Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Thought, emotion and awareness

When someone recommends turning full on toward the child, that means don't keep reading your newspaper or your computer screen. Pause the video. Put down the gardening tools. It doesn't mean stare at the child until he finishes his story. It means to be WITH him, with him in thought, and with him in emotion if needed, and with him in awareness.

photo by Lydia Koltai

Monday, October 30, 2023

Don't be schooly or schoolish.

Paul McCartney was doing okay musically without knowing musical notation.

I would hate to even start to imagine how many potential musicians just turned away from the idea of singing or playing instruments because they were pressed to learn music theory and notation at a young age.

They can just learn. That’s what unschooling is about.

Take away the school, the school language and practices and expectations.

And all that’s left is the learning.

Don’t be schooly or schoolish.

Be UN schoolish.

Chat with Sandra Dodd on Mommy Chats, 4/25/07
photo by Marty Dodd, of a jack-o-lantern he started, and let squirrels finish

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Living lightly and musically

from a chat on Musical Intelligence:

Howard Gardner sorted out the areas in which one individual might be GREAT, quick, but other people are slower, less interested. And he objects to "intelligence" being measured with just math and verbal ability.

Encourage your kids to play with music in all kinds of ways. They're learning and growing. Help them turn the scary music off, if they're scared. Encourage them to appreciate other people's artistry.

Live lightly and musically. And if you have a kid who doesn't seem very musical, don't worry a bit.

Musical Intelligence (chat transcript)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 28, 2023

People learn by playing.

My kids were always the most exhausted not after a day of physical activity, but after a day of intense learning. If they saw things they had never seen, got to do something they’d never done, met new people and played and talked, they slept like rocks.

Sometimes the most intense learning of all looks like play. And that is central to what makes unschooling work.

What makes unschooling work is that children learn by playing. Older kids too. Adults, too.

People learn by playing.

Chat with Sandra Dodd on Mommy Chats, 4/25/07
photo by Janine Davies

Friday, October 27, 2023

Releasing expectations

I suspect that any time a parent new to unschooling starts thinking "This isn't working" it is because they are holding on to an expectation.

Expectations can get in the way of seeing what is really happening.
—Robyn Coburn

photo by Irene Adams

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Choices and thought processes

"I think to do unschooling well, it is a fundamental element to have an examined life. To be mindful of our choices and understand our thought processes."
—Rippy Dusseldorp

photo by Sarah Scullin

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Gradually understanding

Don't do anything you don't understand. Figure out gradually how and whether you want to change what you're doing. Don't do anything because you vaguely think unschoolers "have to." THAT is wrong.

Read a bit now and then, and let it seep in gradually.

Lifted from something at
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Monday, October 23, 2023

Slowly becoming wise

As children grow, parents age. Learning with them and from them and near them is learning we didn't expect.

Becoming a better parent is becoming a better person.

Unexpected Benefits of Unschooling
photo by Colleen Prieto

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Pattern blocks, side by side

Marcia Miller wrote:

Wooden pattern blocks are wonderful in so many ways. You can create designs with them, build with them, and play games with them. You can talk about their colors, shapes, angles, and how they relate to each other. You can lay them out in repetitive patterns or beautiful mosaics. You don’t need lessons for any of these things, only time and space to play.

The best part of playing with pattern blocks is sitting next to another person and conversing about anything and everything while you play. Years ago, Sandra Dodd wrote a beautiful essay called Leaning on a Truck and other parallel play. She described the delights of playing with pattern blocks, along with many other wonderful side-by-side activities, and I’ve been fascinated with them ever since.
—Marcia Miller
Playing with Pattern Blocks

Pattern Blocks Elsewhere
scanned image by Sandra Dodd
before phones had cameras

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The mom I wish I'd had

"Being the mom I wish I'd had has been very healing. It's been the closest thing to having that mom I could achieve with the cards I was dealt."
—Jessica Hughes

Sydney Andersen's Guinea Pig
photo by Jen Keefe

Friday, October 20, 2023

Better biochemicals

Once I jokingly complained that a package of citric acid was marked "chemical free." Several people joked entertainingly, but a couple were humorless and critical.

I noted:
Citric acid IS a chemical. Looking for harm is, in itself, harmful. Fear and negativity stir up chemicals your own body makes, that aren't good for you. Induce the better biochemicals by being sweet, hopeful and calm.

Irrational fear of chemicals:
photo of a navel orange slice hanging by thread, by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Be careful with "can't"

About reading:

English has one word that, unfortunately, helps charge this whole subject with emotion and doom. I learned this from an exchange with Marty, when he was four. I wrote it down at the time, and have quoted it a few times since, but I've never connected it with reading until now.
Wed, Jul 28, 1993
The first thing [Marty] said after “good morning” was “Mom, if you count to infinity, is it illegal?”

I explained to him about infinity, with a million plus one and a “gadillion” plus one. He was fine with the explanation, and I said, “Who told you you can’t count to infinity?” He said I did, so I explained the difference in things that are impossible and things that are illegal (have consequences)

"Can't" sounds pretty permanent. We were careful not to say, in our kids' hearing "Marty can't read." We would cheerfully say, "Marty doesn't read yet" (or Kirby, or Holly). With that, every time it was discussed we were clearly indicating that we thought the child WOULD read before long, and it was not a concern. They were certainly learning in many other ways, as anyone close enough to discuss their reading could see!

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Help your children glow.

Fireworks, candles and seasonal decorations create glowing moments marking the passing of time. None of them will last, but your memories might.

Help your children glow. See the light in them. Time is passing. Childhood won't last, but your memories might.

photo by Sandra Dodd,
of Devyn's first jack-o-lantern, 2015

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Turn away, to have peace

When school is no longer a part of the child's life, it's good to turn away from the school and let it fade into the distant past. Repeating and reciting and retelling the school problem keeps it alive and present.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, October 16, 2023

Days full of learning

We seek out interesting “scenic routes” in real and figurative ways.

Our days are full and our learning is unmeasured and immeasurable.

photo by CassKotrba

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Happy and safe

With my kids, it was a posture I took, partly physical, partly mental, in which I accepted and recognized that I had the power to make them unhappy, and the easy ability to allow them to be in danger (from me, in part) if I wasn't really mindful and careful to focus on their safety, comfort and joy.

Some of the same relatives and friends who were greatly in favor of my partnership with Keith seemed critical of our kindness to our children. There is a wide stripe of anti-child tradition in the world. I didn't treat my child as a real person. I acknowledged from the beginning that he WAS a real person. I recognized and nurtured his wholeness and tried not to screw him up. I became his partner, rather than acting like his partner or "treating him" as a partner. It's not just semantics, though it is semantics. It's about the power of words to show, affect and clarify thought and belief.

An idea, expressed in words, changed my life. "Be your child's partner, not his adversary."

photo by Julie D

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Real vs. acting, or practicing

Writing done in school is practice writing, mostly. That "math" done in school is the calculations of other people's math. It's all at least two steps from "real world," while saying "this is the real world."

That is from a discussion about the depth of being, rather than of acting like a child's partner. Examples were used, and tangents were taken. The longer collection is at:
"Partners," examined

photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, October 13, 2023

A living example

Be the kind of person you want your child to be.

Nurture your own curiosity and joy.

Find gratitude and abundance in your life.

Explore. Make connections, on your own.

Share those with your children when they're interesting.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 12, 2023


Russian dolls based on Disney characters in a toy museum

When I reject something from my life, it closes doors, in my head, and in my soul. I can't make connections there anymore. I have eliminated it from active play. It's not good for unschoolers.

Open and unfold, enlarge and expand.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Being a good parent

Being a good parent is not martyrdom. It's this: Being (in essence, in life, in thought, in action) a good (not bad, not average, but quality/careful/positive) parent.

I don't know where I first wrote it, but Karen James saved and shared it in 2012.
Becoming the Parent You Want to Be is a fair match.
photo by Belinda Dutch

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Human nature, people and relationships

Meredith Novak said:

In a way unschooling could be said to have a recipe or to use a recipe as a jumping off point. But it's not a recipe about unschooling, it's like a recipe about human nature, about people and relationships. Part of that recipe is knowing that people are curious and like to learn. Part of the recipe is knowing that people are social and we care about other people and we like to learn from other people. Part of the recipe is knowing there is a difference between the external world and the world of individual experience, or a difference between 'the self' and 'the other'. It's a complicated recipe.

Human nature is not a simple, straightforward thing. Unschooling jumps off from there. "Okay, this is what we know about being people."
—Meredith Novak

Transcript: What Learning Looks Like with Meredith Novak
On the recording, Pam asks a question at 1:01:00 and Meredith responds:
on YouTube or on Pam's site
photo by Cátia Maciel

Monday, October 9, 2023

Choosing to relax

I know the word "struggle" is as popular as "groovy" was in 1967, but it's not nearly as groovy.

If every time you start to write or say "struggle" you stop and rephrase, then you can move toward rephrasing every time you *think* "struggle." And your struggles will be over as soon as you stop struggling.

Struggling is not as good as living with choices and looking up instead of down.

Find ways to relax, rather than to struggle.

photo by Roya Dedeaux

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Smile and wait

Reading is something that can take years of slow development. It requires some maturity of mind and body, neither of which can themselves read a calendar.

My recommendation to worried parents is to smile and wait and hold your child lovingly and to do no damage to his happiness while you're waiting for the day he can really read.

The Nature of "Real Reading"

photo by Stacie Mahoe

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Simply good

Karen James, on deschooling:

Think creatively. Think joyfully. Cultivate an attitude of enthusiasm and awe at as many things you can find in a day, especially the ordinary things or those things you've looked upon with skepticism and fear.

Be thankful. Notice little things throughout the day that are simply good. The health of your children. The pattern on the soap bubbles in your kitchen sink. How perfect a favourite mug feels in your hand or looks on a shelf. A laugh. An easy moment. The breeze. The sunshine. A connection with a loved one. A touch in passing. A deep breath. A full moon. A cat purr. A hole-free sock. 😉
—Karen James

photo by Ester Siroky

Friday, October 6, 2023

Happy connectedness

Sue Sullivan wrote, of joy:

It is clear to me now that happiness—or the lack of it—is a deliberate practice—a cumulative impact from dozens of daily choices over days, weeks, months and years. I didn't mean to become unhappy, so disconnected from my deeper wants and needs. I just believed the many, many voices in my head about how I "should" behave until I couldn't hear my most authentic self anymore.
. . . .

Seeking joy is my mantra now and joy for all human beings includes feeling deeply connected to other humans and feeling creative and self-actualized, so plenty of so-called work for others gets done, but in a spirit of happy connectedness, instead of burdensome obligation.
—Sue Sullivan

More, in greater context, halfway down
photo by Julie D

Thursday, October 5, 2023

More and better

What SHOULD I be doing as an unschooling parent?
  • More.
  • Better than school
  • Making memories

Unschooling Very Well

photo by Rosie Moon

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Take a step thoughtfully

People can ruin their lives with unschooling if they don't know where they're going. If they just intend to make a bunch of wild decisions and mill around, it won't work. Their kids will end up needing to go back to school, and being clueless kids in school. So it's almost that big a project. You will have to take hundreds of thousands of steps. And so it's better to take a step thoughtfully, knowing what direction you're going, than to thunder around yelling, "I'm an unschooler! I'm an unschooler!"

Extras with Sandra Dodd
I was speaking, not writing. You can listen (at 15:27), or read the transcript.
photo by Brie Jontry

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Warmly peaceful

Be warmly and peacefully available to your children. To your family.

Part of that is a quote Jihong saved from something I said at a conference in 2016. I'll link it to "Being."
photo by Sarah S.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Positivity, gratitude, optimism

If someone wants to unschool well, positivity is better than negativity. Gratitude is better than resentment. Optimism is better than pessimism.

photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Be gentle

"Gentle. Gentle with infants. Gentle with toddlers. Gentle with little girls. Gentle with little boys. Gentle with stinky 12 year old boys. Gentle with pubescent girls. Gentle with teenagers. Gentle with young adults. Gentle with oneself, and one's spouse or partner or friends and relatives. But strong. And sure. Passionate, but not a bully. And the possible results of all that (...): Joy, improved relationships, trust and confidence, not just for the mom, but for each member of the family and for the family as a whole."
—Sandra Dodd

Marta saved that quote and shared it in 2011. I don't know where it came from.

photo by Gail Higgins