Monday, October 25, 2021

Honest and true

If you offer service with the hope of reward or praise or indebtedness, it will create resentment in you and in those who received the service. If you offer service without sending the bill, anything others say or do will be an honest expression of gratitude, not the last-minute submission of the bare minimum payment for services rendered.

A "thank you" that's scripted is just noise. A "thank you" you didn't expect is true communication.

Serving Others as a Gift
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp (or someone with her camera)

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Everyday patterns

Meredith Novak wrote:
Kids learn because they are observant. I don't only mean modelling, I mean the human brain is designed to notice patterns and there are patterns everywhere - in speech, in social interactions, in shapes of things, in the relationships between physical characteristics. Some sets of related patterns we call "language" some we call "mathematics" some we call "music" etc. Kids can't help but notice those patterns and think about them because that's what our big convoluted brains do best.
More, by Meredith
photo by Hema Bharadwaj

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Friday, October 22, 2021


Sylvia Woodman wrote:
In some ways parents need to be actively demonstrating how much BETTER staying home is to being in school. Make sure you are busy doing fun things. Give her experiences that she could never have if she was in school.

Sandra Dodd, backing her up:
Sylvia's right—DO things. Point out in the midst of a fun activity that it's cool that she doesn't need to... get up early the next day, or wear special clothes/uniform/dress code every day, or...

And you, the mom, see other things that are lucky and fortunate about it.

Questions about Deschooling (on facebook, once)
photo by Cátia Maciel

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Differences and similarities

People are always comparing and connecting things. Those are tools of learning. What is "just like" this, or similar? What is the opposite, or very different?

Those considerations work with visual arts, music, puzzles, sports, politics—just about anything involving thoughts and decision making.

Who am I similar to? Who am I glad to avoid? How does my child see me? How would I like to be seen and remembered?

Knowing Differences
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Living well without boredom

From Wikipedia, about boredom:
There are three types of boredom, all of which involve problems of engagement of attention. These include times when we are prevented from engaging in some wanted activity, when we are forced to engage in some unwanted activity, or when we are simply unable, for no apparent reason, to maintain engagement in any activity or spectacle.
If that list is to be accepted, then unschooling parents can avoid boredom by finding ways to help children engage in wanted activities, not pressing them to engage in unwanted activities, and provide options to any activity or spectacle. (I'm thinking having quiet toys, a book, a Gameboy, smart phone or iPad on hand.

Boredom and unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Safety in communication

Avoid giving teenagers reason to lie about where they are. Give them leeway and backup and be ready to rescue a child or teen any time of the day or night from an uncomfortable situation. Lots of times kids are afraid to get in trouble for being where they are and when, and the people they're with know it, and that compounds danger.

The quote is from
but an illustrative story is at The night Holly was in trouble
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a younger-teen Holly

Monday, October 18, 2021

Small choices

If you decide how you want your home to be, and then make choices that get you nearer to that, things will get gradually better.

If you don't decide, or if you don't think of it many times a day when you make small choices, and decide how to act and react, then things won't get better.

Not every step will be forward, but if most of them are, then you'll make progress.
photo by Janine Davies

Sunday, October 17, 2021


Life is richer when you are open to appreciating surprises.
Surprises and discoveries
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 16, 2021


If food tastes like you should not eat it, don't eat it. If one bite makes you full, don't eat two. If one of your children balks at certain food, don't press him to eat it. Listen to your body's clear signals. If you get hungry, you'll FEEL hungry, and you might even know exactly what you would like to/should/can best eat, if you relax and pay attention.
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, October 15, 2021

Love; generosity; a haven

Wash dishes because you want to. What would make you want to? Love. Generosity. A desire to have an available kitchen, a clean slate, a fresh canvas. The wish to do something simple and kind for yourself and others. The wish to keep peace in your house. The preference of singing and feeling warm soapy water over accusations and threats and tears. The intention to build loving relationships rather than antagonism. The hope to make a haven of your home, rather than a dangerous trap everyone would love to escape.

from page 201 of The Big Book of Unschooling (page 177 of the older edition)
related ideas online: Serving Others as a Gift
photo by Colleen Paeff

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Hope and joy

There are no guarantees, but we can always do a little better.

Live in hope and joy, not in fear and avoidance.
photo by Elaine Santana

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Can laundry be fun?

Any tiny moment can be enjoyed: the feel of warm running water when you wash your hands...

...Can laundry be fun? If you have to do laundry and you choose NOT to enjoy it, an hour or more of your precious hours on earth have been wasted. Can looking at your child bring you joy even when he needs a bath and has lost a shoe and hasn't lived up to some expectation that only exists in your mind? If not, a paradigm shift could help you both.

"Laundry is Love" (a new page!)
The quote above is on the new page, though it is from
Rejecting a Prepackaged Life (

photo by Cathy Koetsier

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Receiving Light by mail...

Some of you should be seeing an improved mailing. Our replacement for the longtime "feedburner" was not as clean or as pretty as Just Add Light and Stir needs. Having heard what I liked, wanted, and wished for, Vlad Gurdiga has created his own subscription system.

One hundred subscribers have been moved to the new program as a test. I missed this year's anniversary (September 2), but Just Add Light and Stir is over 11 years old now! Thank you for reading, and I hope that soon every subscriber will have a more beautiful e-mail to open each day.
Without Vlad's generous help, much of our long-collected unschooling information would be unavailable. I'm very grateful.

photo by Tara Joe Farrell

Monday, October 11, 2021

Today is now

Today can't be made better tomorrow.

Today you will make choices. Those choices will affect more lives than your own.

Be a good person to be a good parent
photo by Gail Higgins

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Esoteric and foofy? Why?

Even in the long term, unschooling is not about the completion of a project at all. It’s about becoming the sort of people who see and
appreciate and trust that learning can happen. And who can travel with children, not just drag them along or push them along, but who can travel with children along those interesting paths together not until you get there, but indefinitely.

And for beginning unschoolers that sounds also a little esoteric, a little foofy. And not solid. They want to know what do I do when the kids wake up in the morning? So, the beginning information is very often, “What do I do?” But the information that will get people from the beginning to the intermediate is why. "Why do we do this?"

Changes in Parents
photo by Ester Siroky

The quote is from a podcast episode of Pam Laricchia interviewing me.
I tweaked the quote just slightly, capitalizing "even"
and using "unschooling" rather than "it."

I've used this quote before, but used better titles:

2017: Travel interesting paths

2018: "Why do we do this?" (with the same photo, even)

Friday, October 8, 2021

One thing to feel blessed about

"When I'm feeling out of sorts and crushed by the world, all it takes is finding one thing to feel blessed about to start thinking in terms of abundance rather than lack, of being inspired instead of beaten down."
—Jenny Cyphers
Wonder and Awe
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 7, 2021

First times and last times

I saw this little carousel at a car boot sale in Taplow, west of London.
Thinking of little children, the reminder "say yes when you can," and "don't underestimate the joy a small thing can bring a child."

For adults, the construction and engineering (of a fold-out trailer with a ride) and the place-in-time aspects of anything you might see could be worth a second look, another thought.

You never know which time is the last time you'll have seen something, or had a chance to do something.
photo by Sandra Dodd

a moment, May 26, 2013

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

See, hear, smell, touch and taste!

When babies are carried they see more, they hear and smell more. If they are given things to touch and taste besides just a few baby toys left in the corner of a crib or playpen, they will learn by leaps and bounds. They will spend less time crying and more time being in the real world.

The parents will know the child better, and the child will know the parents better. They will be building a partnership based on trust.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Let go; relax

Leah Rose:

Sandra wrote: "They need to STOP battling, STOP fighting, STOP struggling."

This has been such an incredibly powerful, empowering concept for me. It's a total turn around from the way I grew up thinking, from the way we think and speak in Western culture. But I have made the greatest strides in my own deschooling by learning to notice when I feel myself "struggling," and to Stop! Then I can choose to let go, to relax about the disparity between what I want and what is. And what I have discovered is that that conscious mental shift releases the energy I need to step forward mindfully into the moment...and then that moment becomes, itself, a step towards what I want, away from what I don't want.
—Leah Rose
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Monday, October 4, 2021

Generalizing in a good way!

In a long and heated discussion, Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

The discussion really isn't about TV. It's about the freedom to explore in a rich supportive environment in ways that *children* find meaningful. It means being their partners in helping them get what they want. It means offering options that appeal *to them*.
—Joyce Fetteroll
Logic and Parenting
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Seeing clearly

We don't always see things clearly and directly. Two people, in the same place, will have different perceptions and reactions.

You probably know that, but a reminder might be helpful.

When you can, be patient and accepting.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, October 1, 2021

Rare and precious sharing

Families who share the ways in which unschooling has improved their families and their lives are practicing a kind of transparency that is rare and precious. They are letting others peek into their "private lives." Because they think something has made life better, they reveal things about themselves, to pass that benefit on to others who would like to make their own lives better.
Other Voices
photo by Brie Jontry

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Philosophical and spiritual

Unschooling can make life better. Really, fully unschooling becomes more philosophical and spiritual than people expect it to.
photo by Gail Higgins

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

On beyond children

Principles of unschooling, once well understood and practiced, can be extended beyond the children.
✓ Positivity +
photo by Ester Siroky

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The benefit of providing choices

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

My kids grew up being able to do a lot more things than other kids they knew because their parents allowed for it to be so. We didn't have to, we chose to do that because we saw the benefit in doing that.
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Monday, September 27, 2021

Reading reading reading

I really suggest reading reading reading — Sandra and Joyce have so much on their sites that we could spend a lifetime pondering it all. Let it wash over you.

You'll be glad you did. was mentioned and the other is
photo by Mary Lewis

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Experience and knowing

Once someone was going on about power, and giving children power over themselves, and the power to decide what to learn.

As we had been talking about natural learning, naturally I responded:

"The power to decide what to learn" makes a pretzel of the straight line between experience and knowing.

My children don't "decide what to learn, how to learn, and when to learn it."

They learn all the time. They learn from dreams, from eating, from walking, from singing, from conversations, from watching plants grow and storms roll.

They learn from movies, books, websites, and asking questions.

They eat when they're hungry (when possible or convenient; I'm making a lunch for Holly to take to work today as she's working in the flower shop for eight or nine hours, as Mother's Day is Sunday here).

They sleep when they're tired, unless there's something they'd rather do that's worth staying awake for. They don't always "decide" when to wake up. They wake up when they're through sleeping, or when the alarm goes off if they've chosen to get up early, or when I come and wake them up if they've left me a note.

the original is here
photo by Gail Higgins

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Honest and fair-minded

When parents are not honest and fair-minded, the children can come to disregard their information and advice. For unschooling, I think that's the greatest danger.
photo by Jihong Tang

Friday, September 24, 2021

Sweet, light balance

Cameras can stop time. Memories can try. But really, the moment is gone and new moments are coming.

Keep your balance, live lightly, be sweet.
photo by Parvine Shahid

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Incredibly freeing

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

The main idea is about seeing everything we do as a choice.

What locks people in "have to" thinking is they close the doors of choices they will not for various reasons take. They often end up with only one door open and it feels like they have to take it. And they feel trapped.

. . . .

That mental shift can be incredibly freeing. A situation that looked like a box with no exits suddenly becomes a wide open field that someone is choosing to stay in.
—Joyce Fetteroll

"The main idea" referred to Thinking About "Have To"
For more context, and the part I left out: Answers and responses...
photo by Janine Davies
(sorry I didn't have "a wide open field")

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Attention and interaction

Caren Knox wrote:
I've come to realize that my kids need ME—not just in the same room, not just nearby, but by my attention and interaction—my full self.
. . . .
Awareness that you're making these choices is very powerful.
Caren Knox

photo by Lydia Koltai

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sweet little moments

Sometimes the solution is to forget about the larger problem and be physically comforting to your child right then, that moment, and smile and sit in a rocking chair or something.

Enough sweet little moments like that, and "the big problems" don't seem so big.

this and more at *Being* with kids
photo by Schuyler Waynforth

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Perspective and patterns

The patterns you and your children see are worth exploring and expanding. The connections you make are your model of the moment, and ultimately part of your model of the universe—past, present, future, imagined, revised, spooky and sweet.
photo by Annie Regan

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Moment of realization

An unschooling moment of realization (one of those things that you know, but have a moment of knowing it even more):

Learning is learning whether or not it's planned or recorded or officially on the menu. Calories are calories whether or not the eating is planned or recorded or officially on the menu.
—Pam Sorooshian
Several Definitions of Unschooling
photo by Cass Kotrba

Friday, September 17, 2021

Warmth and peace

"I'm amazed at not only the change in me but also how the little changes in our family form random, occasional pockets of warmth and peace. Hopefully, those little pockets will get larger and more frequent until we are fairly awash in it!"
an expression of appreciation for discussions
photo by Sandra Dodd
(sunlight flashing through a faceted amber-glass leaf)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Healing through actions

A ten year old boy was being unkind to his five year old brother. Their mom thought it was partly from the older boy having been treated badly when he was in school, and wrote, "Some of those memories and hurt feelings have carried over and he's still
working through them and learning how to treat others."

My response:

You could tell him that he will help himself heal and feel better by being the kind of person he would like for his brother to become. (Nicer than the kids at school.)

It's bringing us closer together, I've noticed
photo by Janine Davies

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Yes, please; sunshine

Saying "Yes"
more than you might have
brings sunshine to your life.
Yes   ☀️    Yes   ☀️    Yes!
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

To be nourished...

Rippy Dusseldorp described her intentions:

To be nourished from beautiful and interesting ideas, people, places and things.
       To learn from everywhere.
              To take time to reflect.
                     To be daring.
                             To have adventures.
—Rippy Dusseldorp
Benefits beyond just "be a better parent"
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Monday, September 13, 2021

Without pressure, without shame

I believe that if children learn happily, without pressure and without shame, that they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.
Why Radical Unschooling?
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Better, for your future children

If parents become complacent and don’t think that they need to do better and could do better, then they can’t do better, and they won’t do better. And if they’re ever going to get to be the unschooling parents that their future children need—their bigger, older children with bigger questions and problems—they need to keep getting better.

Changes in Parents
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Shapes and meanings

Toddlers want to name things. They're learning words. This picture might show a circle and a square.

For an older child, thoughts might be about "window" or port hole or whether it's still a window if you can't see through it.

Some adults might think about materials or purposes, and others about what plant is portrayed and why.

Things are seen at different levels and depths by different people in different circumstances. Connections are made to prior imagery and knowledge in each viewer. Thoughts of what something is or isn't, and ideas about what it is like or unlike, are the thoughts learning is made of.

That's how learning works.

Connections: How Learning Works
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 10, 2021

The balance point

Some parents label unschooling as "child-led learning," and so they think they're going from "parent led" life to "child led" life, but the balance point is that the family learns to live together harmoniously.

Harmony makes many things easier. When there is disharmony, everyone is affected. When there is harmony, everyone is affected, too.
photo by Renee Cabatic

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Sharing contentment

The damage done by negativity is a knowable thing. If the mother can't find contentment, she has none to share with her children.
Sharing Negativity (how and why not to)
photo by Jo Isaac

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Optimistic and involved

Deb Lewis:

There were times when things were really tight for us. I mean no gas money and beans and rice for dinner every night.

If I had it to do it again I would use the credit card more. Not go crazy but if twenty or thirty dollars made a big difference in the life of my kid then I’d do that. If you’re justifying coffee and makeup or other adult things that aren’t strictly necessary, then make that same effort to justify some things your kids might like, too. Don’t always sacrifice kid things because they seem less important or urgent.

But don’t underestimate how wonderful your happy presence can be for your kids. Be sweet and playful and optimistic and involved. Give them lots of your time.

—Deb Lewis
Luke jumping, and his dog, with both their shadows on the wall
Quote edited slightly to make it more past tense
Original here: Suggestions for creating abundance when funds are low
photo by Jill Parmer

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

"Why not?"

I've been saying "why not?" more often and it feels good! I think it's rubbing off on my husband.
Always Say Yes   Say "Yes" More!
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Monday, September 6, 2021

Easy cure

When a mom expressed that she felt guilty that she might not be doing enough, I wrote:

"If you don't feel like you're doing enough, do more. Easy cure. 🙂"

Jill Parmer quoted me, and added:

"As I paid closer attention to my kids, and less about what I should put into them, I found it easier to find ways to do more. Like lingering longer at an ethnic grocery so they could look around, and finding things that would relate to their favorite games, or their interests."

More, about 1/5 of the way down
Experiences / Building an Unschooling Nest (chat transcript)
photo by Sarah S

Sunday, September 5, 2021

For now...

Laurie Wolfrum, on responding to critical questions about your parenting or unschooling:

Some phrases to keep in mind:
Periodically we evaluate how things are going.
Nothing is written in stone.
For now, this works for us.
We’ll see how things go.
—Laurie Wolfrum

photo by Daniel Moyer

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Attitude: nature and nurture

white flowers
My attitude is a big shaper of my childrens' attitude toward work AND toward me.
Living Better Without Requiring Chores
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Friday, September 3, 2021

What if a child says no?

This is my writing, in 2003, when my kids were 12, 14, 17 or so.

Sometimes one will say "I'm really not feeling good," as Holly did yesterday, and her need for juice, a blanket and some mom-comfort were real. She has a cold. So that was suddenly more important than her helping me get firewood, or whatever it was. I really don't remember anymore.

Nobody's ever said, "NO, I'm playing a video game, do it yourself." But they have said "When I get to a saving point."

The more we said yes to our children, the more willing they were to say yes to us. It worked like please and thank you did!

...on family life
photo by Holly Dodd