Monday, January 31, 2022

Look, now, today

Look at the immediate benefits of your decisions.

Look for the good parts of today.

Look for the value in this moment.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Nothing you "have to" hate

Try not to hate anything more than you "have to," and once you get to thinking more positively, you might find there's is nothing you have to hate.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Doing and thinking

Learning to see learning is a process. It's part of deschooling, for the parents.

When learning starts to show, in its natural state, you will see that children are processing what they do and what they think about what they've done. They'll be making connections to everything else in their history and surroundings, to other experiences and imaginings.

When unschooling begins to really flow, the process of learning is the processing of experiences and connections.
photo by Nina Haley

Friday, January 28, 2022

Fear doesn't have a stick

June 2018, a mom wrote for a public group that fear was assaulting her. In a conversation on the side, she used the term again: "sometimes fear assaults me."

I responded:

Fear doesn't hit you with a stick in a dark alley.
Don't use the word "assaults."
It's too dramatic and it makes you a victim.
An additional problem, though, is that it also treats "fear" as something outside herself, that comes toward her and assaults her when she least expects it.

Maybe ALL the negative words are doing that—personifying, or anthropomorphizing, an emotion as an external enemy. So some would say "it's just semantics," but it's a map of one's emotions that ranges outside the body and builds bad guys, I'm thinking.

"Just semantics" is a big problem
photo by Ester Siroky

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Over and over and often

You don't need to control yourself to keep yourself from being controlling. 🙂

Make generous, kind choices, over and over, as often as you can.
photo by Nina Haley

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A houseguest, or your child

Being new to the world, and you being his host (and partner), any light you can shed on the mysteries of the world, and any clues you can give him on what's likely to happen and what's expected of him would be good for all concerned. Advise him what might happen at a wedding reception, or a birthday party, or at a place he's never been to before. Show him how to eat a new food he hasn't seen. Help put him at ease if he's nervous. Provide him all the coaching and reassurance he wants, and no more than he wants.
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Consider ideas

Consider ideas. If something makes sense, good. Use the idea. Remember where you got it. Be honest.

Live your life in such a way that you're not ashamed if someone quotes what you said, or tells something you did.

Growth is good
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, January 24, 2022

Be more, do more

Pam Sorooshian wrote: I'm not saying to prepare a lesson on cactus or coconuts or pineapples. I'm saying that if you're not already an interesting person with interesting information to share with your children, then you'll have to make an effort to be more interesting. The way to do that is to develop your own sense of curiosity, wonder, fascination, and enthusiasm.

It might have to seem a little artificial, for a while, if it isn't natural to a parent to just "be" this way.

—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Natural residents of Earth

So how do unschoolers learn geography? Better than I did in school. They learn it with flexibility and a lack of awareness of having "learned geography." They learn it from games, movies, satellite photographs, globes, the history of ships and airplanes, of cloth and houses, of the Okinawan karate and of Roman bathhouses. Their model of the universe is better than mine was when I was their age. Their confidence is better than mine is now! They are learning about THEIR planet. I felt like an unwelcome guest here, when I was "just a kid." They feel like natural residents of Earth, and they do know their neighborhood.
photo by Olga Degtyareva, while visiting Stone Town

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Step thoughtfully

If somebody said, "I want to walk to Santa Fe from Albuquerque," it matters which direction they go. It matters that they have water. It matters if they know how they're going to go. You can die between here and Santa Fe—it's a frickin' desert.

People can ruin their lives with unschooling if they don't know where they're going. If they just intend to make a bunch of wild decisions and mill around, it won't work. Their kids will end up needing to go back to school, and being clueless kids in school. So it's almost that big a project. You will have to take hundreds of thousands of steps. And so it's better to take a step thoughtfully, knowing what direction you're going, than to thunder around yelling, "I'm an unschooler! I'm an unschooler!" and not get anywhere.

So I think they need to understand the direction they're going, and why. And they can get there a lot faster and a lot more whole, and with a lot more peace and understanding, if they will Read a little, try a little, wait a while and watch.

Extras with Sandra Dodd
I was speaking, not writing. You can listen (at 15:15), or read the transcript.

photo by Sandra Dodd, in Golden, New Mexico, March 2020
(the last time I left town)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Soft, peaceful, relaxed mom

Sylvia Woodman, responding to a mom who had written:
"I'd just like to share that I have also relaxed my militant attitude..."
I'm glad to hear that you are relaxing! I bet if your daughter could choose between a Militant Mom and a Soft, Peaceful, Relaxed Mom she would prefer the latter over the former. 🙂
—Sylvia Woodman

Soft and Sweet
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The best friend you can be

Instead of "You're the parent, not their friend," substitute, "Be the very very best friend to them you can possibly be."

—Pam Sorooshian

Friendship in Families
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Lively ideas; living language

Without becoming too critical or cynical, maybe consider, with your children sometimes, changes in knowledge (the platypus, Mars, Pluto, leeches, volcanic activity and virgin sacrifice compared to global warming's medicine men; anything smaller than an atom?), or geography ("Four Corners" has been in the wrong place all these years; the U.S.S.R. is still on maps in some public places) or spellings ("plough" or "plow"? wooly or woolly?).

Play lightly with these ideas. There's no advantage to getting huffy or angry about it. Just see it as the reality it is. People learn. People change their minds. Knowledge grows. Evidence is reclassified. Language is alive. People who are alive are changing and learning. You can resist that or you can ride it with gusto.

photo by Sarah S.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Moments to years

"As we get older and our kids grow up, we eventually come to realize that all the big things in our lives are really the direct result of how we've handled all the little things."

Pam Sorooshian
photo by Jihong Tang

Monday, January 17, 2022

Eye contact and communication

Non-verbal communication doesn't get enough credit. I used to be one of the people who thought babies couldn't communicate, or that pets couldn't, until I got older, had a baby, and started paying better attention to different ways to communicate.

Perhaps these animals wanted food, or were curious about visitors. Sometimes my cat wants food, or to be scratched or picked up, or put down, or let in, or let out.

Sometimes a child doesn't know what she wants, but she feels uncomfortable. If she looks at you, see if you can tell without asking what it is she might be thinking. I have tried things like offering food or water, singing, getting up and watering plants, or picking up toys, to see if she wants to help (or watch, in the case of pre-mobile children).

Too often, I talked. I began to see that my questions or verbal guesses weren't always the best responses.
photo by Ester Siroky

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Cocooning at home

Some children have seasons of wanting to cocoon at home (some adults, too). Sometimes an unschooled child will go through a year or two of not wanting to go out. And some, as Connie describes so well above, are inclined to be inward-looking.

I think in Howard Gardner's intelligence theory, this might perhaps involve more intrapersonal intelligence than average. But there are artists and writers who prefer a great deal of time alone, too.   And even among those with kinesthetic intelligence, there are some who prefer hiking, climbing or skiing. There are those who practice sleight-of-hand and juggling for many hours alone. There are musicians who play a thousand hours in private for every hour they might share with others.

When such children are in school, they find ways to make themselves invisible if they can. The advantages of being home are abundant for those with such inclinations.

Time for Solitude
photo by Gail Higgins

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Relax back into learning

The way kids learn openly and honestly from the world around them can be hampered if parents have not deschooled well. If parents are still attached to school or schoolishness, if parents have prejudices or places they don't want to examine, they can't be as good at unschooling as parents who relax back into learning.

I've seen many families succeed, I've seen some wander off because it's not easy, and I've seen some fail.

I'm sorry the links didn't work, in the e-mails.
They should here, now.

Deschooling is the best next stop
though the quote came from a rougher place
photo by Colleen Prieto

Friday, January 14, 2022

Empty your cup

Sandy Lubert, from a presentation she gave:

As we deschool ourselves, we must empty our cups of all the preconceived ideas, concepts, expectations and methods that prevent us from embracing unschooling. This seems like a simple thing to do, but it can be quite difficult in practice. At first we think we have emptied our cups but as we drink, we often detect a residual, schooly taste. And sometimes, even a little residue can curdle the whole pot of tea. So, it’s important to have a "clean receptacle," as it were, in order to taste the true essence of unschooling life.

—Sandy Lubert

Sandy Lubert on Unschooling and deschooling, and changes...
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, January 13, 2022

One easy step

Thinking of "better choices" instead of "RIGHT choices" is an easy step to a world of other easy steps.

Make the Better Choice
photo by Jen Keefe

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Soft, grateful, gentle

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.
photo by Sarah S.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Be big; be agreeable

Some people say "no" before they even think, and then they justify it by all kinds of child-belittling means. You don't have to be one of those people.
photo by Hema Bharadwaj

Monday, January 10, 2022

Powerful help

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

I want my kids to feel empowered, so I empower them. I don't want their view of the world to be tainted by "can't", "shouldn't", "wouldn't", and the like. I want their world to be full of "yes I can," I shall find a way to do what I want to do with my parent's blessing and help.

—Jenny Cyphers

Saying "YES" to Children
photo by Nina Haley

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Excitement and joy

Once someone was asking how many hours she should spend with her child, or something, and I said at least as many hours as she would've been in school, counting transportation, and there was shock and surprise. The best answer might be that it should be twice as much time as she would've spent in school. Because honestly, a child shouldn't lose the mom-time she would've had at night and on weekends, should she?

The shock probably came from thinking that those hours would be teacher-style hours, of being stuck in one place doing something not too fun. That vision can only come from someone who hasn't looked into unschooling enough to know that the best unschooling hours are fun, natural, real activities. The shock can turn to excitement and joy, as a parent learns more about learning.

Unschooling, Time and Energy
photo by Cass Kotrba

Saturday, January 8, 2022

What or where, and when?

Nancy Wooton wrote:

My husband wasn't too sure about unschooling at first, and was also adamant the kids be in bed and stay there at a certain time. I'd just come home from a one-day conference—probably the first time I heard Sandra speak—with an armload of interesting toys and books and a head full of inspiration. One of the books was about finding Titanic, and included a paper model, which I decided Mommy should put together (I really like that kind of thing 🙂).

I was working on it after the kids had gone to bed, but then-7-y.o. Alex got up. He looked at the book and we talked about it as I worked; we discovered what a fathom was, and that Titanic came to rest on the continental shelf, not the very bottom of the ocean, and I'm sure some more interesting things, but those stick in my mind.

About a half hour later, Alex went back to bed and I kept gluing. Dh came in and said, "So that's unschooling." He'd overheard the conversation. I said, "Yeah, that's unschooling." Never had an argument after that. 🙂

—Nancy Wooton
Stories of Late-night Learning
photo by Sarah Dickinson, of a seawater-flooded playground in Port Stewart, Northern Ireland. It's the closest photo I have to the right waters, and the Titanic was built in Belfast.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Five solid tools

Alex Arnott wrote:

Principles of unschooling that have helped me relate differently with my own highly active nervous system:

  1. expanding awareness to include all the joy life offers rather than zooming in on the negative;
  2. developing a habit of questioning the assumptions my mind make about potential dangers...learning not to take all my thoughts so seriously all the time;
  3. developing mindfulness to slow down when my mind feels chaotic so I can reconnect with my values which in turn helps create the condition to make better choices;
  4. learning the joy and privilege of being of service to others...I cannot overstate how vital this has been for my mental health. It’s helped me reconnect to others in meaningful ways;
  5. deliberately choosing love, which is a wonderful antidote to fear/anger.
These are just a few examples of what’s helped me learn how to be solid in the face of anxious personality traits.
—Alex Arnott

Parenting Peacefully
photo by Karen James

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Who reads how

Written when my kids were teens:

Kirby reads like a lawyer. He can skim a rules book or instructions for a game, and explain simply and clearly to others. If he forgets a detail, he'll be able to find it easily.

Marty likes humor and history.

Holly's main reading is on the internet, but she likes name books, and other non-fiction and trivia. One thing she doesn't use the internet for is definitions and spellings. She likes my old full-size American Heritage Dictionary, and will sprint upstairs to look something up on the slightest excuse.

Three Readers—
(It's all one paragraph in the original.)
photo by Sara McGrath

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Taste, touch, see, smell, hear

Kids will want to taste snow. Help them find some that's clean enough. Same with icicles. You might know what dirt is on the roof, but let that go; find a cleanish one.

Kids will want to touch snow, see it, smell it. Just the other day a kid in my yard was talking about how different it sounded, walking in it on the third day, than the first day. It was squeaky, when it compressed.

What seems old and normal to you will be new to each child who is born and sees things for the first time. Be patient and generous and maybe you can see it again, as though it were new to you, through their eyes.
photo by Ruqayya

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Evidence galore

Deb Lewis wrote:

All those questions about how a kid would learn if he didn't go to school and my answers were things like "I think people learn best when they learn on their own terms," "I trust," or "I believe."

Bah! If I'd only thought about it a little harder! There's evidence galore! There's evidence throughout human existence. There's evidence in the fossil record. Stone age evidence and Bronze Age evidence and evidence in every archaeological site in the world. Humans learn.

They learn what the other humans around them are doing. They learn by living.

And now there's the evidence of my own son's life. He is surrounded by the things that interest humans in the twenty-first century. He is surrounded by the whole of human history. He is a citizen of the world in a time when access to information has never been easier. He is learning all the time.
—Deb Lewis

The Evidence of Years—Deb Lewis
That boy later learned Italian, and visited Italy.
He let me use some of his photos.
photo by Dylan Lewis

Monday, January 3, 2022

Learning will be like breathing

Children don't need long explanations to learn something if it's something they would like to understand better right at that moment. If you can learn to live at the edge of knowledge and curiosity, learning will be like breathing.
(quote from The Big Book of Unschooling, page 112 or 123)
photo by Colleen Prieto

Sunday, January 2, 2022

There were, and will be, dishes

Before I was married, I had dishes and I washed them. When I was married, I had dishes and I washed them. I have children, and sometimes they help me, but they're my dishes, and I wash them. When my children leave, I will still have dishes. I will still wash them. Should my husband and I not die at the same time, the one who is left will wash the dishes.
. . . .

If you have dishes you don't like, get rid of them and get dishes you enjoy. Look at thrift stores or ask your friends, or learn to make dishes.

Washing Dishes (philosophical thoughts, not instructions)
photo by Sarah S.

P.S. My kids are grown now, but when Holly's over, she sometimes empties my dishwasher for me. She often picks dishes up and puts them in the sink, if she sees them, even if she's not here for a meal.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Phrases to avoid

"Have to…"

"I was forced to…" or "We forced him to…"

No choice but to…

Your thoughts affect your body. Your moods change your health. Your attitude shows in your face. Negativity will be contagious and harmful to your children.

When you speak or write or hear the words that paint your life as powerless and harsh, rephrase. If you have time, think about where those things came from. If you can trace them back to a certain voice or incident in your memory, remember that, and be prepared the next time.

SandraDodd's Big Book of Unschooling
page 196, or 226 in 2019 edition
photo by Holly Dodd

Good online matches are Choices and the page on Negativity.