Saturday, September 30, 2023

In a drop of water

Universe-in-a-Drop-of-Water Method:

Can one intense interest come to represent or lead to all others? A mom once complained that her son was interested in nothing but World War II. There are college professors and historians who are interested in nothing but World War II. It can become a life’s work. But even a passing interest can touch just about everything—geography, politics, the history and current events of Europe and parts of the Pacific, social history of the 20th century in the United States, military technology, tactics, recruitment and propaganda, poster art/production/distribution, advances in communications, transport of troops and food and supplies, espionage, prejudices, interment camps, segregation, patriotism, music, uniforms, insignia, religion....

from "Disposable Checklists for Unschoolers"
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Friday, September 29, 2023


If your family’s priority is learning, you can spend time in no better way than playing with and rearranging the ideas you already have and incorporating bits of what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel and think.
Photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Thoughtful choices are better

Arbitrary rules will never be better for unschooling, nor for any relationship, than thoughtful choices will be. Unschooling parents must gradually learn to make thoughtful choices themselves and give their kids the opportunity to make choices.

The quote is from an interview
but here's a link to
Making the better choice
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Mainstream advice often reminds moms not to worry, that kids will be just fine. Kids are resilient. Kids won't remember.

For purposes of helping people see how unschooling can work, advice that seems (though perhaps it wasn't intended) to say that moms shouldn't worry or feel responsible seems headed the wrong direction.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Unscheduled togetherness

Sabine Mellinger wrote:

This is my 15 year old son with his dog.

I was looking at this picture and thinking about how one of the most beautiful parts (and unexpected effects) of unschooling is the time it allows to live life. You can’t schedule moments like these. This is true for questions asked, discussions had, problems solved together, laughing together and being sad together. Life happens and to be able to enjoy it in the moment is magical.
—Sabine Mellinger
photo by Sabine Mellinger

Monday, September 25, 2023

Gratitude and abundance

If unschooling parents can move away from hatred and fear, and toward gratitude and abundance, their children's lives are profoundly better. (And the parents' lives are, too.)
photo by Colleen Paeff

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The value of input

When someone wrote, "We don't value TV, we live our values by not having one," I responded:

I value input, information and learning. I've seen immeasurable learning in my kids and others from things they have seen in movies, on TV, in online videos, heard on the radio, read in magazines, picked up in conversations with others, heard in public presentations or from tour guides or from books. To eliminate some part of that input out of fear would have made my children's world smaller.
photo by Karen James

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Positive and beautiful

Alex Polikowsky wrote:

Fear of electromagnetic waves? What if I tell you they are everywhere and that even earth has it?? (hey I am a huge Aurora Borealis aficionado!!)

Living with all this fear is not fun and it is anxiety inducing. Anxiety is a terrible state for you or your child to live in. Learning thrives when there is peace and safety.

Feeling unsafe because your library has wifi and making life about the dangers around is a soul sucking way to live for your children and for yourself.

Surround yourself with all that is positive and beautiful including amazing wifi!
—Alex Polikowsky
photo by my neighbor, Linda G., visiting Iceland

Friday, September 22, 2023

Thinking more clearly

This picks up in the midst of something, but endure the first two sentences and it will make sense.

'How do "we"' is a problem. The person is asking (I think) whether WE will support HER limiting her child. Each of us acts after consideration of what we know and believe, what our priorities are, what other factors (partners, grandparents, home-owner/landlord, religion, local laws)... But I acted with and toward my children as a partner in the way, in each moment, that seemed sensible and helpful to me, as much as was in my power in that moment. If I didn't do great, I would plan to do better in future moments. If I was happy with my actions, I'd try to remember what I was thinking so I could do that again in the future. But there wasn't a "we" except me and the child I was dealing with.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Seeing unschooling more clearly

An interviewer asked "What are the essential components for unschooling to flourish? I responded:

Perhaps it’s more process than component. Parents must deschool themselves. Gradually, but not TOO gradually, they should examine the schoolish ideas and assumptions that come up in them, and see if they can lay them out to dry. They can file them away as school memories, and as outdated assumptions, or as tools that could hamper unschooling’s success.

Even if parents were to create the richest physical environment and a schedule for their kids that involved being home plenty, and going out into the interesting world often, if the parents are looking at the children through school-colored glasses, it will not become unschooling.

Interview by Luna Maj Vestergaard, in early 2023
photo by Linda Wyatt

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Maybe not too late

Pam Sorooshian wrote in 2007:

I never "got it" about chores until it was really almost too late....

What I regret is that I didn't figure out ways to do stuff like this when the kids were younger. I wish I'd made housework entirely optional, but then made it enticing for them to do it with me or with each other, so that they'd have still helped out, but without the tone of it being demanded. These days, when one of my daughters and I wash dishes together, it is fun, because they really know that they have a choice, that I won't be annoyed if they turn me down, so no resentment on their part. Very very worth the extra work I had and often still have to do.
—Pam Sorooshian

Making the Shift!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Life at home is blooming

A mom named Heather wrote:

Sandra Dodd & Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll, I came to unschooling to provide a better way to learn for my kids. Then I came to radical unschooling because I discovered it was about more than school. Now I'm discovering my hang-ups about food / nutrition / healthy food obsessions / weekend "junk" binges and controlling the groceries in our home and now radically unschooling (and your wisdom!) is helping me to unravel these problems and live wholly in the area of food too! Radical unschooling has SO MUCH been about me discovering issues I didn't even know I had, and life at home is blooming. I can't thank you enough for sharing your knowledge!
photo by Sarah S, who took the photo in September 2023, of candy that's available for her kids anytime, and invites us to note there is still Easter candy in there

Monday, September 18, 2023

Embracing what is

A mom named Tracey wrote:

I am finding that it is when I can most fully let go of what 'should be' and most fully embrace 'what is' that I glimpse the joy and connection which is the heart of unschooling. It isn't easy, I don't always manage it and it is taking lots of practice, but I think I'm slowly getting there.

I guess it is the heart of why unschooling seems to me like a spiritual practice—the same one to be found in all the mystical traditions of the world, that of being in the moment, embracing what is and experiencing the fullness of that.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Priorities, influence, reading

A story from when Kirby was in his late teens:

Kirby was reading aloud the other night from a gaming manual to that big batch of guys who went to see Pirates of Penzance with us. Kirby and Marty really wanted to go to the play. As things turned out, three unexpected others went with us. That was fine. They went because they were involved in a roleplaying game, and wanted to continue it later, and because they trust Kirby and Marty's judgement about what's cool.

They had fun, and came back and played several hours longer afterward. But Kirby, one of the youngest of the seven there, and one of the "least educated," was reading difficult material aloud to attentive others, one of whom... has a college degree, one of whom has two years of college, and none of whom had any reason to say, "Let me read that." He could've been reading it for taping, or radio. Expressive, clear, no hesitation.

He's confident in his skin, in his mind, and in his being.
He's not afraid of his parents.
He goes to sleep happy and he wakes up glad.

My priorities could have been different.

Kirby is in his 30s now, married, and reads each night to two little girls. I wish I could hear it sometimes.
photo by Sandra Dodd— not of that night's game, but there's Kirby in black to the right, and Marty in green, with other unschoolers

Saturday, September 16, 2023

"Playing computer"

When someone wrote "I do worry about my boys playing computer all day," I responded:

I have three kids who have played hundreds of games among and between them—Holly learned two new card games just this month that nobody else in the family knows, even her dad who has been a big games guy all his life. There is no game called "computer." I think you mean playing ON the computer. HUGE difference.

We have dozens of nice board games here, and table games (games involving cards or other pieces, to be laid out on a table as play proceeds), but those aren't referred to as kids playing board, or kids playing table. The computer is not itself the game. There are games on the computer. There is information on the computer. It's not really a net. It's not really a web. It's millions of ideas, words, jokes, pictures, games, a ton of music and videos and.... But you know that, right?

Clarity can begin with being careful with the words you use. Thinking about what you write will help you think about what you think!!


(halfway down this brief page)

Thanks to Marcia Simonds for sharing that quote years back.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of my kids
playing Zoombinis in 1999

Friday, September 15, 2023

Wade in and understand it

It's okay to change gradually. It's okay to say "I'm working on something," or "We're looking into something," or "We're going to try this for a while." It's good to wade in and understand it before trying to defend it fullscale.

Action and understanding
photo by Tam King

Thursday, September 14, 2023

States of being

Sometimes wind is blowing and sometimes it's still. Usually water is wet, but in some times and places it can be ice.

I have vivid memories of being childless. I had babies, and children, and teens (not all at the same time). Now I'm a grandmother.

May your status and your transitions be peaceful and calm, with joys to discover.
photo by Tessa Onderwater

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

"I feel it in my fingers..."

Karen James, on math:

I took the leap and we began homeschooling, with me trusting that like walking, talking, reading, writing, and all the other things he had managed to learn through his play and exploration and with our active support, he would come to have a meaningful understanding of math too. When I came to a greater understanding of unschooling, I suspected we had not made a error in judgement. As I have watched Ethan's relationship with math grow and deepen, I knew we had not.

What I didn't realize when I was worrying about how to bring math to Ethan, was that Ethan had already found math. He found it on his fingers. He found it in the seeds of an apple I had cut open. He found it in the peas spread over the tray on his high chair. He found it in every repeated drop of his cup or spoon. He found it in the music we listened to. He found it in the timing between jumps on his jolly jumper. He found it in the balance he needed to take the next step. He found it in the distance between steps. It was everywhere already, and he was already finding the art in it. I just needed to stop my worrying and start having fun.

So I have.
—Karen James
photo by Belinda Dutch

The title isn't from the quote, it's from a 1967 Troggs song.

In 2023, Ethan James is newly grown up and working at a video game company, at least for a while.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Natural forces

With the right set-up, wind or water or sun can create power. Natural things can cause big changes.

When unschooling is working well, questions, conversations, jokes or songs bring powerful thoughts and profound changes.

With the right set-up everyday life can create power.
photo by Shawn Smythe Haunschild

Monday, September 11, 2023

Maintain and replenish

If you think you haven't done enough for your children lately, do more. The richer and safer your children's environment,the more interesting and open to input and entertainment and encouragement, the more learning will happen, whether you're at home or in the car or on another continent.

Maintain and replenish your children's learning environment.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The best things

Most of the best things that have happened, I didn’t foresee. I just can’t bring myself to think that a day spent laughing and smiling and doing things that are enjoyable is bad.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Accepting support

Paula wrote:

I WANTED to be a thoughtful, respectful parent.
I wanted to say yes as much as possible, and respect and enjoy my children for who they are, not who I thought they should be.
—Paula F.

There is more of how Paula got to that resolution, at "Support" can be a problem.
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Friday, September 8, 2023

Part of the solution

Joyce wrote:

If we're creating an atmosphere of power struggle, the kids will fight back to win. If we're creating an atmosphere of problem solving, the kids will feel part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Julie D

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The world is new

Simple, pretty things should be valued. The world is new to every child.

Being directly with children can help parents see the newness in the world.
photo by Abby Davis

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Direct and profound

Unschoolers are not sitting in the back corner of the homeschooling world doing nothing. We're doing something direct and profound.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Healing for parents

Providing a rich life for one's child is a healing opportunity for the parent.
photo by Rosie Moon

Monday, September 4, 2023

Swirly world

If you want unschooling to work just because you stick the curriculum under the couch, it won't! Get the world swirling around you (first) and your children (second) so there are sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures for them to process and build their internal model of the universe from. GET MOVING, mentally and physically.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Concentrate (a bit)

Unschool as well as you can, and lots of the side questions disappear. Part of unschooling well is keeping a fairly peaceful environment.

Making choices about being more peaceful is like making other choices.
photo by Karen James

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Thirteen Light Years

Today is the 13th Anniversary of the first Just Add Light and Stir post. The 14th year begins today.

The parts of the post are a photo (usually by an unschooler), a quote (or some new writing by me), a link (to the quote's context, or to something related) and sometimes a bonus link. That will look like this:

A "bonus link" usually indicates that a post is working from a phone. I leave them there as a marker for myself, and an easter egg for others. There are still posts I haven't tweaked, but I work on some just about every day. It's fun to see photos and ideas and stories that have gone by but are still as sweet as when they were new.

Please do view the blog from a computer sometimes, if you usually use a phone, so you can use the big randomizer, and the photo tags. If you want to see all the photos by one person, use the search at the blog.

Thanks for reading!
—Sandra Dodd
photo by Renee Cabatic


Friday, September 1, 2023

Be amazed

When someone asked"What are some good ways to teach a 3 1/2 year old during a grocery store visit?" Joyce Fetteroll responded:

Don't teach. Just look at *everything* with new eyes and you'll see how amazing:
automatic doors and scanners and scales and deli ticket machines are and all the different kinds of fish and lobsters and

how many different sounds you can hear when you close your eyes and

the man wearing a polka dot bow tie and

how high up the cereal is stacked (lift her up to get one🙂) and

whether there are more tie shoes or slip ons on the people in the store and

how you can draw pictures on the inside of the glass doors of the freezer after they're opened and they frost over and

whether the different coffee beans and candles and apples smell different and

whether she likes blueberries or raspberries or blackberries better and

how many different kinds of circle cereal there are and

how the different types of potatoes feel and

whether people say Hi when you say Hi to them and

how many different kitties or different types of pets there are on the products in the pet food aisle and

whether the stories in the Weekly World News are true or not (well, maybe for an older kid since at 3 *anything* is possible) 🙂 and

whether you recognize the Muzak version of the song playing and....
Just live life amazed. 🙂
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd, 2009, Norfolk, UK