Friday, May 31, 2024


The more that parents can accommodate children's simple desires, the calmer and happier those children will be.

Nice, and patient
photo by Destiny Dodd

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Snags and lumps and deschooling

Think of some specific things that changed in you, about you, when you were deschooling. Think of a time when you hit a snag, a lump, an un-deschooled part of you. What happened? What did you do?

Deschooling is a process that can't be sped up, I think. I could be wrong.

The path to unschooling
photo by Karen James

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Doing (not not-doing)

If a person's life is compartmentalized into learning and not learning, then they have a part of them that is "not-learning."

"Not learning"
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Warmly attractive

There is something warmly attractive about children's toys and books, even if they're not our own.

Toys in every room
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 27, 2024

Flower bed

Joyce wrote:

People who look at what they have and how they can work with it find the way quicker (and are happier) than those who look at what they don't have.
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Amy Milstein

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sharing the sun

It's a comforting feeling, for me, that we all see the same sun.

I hope everyone sometimes sees a balloon, or another special thing.

Being the same
photo by Cathy Koetsier, in Norfolk, England
(click for full image)

Saturday, May 25, 2024


I have seen toys, in museums, just like things I played with as a child in the 1950s and 60s, and that my children played with in the 1980s and 90s.

History is happening all around and through us.

Seeing things from the past can trigger stories that might never have been told without the presence of those artifacts. I missed the days of radio dramas and serials. By the time I was listening to radio, it was all music. The stories had moved to the TV. All of my older relatives had radio stories—of war news, comedy routines, inspiring speeches and of mystery stories presented in several voices, and with sound effects.

We still want stories, news, humor and inspiration, but the sources change, and will change some more.

Antiques elsewhere here
photo by Sandra Dodd

I wrote this four days ago (what's above). Three days ago, I started listening to So, Anyway...: A Memoir by John Cleese (read by the author, who is best known as a member of Monty Python). He has talked about radio shows four times in eight chapters, telling stories of his childhood memories, and of radio producers who seemed to think, when television was new, that TV would not supplant radio programs.

Knowing this post was ready to go made those stories seem like magical coincidence to me. Jung called those coincidences "synchronicity."

Friday, May 24, 2024


Entries are literally and figuratively everywhere, past and future and in a minute.

When you see a place, a path, or think of something you could look up on the internet, you don't know exactly what will happen next, or how far you'll go. It might be just the first touch or glimpse, and you're back out again.

An entry-point at your house could be a "not interesting" to one person and a days-long rabbit-hole adventure for another. See that and accept it. Entryways to other things, people and places are coming up soon.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Accepting help (and cake)

Deb Lewis wrote:

I always get in trouble with analogies, but I'm going to try one here. If I wanted to make a cake, and had never baked or cooked before, a cake recipe that just said "do whatever seems best to you, use your imagination" probably wouldn't be that helpful. If my friend, who always had lovely cakes (devil's food?) had given me this recipe, I would have to assume cake just didn't work for my family.

It would have been much more helpful to have an ingredients list and a plan for putting them together.

Ok, kids are not cakes, and maybe there's no ingredients list for unschooling, but I would hope, before I pour a bottle of vinegar in my batter, someone who knows about cakes would stop me. I would hope, before I add a text book or take away TV, someone who knows about unschooling would stop me.
photo (and cake) by Sandra Dodd,
when this blog was ten years old

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Fresh breeze of new thoughts

De wrote:

OH! Brainstorming ideas, treating your children like you would your spouse or friends, *OH!!*

I knew that. Now I *know* that. Or maybe I understand it with more depth. It still amazes me how a few words on a page—sometimes entirely (seemingly) unrelated—can trigger a massive door that I didn't know was there to open in my brain. It lets in the light and the fresh breeze of new thoughts.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Slowing down

Karen James wrote:
I have spent the past three years trying to get unschooling faster. It has only been this past year, where I have slowed down, that I feel like I am really starting to get it, or at least see more clearly where I am still stuck, and work out those knots with a bit more clarity.

I quoted Karen from her comment at
"You can't test out." (2011)
photo by Hema Bharadwaj

Monday, May 20, 2024

Joyful and secure

"Learning about and applying unschooling principles has created joyful, secure relationships with my kids that I had never imagined. I feel SO lucky."
—Jill Parmer
photo of Addi, by Jill Parmer (her mom)

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Holly and the Hippie Shirt

The article's real name is "Art, Aging and Spirituality— Connections between Things and Ideas." I wrote it in early 2001, when Holly was nine years old.

I will quote the end, and usher you toward the full article:
We all are preparing for our unseen futures, and I was prepared to homeschool. I am prepared to discuss the social history of the 70's musicals Holly is frolicking with now, in a shirt I made when a brand new India print bedspread could be bought by a barefooted hippie for $4. She is surprisingly prepared, at the age of nine, to understand it.
That was written for a local homeschooling newsletter, so I apologize for the neighborhood particulars. Those from Albuquerque, or who attended the University of New Mexico, might've perked up. ***
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 18, 2024


I don't look at the state's requirements. I look at my child's opportunities.
photo by Amy McDonough
Retrospective (more about the photo)

Friday, May 17, 2024

But WHY?

Knowing WHY you want to make lunch can make all the rest of it a series of mindful choices. (Unless the "why" is a thoughtless sort of "because the clock hands pointed up".)

What and Why?
photo by Rosie Moon

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Improving thought

Kathy Ward had eight children, and was active in discussions years back. At first she rejected video games, but changed her mind. This is part of something longer:

Everyone agreed that [Tetris] was a great game for developing and improving mathematical thinking. The puzzles require some thinking about patterns and ability to recognize and recall geometric designs. Even the little kids enjoy it. I don't know why a parent would love to see a child spend an hour at a time figuring out puzzles like this in a workbook or on paper but be dismayed that the same child was doing this on a computer or a video game system. In fact, the whole thing is more challenging on the game system because it moves and changes, it's more interactive than geometric puzzles on a piece of paper.

When I told the older children that I was interested in putting their ideas about video games on this webpage...
—Kathy Ward
who continues that writing into other games, and benefits including problem solving, spatial reasoning, maps, graphic arts, physics of motion, vocabulary of auto mechanics, morality, military history, comparative cultures, and geography.
photo by Sarah Peshek

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Ideas, terminology, and attitudes

If someone really does want to unschool, it's going to take looking at her own ideas, terminology, and attitudes really closely, to weed out that "what will screw it up" set.

The original quote is here:
Archive: "...on TV & junk food"
photo by Cátia Maciel

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Right for your child

Rather than look at labels that try to pigeonhole people into being this sort of parent or that sort of parent, be the parent that is right for your child in each moment.
—Laurie Wolfrum
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 13, 2024

Freeing and joyful

When people come here and their messages are like parroted little recordings of things their teachers said, that their grandparents and in-laws say, that they read in an anti-TV book, it seems they need to peel off all the layers of recitation and people-pleasing and try to feel what they feel and decide what's freeing and joyful instead of what will shush their internal voices.

That's not easy.
photo by Denaire Nixon

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Surrounded by words

My children learned to read without being taught. If my children were the only children in the history of the world who learned without being taught, it would still be a fact that some children have learned to read without lessons—that a child can learn to read without lessons.

But my children are not the only ones. There are many. There were many even before schools existed, though it was harder without being surrounded by talking video games and movies with subtitles and printed boxes all over the kitchen, and signs on every street and building and shelf.

Always Learning post, Sandra Dodd, 2010
photo by Denaire Nixon

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Portable, cheap, long-lasting

The really good thing about happiness is that it’s portable. It’s cheap. It doesn’t need a safety deposit box or an inheritance. You can give the same amount to all your kids, and they don’t have to wait until they’re 18 to claim and use it! Think about that. They can have it right now, and start using it, without taking yours away from you.

Do kids need to have their own room to store their happiness in? No. Do kids need to wait nine weeks to get a report card that says they’re doing well in happiness? No. Will working really hard now store up happiness they can use later? That’s the going theory, the one we were raised on, but I no longer believe it.

The quote is from

More on happiness:

photo by Cátia Maciel

Friday, May 10, 2024

Completely engaged

Stephanie E. wrote:

It came to me the other day that Jason is more engaged then if he were doing puzzles in a book or being read to. When he plays a video game, it is a whole-body experience. I can see his mind working—he is completely engaged. He is constantly strategizing, thinking about the next step, figuring out how to solve the next level, experimenting with options. He is also very active—jumping up and down, yelling, running in to show me his latest accomplishment.
—Stephanie E.

GameCube and Little Boys
photo by Karen James

Thursday, May 9, 2024

The roots of a belief...

From my notes for a 2012 conference presentation on "Why Radical Unschooling?":

So the history of "radical unschooling" came from someone saying "Well we're not that radical," and me saying "well I am."

radical in surfer lingo has to do with extreme.
Politically, extreme from a grassROOTs movement.
From the roots to the tips
from the roots of hair to the tips
or the roots of a tree to the end of each leaf
or from the roots of a belief to the end of each action.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Óbidos

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Light and playful

Some people think of play as frolicking, or as make-believe, but it can be a pervasive mood and include the way people bring groceries in, and watch movies, and sort laundry and sing in the shower.

A light and playful attitude changes everything.

"Mindful Parenting" - Ren Allen with Sandra Dodd
(written exchange in advance of a conference presentation; sound file there)
photo by Sadie Bugni

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

If everything counts...

So what IS trivia, then? For school kids, trivia is (by definition) a waste of time. It’s something that will not be on the test. It’s “extra” stuff. For unschoolers, though, in the wide new world in which EVERYTHING counts, there can be no trivia in that sense.

The quote is from
Textbooks for Unschoolers

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, May 6, 2024

Criss-cross trails

Do the best you can to survive the bumps and unexpected turns of the trails through the unschooling world, which will necessarily cross back over and through themselves, which is how learning works–a little now, a little more later to connect to what you've learned since, and detours that end up being short cuts.

The quote is from page 3 or 4 of The Big Book of Unschooling.
photo by Sandra Dodd


Sunday, May 5, 2024

"What about socialization?"

Sometimes when people ask “What about socialization?” I say "What do you mean?"

And I wait patiently for them to think of a response.

Usually the question is asked by rote, the same way adults ask stranger-children "Where do you go to school?" Most people just blink and stammer, because they don't even know what they meant when they asked it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Rest, recovery, and plenty of time

Rippy Dusseldorp, for still-new unschoolers:

For your family, the most important thing now is to deschool. Avoid anything schoolish, unless your children really want to use those types of resources. This is their rest and recovery time from their years of schooling. It's important not to rush them and to give yourself plenty of time to deschool as well.
—Rippy Dusseldorp

slightly edited from
photo by Colleen Prieto

Friday, May 3, 2024

Helping grandparents

Meredith wrote something in April 2011 about what the grandparents want...

It's helpful to keep in mind that one of the big things grandparents want is a sense of connection with their grandchildren. When kids aren't in school, that can feel awkward - what the heck do you say to a child other than "what are you doing in school?" Especially if you only see him twice a year? It can leave extended family members stymied. So it helps a whoooole lot to feed them useful information and conversation starters in the form of something grandparents usually like anyway - pictures and stories of their grandkids. Keeping a blog or sending regular notes (via facebook or plain old snail mail) goes a long way in that regard. And! they get to see their beloved grandchildren happy and adventurous, which can help to reassure them on that score.

Unschooling can come across as some kind of weird cult if you try to explain it from a theoretical side first. Start with happy kids living rich, full lives and school starts to seem less of an issue.
—Meredith Novak

"How do you respond to family members?"
photo by Sandra Dodd, of Dodd kids and paternal grandmother, early 1990s

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Scattering to learn

Part of a 2004 description of our unschooling home, when three kids and their friends were here:

They come here and we’re working a puzzle or building something and they’ll get into that, too. It’s fun. We do things that are just fun. You can hardly walk by without picking it up and messing with it, too.

Sometimes, someone—my husband and one of the kids—will be doing something in one room and in the next room, some other friends are over and they are playing a video game and in another room or outside, another kid and somebody else are doing something else.

That also is the idea of the open classroom. Their ideal was not to be sitting at desks reading but to sit in a soft place, in a dark place, in a private place or wherever you wanted to, to read. So they tried to have interesting places where kids could get away from the other kids.

Sound file and transcript, of "Improving Unschooling" interview:
photo by Destiny Dodd, of Kirby Dodd and their daughter, Kirby Dodd.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Principles instead of rules

The idea of living by principles has come up before and will come up again. When I first started playing with the idea, in preparation for a conference presentation, I was having a hard time getting even my husband and best friends to understand it. Really bright people local to me, parents, looked at me blankly and said "principles are just another word for rules."

I was determined to figure out how to explain it, but it's still not simple to describe or to accept, and I think it's because our culture is filled with rules, and has little respect for the idea of "principles." It seems moralistic or spiritual to talk about a person's principles, or sometimes people who don't see it that way will still fear it's about to get philosophical and beyond their interest or ability.

Rules are things like "Never hit the dog," and "Don't talk to strangers."

Principles are more like "Being gentle to the dog is good for the dog and good for you too," or "People you don't know could be dangerous." They are not "what to do." They are "how do you decide?" and "why?" in the realm of thought and decision making.

The answer to most questions is "it depends."

What it depends on often has to do with principles.

from page 42 (or 46) of The Big Book of Unschooling
photo by Sandra Dodd