Sunday, December 31, 2023

Learning as much or more

Unschooling doesn't mean not learning — it means learning without the trappings of school. It's not unlearning or uneducating. It's only unschooling — it points out a contrast in approaches to learning. My unschooled kids are learning as much or more than their schooled friends (and that includes home schooled or institution schooled).
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Colleen Prieto

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Open up and out

Some kids are more monkey than their parents are. When that happens, it can be invigorating to find an adult who will converse and joke with a kid, even if it's not something the parents would have chosen.

Openness to experience is what it's called—interest and curiosity. Being willing to explore, to try new things, to open upwards and outwards.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Friday, December 29, 2023

Overlapping goodness

Although the ideal is to focus on one things at a time, moms with kids (dads too, sometimes) can become expert at two things at once, and it can be fun. Think of times you've tasted two tastes together, or heard two things at once. Sometimes they blend; sometimes they are jarring.

It's easy to see two things at once, or to notice a combination or juxtaposition you would not have expected.

Thinking many thoughts, and deciding which to keep and which to set aside is the basis of choices, and of wise decision making!

Whirl and Twirl
photo by Mark Elrick

Thursday, December 28, 2023

They are whole people

Your children are not works in progress. They are whole people, now and from the day they were born. If you can try to see that, rather than think people are not finished until they're finished, it might help you.
photo by Cátia Maciel

more context, Always Learning, January 2012

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Distant visions

I love being able to see, and to share, pictures of things I have seen, or have NOT seen, in this blog. Jen Keefe's family went to New York City, and the technology of the day allowed her to share some of the things she saw. Her generosity lets me pass it on.

When I was a kid, our teachers encouraged us to have pen pals in other places. The purpose was to broaden our knowledge of foreign states and countries, but there weren't photos involved, and certainly not videos with sound! Messages weren't quickly exchanged.

Being able to see and hear other people, places, accents, languages, birds, animals, trees, foods... appreciate this as the recent miracle it is! Our worlds have expanded, even from inside our houses.

Your Own Model of the Universe

photo by Jen Keefe

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Important fun

The separation of learning and fun is the only thing that keeps learning from BEING fun.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 25, 2023


How you view a thing is affected by physical realities (height, vision, lighting), cognitive aspects (familiarity, spatial ability), emotional factors (attraction or revulsion), age, experience, biological states (hungry? sleepy? impatient?), etc. Anything adults and children see or do "together" is sure to be different for each.

See that as a good thing, as a feature of a rich life. They are not you. Shared experiences are still individually perceived.
(These words aren't there; others are.)
photo by Abby Davis

Sunday, December 24, 2023

More peace

The more local and personal peace there is, the more peace there will be in the world.
photo by Denaire Nixon

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Merriment and peace

Inventory your own tools. What do you already know that can make you a more peaceful parent? What tricks and skills can you bring into your relationships with members of your family?
photo by Janine Davies

Friday, December 22, 2023

It seems miraculous.

Alysia Berman wrote:

I tell people that I'm amazed every day by what my kids know and learn. It seems miraculous. It's not, really. It's normal. I see it as miraculous because I was indoctrinated to believe that none of this could happen outside of school and without teachers.
—Alysia Berman
photo by Julie D

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Gentle with a child

We make choices ALL the time. Learning to make better ones in small little ways, immediate ways, makes life bigger and better. Choosing to be gentle with a child, and patient with ourselves, and generous in ways we think might not even show makes our children more gentle, patient and generous.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Hearts renewed

I wrote this verse for a Christmas card we made when my children were eight, five, and three years old.
Abundant joy,
   a special toy,
      warmth and firelight,
         carols at twilight;

Memories of old,
   children to hold,
      comforting food,
         and hearts renewed.

More about that, written in 2014
art by Kirby Dodd, in 1994,
with printing and finish work by relatives and friends

Warm, glowing traditions

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Abundance abounds!

I'm sharing this photo and note from Megan Valnes, with her permission:
Hello Sandra!

I thought of you today while observing my three youngest children having fun together and bonding while playing with the iPad. 🙂 Had I not opened our lives to the principles of Radical Unschooling, there is a high probability that this moment would never have happened. I remain grateful everyday for the wisdom I have acquired through you, your participants, and the daily practice of unschooling principles. Thank you. Abundance abounds!
—Megan Valnes
(e-mail, December 2023)
photo by Megan Valnes

Monday, December 18, 2023

Positive, inspired, happy

Ripandeep Saran wrote:

When I was 14 years old, I asked the leader of the Sikh ashram I was visiting what to do when I am feeling blue and he told me the scriptures advise meditation, service and giving gratitude. He told me that it is also the same advice for when you are happy.

This all helps me keep my cup full. That is what works best for me - keeping my cup full of positive, inspired, happy energy as much as possible. Life has its ups and downs, but I like to focus more on the ups and put myself in the best possible position to help myself out when I am down. I am more sensitive than most people, and I feel very deeply. If I had not learned early in life how to deal with my lows, life might not have been as wonderful as it has been.
—Ripandeep Saran
(a.k.a. Rippy Dusseldorp)

The quote is from

but I also saved it at
photo by Marta Venturini

Sunday, December 17, 2023

When children have choices...

To set the scene, it was the week before Christmas, in Australia, years ago.

Jo Isaac wrote:

This morning Kai opened his advent calender, ate the chocolate, and then said 'Ugh. I'm so sick of eating all this chocolate! Please can I have a plate of cold food.' (It's *really* hot here today!) He's now saving his chocolates for when he wants them, and eating a plate of baby corn, cucumber and apple. 🙂
—Jo Isaac

True Tales of Kids Turning Down Sweets
photo by Susan May

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Positively joyful

Deb Lewis wrote:

Someone once suggested that having a joyful life as one of my goals was potentially damaging to my son because he wouldn't have an "authentic" experience (or something like that). I said I was willing to risk those terrible dangers.
—Deb Lewis
photo by Sarah S.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Choosing more peace

There will never be perfect peace. We can't even define "peace."
There can be a closer approximation to ideal peace. People can come nearer to the way they would like to be, but only incrementally, choice by choice.

If you want to live peacefully, make the more peaceful choice.

Peace is all about choices.

To have peace in your house, be more peaceful.
doodly art by a younger Holly Dodd

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Defending ideas

Me/Sandra, in a discussion once:

Don't post what you're not able or willing to defend. That's not a rule for this group, it's just something that makes plain sense in the whole of life. Don't say in public something you don't really understand well, or that you don't think is worth defending.

Read a little.
Just some.
Don't keep writing.

Read a little. Try a little. Wait a while. Watch.

That's if you want to change.

The discussions CAN and have and will continue to help people.
photo by Sarah S.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Plain, thoughtful underpinnings

Strength doesn't need to be high-tech or glitzy. Plain, thoughtful underpinnings and principles can be enough to quietly strengthen a family for many long years.
photo by Dylan Lewis

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

More peaceful, with practice

"With practice, the moments of panic and fear become fewer and farther between."
—Diana Jenner
photo by Jihong Tang

Monday, December 11, 2023

Every little good thing

De-sludging one's thoughts can be helped by noticing every little good thing one does, that others do, that happens by chance. Gathering little sticks might not be as good as chopping big firewood, but until the ability to do big projects returns, gather the little sticks of hope and remember to be grateful and to find abundance, even if it's abundant Ramen soup, or abundant paper and pencils for drawing or making lists or playing games
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, December 10, 2023

History and tradition

Newness can dazzle us, and the future is confusing. But right around you are simple, plain, useful, interesting, solid bits of history and tradition—things that were there before you were born, things with their own stories, whose makers might be gone and forgotten, but the artifacts remain.
The photo today is a stile I saw in Texas in 2013. Stiles and fences have existed in various forms for a long time. There are quiet antiques all around us.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 9, 2023

All-slightly-better Everything

Someone wrote that learning about unschooling felt like learning a new language.

I responded
It's like learning a new everything, but an all-slightly-better everything.
photo by Renee Cabatic

Friday, December 8, 2023

Quietly, yourself

Unschooling takes a long time to learn. Rushing a child to understand something complicated while the parent isn’t even looking in the right direction to see unschooling is a problem that’s easily solved. Stop pressuring the child. Stop “communicating” the confusion. Quietly empty yourself of much of what you think you know.
photo by Denaire Nixon

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Help, often

Pay attention to your child and help him do/find/see/experience things that will interest him. Help him be his best self as often as you can.
photo by Kelly Drewery

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Paths made of life

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Looking back, we can often see the path pretty clearly. But we can't look ahead and know what the path is going to be.
photo by a realtor, on an unschooler's property

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Shine a light

"Shine a light ahead for them, and lend them a hand, but don't drag or push them."
—Pam Sorooshian

How to Be a Good Unschooler, by Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, December 4, 2023

Practical positivity

From a half-secret page on mental health (my writing, Marta's collection):

If a person with marked highs and lows gets too involved with depressing politics or scary or sad this'n'that, or doesn't gather a tool box of self-soothing thoughts and behaviors (breathing, walking, sending birthday cards and thank you cards to other people, singing, playing sports—different sets for different people, but some positive, uplifting habits), the low can turn to a depression that isn't easy to rise out of, and can be nearly impossible to function from.
photo by Linda Wyatt

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Interesting and good

From 2002:

One of my favorite things about my kids, and what makes unschooling easy with them, is that they're not cynical or critical about the interests of others in the family, or of the neighbors, or of their friends. They assume that everything has the potential to be interesting and good.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Kindness, generosity and joy

Meredith wrote:

Kindness and generosity and joy are important to me. So if I look at my daughter and she seems dissatisfied or bored, I want to do something to help—I want to spread some kindness and joy. So I'll look for ways to do that. Will it help to visit more friends? Go someplace with animals (my daughter loves animals)? Is she happy with her current animation program or is she ready for something more complex? Has she finished her latest graphic novel? Does she need new shoes? Do I need to spend more time hanging out with her? Play a game, maybe (video or board game)? Go on an adventure together? Write together? I suggest things based on what I know about her—what sorts of things make her smile, light her up with enthusiasm, or pique her curiosity.

When I focus on those sorts of goals, learning takes care of itself. That's something that can be hard to see right away, especially if you have some schoolish expectations as to how learning happens. Read more about natural learning so you can build up some confidence.
—Meredith Novak
photo by Julie D

Friday, December 1, 2023

Easier to get to yes

The other day Emma, 6, asked me a series of questions to which all of the answers were yes. She stopped and stared at my head for a bit and said "Yeah, ya sure got a lot of yesses in there."

I loved that.

I used to have a lot of "I can't" in there. Saying yes more often has helped me be more clear about the difference between can't, won't, and don't want to. When that all becomes clear, yesses are easier to get to.
—Amy Kidwell
photo by Molly Mulvaney

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Happy, fun dishes

Finding ways not to be grumpy about dishes is a good model and practice field for other choices in life.

We get our dishes from thrift stores, mostly. If one of them bugs me, it can go back to the thrift store.

Sometimes when a mom is really frustrated with doing the dishes, it can help to get rid of dishes with bad memories and connections, or put them in storage for a while. Happy, fun dishes with pleasant associations are easier to wash.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Something sweet; do it again

Decision time isn't about what you will do next year or for the rest of your child's life. Decision time is about what you will do in the next five seconds. I recommend getting up and doing something sweet for another person, wordlessly and gently. Never send the bill; make it a gift you forget all about. Do that again later in the day. Don't tell us, don't tell them, just do it.
photo by Theresa Larson

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

From pictures alone

Cally Brown wrote, in 2012:

Back in the olden days when #1 son was 6, homeschoolers used to be 'inspected' in New Zealand. The inspector asked Greg to show him his favourite book and Greg ran off and returned with a large volume of a 20-something-volume encyclopaedia. The inspector looked amazed and said, "Goodness! You can read that?" and Greg replied, "Of course not! I'm only six! I just love looking at all the pictures," and proceeded to show the man all sorts of interesting things, clearly displaying an amazing amount of knowledge he had garnered from pictures alone.
—Cally Brown

Learning without Reading
photo by Rosie Moon

Monday, November 27, 2023

The morning sky

Somewhere in the world it is morning every moment. Somewhere, light is dawning. Some people, and I'm one of them, believe that any portal to the universe leads to the whole universe
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Live purely and sweetly

There are some homeschoolers who are so obsessed with the evils of school, the unfairness of some bygone situation or other that they or their children were involved in (or relatives, or friends' kids), that they cannot live a day without reliving that incident, emotional package and all. They obsess on school. They homeschool Because of School. When asked about homeschooling, they talk about school.
. . . .
If it is horrible, turn away from it and prove that life can be lived purely and sweetly without it. If life is lived in reactionary response to a thing, the thing is still the centerpiece of life and thoughts.

Sixth post down, archived discussion from 2001
photo by Julie D.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

No other way

Read a little, try a little, wait a while and watch. There is no other way to learn this than gradually. There is no other way to learn to see clearly how it works than by trying it a bit at a time and seeing how putting learning first changes other things—how putting peace ahead of schedules changes things.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, November 24, 2023

Naming things

Seeing new things and learning their names is the way babies and toddlers learn their native languages and how they learn about the world. It works for people of any age.

Each model of the universe requires identification, sorting, relationships between things, and other patterns. Whatever seems trivial in one context is of central importance in another.

Names and words and labels and descriptors have a glory about them.

Naming Things elsewhere here
photo by Denaire Nixon, of a young red-footed booby

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Soothing soothes.

Find the light moments, and the laughter, with your child. Be as soothing as you can be, because soothing them will also soothe you.

Be sweet; be well.

Peaceful Memories
photo by Amy Milstein

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Choices, for partners

When you choose to say something or to wait, think of which will be more patient, or less critical. If you decide to say something, think of two things and choose the one that is closer to the person you want to be. If you choose not to say anything, consider your posture and demeanor. Choose to be gentle, and not to express negative emotion.

Sometimes choose quiet space, but not hateful silence.

With practice, it gets easier.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Fill up your family

"You can't give what you don't have," some people say, and if you want your children to give generosity and kindness and patience to others, you should give them so much they're overflowing with it.

It works with respect, too.

Holly and Adam making Christmas cards
photo by Julie D, of Holly and Adam

Monday, November 20, 2023

Work or play?

The best moments are when an activity might look like work, but it feels like play.

It can happen to anyone.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, November 19, 2023


You may pass through the same door again, but you will be different each time.

Where you are right now will never be exactly the same again.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Closeness and connection

Janine wrote:

Most of the things that have happened I didn't foresee! And they continue to happen and surprise me every day! To name just a few: spirituality, healing, realisations and awakenings, and most of all, a closeness and deep connection with my boys (and partner) that warms my heart and fills it till it's fit to burst! We spend every day laughing and smiling, most days side splitting laughter over a shared joke or something.
—Janine Davies
photo by Janine Davies

You can hear Janine's voice at 10:22 in the recording here: Healing

Friday, November 17, 2023

Step toward learning

Confidence in unschooling can't come from other people's accounts. It can only come from seeing one's own children relaxing into learning effortlessly through play, conversations, observations, a rich life.

"Facing fears" sounds scary, intimidating and negative. Stepping toward learning is much more positive. Being with children is easy; they're already right there. Move toward them, instead of milling around with fears and vulnerability.
photo by Denaire Nixon

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Other possibilities

Being steeped in principles of peace, respect and strength has allowed me to learn that there are other possibilities. It's almost like recovering from addiction...addiction of the effects of control. Little by little, day by day, with a lot of (sometimes painful) awareness...slowly new peaceful joyful stuff replaces the old, sad stuff.
—Alex Arnott
(a.k.a. Alex Wildrising)
photo by Brie Jontry

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A variety of good things

Without choices, they can't make choices. Without choices they can't make good choices OR bad choices. In too many people's minds, "good" is eating what parents say when parents say (where and how and why parents say). That doesn't promote thought, self awareness, good judgment or any other good thing.

Food Choices (and lots of them)
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Pune, in India

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

When I grew up

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.

When this blog was already ten years old, I remembered the greeting-card thoughts, and 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. With over 4,680 posts, I guess I have inadvertently written some greeting cards.

The top section was originally published in 2021, with a video. The permission to use that video was forgotten about and the organizer said no, when I reminded her. That post said "...with over 4,000 posts" but today there are 4,687. Thank you for reading.

Just Add Light and Stir on my site
The snowglobe image above was by an artist at Fiverr in 2017.

Monday, November 13, 2023

It's invisible, until...

Sandra, responding to a mom who said her son only wanted to play, play, play.

You’re looking for school. Because you don’t know what unschooling looks like, you can’t see it. It’s invisible to people who haven’t deschooled.

Because you’re pressuring your son, he can’t deschool. His deschooling won’t take as long as yours will, but if you never leave him along he will never deschool.

If you don’t stop looking for school, YOU will never deschool.
The words above are from a longer post, here.

I also noted, of her nine-year old who was new to unschooling, "Play, play, play is what he should be doing. Nothing else. Only playing."

Deschooling is recovery, and is a major reset of perception and of focus. It's always awkward, and sometimes scary for parents, but it's necessary and leads to visible unschooling!
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Passing a passion on

When we stop looking at our kids and what they do through schooly glasses, we're no longer concerned about how long they've been interested in something, or how much time they've spent doing something but rather we're in there with them, their passion leaking onto us and giving us a bit of that passion too. It just becomes life and living, not some thing they're doing because it's good for them or because they'll need it when they're an adult or whatever other reason school says kids should do things.
—Kim H.
photo by Roya Dedeaux