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 Davies

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.

photo by Sandra Dodd, in Lisbon, 2013

Friday, June 11, 2021

Simply seeing

leafless tree by roadside with line of mountains behind

Look 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

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 SandraDodd.com (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

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Monumental things

Some things are a pretty big deal.

What's a big deal to one person might not be so memorable to another. Things that changed my life might not have affected my sister at all, and that's fine. Each life is unique, and we don't need to agree on what is or isn't monumental, and why.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Texas

Friday, June 4, 2021

Ought to "have to"?

The phrases "ought to" and "supposed to" are so old, and have been recited for so many years (hundreds of years) without conscious thought that people don't even think about what they literally mean. "Supposed to" is kind of easy; you can deconstruct it, and it loses a lot of power. "Ought" is related to owing and debt. Obligation. No choice except dishonor.

"We're supposed to..."

"We ought to..."

"We have to..."

Use those with care, and thought.


photo by Ester Siroky

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The world is a wonder

Jihong Tang wrote:

Relevancy is very important in learning. I knew wax's melting point by heart but freaked out when it melted so fast while I was doing project with my [four-year-old son]. I never played with wax before. I knew physics on paper very well but played with pulleys in real life just recently. I knew areodynamics from school but had real appreciation of it through flying kite with my son.

Unschooling my children sparkles my curiosity and burning desire to learn. The world is a wonder!
—Jihong Tang, 2010

SandraDodd.com/learning (the quote isn't there, but the ideas are)
photo by Megan Valnes

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Learning easily

Having the idea that "learning is difficult" in general could be a barrier to unschooling with joy.
—Robyn Coburn

Talking to Babies
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

More, not less

"Children don’t deserve less consideration just because they’re small. They deserve *more* patience and kindness and consideration because they are young and still learning."
—Deb Lewis

photo by Sandra Dodd