Sunday, March 31, 2024

Attention as an investment

Karen James wrote:

It might not seem like it now, but those early years pass fast. I love all the happy memories I've made with Ethan these past 13 years. As he's growing more and more into his own interests, I can see the little boy he once was twirling on a trampoline for the twentieth or more time saying "Watch me now!" landing with pride every time. I can hear the breathless laughs of a child who rooted for the hundredth time for Tom the cat to catch that too-clever mouse Jerry. I know the brave spirit of that little person exploring the dark night and caves of Minecraft. I was there for all of it and more. Thousands of hours of dedicated focus. I don't regret a single moment. If anything, I wish I'd given more. I still have time, thankfully.

It did take a lot of my time, attention and energy, and there were times when I was really, really tired at the end of the day, and mornings when I was slow to want to embrace the day. But I see all that time and energy and attention as an investment—in my son, and in my own future. If I get to grow old, I hope these are some of the moments that bring colour to my winters.

—Karen James
photo by Denaire Nixon

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Replacing a canvas

Dawn, in Nova Scotia, wrote:

Ok, I think I'll share my newly-thought-of philosophy of housework here. It started when my sister was over and chasing the kids around. I was straightening up the livingroom and had just finished piling up blocks (big cardboard ones; we have, in all, ten or eleven different kinds of wood, plastic and cardboard blocks. I feel so wealthy. 🙂) when my son (2) ran into the room, saw the blocks and immediately tore down the pile. I smiled and shook my head. My sister, who'd arrived in time to see this, sternly said, "Harry! Your mother just finished putting those away!" When she said that I felt offended. Didn't she know I only pile those blocks so that Harry can knock them down? And there was the Aha! I looked around the room at the clean living room and realized that was why I did any cleaning.

We don't clean up messes to have a clean house. We clean up messes so there is room for more mess!

Now I think of cleaning up after my kids as replacing a canvas. I do it with the thought that by giving them room again and a bare floor and organized toys to pick from, I'm handing them the tools to write another mess onto our house. It's meant that at the end of a day, or sometimes a few days in a row, I just let the mess stay, because really, it's a work of art or a story. Maybe it isn't finished. Maybe it's too interesting to be gotten rid of so soon. It also clears up my feelings of resentment about doing the bulk of it. I like being the one to reset the house so that we all can live another, different mess the next day.

Anyway, thought I'd share since it's really helped me bring more joy into the housework!

—Dawn (in NS)
photo by Sarah S.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Smiling, kindness and peace

When someone smiles, even if no one sees them, it's better than not smiling. And if others do see it, it can be calming and contagious.

If someone is kind, it makes him a kinder person immediately, right then. No one has to endorse or approve it. It's done; it's already happened.

Every bit of peace one adds to a situation adds peace to the world, that moment and forever.
(I'm not promoting that "law.")
photo by Gail Higgins,
of Broc, his smile, and his shadow

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Awareness of options

Pam Sorooshian wrote:

Lots of people go through their whole lives never feeling like they had choices in many many areas of their lives in which they really did. Just like it is useful for unschoolers to drop school language (not use the terms teaching or lessons or curriculum to refer to the natural learning that happens in their families) it is useful to drop the use of "have to's" and replace it with an awareness of choices and options.

How we think—the language we use to think—about what we're doing, matters.
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Access to tools

Karen James wrote:

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude for the many gifts in my life has taken me from a place of hopelessness in my mind, to one of abundant possibilities. Because my life *looks* more abundant to me, every moment holds more potential. That doesn't mean my life is all wonderful and easy. It does mean that I have access to more emotional, creative, and intellectual tools to help me move toward the kind of life I want for myself and my family.
—Karen James
photo by Amy Milstein

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Encouragement back and forth

An unidentified reader wrote:
I wanted to say that this blog, out of all the blogs in the blogosphere, encourages me the most. It lets me know, that my actually natural inclinations as a parent (to love, to focus on relationship, to care for the inside more than the outside) are what I should be listening to. It is so easy in this world to get mired down in how we *should* do something. I admit to falling for this time and time again. I just wanted you to know this blog to be a true inspiration for how to be not only a "good" unschooling parent, but just a good person. Thank you.

That was late 2013, but I came across it again in 2024. It's one of those I saved here: Feedback—Just Add Light and Stir
photo and quote by Sandra Dodd; image by Holly Dodd

Monday, March 25, 2024

Look, learn, and proceed

Karen James wrote:

I think advice of any kind can get in the way of unschooling if it is taken as truth without some reflection. Unschooling is really about learning without school. Radical unschooling includes all learning, not just academic learning. What encourages and supports learning in your child(ren)?
Look at that.
     Learn from that.
          Proceed from that.
—Karen James
photo by Christine Milne

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Contentment, where you are

Peace can be just contentment—to be happy where you are, to like your life.
(the quote is from the sound file at the bottom)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Whole people, with lives unfolding

I see my children as whole people whose lives are unfolding now. They may have memories as vivid as mine. What I do and say now will be part of their lives after I’m dead. And do I want to be the wicked witch? Do I want to be a stupid character that they grow up and live in reaction to and avoidance of? And so if I see them as whole, then I see that as they grow bigger, I grow smaller in their universe.

Improving Unschooling (transcript, and recorded interview)
photo by Elise Lauterbach

Friday, March 22, 2024

Living in the world

Unschoolers live in the same world as other people. If you plan ahead, you can live in that world even better than most people do. If you stubbornly cling to frustration or fantasy, you can find yourselves isolated, and angry about it as though the isolation was imposed on you from the outside.

Don't pine for "unschool-world."

But as for ideas for what to say, there are lots collected here: Responding to questions about unschooling
photo by Wesli Dykstra

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The bright, shiny parts

On a scale from dull and dusty to bright and shiny, where is your life? How much of the happy outside world is flowing in? How much are you and your children interacting with the bright, shiny parts of the world outside?

Unschooling should and can be bigger and better than school.

If it's smaller and quieter than school, more should be done to make life sparkly.

Let one thing lead to another for you. Explore. Not the parent pressing the kid to explore, but the parent exploring and connecting.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

That mom I want to be

"If my kids grow up and feel they had a great warm childhood and that they were supported and loved and are now doing what they love because of it and are happy, then I did a good job being that mom I want to be."
—Alex Polikowsky
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Gentle changes

A mom named Angela wrote:

A gentler touch with ourselves, and others, is the best way for genuine improvement.

You can’t yell at a cat and make it come to you. Same with real change.
—Angela, in response to the post "Be sweet and soft"

Gentle with a child
photo by Debra Heller Bures

Monday, March 18, 2024

"Trying 'no limits'"

Someone wrote:
I see so many families trying 'no limits' and then…
I responded:
Two problems: "trying" and "no limits." If a kid knows the parent is only "trying" something, he will certainly take all he can get, desperately and in a frenzy.

"No limits" is not something any family should believe in, or promise their children The world has limits of all sorts. Parents don't need to add to that, but parents can't guarantee "no limits." They CAN give children lots of choices and options.

Gradual change would have helped.

Saying yes a thousand little times is better for everyone than one big confusing "Yes forever, don't care, OH WAIT! Take it back."
photo by Sandra Dodd (in Albuquerque)

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Interested in learning

"I'm more interested in learning what they think of the world than in telling them about the world."
—Linnea King
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Glorious, serious fun

A skeptical mom asked:
Can you tell me how it can serve a child if they say spend hours a day watching Scooby-Doo ?
Deb Lewis responded:
I asked my son what he thought a person could get from watching cartoons. He said he's learned a lot from watching Loony Toons and especially Daffy Duck. "What?" I asked. "I learned that you really can solve all your problems with dynamite!" 🙂

Don't panic. He was being funny.

But really, maybe hours of Scooby Doo is glorious fun. Fun is serious. Fun is important, especially for kids. Don't underrate fun. People who are not happy as children seldom find easy or lasting happiness as adults.
—Deb Lewis

That and more, by Deb and by others:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, March 15, 2024

Be sweet and soft

Once a mom came and said she was having a hard time being present with her children. She wrote:
I hate it, and feel like I'm missing out on so many sweet, little moments, but it is so hard for me to be fully present, almost like I can't control it.
I responded:
Well don't hate it. Hate's no good. And you can't "control it." It might be easier to see it as a series of choices, with lots of chances to zone out, and lots of opportunities to focus back in.

People zone in and out all the time. It's not a sin. Live lightly. That's good for your children, if you can come back as easily as you slipped momentarily away, and if you're not hardened with self-recrimination and hate.

Be sweet and soft, for your children.

Now, 11 years later, I have a page called "positivity," though both pages are about making choices that take one incrementally toward the more positive.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Still on your path

Lots of the photos I have these days are of paths. I love them. They're taken by people who were there, about to walk that very path, seeing things to the sides, hearing birds, or the wind, or other people. But we only see one view of one path.

The symbolism and the idea of a person being on his own path can be confusing and restricting, if others are trying to manage who walks where, and how. Path, trail, course, curriculum—they all can be about a pre-determined, inflexible way to go.

We only see our own paths by looking backwards. Find joy, today, in options and twisty turns. You're still on your path.

Hard paths and soft ones
photo by Amy Milstein

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

A very different experience

A child who chooses school is in a different sort of place than others at the same school who have no choice. For them, if the parents are willing to let them come back home, the doors and windows are open. Their experience will be different because of that.
photo by Sarah S.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The more the easier

My "make the better choice" tool has helped me move from "acceptable" to "better" and then MORE better.  🙂
It's nice to catch yourself in the moment and do better. The more you do it, the easier it is to do it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, March 11, 2024

More happiness

It's easy to say if there's not an objective measure of happiness that it's not worth talking about, but each person knows when she's happier and when she wishes things were a little better. If small changes of attitude can make more happy moments than before, that benefits everyone involved.

No one can have perfect happiness, but *more* happiness is easy to come by. It doesn't cost any more than less happiness, but it's much healthier and better for the whole family and the neighbors and relatives.
photo by Gail Higgins

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Paths and bridges

I like traditional construction, I like stiles over fences or walls, and I like paths. This one is in Montana, and has a bridge over a ditch, to get to a stile over the fence.

There are paths we can explore, and some we can't. There are metaphorical paths, philosophical paths, spiritual paths, and real-earth paths. There are paths in video-games, stories, books, and films. We can only follow a few, but it's fun to look around at others, too, to remember they're there.

Other path posts (images of paths), and some with the term "paths." Have a nice stroll.
photo by Kelly Lovejoy

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Wonderful and unexpected

"It's wonderful how parenting this way heals parts of our own past unexpectedly."
—Jen Keefe

The quote is from a story of memories affecting parenting, and vice versa, here:
photo by Jo Isaac

Friday, March 8, 2024

The cool thing is...

The cool thing about partners is, if they win you win.

Partnerships and Teams in the Family
photo by Tessa Onderwater

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Paths and choices

"Your role isn't to set up a path for them to follow but to set up the environment for them to explore."
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

More important

Melissa Raley wrote:

My daughter asked me to play a computer game with her and I told her that I "had" to clean the kitchen first. I got halfway between the computer and the kitchen, stopped, turned around, went back, told her I was sorry that the kitchen could wait, and played her game with her. She was so happy that I didn't care if the dishes rotted in the sink! 🙂 She only played for about five minutes but, I know that it will stick with her, that I found HER more important than the housework.
—Melissa Raley
photo by Jo Isaac

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

More peaceful and fun

Debbie Harper wrote:

When the environment is contributing to a child's anxiety, improve the environment, rather than seeking to improve the child.

If you make your home-life more peaceful and fun, anxiety will lessen without any need to venture away from unschooling into the land of rewards and punishments.

. . . .

Working to make the home more peaceful and happy has helped lots of families heal, and flourish with unschooling.
—Debbie Harper
photo by Roya Dedeaux

Monday, March 4, 2024

Helping them share

The problem I see with measured turns is that the quality of game play is compromised. If someone sees the clock and that's when they have to stop, they won't play as thoughtfully. They're less likely to look around at the art or appreciate the music. If they're starting to read, they're less likely to take a moment to look at the text and see if they can tell what it says.

The benefits of game play will not come to full fruition if kids' time is measured that way, and they're not learning to share.

If they only have an hour, they will take ALL of that hour, just as kids whose TV time is limited will.

It they can play as long as they want to, they might play for five or ten minutes and be done.
photo by Sarah S.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

The world opens up

Joanna Murphy wrote:

With trust, the world opens up, horizons expand and life can seem exciting and limitless. Without trust, the world shuts down, gets narrow and petty.

I want more expansiveness in my life, not less.

The expansive quality of trust grows out from the center to touch every part of our lives. Trust that we ARE capable and that we will, through our honest endeavor, figure out a way. Trust that our children will find, ask or be provided with what they need, trust that they are in connection with us by their own choosing and free will—not through "enforcing." And trust that they will grow up loving and caring and interesting people without being "taught."
—Joanna Murphy

Very slightly edited from
photo by Cátia Maciel

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Clear language, clear thoughts

Rhetoric and terminology can masquerade as thought or as progress. There are a few terms (and a very, very few) that have been used for many years in unschooling discussions, and they don't seem to have been harmful, nor to have had simple equivalents:‬
photo by Denaire Nixon

Friday, March 1, 2024

Working at playing

Usually it looks like we're just playing around. When it doesn't look like we're playing, I work on it. Unschooling works best when we're playing around.

Jubilation and Triangulation,
about "The Pirates of Penzance," sci-fi space shows, video games about triangles, and the word "hypotenuse" coming up over and over.

photo by Holly Dodd