Friday, June 30, 2023

Brief and memorable

Sometimes an experience is brief, but memorable. Rather than big lessons, think of small moments that spark thoughts.

Playing with a sparkler is like stirring light into darkness. I like that.
photo by Erika Davis-Pitre

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Priorities among principles

In response to an inquiry about priorities among principles, and whether learning should come before safety, peace, kindness or a strong marriage:
For me, safety is big.

Peace doesn't conflict with learning; it aids it.

Kindness doesn't conflict with learning; it bolsters it.

Learning, peace and kindness make marriages better.
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

One step away

Stop struggling.

What's better?




Thoughts about doing better.
Links to all those things are at

Gratitude and Abundance would help, too.

One way to look things up on my site is to append something you think is in there, to

(like that)
If it doesn't take you directly to your chosen topic, you'll get to a search box.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

What it is

"An apple seed will never grow into an oak tree. An acorn will never grow into a tree that bears fruit. Knowing that, the best thing we can do as parents is to do our very best to nurture the seed we have at every stage of growth it sees."
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Monday, June 26, 2023

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Zippy, slow, zippy...

If your child is having a slow week or month or year, don't worry. If your child is having a zippy brilliant period of life where everything's coming up roses and the backswell of music seems always to accompany his glorious exploits, don't expect that to last day in and day out for sixty years. It won't. It can't. It shouldn't. People need to recuperate from stunning performances.

Life is lumpy; let it be.
photo by Jo Isaac

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Being fun

Live a light and playful life. Be patient and sweet. Be generous.

Play with your children, and gently.

Play with your friends, and kindly.

Be glad when things are fun. Help them be so.

From the "Being" section of The Big Book of Unschooling
(page 202, or 235, depending)
photo by Cátia Maciel

Friday, June 23, 2023

Candy, TV, books and broccoli

Jo Isaac wrote:

While Kai and I were watching Inside Out yesterday, they had a part where broccoli is in the 'disgust' part of Riley's emotions. Kai loves broccoli - it's one of his favourite foods and the first thing he eats if it's on a plate. He said that parents make broccoli disgusting in kids heads because they force them (the kids) to eat it.

In the same way we can make broccoli seem 'disgusting' by forcing it down our kids throats, we can make TV seem more 'attractive' by setting it up as a limited resource with apparently magical powers of 'distraction'.

By giving broccoli the same status as candy, and TV the same status as books and board games, children are free to make the choices that are best for them, and learn the way they learn best.
photo by Sarah S.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

We have fun.

Gwen (willow_selene) wrote:

When Megan was between two and three she would pick an avocado at the beginning of most shopping trips. Then she'd hold onto it while she rode in the cart. She called it "her baby" and she would talk to it while we shopped. She didn't eat avocados then (still doesn't). We'd buy it at the end of the trip and DH would eat it later.
. . . .

At Trader Joe's they hide a stuffed monkey for the kids to find. If the kids tell the cashier they've found the monkey, the cashier will ring a bell and make an "arggh!" sound. Then the child can go pick treat out of a box. Megan always finds the monkey, but doesn't always want the treat. She just likes to find the monkey.

If a display is disordered or packages that are supposed to be hanging aren't, both Megan and Zoe will stop and straighten it up.

I love shopping with my kids. We have fun.

More by Gwen, and others' stories: Stories of Stores
photo by Gwen (willow_selene)

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Food and its purpose

[When my children were little...] I always put the kids' needs ahead of dinner. Dinner happened after or around nursing babies and such.

You might have to do away with the idea of a peaceful mealtime for a few years. Maybe re-thinking meals would be the way to go.

I think it helps rather than to live by the idealized traditional model of dinner at 6:00, all at their seats, dinner conversation that could be reported to the media as an ideal mix of news of the day and philosophy, etc, to think of food and its purpose. People need to be nourished physically and it's uncomfortable to go to sleep hungry. THAT is the purpose of evening food, not the appearance of a well-organized dinner.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of one of the former Dodd babies

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Unschooling style

In response to a question about "learning styles":

People learn different ways, but it's rare (and unnatural) for a person to only learn one way. So the thing to do is to present material and experiences that cover all the ways to learn. Some will do a child more good than others. One child might learn one thing very visually, and another thing tactilely. So instead of wasting ANY time trying to find out how they learn, spend good time learning (yourself) how children learn naturally with all their senses, with all their ways of thinking, or with their own best favorites from moment to moment.

Follow-up from a conference (Minnesota / mha )
photo by Cátia Maciel

Monday, June 19, 2023

Unschooling can prove itself

If both parents are enthusiastic and excited, unschooling can hardly fail.
. . .
It won't work unless people want it to work, and make the changes necessary for it to work.

Unschooling can prove itself if it's not thwarted.
photo by Holly Dodd

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Discovering resources

Meredith wrote:

Sometimes the money question is about fears of not having enough to make home rich and joyful - can we really afford to unschool? Is it expensive? And the answer is yes and no. It takes a lot of resources, but money is just one kind of resource. Time is another—and a big one. If you don't have time to spend with your kids, then unschooling might not be a good choice. Creativity is a useful resource, especially if you're short on money and/or time - you can get by with less creativity if you have more money, though. Adaptability is one of the most vital resources for unschooling - if you don't adapt well to new circumstances, then all the time, money and creativity in the world won't help if you have a child who can't meet all your expectations.
—Meredith Novak
photo by Holly Dodd

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Confidence deepens

Karen James wrote:

"Be present. Be engaged. Celebrate the joy of a child doing anything and everything they feel thrilled about. Notice what they're learning as they play and watch. It's all pretty amazing. Build on what you learn about your child. Confidence deepens when a child is supported in whatever they find captivating. Confidence grows for the parent when they're paying attention to what the child is learning from their chosen activities."
—Karen James
photo by Janine Davies

Friday, June 16, 2023

Feel it; believe it

When you say something to your child, remember to feel it and believe it, or you'll be sending mixed messages, and the tone might be louder than the words. And with babies and toddlers, the tone might be the entirety of the communication.

The quote is from page 208 (or 241) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sarah S.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Beautiful right now

Natasha wrote, to help a new unschooler:

One beautiful aspect of radical unschooling is truly living today with our children, right now. Seeing them as they are in this moment, valuing what they are interested in today, right now.
—Natasha Allan
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Open the window

"Video gaming is so much more than most people see when they are standing on the outside, looking through the window they call 'screen time.'"
—Karen James
Plants vs. Zombies image by Sandra Dodd (my gameplay, too)

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Provide more

Joyce Fetteroll, to someone fearful about not having started sooner:

How could doing better be worse?

You won't help yourself and your family be happy if you keep looking at what you *imagine* life could have been had you been mindfully parenting all along. You are where you are and right this moment you have the opportunity and a growing box of tools to be better. 🙂

When buckets have been empty for so long they've developed holes, it takes a lot of filling before those holes can start closing. But in the meantime having their buckets as full as you can make them will be better than empty. Maybe they won't ever be as full or lacking in holes as they could have been, but what's the alternative you have available right now?
—Joyce Fetteroll

Success with Later Unschooling?
with more, and follow-up

photo by Sandra Dodd
I used this photo once before,
but it IS bucket-shaped lacy water (with flowers), and seemed appropriate today.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Paleolithic unschooling?

Would you rather live in the stone age, or live now?

(Hint: You don't actually have a choice.)

Brie Jontry, responding to someone who said unschooling was the closest to paleolithic, and that unschooling has worked for countless generations:

Paleolithic families had Internet and Netflix and PS3s? Did they have park days and YouTube? Were their parents distinctly turning their backs on the dominant culture and letting them learn in ways that felt kinder and gentler? Were they, in many cases, living at significantly lower income levels so one parent could stay home, at least part-time?

Unschooling is nothing at all like paleolithic life.

Unschooling has worked for a generation or two, but it hasn't been working for countless generations. That kind of thinking might get you all bound up in confusion as your son gets older and more aware of the modern world, and it may hinder your own ability to define what it is your family is actually doing.

Brie's response was longer, and a little scary (in good ways):
photo by Karen James

Sunday, June 11, 2023

This "thing"

A mom in 1995:
Do you use books at all, Sandra?
What do you mean "use books"?
That mom:
As in curriculum, textbooks, etc.
I use books like crazy—we need to look at what you mean by "use."
. . . .
A lot of the problem with discussing all this is philosophical—the definitions of "learn" and "know" and things like that.

If we talk about what we "do" and "use" and "are" instead of what's happening in and with our children we dance around the "thing" without seeing the "thing" (and the next philosophical problem is: what is this "thing"?)
photo by Colleen Prieto

P.S. In the days of text chats, there would be ten or twenty people in the chat, rolling over each other. I wasn't saying I used a lot of texbooks; I was still responding to her first question. Reading chats is a bit different, but for those who didn't get to be in any, there was overlap and lag and confusion, and they were fun, too.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Help with decisions

"I've helped my kids by going toward what they wanted, and been generous, and they've been the same toward me. Sweet. I like it when I'm trying to make a decision on something, and they asked the same things I've asked of them."
—Jill Parmer
photo by Jihong Tang

Friday, June 9, 2023

Seeing gifts

Colleen Prieto, April 2013

We just watched a documentary called Lost Castles of England. My 10 year old loves Star Trek and so he was particularly thrilled that it was narrated by Leonard Nimoy. 🙂

We paused - oh - probably at least 25 times during the documentary to look up things ranging from "When was the Bronze Age?" and "What exactly is Stonehenge anyway?" to "Who were the Normans?" and "How exactly big is England?" and "They killed the garrison... What's a garrison??"

We also paused a bunch of times as he described how he's going to be getting up early tomorrow to start work in Minecraft right away - he plans to build a motte-and-bailey timber castle, as described in the documentary. He asked me to keep the documentary in our Netflix queue so he can refer to it as needed for the particulars.

When the show ended, he stood up from the couch and proclaimed "That was AWESOME. And the whole time it was Spock. Spock just GIVING you interesting history stuff!!!"

It hit me right away that he didn't say "Spock teaching you history" or "A show teaching you history" or anything about teaching at all. He doesn't see things in terms of Being Taught. In his mind, he received a gift of new knowledge and facts this evening. A gift given by Spock, which made it all the better. 🙂

Note from Sandra:
Colleen's son, Robbie, is twenty years old, as I share this. The story above has been on the page about "learning" for a long time, quietly helping others.

What Teaching Never Can Be
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Good for a long time

If parents don't heal from those kinds of issues in their own childhoods, they will likely be perpetuated onto the next generation. Parents discovering and letting go of their old baggage is essential for unschooling to flourish.

And, as well as being good for unschooling, it's also good for the parents themselves, their children, family and other relationships, and generations to come!
—Debbie Regan
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Which direction?

Each journey begins with a single step, they say, but steps in the wrong direction don't get you to a good place. Milling around for a thousand steps without regard to the intended goal isn't "a journey."
photo by Jihong Tang

Tuesday, June 6, 2023


Some parents express their learning as "struggle" or "challenge," but those words are antagonistic. Try to relax, and try not to feel that you're wrestling (with your child's desires, or with your own thoughts).

If you can find softer words, you will experience softer emotions.
photo by Vlad Gurdiga

Monday, June 5, 2023

Aim high; be generous

I've given this advice to newlyweds, and to my oldest child the first time he had a roommate:
Don't aim for 50/50.

If 50% is right, then 49% is wrong, and 65% would be something get angry about.

If you both aim for more than half, you'll meet around the middle, around half the time. If you want the other person to stick around, "around" is the goal.
photo by Dan Vilter

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Moment of sweetness

"Everything you do now, when your kids are young, matters. All the little kindnesses matter, every little moment of sweetness between you, every time you choose to be thoughtful of the smallest things."
—Deb Lewis
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Power and worth

"What creates power and worth is taking single, conscious steps toward being the kind of person one would like to be. Making better choices."

Marta Venturini quoted me, on Facebook, in June 2011, and I can't find the quote elsewhere, to link to. It might've been on a recording or in a chat that was never published, maybe.

What's most interesting to me is that yesterday's post here was me (in 2009) discouraging someone from a focus on "power" (It's not about power), and the day before that was about things being "worthwhile." (Is it worthwhile?)

Here and there, over the years, I have reminded parents to avoid situations in which a child feels powerless. Life has realities, and we don't always have choices. Parents should avoid casual neglect of providing options for unschooled kids at home. You probably have the power to do that.

Thoughtful and sweet
photo by Cátia Maciel

Friday, June 2, 2023

It's not about power

Once upon a time, a newer but enthusiastic unschooler came to a discussion explaining the "we" (all of us) should agree that unschooling was about power—power over oneself, and the power to decide what to learn and when (and more dramatic power-based rhetoric).

Some of my response is below, and near the photo credit is a link to the full post.
We don't talk about power here much, but we have given our children a life of choices. It's not "power," it's rational thinking, considering all sorts of factors and preferences. They don't need power over themselves. They need to BE themselves.

"The power to decide what to learn" makes a pretzel of the straight line between experience and knowing.

My children don't "decide what to learn, how to learn, and when to learn it." They learn all the time. They learn from dreams, from eating, from walking, from singing, from conversations, from watching plants grow and storms roll. They learn from movies, books, websites, and asking questions.

Power over oneself, unschooling and "politics"
photo by Amy Milstein

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Is it worthwhile?

The only things that should be finished are those things that seem worthwhile to do.

When I'm reading a book, I decide by the moment whether to keep reading or to stop. Even writing this post, I could easily click out of it and not finish, or I could finish it and decide not to post it. Choices, choices, choices.
photo by Luna Elizabeth Short