Saturday, July 31, 2021

Still, think.

"For a lot of people, thinking too deeply about what they believe is too painful. It's just easier to do what was done to them."
—Deb Lewis
child walking on a fallen log
The quote is the end of something longer here:
Encouragement to think, detox, recover: Deschooling (newly improved page)
photo by Lydia Koltai

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Count to ten, but WHY?

About calming down by counting to ten...

Counting to ten only works if you're breathing slowly and deeply and looking at (or thinking of) the sky or something else airy and big and peaceful. The purpose of counting to ten is to let the adrenaline pass and to think of some good options from which you can choose. If you count to ten holding your breath, holding your frustration, with a roaring anger in your ears, the adrenaline isn't dissipating—it's just being focused into a beam of extraordinarily dangerous power.

While you're breathing, you might want to think, "I love these people," or "whatever I say could last forever." Think of what you want to be and what you want to create. See what you want, and what you don't want.

A Loud Peaceful Home
photo by Sarah Elizabeth

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Time and space

When you find ways to offer your partner space and time to be alone, it will eventually benefit the whole family.
photo by Shawn Smythe Haunschild

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Growing things

Think of growing—of food, of knowledge, of trees, of children. Life is ever-changing. Provide water and support if you can. Share your shade and a resting place.
photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, July 26, 2021

Speaking and writing (thoughtfully)

When people speak without thinking, they're speaking thoughtlessly. Very literally so.

When people write without thinking, they're writing thoughtlessly. No sense arguing about that. It's just better to work on being thoughtful.
photo by Ester Siroky

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Language and thoughts

Watch your language, because then you wlll see thought processes you might not have seen otherwise.

Watch your thoughts, because without doing that you can't really learn to choose better reactions.

Sandra, in a discussion, 2007
photo by Brie Jontry

Saturday, July 24, 2021

How to avoid learning

If you want to avoid learning, it's best not to look, or read, or wonder.

Don't even click links.
photo by nobody; avoid photos

Friday, July 23, 2021

Joy and flow

"Where joy is, you will find learning. Where joy is, you will find flow."
—Clare Kirkpatrick

Parent paragraph of that above—all Clare's words:
"I see lots of reasons for NOT limiting my kids' time on the computer or game playing or watching tv or knitting or reading or playing with barbies or playdough or baking or anything. Those reasons are that where joy is, you will find learning. Where joy is, you will find flow. These are all things we want to *help* our children do *if* that is what they want because we want them to learn. I could, if I wanted to, name many, many things that my children would *not* be doing if I had limited their time doing the things they love, including being on the computer and gaming."            (original)
Generate Joy
photo by Kinsey Norris

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Principles over rules

If people are living by rules, it's nearly impossible to tell what it would look like to live by principles.
Once one is living by principles, it's nearly impossible to make a move that's contrary to those principles. It doesn't happen overnight, but it's much different than just changing from one set of rules to another.
from an Unschooling Discussion post at googlegroups, November 2007
photo by Holly Dodd, of Lily Y., at a symposium

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


Choices have transformed our lives. Limitations do not transform lives. They limit lives.
photo by Sandra Dodd

If you want to listen to me talking about transformations, here. "Something big starts to change."

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Thoughtful, patient, kind

When people make changes in their lives that make them more thoughtful, more patient and kinder, they'll be better partners, and neighbors, and dog owners.
One day on facebook...
See also
photo by Annie Regan

Monday, July 19, 2021

Belief, values, atmosphere

"Be who you believe it's best to be. Act according to your own values. Create an atmosphere where making a kind choice is easier than making a hurtful choice. Create an atmosphere where everyone feels safe."
—Joyce Fetteroll
Joyce Fetteroll, at Always Learning in 2013
A good link to go with it might be Building an Unschooling Nest
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Sunday, July 18, 2021

More calmly alive

Find things that make your children's lives better and that make you and your family feel more calmly alive in the world.
from a post on the Always Learning list
photo by Holly Dodd, of an indoor lizard who poses in various places

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Even better...

Here's a misuse of "just," from 2004. We were talking about principles over rules, regarding teens going out with friends, and the possibility of living without solid curfews. I wrote:
"When things are handled matter-of-factly and the kids KNOW the parents love them and will be there for them, a lot of the air of danger and urgency just dissipate."
It's way too late, but I wish I had written "can dissipate." For one thing, there's no guarantee. Also, if it happens, it's not casual magic.

If trust and love do bring feelings of safety and calm choices into a teen's life, that's solid, and good, and should not be dismissed with "just."

JUST. Just what?
photo by Shan Burton
girl sitting on a horse, face upraised, eyes closed

P.S. Should've been "dissipates" in the original anyway, for the technical among us. There are discussions in busy moments, and then there are quotes from those, years later.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Generous, soft, patient

Learning to be kind and gentle to a child will make you a kinder and gentler person. Learning to make choices that make you kinder and gentler to a child—more generous, softer, more patient—will help you be a better partner, adult child, neighbor, customer at the grocery store.
Cyrus and Wyatt—grandfather and child, with a book
The original writing recommended this page: Parenting Peacefully
photo by Pam Sorooshian

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Posture, tone, words and action

Peace, in an exchange, has to do with tone of voice, eyes, posture, attitude, intention, compassion—all the non-verbal communications that go with words and actions. Don't underestimate your child's ability to read beneath and around and beyond your statements. You would do well to try to read behind his words, too.

Parenting Peacefully page of The Big Book of Unschooling
(Page 243 of new edition; 209 of older version)
photo by Sandra Dodd, at an old house in France

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Following curiosities together

"Once I started to see how interesting so many things are, it reignited my curiosity about life. Now, my kids and I have a great time following our own, or mutual, curiosities together and one thing *always* leads to another. Always!"
—Jen Keefe
photo by Chelsea Thurman

Monday, July 12, 2021

Healing, and wishes

Deschooling, when done thoroughly, leads us through all the stages of our own lives, gradually, as our children get older. As each of my children reached the ages in my life that I had stress as a kid, I had emotions arise, again, but with the third it was milder than with the first.

It's healing, to treat our children in ways we wish we had been treated.

When Parents Have Issues
photo by Jennifer Christensen

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Excitement, peace and humor

It's possible for a childless person or couple to live a long life without ever thinking about values. It's possible to go along with the crowd and get a nice place to live and a car and watch TV every night and pay the bills and not think about what might have been better or different.
        . . . .

What if a family wants to step off the path and look around on their own? What if a family wants to take a different path to the future that's quicker, or more dangerous, or more leisurely, or funnier? Will their values then involve excitement or peace or humor?
the quote is from a page called "Values" in The Big Book of Unschooling,
but it is linked to
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Saturday, July 10, 2021

If a tree grows...

These flowers and this tree live near people. Some don't.

Not only do some people not live near plants like these, there are many plants in the world that will live, reproduce and die unwitnessed by any humans.
No matter how much someone knows about the lives of millions of people, there will be some individuals who never heard of him, and lives he will never see or imagine, even in a distant way.
photo by Gail Higgins

Friday, July 9, 2021

Inspired and inspiring

About writing, like dancing, there's technically proficient and then there's inspired and inspiring, and they're not always both in the same place in the same time.
There's more about real writing at
photo by Karen James

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Easier to be patient

If you start living with your child at his or her pace, it will be easier to be patient.
The Big Book of Unschooling, page 272 or 315 (new edition)
photo by Amber Ivey

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Unfounded fears

Joyce Fetteroll, on unfounded fear:

It's natural to want to be safe rather than sorry. In fact it's natural to listen to fears. Evolutionarily speaking if an animal runs when frightened but is wrong, nothing is lost except dignity. If an animal doesn't run when frightened but there is something wrong, they're dead. We're wired to listen to our fears.

But these warnings aren't about known dangers like earthquakes in LA or tornados in Oklahoma. This is about protecting your kids from shadows that might be dragons.

So while your family hunkers down behind dragon-proof walls, your kids' friends will all be out playing happily as though dragons don't exist.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Wordlessly and gently

Decision time isn't about what you will do next year or for the rest of your child's life. Decision time is about what you will do in the next five seconds. I recommend getting up and doing something sweet for another person, wordlessly and gently. Never send the bill; make it a gift you forget all about. Do that again later in the day. Don't tell us, don't tell them, just do it.
Decision Time from Always Learning, April 2011
photo by Karen James, of her artwork, of herself

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Variables, around "importance"

Sometimes in certain meetings* this question is asked:
"How important is it?"

Recently at the dentist I was under the effect of nitrous oxide, having wild, flying thoughts, and that question flitted through. I thought the profound answer was "It depends what 'IT' is, and it depends who YOU are."

When the drugs wore off, it seemed less profound, and I thought I would keep it to myself, but the very next day my husband mentioned something being like life and death to some people, and nothing at all to others.

The photo here has the top of the monument cut off, but guess what? It's not a photo of that monument. It's an image of a dad and two daughters, who happened to be within sight of (and within camera frame of) a famous thing when they were interacting with each other so sweetly.

photo by Chrissie Florence

* The "certain meetings" are likely to be Al-Anon or Adult Children of Alcoholics, where people can be hung up on problems they didn't create, or on fixing things they can't fix. It's a good question lots of times, though, when someone is wound up and hyper-focussed on something that can't be fixed right there, right then (or ever) by them.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

May your thoughts be merry and bright

Merry thoughts, fantasies, whimsies and dreams to all.
Learn Nothing Day is in three weeks.
Learn Nothing Day
photo by Zann Carter

Friday, July 2, 2021

You could be wrong

Part of deschooling is reviewing how we learned what we know, and how legitimate that knowledge is.
photo by Chelsea Thurman

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Peace, comfort and kindness

Light can come from you, today, in small ways. If you are gentle and patient when you help a child, that creates peace and comfort. If you smile at a stranger, give someone a seat, or hold a door, you have transformed a moment. The light you add to their day can warm your own soul, too.

Kindness lights up the world.

Light up the world
photo by Renee Cabatic

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Who's doing what?

Don't do what other people do, do what your kids need
I couldn't find the original, but Being Your Child's Parter is good.
photo by Sarah S.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Three layers down

In a response to the Always Learning discussion list, I wrote "The principles of unschooling and natural learning work the same regardless of a child's talents or abilities, but parental posture (emotional, behavioral postures) can keep unschooling from working well."

During a discussion with half a dozen other unschoolers, some from France and some from England, I said that much of my writing was untranslatable because it had to do with English. This might be such an example.

The word "posture" is usually used to tell a child to sit up straighter or to stand more gracefully and impressively. But posture can be relative to something else—a wall, a chair, or another person. Posture can be very subtle, too. Posture can be biochemical. It's possible to read anger in another person's hands or the speed of his facial movements. It's possible to see love in the way a mother picks up or touches a baby. Or it's possible to see frustration, or resentment, or fear, in a parental reaction.

I don't think this will be easily translatable into any other language, but for unschooling to work, the relationship of the parent to the child needs to become so clean and clear that the parent is being, and not just acting. This might involve physical posture, but also thoughts and feelings, reactions and clarity.

It won't happen all at once, and it can only begin to happen when the parent understands that some postures are better, and others are harmful to a better relationship with the child.
photo by Gail Higgins

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Like fireworks

When Kirby was seven and eight, I used to see others his age who were pulled out of school already knowing how to read and write and think wistfully that maybe that would make everything easier. In the longrun, it didn't. Those kids have issues about that reading and writing that Kirby doesn't have. Their handwriting is prettier, but their spelling isn't always better, and their ideas aren't always better. But Kirby has a poise and a confidence that I think school would have immediately begun to dismantle and scatter. So it did take him longer to read, but in the meantime he was learning like crazy, like fireworks.
Teaching very little, maybe even nothing (last post there)
photo by Erika Davis-Pitre—not of Kirby, but of his daughter
(used once before, with different text)

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Different route, same direction

Think of school like a train ride from New York to LA. It has specific stops at specific times and will last a scheduled amount of time.

Think of unschooling like crossing the country in an RV from NY to somewhere on the west coast. You won't be following the same route, won't be hitting the same cities. But you will be heading in the same general direction, following an interest-driven route.
—Joyce Fetteroll
Joyce Fetteroll on Unschooling and another thing or two
photo by Shawn Smythe Haunschild, of something interesting in Colorado

Friday, June 25, 2021

Don't bring school home

From a newspaper article in 2000:

Whatever the long-term plans are, Dodd has some advice for those considering home-schooling or even the more radical step of unschooling:
"Don't rush. This is a hard but crucial piece of advice. Rush to take him out of school but don't rush to replace it with anything. Bring your child home, don't bring school home. You don't even have to bring their terminology and judgments home. You can start from scratch, brush off the labels, and find your son where he is. Forget school. Move to life."

Albuquerque Journal article, March 19, 2000
photo by Kinsey Norris

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Take a break (not yet; soon)

Here's a way to gauge your unschooling progress: Can you stop learning, at your house? Can you put the pause on unschooling?

Once a year, lots of people do that, as well as they can. Just one day. It's coming up next month, July 24.

I thought you might need some time to plan.

I used to own a full-sized poster of that art, but now it's in a better place—with an unschooling family in Utah.

Learn Nothing Day, in here, over the years

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Becoming more open

Marta wrote:

What I'm starting to realize (by what I've been reading and learning, and by my own observations of my experience), is that we can most certainly choose alternatives that can lead us to more openness (like choosing more positive words to describe how we feel about something, or genuinely trying to relax and see what our children and partners see in something they like, etc.). And that if we do it often, we can probably rewire our brains, creating new neurological paths and becoming indeed more open.
—Marta Venturini Machado
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Both can be right

When I asked Joyce Fetteroll which topics or pages on her site she thought were best for new unschoolers, she responded:

My favorite topics are chores and television so all those pages. One crystal clear "Aha!" moment that drew me toward unschooling came from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. The authors pointed out how mom could see a situation one way and kids could see a situation a different way and both be right. It was something I knew but had never put into words.

Those two topics, chores and television, encapsulate for me how important for unschooling it is to move our understanding into our kids' points of view. If a mom can understand why her child sees the world as he does, she's miles closer to relating to him. If she can understand why he sees the world as he does—chores as conscripted labor for instance, if she can understand it comes not from lack of understanding the "right" way of seeing the word, if she can understand it comes from being 5 or 10 or 15, she's going to be able to listen and truly hear what he says and be able to respond in a way that relates to his understanding.
—Joyce Fetteroll

A Rich, Supportive Environment, Joyce Fetteroll interviewed by Sandra Dodd, 2012
photo by Janine D.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Keep an open mind

Even if you don't decide to unschool, keep an open mind about where and what your children could be learning, and where they might find the inspiration to become something like world-changing scientists.
That is paragraph 5 of 5, of "Gilligan's Island and Star Trek,"
page 152 (or 140) of The Big Book of Unschooling, noting, in part,
Dr. Robert Sapolsky's crediting of Gilligan's Island, and Dr. Mae Jemison's of Star Trek
for their abiding interest in scientific research.

This photo of Holly Dodd and a braiding pattern on a pony was taken to illustrate a quote from Professor Christine Alvarado about... well just go and read it, please.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Layers and sky

Photos with layers keep catching my eye.

Balloonists learn that there are layers in the air, where the wind is going different speeds or directions, too.

I like that there are visually attractive layers and invisible layers represented in this photo.
photo by Gail Higgins

Friday, June 18, 2021

A step toward joy

Some of the things that help people be confidently in the moment, feeling satisfied and content are:
  • Breathing
  • Gratitude
  • Happy thoughts
  • Fondness
  • Acceptance
At first it might be relief and not joy, but as relief is a step away from fear, more relief will be progress toward joy.
The Big Book of Unschooling, page 275 (or 318)
photo by Ester Siroky

Thursday, June 17, 2021


Think of times you've wanted to hide, or just plain hid. Me, lately, from sunshine, from projects, from people.

Think about when it's okay for your kids to want to hide away a while.

Then, please, try not to hide from your kids. When they're older teens or young adults, you'll get to stay in the shade, procrastinating, maybe more than you even want to. 🙂
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


Children sometimes see things "wrong," or from the perspective of someone small and looking up, or just new to the world. Rather than correcting them, which limits their perspective, consider following their line of thought to see how they're coming up with their conclusions, definitions, or theories.

A chair is not "just a chair," if you're lucky.
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


Sometimes limitations are physical. Sometimes they have to do with resources, weather, health, fears and random happenstance.

There are no guarantees, but appreciation and gratitude are better than any of their opposites.
Above and beyond limitations; underneath and through limitations
photo by Karen James

Monday, June 14, 2021

What IS "calm"?

Calm is calm. Not frantic, not excited, not frightened or frightening. Calm, like water that is neither frozen nor choppy.

Calm is possessing the ability to think, to consider a situation without panic.

Calm is not perpetually on the edge of flipping out.

That and some discussion of how to be calmer
photo by Amy Milstein

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Life is lumpy; let it be.

Life is lumpy. Let it be. I'm going to type it again (for my own therapy...skip over it, if you think you've already got it!). "Life is lumpy; let it be."

Not every day is perfect. Not every moment is memorable. Perfection is never perfect. And you know what? That's okay! Fighting it only makes you miserable. You can choose to be miserable, of course. But that's your choice. Hard to feel victimised if you refuse to be the victim...

From a post at the blog Faolmar's Den: "Life is Lumpy"
(backup in case that disappears)
photo by

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Happier, healthier

If small changes of attitude can make more happy moments than before, that benefits everyone involved.

No one can have perfect happiness, but *more* happiness is easy to come by. It doesn't cost any more than less happiness, but it's much healthier and better for the whole family and the neighbors and relatives.
(the quote is from an old discussion, long gone)
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Lisbon, 2013

Friday, June 11, 2021

Simply seeing

leafless tree by roadside with line of mountains behindLook at things others might not see. See their shapes, their backgrounds. Light changes. Wind comes. Things were once younger, smaller, newer. They will be older, different, gone.

See what's around you.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Clearly and maturely

Rippy D. wrote:

[The Always Learning discussion] has helped me think more clearly and maturely. It has helped me change unhelpful patterns and most of all helped me step into the *JOY* of life, connection, partnership with my children and husband. I know how scary it is to feel examined, and I think some other readers interpret examination as meanness, like I once did. I think to do unschooling well, it is a fundamental element to have an examined life. To be mindful of our choices and understand our thought processes.

—Rippy Dusseldorp

Healing Presence
photo by Ester Siroky

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

What time do you want your post to arrive?

Because my original target audience was one unschooling mom in the U.K. in 2010, I put the post in at midnight so she would get it in the morning. Feedburner was set up so that I set my post to go at 12:01 in Albuquerque, so that it would be around breakfast time in Glastonbury.

Years have passed.

The new mailing company works differently. If you like the time this arrived, don't do anything!
[…] delivery time will be at the same hour they followed your feed. For example, if they follow your feed today at 2:15pm, then going forward they will receive the newspaper at 2pm every day. Rationale: at the time when they followed your feed they were online, so it’s likely that at this hours in the future they will be online too, maximizing chances that they read your messages.
So if you want a different time, either subscribe anew (at your chosen time), or unsubscribe, and wait until you WISH you were getting a post, and subscribe. You might miss one.

They don't all need to go out into the world at the same time, but I'll keep aiming for midnight.

I hope this all settles out soon, and that no one has been too inconvenienced.

Here is some water to calm you.
More water
photo by Ester Siroky, in Turkey, of goats (and water)

Impermanence AGAIN!?

It's true; the subscription provider has changed. Feedburner is closing at the end of June, and another company offered to import five blogs for me, so if you want to add any of the others to your feed, they are If you clicked through to the subscription service and saw "Publisher: aelflaed" that's me. When google mail came along, someone snagged my name (probably because it was her name), so I used my SCA/medieval-studies name. "Ælflæd" was like lots of names 1000 years ago, but now it's like Alfred and Elsie (surviving cousins). ANYway.... that's me, on google-owned sites.

There are TWO ways to get to the blog from e-mail now—clicking the post's title, or "read more" at the bottom.

A new option is to get a push notification on your phone, so for those who didn't like the e-mail's appearance on a phone, I hope this is way better.

Changes do not thrill me, and I'm getting old. But Vlad Gurdiga is still young and enthusiastic. He helped with this move as he has helped with many other things involving my collections— moving thousands of photos from photobucket (which kept on changing and losing things and charging more money) to (which he moved from yahoo to another host company). Thank you Vlad, again.

photo by Holly Dodd

The long life of good ideas

There are some people who haven’t been born yet who will, someday, read things Jo Isaac wrote, and other people here. It might be hard for them to find it, or it might not be. But good ideas, written well, can outlive the writers.
Some of my collections, including Jo Isaac: Other Voices
photo by Karen James

Monday, June 7, 2021

If ideas are scary

I’m not trying to be scary. I’m trying to pick ideas up and turn them over and see if they work, how they work, how they might be tweaked to work better.
Always Learning, a discussion on writing, in 2018
photo by Jo Isaac

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Loving, gentle and sweet

Of the Always Learning discussion,
Rippy D. wrote:

For me, this list is like being in a graduate class at university about unschooling. A rapid flow of ideas, critical examination of those ideas and the encouragement to really think your thoughts through. Fortunately, it is a free university run by expert volunteers that make sure the discussion stays firmly on the philosophy of unschooling, attentive parenting and what will help unschooling and what will hinder it. I learn every day how to have a better partnership with my children and spouse, how to connect, inspire, trust and help. And now that I have learned how to read without my emotions interpreting the emails for me, the message is consistently the same — be loving, gentle and sweet with your children, *be* with your children, live joyfully.
—Rippy Dusseldorp

Learning to read on the list, by Rippy Dusseldorp
photo by Roya Dedeaux