Friday, March 31, 2023

Thinking, seeing beings

Children have been whole, thinking, seeing beings since the day they were born. Assisting them to learn and to find their strengths and to explore the world and its possibilities is preparing them for their unseen futures.

Mommy-labs Interview, October 2012
("Children" replaces "they," to allow the quote to make sense out of context.)

photo: Young Adam Daniel, by his mom, Julie

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Solidly optimistic

Unschooling is a profoundly optimistic decision and that it involves a huge commitment to living a very optimistic life.

I think it is possible that THE most significant thing unschooling does is nurture optimism.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Jihong Tang

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Be careful

Improved is better than failed. Solid and long-lasting is better than painful and disrupted.
Be gentle, be careful, with your thoughts, responses, facial expressions, and touch. Be sweet and soft to your family.
photo by Jo Isaac

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Quirky learning

I'm completely sure of unschooling because I believe in people's desire and ability to learn wonderful things in quirky ways if they're given the opportunity.
photo by Phoebe Wyllyamz

Monday, March 27, 2023

Just say no

If people want you to be disdainful of your children
or to treat them harshly,
just say no.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 46 (or 50)
on the page that links to Logic
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Go beyond normal

Being a good parent, not according to a list in a magazine, or vague memories of what grandparents might have thought or said, but being a good parent in the eyes of one's children, in one's examined soul, is a big thing most parents never even see a glimpse of.

We can go beyond normal.

Two or three nice things
(featuring the same people, more recently)

photo by Janine Davies

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Friday, March 24, 2023

Another step; another

Those who divide the world into academic and non-academic will maintain rules, bedtimes, chores even though they might not be "having lessons" in history, science, math or language arts.

So the history of "radical unschooling" came from someone saying "Well we're not that radical," and me saying "well I am."
I think if people divide their lives into academic and non-academic, they're not radical unschoolers.

I think unschooling in the context of a traditional set of rules and parental requirements and expectations will work better than structured school-at-home, but I don't think it will work as well for the developing souls and minds of the children involved.

And those who are not radical unschoolers would look at that and say "What do their souls have to do with unschooling?"

It has to do with philosophy and priority.

What do you believe is the nature of man, and the duty of a parent?

What do you believe hinders a child, or harms the relationship between a parent and a child?

Real actual unschooling
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Good things swirl

Adam, young, on a kids ride

Debbie Regan wrote:

Children prosper when parents are able to provide enough sense of safety, calmness and support, that feelings of peace and joy are close at hand. From there the business of childhood—exploring and learning about the world can progress unimpeded by stress. Stress is a distraction from the natural flow of curiosity, focus, joy, excitement, engagement, creativity, emotional awareness, learning...

The more peace and mindfulness I bring in my home, the more all those good things swirl around.

—Debbie Regan

The quote was in a passing discussion, but you might like this:
Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
photo by Julie D

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Honest enthusiasm

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Think in terms of nurturing your own enthusiasm about life rather than nurturing their enthusiasm. Don't jump up and down about George Washington if he puts you to sleep. Be honest in your pursuit of what interests you. Let them see that you think something is really cool. Not to get them interested in something you think would be good for them but an honest "Wow! I love this stuff!" And ask questions about life. Be curious. Because it's the questions that are important. Anyone can look up the answers but not everyone can ask the questions.
—Joyce Fetteroll
(includes a link to a French translation)
photo by Marin Holmes

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Snowbanks and socks

Colleen Prieto wrote:

I was thinking the other day about husbands and chores and how many people I've heard say that it shouldn't be their job to pick up after their husband. I never thought of picking up my husband's things as being my cleaning up after him - I've only thought of it as cleaning our house. Does it matter whose laundry or dishes they are? Does he shovel only his own side of the driveway and leave me to climb snowbanks to get to my side of the car? Dividing things yours-and-mine, even socks, in one's internal thoughts doesn't seem to add much happiness.

quote from Chores, Serving others as a gift, tales of kids helping out voluntarily
but another good link would be
Why 50/50 is a problem
photo by SandraDodd
of Ester Siroky's kitchen, one day

Monday, March 20, 2023

One special place

Near you there are many many plain and simple things that you might overlook for being commonplace, everyday, throwaway background sights, sounds, smells, tastes or textures.

What are walls and fences made of where you are? Some other places, it is very different. How does the air feel and smell when it's cold? What's the first plant that might volunteer to grow in a bare spot? What little animals might you see, and what birds do you hear? What do people throw away that a tourist might pick up and keep? What food is readily available, that everyone knows how to make, and has the ingredients for on hand nearly always?

When you look as far to the east as you can see, what is the view? Turn around and look the other way, too.

Where you are is exotic to most of the rest of the world. Most other people will never see it. Knowing that your plainness is someone else's curiosity can make your life richer.

Sometimes, when you look, listen, taste, feel, smell, close your eyes and rest, remember that you are in one special place.

Creating Abundance, by Deb Lewis

or Your House as a Museum

photo by Oshan in Sri Lanka
(click for a slightly wider view)

Sunday, March 19, 2023

To Do (instead of school)

Karen James wrote:
Play. A lot. Wonder. A lot. Listen. Observe. Smile. A lot.

Pay close attention to your children. Really see what they are doing, what they are interested in, what they are enjoying, what frustrates them, what they like and what they don't like.

Notice how they think. Notice what kinds of things bring them delight. Delight in those things with them. Find ways to add to their experiences. Be open to the things you bring being passed over. Notice what kinds of things are embraced.

Karen wrote more: Karen James on Deschooling
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Using tools

When I was a kid, humans used tools and that made us human, but that's no longer "the truth." Chimpanzees can use a leaf as a sponge to gather water out of a hole. They will lick a stick and put it down a hole to collect insects (termites? ants? I don't know what). They will move things to climb up on to get something they can't reach.

Marty says he thinks maybe elephants will pick up a stick to knock something down that's higher than their trunks. If they haven't, they should.

So what, these days, are "tools"? My computer? Google? Wikipedia? My new glasses? That electric teakettle I'm about to go and heat water with?

We talk about parenting tools, and people adding to their toolboxes, and those are all in the realm of thought (and action proceeding from thought, but without physical tools).

"Tools" (on the Thinking Sticks blog)

Little Tools for an Epic Life
photo by Amy Milstein

Friday, March 17, 2023


Unschooling shouldn't involve battling, struggling or fighting.

Negative Approaches to Peace
photo by Diane Marcengill

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Choosing to

I think the elimination of "have to" is the first step toward peace.

Thinking you "have to" do the dishes feels oppressive and entrapping.

Realizing you don't "have to" is freeing.

Only then can you choose to do your dishes.

The best way to make it easier is to see it as a gift given in joy, rather than "a chore" done in resentment.

It's a huge investment in the future, to be generous today.

Chores, and serving others as a gift
(a chat transcript)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The nature of things

Things do what they can do. Some things we affect, and others we can't.

Rivers are flowing whether people are looking or not.

Children play, and ask questions, and examine new things, and ideas.

Children will learn whether people are looking or not, but for unschooling to work well, parents should be involved in providing an environment of safe, soft, interesting materials and experiences. They should be new and different sometimes and comfortingly familiar sometimes. Not the same all the time.

When relationships are comfortable and adults are attentive, learning will flow even when you're not looking.

In Full Flow
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Keep food clean

"No one likes a sandwich made by a martyr."
—Diana Jenner

"It's hard to swallow around a big lump of guilt."
—Schuyler Waynforth

The sweetest thing about food might be the love with which it is given.


but matches Don't taint the ice cream
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, March 13, 2023

See the sweetness

Find the best in each moment, the best moments in each hour, and by focusing on what is sweet and good, you will help others see the sweetness and goodness, too.
photo by Ester Siroky

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Tiny improvements build up

Although ["make the better choice"] is useful in the moment, its best use is for incremental change. If my best choice used to be to yell or hit, and I yelled, then the next time I thought about it, hitting wasn't even going to begin to be one of my choices. Would I yell or wait? Or yell or speak quietly? Yell or leave the room? Maybe leave out the yelling, and choose between "speak quietly" or "breathe before speaking."
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Positively winning

Someone else's question, and part of my answer:
As much as I read,... I seem to slide right back into schoolish ways. How long does it take to really break that bad habit?

If you think of it in negative terms ("bad" and not just "break" but "really break"), you will just sit in that negativity, frustrated, forever. You will feel there had to be a winner (you) or a loser (you) and you will be angry with yourself.

The change you need is to live a different way. Step out of the grumpy dark into the calm decision-making choose-joy light.
photo by Sandra Dodd

That was written before "Read a little, try a little, wait a while watch." It was also before the pages on Negativity and Positivity.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Softer, sweeter moments

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

It's such a big part of our culture to get it done now, fix it all now, make it happen now, do, do, do, do. Sometimes what life really requires is calm and patience. A very valuable thing to learn in life is to how to take care of ourselves and others during times of stress and times that aren't ideal and wonderful.

I think that's part of "stopping and smelling the roses." If you don't take that time, you miss some pretty wonderful bits of life. When there is stress and other negative influences happening around us, it's even MORE important to take that time to seek out the beauty and the softness and the sweet and light and happy things.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Compassion for passions

Kelly Lovejoy, on the thoughts that help parents to deschool:

What are your passions? HOW did you learn to do those things? In a classroom?

Two of my passions as a child were dogs and horses. Dogs and horses are NOT taught in any grade, middle, or high school *I* know of. But I wanted to learn everything I could about them. My parents gave me dogs and horses. They bought me books and paid for me to take riding lessons and dog obedience classes. They paid for dog and horse shows and equipment. My passion threw me into reading every book I could find (there were no videos back then—nor "Animal Planet").

By twelve I could identify every breed of dog and horse that I had ever seen or read about and tell you how it was developed, where, why, and by whom. I spent every weekend and every afternoon at a dog show/horse show/event/trial or just hanging around the stable or kennel. I asked thousands of questions and "got my hands dirty." Many of my friends were adults with the same passions. Training, breeding, grooming, showing, husbandry—all of these things I learned because I was consumed by them!

But, of course, dogs and horses are NOT school subjects—and are completely unimportant in the school world. What if I had waited for a teacher to come along and say, "Today we are learning all about dog and horses"? Not only would I have waited all my life, the teacher would only have given me a "taste" of the subject!

OH! And you *can't* make a living with dogs and horses—right?

Stage one is often referred to as DEschooling. It's the period of time we need to give ourselves in order to "step away from the box" of school and school-think. Ask yourself why and how you learned your passion: whether it was music, cooking, flying, gardening, or long-distance running. Or even more "academic-like" passions, like Shakespeare, chemistry, World War II, or a foreign language. When you are comfortable with how learning happens by indulging in passions and making connections in your learning, you are quickly heading towards stage two.

—Kelly Lovejoy

from "Stages of Unschooling"
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Change in ourselves

"Unschooling is *much* harder than school at home because it takes a great deal of self examination and change in ourselves to help our kids and not get in their way!"
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Megan Valnes

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Passing real tests

Sandra Dodd, of Holly Dodd (Holly was 12 and told an older story, in 2003):
My husband's oldest brother came to visit and she and Marty discussed how to deal with his quizzy questions, usually math. She told me a story from when she was littler, maybe eight. Uncle Gerry had been here, and Holly was brushing her teeth. He stood watching her, and started in about how important it is to brush teeth and floss, because (as Holly reported, he said in a teacherly voice) "Do you know how many sets of teeth you have in this lifetime?"

Holly said, "Two?" (in a kind of "is this a trick question" tone) and she said he was already holding up his index finger as the "one" of the coming "right answer," and he added another finger and sheepishly said, "That's right. Two."

So Holly won a big point and never even told us about it at the time. Cool story. I don't think he quizzed them this time. It's getting to the point that they're likely to know something he doesn't know and he likes to maintain his semblance of superiority. LOL!

original (2/3 down that topic)
Update in 2021, Holly 29 years old, and Gerry having recently been in town when Holly was here, too. Holly was very helpful to her uncle, driving him to an auto parts store and helping him figure out what his plan might be to get back to Alamogordo, if his car couldn't be fixed easily. She's nearly 30 now, and he's in his mid-70s. After she left, he went on for a while about how helpful and good-hearted and wonderful she is. I appreciated hearing it, and passed it on to her later.
photo by Irene Adams (Holly's aunt; my sister)

Holly was seven in this photo, with more of her first set of teeth, casually preparing for Uncle Gerry's quiz-to-come the next year.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Let life change you, in a good way

A heron standing in the woods
Colleen Prieto wrote:

Both my husband and I have, through unschooling, gotten into the wonderful habit of immersing ourselves right alongside our son, in his interests, for as long as he's interested. And we've learned and grown and enjoyed ourselves quite thoroughly in the process.

It is definitely funny, in a good way, how life changes you if you let it.
—Colleen Prieto
quote and photo both by Colleen Prieto

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Peaceful acceptance

When kids trust that parents would give them more options if they could, it adds to peaceful acceptance.

If I had magic to make it all easier, I would share it with all of you.

just as Covid lockdowns began in 2020

Options in real life
photo by Rosie Moon

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Safe and happy success

Eva Witsel wrote:

I can spend my energy on limiting my child's world so that he will be safe and happy or I can spend my energy on helping my child learn the skills to navigate our world himself so that he will be safe and happy. I think the latter has a better chance of success in the long term.
—Eva Witsel
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Friday, March 3, 2023

Please and thank you

This was written in 2005, so note the update below.
My husband and I always said please and thank you to each other, and friends would comment on it, when were were dating and first living together. They said they don't say "please" for a glass of water or "thank you" for a kleenex. We always did, though, and still do. The kids picked it up easily because they heard it all the time.

Today's our 21st wedding anniversary.
We were together for six years before that.
We still say please and thank you, and we say it to the kids, too.


Later this month we will have our 39th anniversary.

When Keith thanks me for making a meal, I thank him for having bought the groceries. Tonight he thanked me for making a fire, and I thanked him for the firewood.

Experiments and experiences
photo by Rachael Rodgers, in 2016
when we'd been married 32 years

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Look directly

Look at your child directly, and not through the lens of other people's fears. See the joy and learning and doing and being. Be with your child in moments, not in hours or weeks or semesters.

photo by Colleen Prieto

Wednesday, March 1, 2023


"Mindset" is an odd word, and not an old one.

If I've been listening to, talking about, singing or playing music for a few hours or days, I think in music more than usual.

When a long conversation about politics occurs, I might dream about those things. My brain needs to shake itself loose and re-set.

Twice this week I have played a card game called "Blink" with young grandkids, two different sets of them. With no numerals or words, cards are played to match by number, color, or shape.

When I was looking for a photo for Just Add Light, I saw this one and thought One; black; bird. Round; red.

It reminded me sweetly of four children who are, this week, five, four, three and two years old.

If mindsets can be affected and changed, try to lean toward music and laughter when you have the option.
photo by Sandra Dodd