. Being gentle "gentles" us.

If you can recall a moment when you comforted an animal, you are remembering a good-hearted action. If you can think of four, or six, times that you made another creature feel safer, warmer, happier, you might induce the same feelings you had then.

Peaceful memories can be soothing.

photo by Ester Siroky

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A memory, a moment, a hug

Robyn Coburn wrote:

My attitude continues to make the greatest difference to my happiness. Most of my needs are met in joyfully giving and being with my family. Those that are not met that way, are more able to be met when my daughter and husband are already happy and feeling generous. And if I am feeling like I need a break, I can take one in the space of a breath, a memory, a moment, a hug.

—Robyn Coburn
photo by Sandra Dodd (not my house; not Robyn's house)

Monday, December 20, 2021

Mindset and language

A reader named Eleanor wrote:

I was very grateful to discover your writings on ‘struggle’ and the compilation on your website relating to ‘struggle‘ a few years ago.

I still read it regularly and get so much more from it with each read. It sparked a change in mindset and language which improved our unschooling lives massively.
Lax and relax
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Peace and excitement

Enjoy quiet moments, but be ready to jump.

Sometimes you're a calm, safe place, and other times you're an action hero, to your kids and maybe to others. Rest when you can, but keep your shoes near.

Unschooling: Getting It
photo by Sandra Kardaras-Flick

Saturday, December 18, 2021


Yesterday I posted about how I got my kids into grocery stores, from parking lots, safely.

While seeing whether the quote had been used before, I found a similar report, with this comment, from me:
Sometimes I would say "Hold on to something! I'm going to hold on to Marty!" so that it wasn't just a thing 'kids had to do,' but was a safety condition of crowdedness.

Now that I'm older, I still sometimes want to hold on to one of my kids when we're out, but now it's because I'm safer if they help me. Holly has held my hand crossing streets just this year, and she's 21. Marty and Kirby have helped me down stairs and off of steep curbs.

It's not just for children.

I need even more help now, nine years later. Sometimes I help a grandchild or two.
Hold on to something (third comment)
photo by Brie Jontry, 2016, before a Halloween party
She and Holly were irritating maids, and I was a scraggly cat.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Hold on principle

Instead of having a rule that kids had to hold my hand in a parking lot, I would park near a cart and put some kids in right away, or tell them to hold on to the cart (a.k.a. "help me push", so a kid can be between me and the cart). And they didn't have to hold a hand. There weren't enough hands. I'd say "Hold on to something," and it might be my jacket, or the strap of the snugli, or the backpack, or something.

photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Learning feels good.

Learning feels good. It is satisfying and intrinsically rewarding. Irrelevant rewards can have unintended side effects that do not support learning.

Principles of Unschooling, by Pam Sorooshian
photo by Dan Vilter (who originally preserved Pam's writing)

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Healing children from the past

"By being kind to them I've healed a lot of hurt from my childhood. I don't know how it works, but it does."
—Betsy S.
the kindness, the respect, the sparkle
photo by Nina Haley

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Thoughts about stability

There are some bugs that are born in my yard and might live there their whole lives. Or they might move to the neighbors'. When we buy firewood, we usually import some bark beetles, unintentionally.

The birds we feed in front don't stay all year. Because there are lizards, a roadrunner visits sometimes.

There are worms in the compost bins. Some are descendants of worms I bought, from Florida, by mail, but other bigger ones voluntarily come up from the New-Mexico ground into the compost each summer.

For many years, there were three kids growing up here. Many of their friends visited, and ate, and slept. Now they're all off in other houses.

Is there no stability in the world?

I try to be a stable, solid factor, but I'm changing, too. Keith, that father of my children, that friend of so many years, is still here. I will be kind to him while he is, while I can.

Understanding Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 13, 2021

Shadows and reflections

The effect something has can be fleeting or long lasting. This praying mantis landed on a car so clean, in front of a photographer so quick, that we can see its shadow and its reflection now for years to come. There are the clouds of that moment, also reflected.

I don't like feeling that my actions or reactions could have longlasting effects. It can't be helped, though, so I try to remember to choose where to land and how long to sit there, and to be careful with my words and actions, which might cast shade, and could reflect (well, or badly).

A Better World
photo by Gail Higgins
Another praying mantis shadow here in 2014

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Looking near and far

If you look too far and try to see everything, you might miss something exciting and very near. Keep the little things in mind, and in focus.
photo by Brett Goodman, lizard expert and unschooling dad

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Expanding with confidence

When you're thinking about what unschooling can bring into your life, don't forget confidence, or courage. And do things to build that, so your children's lives and worlds expand.
Building an Unschooling Nest
photo by Sarah S.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Growth, life, past and future

New things are added to old things. Antiques are repaired.

New children meet old people. Forgotten toys are re-discovered.

Change is part of growth, of life, of past and of future.

Thoughts on Changing
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Simple and profound

Taking food to someone who is reading or playing a game or watching a movie and just putting it where he or she can reach it without any instructions, warnings or reminders is a great gift. It is a simple gesture, and a profound service.

Monkey Platters
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Learning and living joyfully

When teens or young adults have chosen to have a job without desperation for money, and when they are accustomed to learning all the time and living joyfully, they are a different sort of employee.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Three or four of them

Whatever you do, make it fun, interesting, comforting, memorable, unusual, familiar, nourishing, productive, or restful. If it can be three or four of those things at the same time, good job!
Precisely How to Unschool
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp (or maybe a Graham-Dusseldorp selfie)

Monday, December 6, 2021

Willingness to share

Rosie Moon's photo; Alex Arnott's words:
As I've sunk deeper into this awareness of what's actually there (replacing a mindset of abundance with my former belief about what was lacking), my kids "melt into me" more...what I mean is there is less edginess, less defensiveness, and more willingness to share their life with me. More willingness to join me in what I'm doing.

I'm sure that my acceptance has something to do with the peace that we are experiencing.

—Alex Arnott

Quote (slightly tweaked here) from Perspective
photo by Rosie Moon

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Happy, having fun, and learning

Colleen Prieto wrote:

I am quite pleased that everyone in our little family feels quite free to be enthusiastic, passionate, and extremely into whatever we're into at the moment. All things Star Trek, cemetery exploration, birding, keeping track of the Yankees, Minecraft, and photography are things that right now are taking up most of our time. I don't think we're obsessed and I don't think we need to be more well-rounded and find "moderation." I think we're happy and having fun and learning , and that to me is all good.
—Colleen Prieto
"Too Much"
photo by Sadie Bugni

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A big, calm place

Focusing too narrowly on danger doesn't make the world a big scary place. It makes it a small, terrifying place. You don't need to do that.

Overcoming Fear
photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, December 3, 2021

"Other areas"?

I've revamped the unschooling

doodly art by Sandra Dodd
in response to the top question
for a blog carnival

P.S. Don't fall into a hole about "freedom,"
as some have.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Becoming confident

Tara Joe Farrell, on topics to inspire confidence in unschooling:

I think everything for me comes back to:

  • Deschool
  • Peaceful Nest
  • Principles
  • Sparkle
I think I'd be challenged to find an unschooling question that can't be traced back to one of those four.
—Tara Joe Farrell
August 2020
photo by Sarah S.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Loving the non-linear

Forget the linear approach to learning we grew up with. For instance, we learned that the way to learn is to read "all the important" stuff about a subject gathered and packaged for our convenience in a textbook and then move on in line to the next package of information.

Sure, sometimes an interest will cause kids to gather up a huge chunk of learning all at once. This is easy to see. And easy to overvalue as the "best" way to learn.

More often kids will slowly gather interesting tidbits, making connections as things occur to them to create a foundation. They'll add pieces here and there over the years to build on that foundation. This is not so easy to see going on. And very easy to undervalue.

—Joyce Fetteroll
Some of the fifth of Five Steps to Unschooling
photo by Kinsey Norris

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Recognizing learning

Start noticing the learning available all around you.
There's oodles of science in cooking. Why does heat make the white of an egg turn from clear liquid to solid white? What process turns liquid cake into poofy air-filled solid cake? Don't worry if you don't know the answers. Anyone can look up the answers. Few can ask the questions.
              . . . .
Unfortunately we learned in school that learning is locked up in books and reading is the only way to get to it. It's not. It's free. We're surrounded by it. We just need to relearn how to recognize it in its wild state.
—Joyce Fetteroll

Highlights of the fourth of Five Steps to Unschooling
photo by Vlad Gurdiga

Monday, November 29, 2021

Interest in things

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

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?"
—Joyce Fetteroll
Most of the third of Five Steps to Unschooling
photo by Nina Haley

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Opportunities for expansion

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Make sure your child has opportunities to expand her interests. Have books, videos, kits, games, puzzles, music tapes, puppets, nature collections, and other cool things available for her to pick up when she chooses. (Think library, yard sales, and attic treasures.) Take her places as a way to spark an interest. Wander about museums and just look at the cool stuff that interests either of you. (And resist the urge to force an interest in the things you think would be good for her.) Read a book or do a kit even if you're certain it won't lead anywhere. Let her say no thanks if she's not interested in pursuing something right now, or in pursuing something to the degree you think she "should."
—Joyce Fetteroll

From the second of Five Steps to Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Following interests

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

To unschool, you begin with your child's interests. If she's interested in birds, you read—or browse, toss aside, just look at the pictures in—books on birds, watch videos on birds, talk about birds, research and build (or buy) bird feeders and birdhouses, keep a journal on birds, record and ponder their behavior, search the web for items about birds, go to bird sanctuaries, draw birds, color a few pictures in the Dover Birds of Prey coloring book, play around with feathers, study Leonardo DaVinci's drawings of flying machines that he based on birds, watch Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

But DON'T go whole hog on this. Gauge how much to do and when by your child's reactions. Let her say no thanks. Let her choose. Let her interest set the pace. If it takes years, let it take years. If it lasts an hour, let it last an hour.

—Joyce Fetteroll

The first of Five Steps to Unschooling
photo by Catherine Hassall

Friday, November 26, 2021

Is this obvious?

I like the words "obvious" and "oblivious." They're not really related, but they seem and sound similar, which can be fun and funny.

To some people the presence of a lizard would be obvious. They would see it, right in their path.

I am often oblivious to lizards. I don't remember that they exist, if one hasn't just run up the wall.

Are we obvious to lizards? If one runs, he probably saw me moving toward him. They come to our compost bin to eat bugs. I bring new scraps from the kitchen. Out in my yard, sometimes lizards can seem to be oblivious to people, or to cats, or to roadrunners.

As the parenting of children goes, it is good to lean toward what is obvious, and to avoid being oblivious.
photo by Karen James

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Right here, right now

"When you’re worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet, when you’re worrying about the future, you’re not there in the present. What you’re thinking about might never even happen and you were wasting your time thinking about something that will never happen. So focus on right here, right now."
—Marta Venturini
brown lizard on a cinderblock wall
Deschooling with Marta Venturini—interview by Pam Laricchia
Marta said she was paraphrasing me, but I like her wording.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Easily amused, and compassionate

Some people have snow while others have heat waves. Leaves turn red and gold some places while others have year-round greenery.

Some days are full of learning and laughter and others are quieter.

Expect the world to surprise you. Moments, days and years will have different kinds of weather, activity, and learning. The factors are too many to track, so flexibility and the ability to be easily amused or quickly compassionate will serve you well.
photo by me or Holly?
This photo was saved in non-standard fashion; if it's yours, let me know. The image was saved as though it were Holly's or mine, but the lizard is quite green, for here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Unexpected experiences

Unschoolers have experiences other homeschoolers don’t have.

Unschoolers know things that teachers can’t learn in or around school.

Unschoolers who start early enough can have relationships with their children for which there are hardly any words.

That lizard looks like it's in the air, but it was on the windshield. The driver didn't expect to see a lizard there. There was a time she didn't expect to arrange for her children to stay home instead of go to school, either.

What seems shocking, at first, can end up quite interesting, safe and peaceful.

Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling
photo by Pushpa Ramachandran

Monday, November 22, 2021

Eye to eye

When encountering another being, consider which of you might be a danger to the other.

If the other being is a friend or relative of yours, try not to be a scary or dangerous creature.
photo by Karen James

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Compassion and Understanding

The patience that parents need is more like compassion and understanding. To be "impatient" with a person is a cocktail of frustration and resentment, often involving bad planning on the part of the impatient person.

What will look like patience will probably involve learning about your own child's needs and preferences and finding ways to meet and consider those, along with gaining the decision-making skills to be consciously breathing and considering your best options for a few seconds. That will appear to be, and will eventually become, patience.
but the quote is from page page 272 or 315 of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Sitting in the sun

You might see a creature sitting in the sun, prepared to run.

Sometimes you might BE a creature sitting in the sun, prepared to run.
If lizard photos bother you, come back in a week when I will have run out of them.

If your subscription is going into your spam or promotions folder, figure out how to redirect it so you'll see it more easily. If you can't figure it out, maybe ask a younger person. There might be one sitting near you.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 19, 2021

Carefully the first time

The idea of living so that you don't have negative things to journal about is a good tool.
No one is perfect, but without imagining positivity, how could you aim toward it?
Without experiencing positivity, how could you know you wanted to return there?

Help (chat transcript)
photo by Jihong Tang

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Yes, but... it depends

Some statements are too definite. Sunshine melts snow.

It depends. It depends how cold it is otherwise, and how long the sun shines. The day that photo was taken, even the icicles weren't melting in sunshine. And if the ground is warm and the air is warm, snow can melt in the dark.

When you make a statement, think about whether it could easily be made more solid, more reliable.
  • Sunshine can melt snow.
  • Sunshine might melt snow.
  • If it warms up today, that snow might melt.
Thoughts and words, tweaked just slightly, can keep truth safe. For clarity and trustworthiness, remember "it depends."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Peace and Joy

Life isn't all peace and joy. Many people will say that, and it's true.

With hopeful, positive intentions and with ever more mindful choices, there can be more peace, and more joy.

Being a Happy Mom

photo by Lydia Koltai

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Connect and assist

An expression of boredom is a request for connection, for input, for assistance with the world.
Bored No More
photo by Sandra Dodd, but Holly put the clock in the tree years ago

Monday, November 15, 2021

Someone did that

Sometimes I eat food my daughter grew herself. Sometimes I don't know who grew my food, but someone did.

Someone made my dishes, either by hand, or designed an original and others knew how to produce copies.

Someone chose and procured colanders, pots, pans, utensils. Some I found; some were gifts.

Someone (sometimes it's me) prepares food and sets it out.

Someone cleans up and puts those special things back where they go.

The more sweetness and gratitude involved in all of that, the better all the world is, but especially my own world is sweeter and better.
photo by Sarah S.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Favorite tools

People who use tools find some more useful and comfortable than others. Even three spatulas that might seem the same to strangers can have subtle differences in weight, flex, ease of washability, and heat transfer.

Cooks, artists, woodworkers, workers in tile, plaster, painting, brickwork or concrete—think of any field of work or art—know their tools, and maybe yearn for better. Gardeners and farmers know which shovel is best for their own height, strength and intentions.

Maybe ask for stories, from tool-using friends. Perhaps consider gifts of tools, but don't feel bad if the old one is still the favorite.

in another post, Karen Lundy's kitchen utensils, laid out nicely
photo by Karen James (and the container is her art and artistry)

Saturday, November 13, 2021


It can be fun to play with the idea of three. I had a literature professor say "Three trees make a row." He meant that finding three instances of something in a piece of writing is worth pursuing.

I thought of real trees, though, and more often three trees make a triangle.

That idea has amused me for a long time, of rows and triangles. Finding, seeing, hearing three things that are similar can make fun connections worth pursuing.

There are threes in literature, lyrics, art, games, rhythms, and on clocks. Whether you have young children to amuse with this or not, maybe look around for and play around with threes.

photo by Cathy Koetsier