Wednesday, January 31, 2024


It seems that once unschooling is going that it covers everything, and there are no wasted moments, or wasted thoughts.
but you don't have to take my word for it:
Shockingly efficient
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Benefits of laughter

Deb Lewis wrote (in 2007, so that's the "now"):

Studies are now popping up suggesting laughter makes our brains work better, reduces stress and helps sick people get well. St. Jude's Children's hospital is part of a five-year study about laughter and improved medical outcome. The study may very well expand on a finding by the renowned Dr. Seuss, which says, in part, "Today was good, today was fun. Tomorrow is another one."

Laughter has helped my own family through hard times. Sure we would have come through the hard times anyway, but we came through them with less stress, fewer lasting scars, and lots of great one-liners.
—Deb Lewis

from "Unschooler's Pipe Wrench,"
photo by Janine Davies

Monday, January 29, 2024

Fun, connection, learning

In response to a question from a mother of four-year-old girls:
"What does unschooling look like at this age?"

Clare Kirkpatrick wrote:

It looks like it does at any age: fun and connection. Do what is fun for them. If you're also working on better connection with them, a closer relationship with them, you'll also start to learn what they may find fun that they don't yet know about. Also do what is fun for you. Learning to help yourself to do fun things will help you realise that your children's learning and richness of life will come from helping them to do things they find fun.

At the moment in my house, I am having fun thinking hard about unschooling. My husband and my 12 year old are having fun and connecting with each other by playing Call of Duty together. I have helped my 6 and 8 year olds by making some space for them to build a little home for their polly pocket dolls out of wooden blocks and they are now having fun working on that and playing together. My 10 year old is having fun watching Mako Mermaids on Netflix and occasionally turning round to watch her sister and dad playing and ask questions about the game. Actually, while I've been writing that, the six year old has now snuggled next to my 12 year old to join in the chat about the game. Connection and fun. And, therefore, learning.

—Clare Kirkpatrick
photo: selfie by Sven, the dad

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Peace and love and health

Things get done, and there's no benefit to stressing out. If dinner's going to be late, a late dinner after some calm sweet mom-time is going to taste WAY, way better than a late dinner after an hour of mom-screech and accusations and whining and crying (regardless of who's making the noise). Be as sweet and as peaceful as you can be. It will make a difference to you and to the kids and your husband and your dog (rat, cat, horse, neighbors).

Whatever negativity is put into the house affects everyone.
Whatever peace and smiles are put into the house affect people too.

So you can take an hour to make dinner, and that hour might not start until 7:00, or you can take two or three crazy hours to make dinner, and the dinner won't be any better.

Ramen in a happy environment is better than four dishes and a dessert in anger and sorrow.
Advantages of Eating in Peace
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Connections coming and going

Diana Jenner wrote (not "lately" anymore):

Football has been a big connector lately. Hayden loves claw machines and on our trip won (bought) a KC Chiefs window hangie thingamabobber. He thought we should send it to the "unschoolers who sing the Kansas City Song" (Ken & Amy Briggs). When we were at Burger King the other day, the kids' prizes were NFL related. He first found KC Chiefs and reiterated his connection to the team, which led to a talk of the Briggs' actually living in NY -- "NY has TWO teams!!" As he browsed the other teams, he happened upon Cleveland Browns -- "Oh! Now I get the joke on Family Guy!! Cleveland's last name is Brown, I thought it was because of his skin color, well it is! Both!" I didn't realize how many football jokes have been on that series, but Hayden knew of a few others and it is just now that they're connecting and beginning to make sense.

I never knew how multi-layered most movies and television shows are, until I lived the freedom of no censorship with my kids. I'm excited to watch Shrek again with Hayden... we've not seen it in over a year and I know his sense of humor has drastically changed, he's more aware of innuendo, it will most likely be a whole new movie for him. I will miss his *younger* perspective as much as I look forward to this *older* one.

—Diana Jenner

also consider, about watching things again

Hayden playing in a fountain,
photo by Gail Higgins, I think,
or maybe by Diana Jenner

Friday, January 26, 2024

Different needs at different ages

A mom determined to limit her child's access to sweets wrote "I try to model healthy eating."

I responded:
Healthy eating for an adult woman isn't the same as for a teenaged boy or an eight year old girl or a two year old or an infant.
photo by Sarah S, of Minecraft-themed food

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Relax inside yourself

Someone wrote once:
"I really have to be vigilant on myself and try not to control."

I was amused, but responded, in part:

Being "vigilant" sounds like absolutely exhausting effort. Relax. You do not "have to be vigilant." Especially not on yourself. That's you watching yourself. Way too much work. Let go of one of those selves. Relax inside the other one. Have a snooze. Don't be vigilant.

When you wake up, think. Am I glad to be here? Is this a good moment? If so, breathe and smile and touch your child gently. Be soft. Be grateful. Find abundance. Gently.
photo by Denaire Nixon

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Looking and asking and thinking

Kelly Lovejoy wrote:

No one chooses to unschool without questioning. That's the nature of the beast. Parents who aren't going to question things—every thing—are not going to unschool. It just won't happen. The radical unschoolers I know are passionate about questioning and learning more. They don't let things rest. They keep looking and asking and thinking about things. They're voracious learners themselves, so they are excellent models for their children.

Those who choose to "go with the flow" and who accept whatever they are told and who refrain from thinking too much will be modeling for their children too.
—Kelly Lovejoy
photo by Nicole Kenyon

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Visions of input

There was a time when the only way for a kid to get information from outside his home and neighborhood was books. (Think Abraham Lincoln, log cabin in the woods far from centers of learning.) Now books tend to be outdated, and is better for information. If Abraham Lincoln had had full-color DVDs of the sights of other countries, of people speaking in their native accents and languages, and of history, he would have shoved those books aside and watched those videos.

When someone thinks books are the one crucial step to any further learning, then books and school have crippled that person's ability to think expansively, and to see what's unfolding in front of them in the real world.

That was written in 2010. I would like to upgrade my imagined young-Abe-Lincoln to streaming services.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Texas, when DVDs were abundant

Monday, January 22, 2024

Learning without instruction

It will help the children immensely to have the deep confidence that they can learn without instruction. Any child who has learned to read without "being taught" cannot doubt that he can learn other things without finding a teacher and following a prescribed course.

Confidence Grows
photo by Grace Santangelo

Sunday, January 21, 2024

What leads to learning

Mary Ellen / nellebelle wrote:

The girls and I did a *unit study* on the Olympics. I use the term loosely, because I didn't sit down and plan units or require reports on what they learned. Basically, we watched and watched and watched Olympics coverage, bought the official program in order to follow events more easily, got library books about Michelle Kwan and other Olympic stars present and past, and recorded some of our favorite events for repeat viewing. We even got the Olympic soundtrack CD. While watching, all sorts of tidbits came up for discussion. Where our favorite athletes were from had us frequently grabbing the globe or an atlas. How were events scored, why did some countries have many participants and others only a few, what is a sport, sportsmanship, and much more. Some nice unplanned things occurred at the same time. Pat was working with some people from Spain, and a couple of them came to visit. They came to dinner at our house and spent the evening watching and discussing Olympics with us. This was the night that Ice Dancing was on, and we had a spirited discussion on whether this should qualify as a sport, or not. It was exciting for all of us to have a foreign person associated with the international sports industry spend time with us. That it happened during the world's most popular sports competition was really cool.
. . . .
It never ceases to amaze me how doing one thing can lead to learning about something else.
—Mary Ellen

Part of something longer,
photo by Cathy Koetsier, on a visit to Cambridge

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Your child and the world

"Bring the world to your children and your children to the world."
—Pam Sorooshian

How to Be a Good Unschooler
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Friday, January 19, 2024

Exploring locally

Deb Lewis wrote:

I have found so many interesting things to do around our little town just by talking with people and asking questions. I ask everyone questions about what they like to do, etc. I have met so many people with interesting hobbies who have been happy to share what they know with my son and show him their collections.

The man who runs the local green house lets us help transplant seedlings. He grows worms too, and lets Dylan dig around in the worm beds.

The guy who works at the newspaper speaks Chinese and draws cartoons. He's given Dylan lots of pointers about where to get good paper and story boards, etc.

The old guy at the antique shop was a college professor and is a huge Montana History buff, whenever Dylan has questions, we go browse the antiques.

The lady at the flower shop keeps birds and lets Dylan hold them when we visit.
—Deb Lewis

some local particulars from Deb Lewis's "List of Things to do in the Winter"—a long list of things a parent and child could do if it's cold or they want to explore
photo by Diane Marcengill

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Listening, observing, exploring, helping...

Rebecca Creighton wrote:

I'm grateful for this forum that is helping me learn that it (unschooling, parenting, relationships, life) is not about perfection, right vs. wrong, a formulaic way of doing something, or a specific outcome—but rather, it's about listening, observing, exploring, helping, growing, awareness, choices—getting better at those things—little by little.
—Rebecca Creighton

The quote was slightly edited by Rebecca, for me to use. The original is in a comment at What peace feels like
photo by Jesper Conrad

Thinking in your own words

If people can come to understand why it matters whether they use "teach" or "learn," they can start to get other subtleties and REALLY start thinking their own thoughts, consciously and mindfully.

Saying what one means rather than using phrases without thinking is very, very important.

Hearing what I say as a mom is crucial to mindfulness.

If I don't notice what I say, if I don't even hear myself, how can I expect my kids to hear me?

If I say things without having carefully chosen each word, am I really communicating?

Mindful of Words
photo by Marta Venturini

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Aim for better

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

Rather than shooting for perfect, why not aim for better? Perfect you're bound to miss and you will have failed. But better is doable. 🙂

We all have issues about something. They go deep and are tangled up around other stuff but working at them bit by bit can make them better.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Hema Bharadwaj

Tuesday, January 16, 2024


"To nourish" someone goes above and beyond food. "Good food" served with shame or pressure loses all its goodness, to a child. A loving relationship can last forevermore. Ice lollies and popsicles are gone in no time.

Let their memories of treats, and of meals, of childhood, and of parents, be warm and comforting.

Advantages of Eating in Peace
photo by Elaine Santana

Monday, January 15, 2024

Purposes and directions

Have purpose, don't just go through thoughtless motions.

That was a comment by me/Sandra in a discussion on facebook once but a good match from my website is
Mindful Parenting.
photo by Renee Cabatic

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Chaotic, random, effortless

"School is to unschooling as foreign language class is to learning to talk. The first is orderly, thorough, hard and hardly works. The second is chaotic, random, effortless and works like a charm."
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Julie D

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Exploring interests

Joyce Fetteroll wrote:

What sets unschooling apart from other homeschooling approaches isn’t children making choices. It’s parents creating an environment that supports exploring interests. It’s creating an environment that allows children to make choices based on interest.

Unschooling is *parents* creating the environment that allows children to choose. One choice might be to go to school. But children aren’t unschooling in school. They aren’t unschooling in a class. They aren’t unschooling when they do a workbook. They’re learning.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Cรกtia Maciel

Friday, January 12, 2024

Let the light shine

It's easy (and well-rewarded by positive attention from other adults), in some circles, to be controlling parents.

Probably everyone reading this knows that, but unschoolers have figured out ways to step away, just far enough to let the light shine on options and choices.

Confidence can grow when unschooling starts working well, and everything seems clearer when it's happening at your house, and not theoretical.
photo by Diane Marcengill

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Learning what they know

"How do you know they're learning?" The people who ask that question are looking at the world through school-colored glasses. Those same parents knew when their children could use a spoon. They knew when the child could drink out of a cup. They knew when walking and talking and bike riding had been learned.

Here's how I learned that Kirby knew about the Huns: He was waiting for me to give him a ride, while I was talking on the phone to a local mom who was considering homeschooling. We were discussing unit studies, and I said they weren't necessary, that people just keep learning their whole lives. "You can't finish China," I said, and Kirby commented dryly, "The Huns tried that."

So, on my mental checklist, I note Kirby identifying the Huns, using the word in a sentence, knowing a dab about Chinese history. But was I testing? Was he reporting? Neither. He was just making a joke. And it was sufficient for me to discover what he knew.
photo by Jihong Tang

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Rethink what you're trying to do

"Rethink what you’re trying to do rather than how you’re trying to do it. Get a new perspective on it so you can see things in a new way."
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Raised up

With "make the better choice," the quality of the options gradually is raised far and away from the original starting-place options.
photo by Jo Isaac, of a barking owl

Monday, January 8, 2024

What peace feels like

If we raise the level of peace our children expect, they will know what peace feels like.

Adults need to know what peace feels like too, though, and some feel it for the first time when they really start to understand unschooling.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Greater clarity

Karen James wrote:

If we don't move away from the extremes—those slightly blurry edges—we won't get to appreciate the crisp details of whatever it is we do hope to see and understand better.

That's true for most things, I believe.

Learn to recognize your own extreme thinking. See the nevers and the alwayses. ๐Ÿ˜Š Then, move around a bit, in search of greater clarity. That shift in thinking will help most relationships, I'm confident.
—Karen James
photo by Gail Higgins

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Next week, next year, next century

early 20th century downtown building with early 20th century theater added on

People DO think of next week. They think of last week. But they're doing their thinking from inside their present selves.

Balance depends on the fulcrum. Be solid. Be grounded.
Be whole, and be here.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, January 5, 2024

Environmental factors

In the quote below, "it" could be replaced with
  • home
  • life
  • your nest
  • your children's day
  • yourself

Make it happy and funny and comfortable and exciting so that they want to be with you. Be sparkly.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, January 4, 2024


The camper from which this photo was taken has been moving around Europe extensively, so the view changes, but the doorway stays about the same. This day, they were in Turkey.

What we perceive is seen through our own eyes. Even looking at a photo, we see what WE see, of what the photographer saw. Our thoughts can't be theirs. What it smelled like can't be conveyed, or how it sounded.

Some scenes and places and stories, dishes, houses, I have shared with my husband and children, but still their perceptions and memories can only be their own. This is a good thing, and good to remember.

Center of the Universe
photo by Ester Siroky

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Sometime maybe

Karen James wrote:

When people think "always" and "never", they get stuck in "always" and "never", and can't see the in-between where, most often, the details and valuable bits of wisdom are.

I've found that a lot of new unschoolers seem to get stuck in extreme thinking--the always and never lands. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I probably did too. Maybe it's part of adjusting to a new paradigm of thinking.
—Karen James
photo by Marta Venturini

Tuesday, January 2, 2024


Somewhere in the world it is morning every moment. Somewhere, light is dawning.
If you want to change the way you're being or thinking, just do it. Don't wait for another year, another month, another day. Good morning!

photo by Monica Molinar

Monday, January 1, 2024

The Museum of Everything

When you're talking to young children who are figuring out their new language and their new world, avoid saying "always" or "never." Instead of making rules for him or dire predictions, explain your concerns and thoughts.  Give him some "why" to go with his "what" and "where" and "when." Even give him some "why" to go with his "who." Don't forget that he won't know what "aunt" and "cousin" mean. He won't automatically figure out "neighbor" or "co-worker."

You're like a docent in The Museum of Everything.

The quote is from page 63 (or 68) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd