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

Friday, November 12, 2021

Secret worlds

Parents new to unschooling often fear the responsibility of needing to discover things to show their children.

More experienced unschoolers discover the sweet joy of children finding wonderful things to show the parents.

Behind that bark is a little hidden world.

photo by Rosie Moon

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Loving and patient

In families in which parents have considered themselves partners in their children's rich lives, teens don't have the desperate urge to leave. A natural desire to leave the nest does kick in, as it does for many mammals. It might have kicked in sooner if the culture didn't require parents to take care of their children and be responsible for them until they were 18 years old. I know dozens of teens up close, by name, who are loving and patient with their parents even though the parents are getting old and forgetful. Teens can be helpful and generous with parents and siblings when they themselves have been generously helped up to that point.

from "Saying Yes to Teens" in The Big Book of Unschooling (page 252 or 293)
which links to

photo by Belinda Dutch

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Inside choices

Someone wrote, of a six-year-old, once:
She's currently refusing to go outside.
I responded:
She can't refuse if no one is pressuring or demanding.
photo by Deb Lewis

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Other aspects

Usually I remind people to see things directly.

Today I'm inviting people to play with light and images though, and—just for fun—to look very indirectly. Trick your eyes; trick other people's eyes, but sweetly, like little magic tricks.

There can be learning there, too. As long as those involved are having fun, good memories and connections will be made. When someone's not having fun anymore, go back to being directly there.

Reflections on Mirrors
photo by Holly Dodd

Monday, November 8, 2021

What is unschooling?

Unschooling would be difficult to understand even if it were easy to define. From the point of view of the parent, it is creating and maintaining an environment in which natural learning flourishes.
photo by Kinsey Norris

Sunday, November 7, 2021


Whether from playing, helping, stories or examples, children begin to learn about nurturance very young.

With a generous heart, nurturing nurtures the nurturer.

Nurturing, in all directions
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Kindness, and rich lives

Meredith Novak wrote:

There's a common parenting myth that making our kids' lives easier, being sweet and kind and gentle with them, makes them greedy and unfit for adult life.

It is not true.

Kids learn from experience. When they experience a lot of kindness, they learn the value of kindness in very real, concrete ways. When we make their lives easier, we make it easier for them to learn more and more richly. And they're happier. And that makes parenting easier, because we're not dealing with kids who are stressed out and frustrated.
—Meredith Novak

more about Abundance
photo of Brie and baby Noor, years ago
Noor is attending university now.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Babies, words, variations

English has MANY words for things. A sandwich can be a sandwich, a snack, dinner, a tuna sandwich or a grilled cheese. A dog can be a puppy or a guard dog or a pet or a beagle or a poodle. A flower might be a tulip or a gift. A gift might be a present, or a birthday present.
Not just English! The quote above is from a discussion years ago in which someone recommended using one single word for each thing, when talking to a young child, and not to use baby talk.

Experienced unschoolers merrily disassembled her theory and built something prettier.

Talking to Babies
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Tricks of the eye

Artists know for sure, and other people sometimes notice, that nearer looks bigger, and far seems small.

What we see depends on where we are and what we know.

Relatively close,     or     Here and there
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Autumn waterfall

Leaves changing, water flowing—visible signs of the natural passage of time.

I'm glad Gail and Broc hiked to this beautiful place and Gail captured an image.

The water's flowing even if nobody's watching.

photo by Gail Higgins

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Lamplight and color

I like facebook because I can see photos of my grandkids, of more distant relatives, of friends who live near and far, some of whom I've met in person and others I've known for twenty years or more without being in the same physical place.

This week, Karen James (probably with the help of her family) painted a couple of these walls different colors. I know this because she shared it on facebook.

Before the new colors came, though, I had snagged an image of lamps, thinking of the interactions of those various lights on Karen's art projects, her snacks, views of her husband and son, and her cat. I thought of how each light had a purpose, and a history.

Now, to all of that, add the thought of new colors.
What is commonplace this year—seeing others' homes at a distance in color, grandparents seeing grandchildren asleep in their own beds without leaving our own—is new, on Earth. Appreciation and wonder are appropriate reactions to these marvels. Try not to take wonders for granted.

photos by Karen James

Monday, November 1, 2021

Your individual self

There is a hanging lamp at our house, in the entryway. It reminds me of restaurant furnishings of the southwestern U.S. in the late 1960s and '70s. It's iron, with sheets of colored glass, in blue and amber. It makes it easy for me to remember that the house was built in the early 1970s.

The associations I have with this lamp won't match those of my children, who have seen it most of their lives. Even my husband, also from New Mexico, probably has other thoughts and connections. Visitors, depending on their ages and experiences, will see it and images or words might come to them.

It's good to know that the pictures in your head are your own, and the connections that go with them. Your children's experiences and views of the world are their individual own selves'.

photo by Sandra Dodd