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 2007.
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.

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

 a sleepy seal

Sometimes "bored" means tired, 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

tugboat with truck tires mounted on it for pushing and bumping

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.

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