Monday, May 29, 2023

Rich lives, in the world

Unschoolers need to be actively involved in things that bring their children into the world, and the world into their children.

The best unschoolers are doing more with and for their children than school-at-home families are. Unschooling parents need to understand MORE about how learning works and keep their family lives rich.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Like a zombie?

Me, in response to a(nother) question, once, about kids who become so involved in something that they are like zombies, don't hear people, don't stop to eat...
If something is REALLY fascinating, extremely engaging, those things might happen. A brand-new video game at an exciting point. A book as good as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, first time through. A news item on the death of a favorite person.

Those things can happen to me, still, as an adult—that I am mesmerized, engaged, involved in something, and it can be a program (I've been watching some great Korean dramas lately), or a book, or an interesting or difficult bit of sewing. It can take me a few seconds to come to myself and respond to another person.

. . . .

It would be unfortunate if someone's unschooled child loved a game or story so much that he seemed to be a zombie, and the parents started to limit his life because of it. It would be an unfortunate lack of appreciation and relationship and awareness on the part of the parents.
photo by Destiny Dodd

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Same and different

Learning happens when a child sees what two things have in common, and considers how they are different.

Parents can help, without telling them what "the answers" are. The parent might not see what the child sees.

Give children a chance to find their own answers.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 26, 2023

An evolving life

"I didn't get it. I thought I did. But it's like mowing the lawn, or dishes, or laundry, or being their will always be evolving, because it isn't an it. It is life."
—Shan Burton
photo by Gail Higgins

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Relax into wonder

If you can allow yourself to relax into wonder, your children will have a wonderful mom.
photo by Sandra Dodd

The quote was from something passing, on Facebook.
Other wonderful Just Add Light moments:

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Breathe to Ten

Someone said one time that she counts to ten and then she's still mad so what should she do, and a couple of people said "Count slower."

Angrily holding one's breath and counting to ten in a hostile fashion isn't the "count to ten" that's recommended. Breathing to ten is way better.

Breathing can be done in an overt, hostile "I'm breathing so I won't hurt you" passive-aggressive way, too. That cancels it right out.

The quote is from an online chat, but a good link is
photo by Vlad Gurdiga

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Making Peace with Food

When Shan Burton was growing up, the relationships among her, food, and her parents was a frightening swirl. Without better ideas, she began to pass some of those problems on to her children. Then she discovered unchooling.

Below are an image from that report, her conclusion, and a link to the story of the changes that came from the changes she made.
Shan wrote:
Food can be an experiment, a social activity, and even art!

What it never is, anymore, is a battlefield.

May all your meals be joyous ones!
—Shan Burton
photo by Shan Burton

Monday, May 22, 2023

True freedom and snake oil

Freedom should involve a respect for others, and a respect for logic. And a family might not feel they "respect the law," but the laws still do apply to them, no matter how twinkly-eyed they have become in their newfound "freedom."

So if someone is selling you "True Freedom" (or snake oil, or the elixir of the fountain of life), have respect for yourself and your family and take a pass on it.

from page 220 (or 255) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd (click to enlarge)

"Snake oil" might not be an internationally-known term, so here's this: Snake oil

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Concerned and attentive

Just as being kinder and gentler with a child makes one a kinder, gentler parent, being more attentive and concerned about a spouse or partner makes that person, in turn, more attentive and concerned.

It doesn't happen all at once, and you can't send them the bill. You can't count or measure it. It has to be selfless and generous. Your kindness needs to be given because it makes you kinder, not because you want any further reward.

From The Big Book of Unschooling, page 270 (page 311, in 2nd edition)

Also see:
photo by Marin Holmes

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Another planet?

This is about the fears some people have, when they first ask about homeschooling:

For some people, it scares them so much that it feels almost like they're moving to another planet and can never come back.

It's not like moving to another planet. You'll still have the same house, same car, same phone number, you'll still be sitting in the same chair. It will just be different. And everytime I've ever said that to anyone, they seemed somewhere between totally relieved and shocked. . . . .

They were flipping out. They were really spinning out, off the planet. Like, "Where will we be? What will happen? How will we ever get back?"

Back to where? You're in your own house.

It's from a 2013 interview. This page might help in similar ways: Help
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, May 19, 2023

Patient, generous, kind

Sometimes an antique is still in use.

If you remember how exciting a little mechanical ride could be when you were a child, try to keep some coins on hand to indulge your young children.

If you don't have young children, consider keeping coins for offering rides to other children whose parents are tired or don't have what makes those little rides go.

If you don't remember being very young, for just 20p (or 50¢, or your local equivalent), if you're lucky and open to growth, you could live vicariously through another young person.

Patience, generosity and kindness make a person better.
A patient, generous, kind person makes the world better.

Plus or minus
photo by Sandra Dodd, 2011, in Bristol

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Seeing enough

Don't assess "enough." Pay attention to your child and don't try to press him to do something he doesn't want to do, and don't try to make him stop doing something while he's still having fun.

See learning as your priority, and you will begin to see it more and more.

Seeing it
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

It shows.

"Much of what they're learning as unschoolers is the 'true grit' of living: communication, interaction, observation, exploration, etc... and it shows!"

—a mom named Sandy
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Step up; step up again...

Transcript from a presentation, long ago, about becoming more peaceful by making conscious choices:

If you think “Ok, I’m either going to whack him or I’m going to yell at him,” yell at him—that was the best choice you had at that moment. And the next time, start with “yell at him." “Ok, I'm either going to do what I did the last time or something better. I'm going to yell at him or I’m going to go in the other room for a second." Go in the other room.

And the next time, maybe your choice could be either “go in the other room” or “I’m going to take a deep breath and make a joke about it.” Make a joke.

And gradually and incrementally you come closer to the place where you want to be. Beause I don’t think anybody can just jump from a lifetime of responses and expectations and behaviors and just pick some other person and just become that person. You can’t do that.

My voice/Sandra, in 2002.
(I write better than I speak.)
photo by Rosie Moon

Monday, May 15, 2023

It's ALL temporary

Below is part of a response by Robyn Coburn to a doubtful mom saying if ALL her kids wanted to do ALL day EVERY day was..., that she would have a problem. After creating some other all-day-interest examples, Robyn wrote:

The fact is that even if it is ALL they want to do for ALL day EVERY day, it will still be temporary; EVERY day would still not last forever. It would be a temporary need being fulfilled. Discovering and facilitating the children's passions is another tentpole of Unschooling practice. A child discovering something that they *want* every day is cause for celebration.

The only way to know if your children genuinely, truly want to do the other activities is if they have the option to choose not to do them. They can only choose to switch it off when they have the option to leave it on.
—Robyn Coburn
photo by Chris Chambliss

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Peace Inside

Peace, like learning, is largely internal.

Mother Teresa could have found a more peaceful place than Calcutta, but she was helping people find peace in non-peaceful surroundings.
photo by Sukayna


Saturday, May 13, 2023


When you see something, or picture it in your mind, you might be examining a small detail of it, close up.

If it is shown at a distance with a big background, the details fade out. The object can be beautiful, in that context, though. A jewel.

Remember you can zoom.

Zoom out calmly. Zoom in curiously. Zoom thoughtfully.
photo by Brie Jontry

Friday, May 12, 2023

Peace and sharing

Peace and joy make all the other things easier. Children who don't feel crowded or frustrated will find it easier to share.

When things are, sometimes crowded and frustrating, remember not to yell "I told you to share!" (That last part is a joke, but it might help to imagine a smiley-face safety cone near what could be a danger.)
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Thursday, May 11, 2023

What peace is not

To have more peace, it helps to know what is NOT peace, so those harsh states can be avoided.
Outrage is not healthy for unschooling parents.

It's not healthy for anyone, for very long, but it works against unschooling.

Outrage is BIG, visceral, adrenaline-filled RAGE. If your "outrage" is any smaller, use a different word. has a Donald-Duck demonstration.
photo by Marta Venturini, of her peaceful husband

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Patterns and angles

What you see every day can be seen in a different way.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Rules, and problems

Families with rules have a lot to fight about. Couples with a lot of rules have a lot to fight about.

When I wrote that, I had been married for 24 years. As I post it here, I've been married for 39 years. Live lightly.

from a discussion 15 years ago
photo by Holly Dodd, in 2008, the year I wrote what's above

Monday, May 8, 2023

Explore ideas

There is no academic degree that would enable you to answer all your children's questions.
photo by Rosie Moon

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Peace and use

In response to a question in a discussion once, I wrote:
Don't think of your brain. Think of your mind and of your awareness. A little tiny brain can hold a LOT of information. A big fat one can fail to do so. It's not size, it's peace and use.
Shan Burton responded:
OH! This just resonated through my mind and awareness.

What a concise, clear way of expressing it. It feels to me like this is the difference between unschooling learning and school learning. School learning is focused (and not so well, maybe) on pouring things into brains.

Unschooling is about learning, and engagement, and connections, and awareness of things that can get deeper and deeper, throughout life. It works that way for kids and for adults.

Peace and use. I feel like bit is going to be connecting to lots of other things in my mind and awareness for some time to come...

—Shan Burton,
most of that

Those quotes, and more, in context:
photo by Denaire Nixon

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Simple but gigantic

One of the best first steps a family can take toward moving a giant step toward being more positive is to note and back off about anyone or anything they've called "dumb" or "stupid."

It's simple but gigantic.

If things (music, ideas, jokes) are allowed the dignity of being potentially accepted as perhaps good in someone's estimation, lights come on all over that world.

Sandra, on Always Learning, in 2008
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, May 5, 2023

History in the snow

History is all around us, sometimes just sitting out in the snow.

When you think of history, think of engineering, toys, clothes, dishes, food... Think of buildings and of transportation, of bedding, and of books.

Then you can look at the same things as art, or as science, of "antiques," or collections.

The categories aren't as important as the curiosity, appreciation and connections.

photo by Denaire Nixon

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Every day is a day

Today is Star Wars Day. Why?
"'May the 4th' be with you"——that is why.

It wasn't my idea. Learn Nothing Day was my idea. That's still two and a half months away.

"Just because something is silly doesn't mean high-level cognition isn't happening. If humor helps, find it. Make it. Appreciate it in your children."

(same time last year)
photo by Julie D, 2009

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Growing safely

Marta Venturini, in an interview in 2020:

I see deschooling much more than just that process of replacing school with no school. Because to me, radical unschooling is that lifestyle that you were talking about, is that spiritual practice, almost. Because radical unschooling is that to me, deschooling has been so much more. It’s been about personal growth. It’s been about healing.

And so, trying to give Conchinha this safe place, I ended up getting my own safe place, too, in the process.

You can hear the recording here:
and there is a link to the transcript
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Big things happen

Something BIG happens when a person turns away from selfishness to service.

Something HUGE happens when a person can care about another person more than about himself.
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Monday, May 1, 2023

Everything changes

In a discussion, someone challenged the idea of kids have options even about what they wanted to eat, and how. She wrote:
"Eating decisions"?

I picked it up and set it down just a little way from there with this response:
Choices. If ALL of that is changed to a model in which there is food, and people make choices—lots of small choices, not big "decisions"—a hundred hard problems disappear.

In one small moment, if a child can pick up a food or not; smell it or not; taste it or not; keep that bite and chew and swallow, or spit it out; take another bite or not; dip it in something or not; put another food with it or not—EVERYTHING changes.
photo by Sarah S

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Gradually building

Karen James wrote:

In our home, everything we do is an opportunity to learn something new or to make a new connection to something familiar, allowing each of us to gradually build on our unique understanding of the world.
—Karen James
photo by Jo Isaac

Saturday, April 29, 2023

So logically...

Deb Lewis wrote:

Does TV create violence, really? Maybe guns create violence. Knives. Baseball bats. Hammers. Axes, shovels, saws? Rope? Dynamite? Sharp sticks, rocks? Maybe it's language causes violence because most killers spoke. Maybe it's books. Clothing? Day time night time wind rain snow trees birds frogs.

For lots of kids, even the bad guys on TV are nicer than the real life crazy people they live and go to school with.
photo by Tara Joe Farrell

The page also has this quote:
"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?"
—Dick Cavett

Friday, April 28, 2023

Why not?

Creativity and courage are useful for unschooling, and they are traits that an unschooling environment nurtures, in both kids and adults.

Consider why something is or should be. The range of useful and acceptable options is very likely wider than you first thought. What is the purpose? What's the principle?

If you're tempted to say no, out of habit or convenience, first think "why not?" If you don't have an honest, good reason to say no, perhaps it's time to say something like...
Let's try it, or
I'll help you, or
Okay, yes.
photo by Sandra Dodd
(chain guards and other details, India)

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Many tiny leaps?

Progress toward respectful parenting doesn't come all in one great leap from anywhere to peace all day and all night. It's a step at a time toward "better."

(Original; the quote is the best part.)
photo by Jihong Tang

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Each person's learning

"Every person's learning about the world will be piecemeal - so it might as well be serendipitous and interest based."
photo by Rosie Moon

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Be the safest place

A common question is how to "make" children hold the mom's hand. It helps to live in such a way that the child wants to hold the mom's hand.
. . . .
Make yourself your child's safest place in the world, and many of your old concerns will just disappear.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 67
(pages 72-73 in newer edition)
photo by Sarah S.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Safe and fed and warm

Pam Sorooshian:
Learning requires a sense of safety.

Fear blocks learning. Shame and embarrassment, stress and anxiety—these block learning.
Principles of Unschooling

Sandra Dodd:
So don't pressure, coerce or confuse your children.

Smile and laugh and provide.

Keep them safe and fed and warm and they will grow all sorts of ways.
Principles of Learning (chat transcript)
photo by Belinda Dutch

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Swimming in that water

It's fun to watch a fish. It might stay right where it is, however they do that, for a long time. It might change directions. It might dart away.

Try to see your child similarly. He's living in his own environment, in air, maybe walking on the floor or on the ground. He's there whether you're looking or not. He might stay in one place for a long time, or dart off somewhere.

Be at peace with small choices children make. See the beauty of them.

(Be at peace, but be ready to dart after them!)
Desire to learn
photo by Heather Burditt

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Private ideas

I love museums. Museums of any sort are special to me, and sometimes I'm thinking about the building or whose idea it was or where the funding comes from to keep the lights and heat on, and to hire people to keep it all safe and clean.

What others are thinking in a museum, even if they're with me, could never be exactly the same. An object will, without fail, remind me of a personal experience, or of when or where I first learned of such things. If it's SO NEW to me that I'm surprised, I tend to think of which friend of mine, alive or dead, I would most like to share it with, or to ask about it. Sometimes that's my dad, especially if the object is an old truck, or a metal structure.

Sometimes I've been the person one of my kids shared something with. That's sweet, and I get to know a bit about what they're connecting to and with.

Long ago, I came to see the whole world as a museum. I love that, too.
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Friday, April 21, 2023

Beliefs and priorities

Principles instead of rules means not to decide in advance what you're going to do, but to know what you believe and what your priorities are, and then to make decisions based on that. Not to behave arbitrarily, but thoughtfully.

Principles of Learimg (chat transcript)
photo by Holly Dodd, 2014, India

Thursday, April 20, 2023

A peaceful family

Leah Rose wrote:

Turns out that peace isn't actually the absence of discord. It's the presence of trust, and it arises when every member of the family is able to relax into the experience of feeling seen and valued, into the knowledge that his or her needs matter and will be met as often as possible—not *never* denied, but not denied on a whim or without a thoughtful reason. Turns out a peaceful family isn't one in which there are no conflicts. It's one in which there is a solid enough foundation of trust and connection to allow for conflicts to arise and be resolved without injuring the relationships. It took me a long time to see that.
—Leah Rose

about halfway down,
what Leah wrote above has paragraphs before and after.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Real life science

Joyce Fetteroll, responding to a fear-filled mom:

While I'm a big fan of science and have a sciency degree, in terms of helping children I trust the real life experiences of unschoolers far more than I trust scientific studies done on (schooled) children (often with an eye towards getting kids to perform better in school!)

Offering a fear over experience as the basis of decision making isn't going to be helpful to unschooling.
—Joyce Fettroll
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Open to change

It's kind of schoolish, the idea that the more one reads the more one knows. Unschooling is one of those things that isn't accomplished by recitation or test-taking, but only by changing thoughts and actions, beliefs and relationships. It's not easy, it's not quick, and it's not for everyone.
photo by Amy Milstein

Monday, April 17, 2023

Lighter and brighter

The more people who can lighten up, the lighter and brighter the world will be.
(The quote is not from there, but it's a good page.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Children see it

A mom named Nancy, in western Canada, wrote:

Again and again my kids can catch me when I am falling, and help me see the wonder of the small things.I feel so blessed to have this time with them.
—Nancy in BC
photo by Nicole Ní Néill.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Look and rejoice

How much do you need to own to touch a child gently? How much money do you need to have in order to smile?
Look at what you have rather than what you don't have. Look at what is in the world beyond your family and your neighborhood, and rejoice that your child might be able to go out someday and experience things you've never seen or heard or touched or tasted.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of fried potatoes
in a pan we earned with grocery store points
before we had children

Friday, April 14, 2023

Smaller problems

Deb Lewis wrote:

The more you're aware of how good things are when they are good, the easier it will be to wade through the times when things are less good. If you're aware of how lucky you are, everyday problems by comparison can seem smaller, and more manageable."
photo by Cátia Maciel

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Shine on through

What you do shines on, and sometimes through, your children. You affect them, and others can see the effect.
photo by Holly Dodd

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Precious energy

If you're worried about where your child falls on somebody else's bell curve, somebody else's chart, you are spending precious energy you could be spending loving that child. Each child will learn at his own pace no matter WHAT the surroundings are.
photo by Tara Joe Farrell

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

On changing

A mom named Sara P. wrote:

This is still an ongoing process for me. I had to re-train myself in a lot of ways. I had to learn a new language. I had to learn to SEE again. I had to learn how to communicate. I had to learn patience. I had to learn how to put others first. .....WOW! Sometimes an old thought will creep in. Sometimes I find myself answering a question in *teacher tone*...but it is so few and far between, and I am so quick to catch it that nobody ever notices except me!
—Sara P
photo by Marin Holmes

Sunday, April 9, 2023


When a mom comes along all indignant about what she "has to do" for her kids and what she is "NOT going to do" for her kids, I take half-perverse, half-sacred pleasure in asking her, once she winds down, what if she had a child who was unable to walk, or get out of bed, or put on his own socks, ever.

Quote is from a text-chat on
Chores, Serving others as a gift, tales of kids helping out voluntarily

Another good place to read would be "have to" (about choices)
photo by Rosie Moon