Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Elation is good.

Sandra Dodd:
If something causes biochemical euphoria or elation, and if the goal is learning, and peace, seek that out. Pay extra for that. Clear your calendar to help your child obtain that.
Virginia Warren:
To the extent that our brains are chemical computers, dopamine is the program that we experience as happiness. Seeing "getting a dopamine hit" in a negative light is literally disapproving of happiness.
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Living peacefully

peace symbol made of rocks on dry cracked flat desert

So what's the "rule" about peace?
There's not a rule about peace.
         . . . .
If you want to live peacefully, make the more peaceful choice.
photo by Marty Dodd

Monday, August 29, 2022

Twirling, swirling

Through playing, children learn physics and dance and balance and color theory, but you don't need to use any of those terms. They will be discovering what their body can do, and how. They will feel the effects of wind, gravity, speed, and force, gradually through everyday experiences. They will see how colors mix or clash or complement. They will play with patterns, without needing any of those words.

All learning is connected, and everything counts.

Play around.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Curious about the world

Julie, on what is needed for unschooling:

"I think a lot of what makes somebody a good unschooling parent is being curious about the world, about what’s going on around them. And willing to look at interesting things, and see interesting things everywhere, and help the child to see interesting things everywhere."
—Julie D.

Who can Unschool? (sound file and transcript)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Peace and happiness

millstones in a Japanese garden
The best unschooling parents aim to avoid punishments and shaming. They try to facilitate learning and joy, peace and happiness. They slowly and incrementally learn to make choices themselves and soon they can better assist their children in learning to make thoughtful choices. They try to nurture their children by creating a safe place, and time and space for them to play, to explore and to grow up whole and undamaged.

photo by Karen James


Friday, August 26, 2022

Too busy or too quiet?

No human in all the history of the world has, or could have guessed right every time, about what to say, how much to say, how quickly, in what tone.

Most humans can get a bit better at it, as time goes on.

Gaze without speaking and/or explore connections
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, August 25, 2022

A spotlight and a dance

Spontaneous dancing in a natural spotlight happened. It wasn't planned. It wasn't announced. I'm glad I got a photo and a video.

A light touch is hard to guarantee. Gratitude and appreciation, acceptance, joy... they can't be planned except for finding opportunities to explore and to observe.

These things don't happen every day, and I'm glad when I know they have happened, somewhere.

If you can get to facebook, click to see a video

(or try here)

photo by Sandra Dodd, of Tommy Dodd and her aunt Holly

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

A life full of sights, sounds, tastes...

My favorite definition of unschooling is providing an environment in which learning can flourish. School prescribes what should be learned, and in what order. Then they build an assembly line, and put all the students on it. They reward those who get through easily, and punish others. School at home is like an assembly line for one.

Unschooling is a way to homeschool, but without the schoolishness. Things can be learned in whatever order they come along, and the learner will eventually connect all the information he has gathered, but maybe not in the same way or in the same order as the assembly line would have had him do it.

When a child’s life is full of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures, people and places, he will learn. When he feels safe and loved, he will learn. When parents begin to recover from their own ideas of what learning should look like (what they remember from school), then they begin a new life of natural learning, too.

Learning for Fun: Interview with Sandra Dodd, by Rashmie Jaaju, 2012
photo by a self-portrait set-up at a conference, of Sandra Dodd wrapped in a quilt made by Lori Odhner

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Let him sleep

If a child is peacefully asleep and doesn't have to be somewhere at a certain time, let him sleep! If he stayed up late playing video games because it was the only time he could get a large block of uninterrupted access to the game, let him sleep as late as he needs to.

Going to sleep and waking up shouldn't be about the feeling of control the parent can gain from demanding and commanding.

from page 160 (or 178) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, August 22, 2022

Nice, often

Be as nice to your child as you can be, as often as you can be.
Partnerships and Teams in the Family
photo by Amber Ivey

Sunday, August 21, 2022


Windows can frame surprises!

Part of being able to balance yourself in the world is to be ready to appreciate the unexpected, and also to be grateful for a same-old, uneventful view.

Sometimes, leave your curtains open and your soul prepared for anything.

Not My Windows
photo (wild turkey out the window) by Colleen Prieto, in New Hampshire

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Choose more

Part of Pam Sorooshians's response to the idea that unschoolers are lazy:

Ask yourself really honestly, is there something more I could be doing for my child that would enhance my child's life? If the answer is yes, then make the choice to do it. Then ask this question of yourself again and again and, each time, make the life-enriching choice. Apply this to small things and to big momentous decisions. Small things—could I make something for dinner that would be special and interesting? Did I see a cool rock on the ground outside—could I bring it in and wash it and set it on the table for others to notice. Big things—would my child enjoy traveling? Can we take a family vacation that involves exploring things my child would find interesting?

In unschooling, 'lazy' means not thinking about enriching and enhancing your child's life. You change this by doing it—one choice at a time."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, August 19, 2022

Ukulele window

There is something you already have that can be fun and soothing: words. "Ukulele window" has a pretty rhythm, and is fun and easy to speak. Feel all the positions in your mouth, and think of other windows, other places, with a ukulele, or two or ten. This photo was taken in England, somewhere.

The colors are pretty. Someone decided in which order they should be arranged, while the display was set up. Most are probably off in homes—all sorts of places, with all kinds of people.

No one gets to know, but anyone can consider and imagine the possibilities.

Ukulele was originally a Hawaiian word. Window was lifted from Norse, but that's where words come from—all over the place.

The more you know, the better ukulele windows will be.
photo by Julie D

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Different food, future food

colored carrots, in a store

"When I think about the food I make for my daughter (if it's different from what I've made for my husband and myself), I think ahead to when she might be making me food because I am unable to."
—Robin Bentley
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Connections and mysteries

You can see what is coming up, usually. Very often, you have a plan, and know where you're headed.

What comes next follows on what came before, but you won't get to write the script and control all the players.

Things happen, and schedules change. Keep your balance. If you keep your principles in mind, and at hand, decisions will be easier.

Real and good reasons
photo by Ester Siroky

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

One thing

Change one thing. Smile one sweet smile. Say one kind thing.
Change one thing.
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Monday, August 15, 2022

"I do my best to be the best..."

Karen James wrote:

I do my best to be the best mom and unschooler I can be - for myself, for my son and for my husband - with the knowledge that my example might give someone some ideas on how to see and try things a bit differently themselves. I am constantly looking for examples to grow myself. I absolutely love it when I see someone do something that I think I'd like to try. Sometimes it's a sweet gesture or phrase. Sometimes it's a cool project or idea.
on Always Learning, in 2014
photo by Nina Haley
(documenting the way things were, for a while, when her kids were a bit younger, and also a cool pumpkin-patch outing)

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Go with funny

Given a choice between something funny and something somber, go with funny if your goal is peace and learning. Very few things need to be still and serious.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 128 (or 140)
photo by Cátia Maciel

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Bigger and better

A mom who's going to help a child learn from the whole wide world should herself become ever increasingly comfortable with what all is IN the whole wide world, and how she can help bring her child to the world and the world to her child.

Unschooling should and can be bigger and better than school.

If it's smaller and quieter than school, the mom should do more to make life sparkly.
spiral dragon slide at a playground
photo by Kirby Dodd

Friday, August 12, 2022

Protect your little partner

Me, in a discussion of what was okay for a young child to mess up, in a public park, and how to explain it to him:

If you can't explain something to a four or five year old, just say no. Part of being partners, and being on the same team, is that what he does you're doing too. It's not okay for a mother and child to be doing something others don't want them to do (namely, the owners or managers of a place) and for the mom to shrug wide-eyed and point to the kid and say "He did it."

Gravel, rock and mulch play (on Always Learning)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Touching, playing, learning

Toddlers touch things. That's learning. New experiences and opportunities help them to learn. They're learning while they're holding new things, playing with water, or rocks, or feeling the air on their wet hands, and the mud on their feet

When they feel the touch of parental encouragement and approval, they learn from that, too.

Toddlers in other posts
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Share, invite, encourage

Jennifer McGrail, in response to someone who wrote that it was worth the fight to make kids go outside:

"Hiking in the desert is one of my all time favorite things to do. But no one ever found peace in being forced to do something. No one ever found joy in a choice that was foisted on them by someone else. Going outside is one option of many. As with any activity that I enjoy, I might share, invite, and even encourage my kids to join me. But I would never force."
—Jennifer McGrail

8 Battles I Won’t Pick With My Kids
photo by Lisa Jonick

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Amazed and joyful

"That kind of happiness, of being amazed and joyful about everyday little things occurring around us, has made me a much happier person in all aspects of my life."
—Katherine (Queen Jane 555)
photo by Brie Jontry

Monday, August 8, 2022

Stand strong, gently

Laurie Wolfrum wrote:

Whatever you decide to say, be kind to them. Don’t criticize, belittle or shame them for making different decisions or living differently than you do. Give them the respect that you wish they’d give to you.

Something that might help in any case is to explain that –
  • 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
from a presentation on politely withstanding and deflecting criticism
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Your happy, whole heart

Someone asked me, "Are the unschoolers more successful and clever? And do they have more chance to find good jobs as adults?"

I wrote:

I can't say. Even if most were, your own kids might not be. Even if most weren't, your own kids might be.

If what you do is better than school, for your kids, keep doing that. If school would be better than what you're doing, for your kids, in their real lives, then do that.

If you're going to unschool, do it wholeheartedly and happily.
photo by Janine Davies

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Head the right direction

There are paths that lead away from unschooling and paths that lead toward it. There are ways to do it better and ways to torpedo it irreparably.

Just because there's more than one way doesn't mean there's an infinite number of ways.

There's more than one way to get to Santa Fe from Albuquerque. There are four or five ways by road, one much better than any others; there's light rail; there's flight (impractical); there's walking (crazy). There are thousands of ways to leave Albuquerque and get to places far, far from Santa Fe.

Direction, and unschooling
photo by Cátia Maciel

Friday, August 5, 2022

Knowing how to respond

Alex Polikowsky wrote:
There are some big ways that are wrong and anyone can see that. Verbal abuse or physical abuse comes to mind.
But there are small things too.

Principles. The more clear, to yourself, you are about your principles and making better choices, the better you will know how to respond to a child or a situation.
—Alex Polikowsky
(longer original)

Living by Principles instead of by Rules
photo by Graham Dusseldorp

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A good direction

Parents can't be perfect, but they can aim in that direction.

"The right way"
photo by Roya's sister, Rose

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A road leading somewhere

Deb Lewis wrote, when her son was young:

Our town is small and we've been to the museums here more than once but we still find new things to do here. A new store opened so we checked it out and talked to the owner. The radio station moved from the residence of the owners to a building downtown and we took a tour. The mom-in-law of my employer got a bunch of fancy chickens and we drove out to see them. She showed Dylan a coffee table book about chickens. She showed us her little sun room where she grows orchids.

There's always something to do, someone to talk to, some road leading somewhere.

How Much Strewing?
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Learning is...

Nothing on paper is learning. Nothing recited is learning. Nothing in a conversation is learning....

Learning is putting information together in one's own head so that it makes new and different sense. It always and only happens inside the learner.

The Problem with Teaching is...
photo by Lydia Koltai

Monday, August 1, 2022

Sugar is sweet

Sugar is sweet, and so are you.

If you're not, consider how much sweeter your child's life would be if you were as sweet as sugar.
"The brain LIVES on glucose. It can’t live without it. And little kids' brains need more glucose than adults'."
photo by Cátia Maciel