Friday, November 17, 2017

Real learning is intangible

Karen James wrote:
"Real learning is a breath. Ethan said something kind of funny to my husband recently. He exclaimed "Now you are breathing consciously!" We all became aware of our breathing in that moment. Learning can become as effortless as unconscious breathing when we it happens without prejudice or too much attention to its presence. It's so big it permeates through everything we do, yet so intangible at times we can only guess at its influence and significance."
—Karen James
photo by Heather Booth

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Truly worthless

Truth can still be worthless, and a worthless statement might still be true. Cosmic. So profound I need a nap.

I think this illustrates the commutative property of cosmic profundity.
I wrote it in a collection of worthless statements, here.
Photo by Sandra Dodd, of a miniature golf hole in Rochester, Minnesota.
Miniature golf is not worthless, but that's not real water.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Abundance and gratitude

"If it's not one thing, it's another."

People usually say that of problems or frustrations. But what about gourds, and little girls, and music, and humor?
If you practice finding abundance, if it's not one thing, it will be another.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


"Round" is whole, and strong. Something circular can represent completion or continuation.

When everyone has had a turn that's a round of cards, or a round of play in a boardgame. At a celebration, "a round" can mean everyone has a drink.

Around. Surround. Some things, you think of as being "all around" you, or "all around" everywhere. You might be surrounded by things like ... air. Potential friends. Opportunities. Love. Surprises.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a carousel near a round barn in Vermont

Monday, November 13, 2017

Do one thing better

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

Insecurities about something big like unschooling, is natural. What I've done with those thoughts, is to actively do one thing better. Then another, and another. And another.

Unschooling is built on these small and thoughtful acts that change the bigger picture over time. Each change or tweak, or alteration we make that positively impacts the way we interact with our children, can really only help. Without those little changes, we stagnate. We don't grow. And as a result, unschooling doesn't become better.
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Quite quiet

look without narrating.
Think without voicing.

Too much commentary can make words less valuable.

See shadows and sunshine and shapes and children without always saying so.
photo by Sandra Dodd, who talks too much

Saturday, November 11, 2017


It's not about "success," it's about progress, and living in the moment as well as possible.
photo by Sabine Mellinger

Friday, November 10, 2017

A wonderful thing

"One of the wonderful things about unschooling is that we come to understand that children are learning all the time. Knowing that, we can make thoughtful choices about how we'd like to influence that learning. We cannot control what is learned, but we can create an environment in which joyful learning can thrive."
—Karen James
photo by Cátia Maciel

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Heat and light

If I have a big woodpile, I don't have a fire. Even if I have a fireplace and matches and bellows and kindling and firestarters and a fire extinguisher and the chimney was just cleaned and inspected and I have a paper saying "good to go," I don't have a fire. Would wrought-iron fire tools on a cool rack help? What about a stained-glass fireplace screen, so no sparks can get out on the floor? I could subscribe to magazines for fireplace owners. I could join a yahoo group and a facebook page to talk about fires. I could be receiving catalogs with all kinds of fancy flameproof rugs and indoor wood racks and really cool slings for carrying wood in, and Ooh! What about a beautiful mantle?

Still no fire.

Meanwhile, the neighbors might have build a real, operating fire, in a little hole they dug and lined with scrap bricks or rocks, with wood they found in a vacant lot, and kindled it with old receipts and fast-food wrappers they found blown into the alley. Their fire has heat, their fire has light, if they're sitting around it talking and laughing, they have the benefit of the fire.

Some people want to look like they're interested and that they intend to hone their skills, but they don't actually want to do it, if it's going to involve any real combustion or change in them.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a fire in our own back yard,
not in a hole, but quite make-shift, 2012

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Megan Fenn wrote:
I no longer look for learning when they are watching shows or playing games. I know they are learning.

I used to watch for it as part of my “try a little” practise to see the value in what they are doing. I don’t do that anymore. I know what they do has value because they value it. And I know they are learning because they learn from everything they do.
—Megan Fenn
photo by Nina Gold

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Only a child?

"Respect" is not a light thing. It's not easy to respect your child, when it's new to you. There will be people encouraging you to see your child as "just a kid," and "only a child." Think of adults you respect, and think of them as ten years old, four years old, two, newborn. They were those people from birth. There was a newborn Mohandas Gandhi; a four-year-old Abraham Lincoln; an eight-year-old Oprah Winfrey; a twelve-year-old Winston Churchill.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 6, 2017

The learning and the beauty

"It's all about that mind shift isn't it? It applies to so much in how unschooling works or doesn't work. If you can't see the learning and the beauty, you will have a hard time unschooling. It seems to work best in all those small ways that add up to the bigger picture."
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Chrissy Florence

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A little and a lot

"Depth and breadth—creating a lifestyle in which kids are offered the opportunity to learn a lot about some things and a little about a lot of things."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Sandra Dodd

I wanted to call this post "Depth and Breadth", but I've already used that title.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Trivial connections

Sometimes to understand a joke, people have to know three or four different things already. Sometimes a piece of humor ties together LOTS of trivia/learning in ways other things can't do.
photo by Megan Valnes

Friday, November 3, 2017

Peace and calm

Peace and calm are really good things all in and of themselves. Enjoyment/JOY is better for health than all the "health rules" in the world.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Be that way

"Treat them the way you want them to treat others. Do you want respect? Be respectful. Do you want responsibility from them? Be responsible."
—Pam Sorooshian
photo by Chrissy Florence

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Stages and balance

Children grow up, but all the stages of their childhood stay alive in their parents' memories.
Balancing, stages, profiles
photo of Marty, a dozen years ago, by Holly Dodd

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Don't be afraid

Some moms are more afraid of the candy than they are of scary ghosts and monsters.

Have a sweet life.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, October 30, 2017

The heart of unschooling

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.
photo by Janine

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Photo credit—Cátia Maciel

Yesterday I didn't change the template and so accidentally swiped credit from Cátia Maciel. I'm really sorry! I've fixed it now; you can click the photo to see it with the proper credit.

photo by Cátia Maciel

Each new post starts with this template, and usually I do much better. It was late, I was sleepy.<table align=center cellpadding=8><td></td><td></td></table><br /> <center><a HREF=""></a><br /> <font size=-1><i>photo by Sandra Dodd</i></font></center>
I'm grateful to those who let me beg and borrow their photos of light and joy. Thank you all. At the blog, you can look for your favorite authors or photographers with the search box, upper left. Or use this link for today: (search "Maciel")

It's late and I'm sleepy again, so I came for a "time out—here's why I messed up," and "I'm sorry."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Give them hope

Probably [doubters and critics] are sincerely concerned for your children, so try to be grateful for that, or at least to understand it.
. . . .

The nicest thing to say might be "Thanks, I'll think about it." If they say he might need some type of school, you could say yeah, someday he might. I liked to tell people that things were going well, but if that changed we would do something different. That gave them hope, and that was good for all of us. And it was true.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Friday, October 27, 2017

Special times

Seasonal lighting, favorite food, special music and colorful clothing—you don't even need to wait for a holiday!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Unexpected results

You might think you know what water is going to do, but it can surprise you.

We can picture how our unschooling will go, but it will probably be bigger and better.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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.
photo by Colleen Prieto

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Tools and purposes

A YouTube video showed slime-play with a tennis racket. I didn't have one, but a potato masher worked, to create strings of slime.

"Bath toys" are sold in stores, but kitchens are full of things that are fun in bathtubs. Colanders, measuring cups, mixing bowls, slotted spoons to pick up bubbles (or blow them). Ice is great in the tub, and cheap, and cleans itself up.

Practice seeing other purposes and possibilites.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, October 23, 2017

What helps?

I think one thing that helps is having a house. A detached house.
. . . .

It's not a requirement, but it seems to help. Then kids have dirt to dig in. I know some apartments have dirt and some houses don't. But still. Dirt. Bugs. Plants.

There is more of that, and more about what else helps, in a chat transcript:
photo by Lydia Koltai

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Better Things

The fewer things you say or do to make things worse, the better things will be.
photo by Cátia Maciel

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Wellbeing, learning and balance

When I stopped seeing my daughter as adversarial it changed the world for us.
. . . .
We have developed a sweet and trusting bond where the focus is on wellbeing and learning and finding balance.
—Joanna Murphy, 2008
photo by Holly Dodd

Friday, October 20, 2017

Precious principles

Leah Rose wrote:

I had an amazing experience with [breathing] last night. At bedtime (which is about midnight in our family) I had just tucked in and said goodnight to our two youngest (8 and 11 yo boys) and was climbing into my own bed when I heard one of them calling me. My knee-jerk reaction was a blast of annoyance—very typical of me in that situation, exacerbated by the fact that I'd felt crummy all day and was really looking forward to collapsing into bed.

I huffed out an angry breath, started to head back to their room and suddenly had a thought from something I'd read here recently (or maybe on Sandra's website or the RU Network): "First, breathe and center yourself." So I took a deep breath, and as I inhaled I felt my whole being kind of slide into place—it was weird, almost a tangible sensation—and suddenly I felt completely peaceful. I walked into their room with a smile on my face and asked if either of them had called me. It was ds 11, he wanted me to set up his extra pillow (which was on the floor leaning against his bed) behind him so he could sit up and read for a bit.

Normally in this circumstance I'd have walked into the room annoyed and impatient and would have responded to this request by going on a rant about why he couldn't just reach down and pick it up himself, why he had to call me all the way back into his room for that, how tired and crummy I was feeling and there is no reason why I have to be the one to do it since he's perfectly capable himself! (You get the picture.)

Last night I just said, "Sure!" and set his pillows up behind him and gave them both another kiss goodnight and then went to bed feeling exhausted but very peaceful—and very thankful for my networks of unschoolers, from whom I'm learning the precious principle of abundance.

~Leah Rose
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Things by my back door one day, looking like a set. Inside the glass is an old end table with fancy legs. There's a plastic planter, and a metal watering can, all stripey. The colors were nice, too.

No one arranged them, they just were there.

Be open to seeing something others aren't seeing—in your children, your surroundings, and your life.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Calmly and happily

"If you take care of your house happily, even if you don't ever make any real progress or feel it's getting really clean, if you look after things calmly and happily your kids will be more likely to participate in the process. If you're grumping around growling about things being out of control, how are they ever supposed to feel they could manage it? If you can't handle it, how could they?"
—Deb Lewis
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mysteries and clues

Mysteries and clues can be nice, on a day when it's okay to decide which way to go on a whim or a coin toss. Even when "random" isn't on the schedule, be open to unexpected new directions.
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trust can grow

"There are many things one can trust as one begins unschooling. Draw on what you know about your child, your partner and yourself to nurture confidence. Trust in unschooling will deepen and grow as one gains understanding and experience. Oh! Which reminds me! I trusted that others who had unschooled their children successfully before me knew some things (a lot of things, it turned out) that could help me. That trust grew as I tried some of the things people suggested and they proved to be very useful."
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Discovering ways to help

I do love words. I love their history. I love their sounds, and their power. I love the way they can reveal fears and other emotions, and prejudices and confusions. It's not that I like to see those things revealed, but when people are looking for clarity and we're trying to help them, it's good to see where they're limping or hurting, as it were.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A little more

A little more time.
A little more patience.
A little more joy.
A little more calm.
photo by Janine

Friday, October 13, 2017

What big eyes you have!

Since I was little, I have loved the line,"Grandma, what big eyes you have," from Red Riding Hood. It's a good line.

What can you see if you look far away or close up, or with your eyes closed, "with your mind's eye"?

The New Mexico State Museum of Natural History has microscopes. I took a bug there. If you click that, I think you can get an image you can zoom in on to see his eyes, his toes, his wings. How can you see that? Other people helped you see.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 12, 2017

More than they seem

All the entertainment, office tools, art, music, trivia and humor that used to take people two or three rooms to store can be accessed with a tablet computer now, or a smart phone, or a laptop. They are lit-up windows to people, places, languages, recipes and sites to order the ingredients and cookware.

You can make photos and video, sound recordings, send art, letters, old photos, to family, friends and strangers. The Jetsons' video phone wasn't nearly as good as Skype is.

Be grateful for your wifi and the sweet things you can find and share.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Alive and breathing

There is a depth of understanding, and a practice of many years, that make unschooling work well. Joining a group, or subscribing to a magazine, or going to a conference (or a dozen conferences) isn't what it's about. Unschooling lives (is alive; breathes; functions) where the learning is happening. The learning is supported and fed by the relationships between the parents and chidren.
photo by Karen James

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Again, again!

“No-one is ever likely to read my whole website and I don’t ever need them to. It’s not written to be read from one end to the other any more than a pharmacy is intended for someone to start at one end and eat, drink or inject every substance in the whole room. If you find a page that does help you, guess what? It will help even more if you read it again after a year or two. And if you read it after you’ve been unschooling for five years it will seem that the first time it was a black and white postcard and now it’s a technicolor movie. Because you’ll understand it better and you’ll see the subtlety and the artistry of what people wrote and maybe you’ll wish you’d been able to understand it better sooner.” ~ Sandra Dodd
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, October 9, 2017

Energy and joy

I have noticed how much energy unschooling parents are willing to put into their kid's joy.
—Robyn Coburn
photo by Megan Valnes

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Interesting, wet and chilly

From Deb Lewis's list of things to do in winter:

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.
. . . .

Cool things are everywhere, summer and winter. David and Dylan went to the tennis court on Sunday and tried to play with snow balls. There's no snow now so what ever we do this weekend will be wet and chilly, but we'll find something.
—Deb Lewis
photo by Heather Booth

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Electric guitars, or Egypt

What aspect of some particular subject involves objective truth? What is folklore or mythology? What literature or fantasy has come about based on that subject or item? Consider dragons, or India, or snakes, or rainbows. Checklist Abe Lincoln, the discovery of fire, or the depths of Lake Superior. Plot WWII, Japan, electric guitars, or Egypt.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in a pawn shop

Friday, October 6, 2017


Sometimes, be still.

Don't be still all the time—kids and life are busy, busy, busy! Notice moments of stillness, and breathe there.

Music without any quiet parts can turn into too much noise.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Beauty and softness

Jenny Cyphers wrote:

It's such a big part of our culture to get it done now, fix it all now, make it happen now, do, do, do, do. Sometimes what life really requires is calm and patience. A very valuable thing to learn in life is to how to take care of ourselves and others during times of stress and times that aren't ideal and wonderful.

I think that's part of "stopping and smelling the roses." If you don't take that time, you miss some pretty wonderful bits of life. When there is stress and other negative influences happening around us, it's even MORE important to take that time to seek out the beauty and the softness and the sweet and light and happy things.
—Jenny Cyphers
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Not what was expected

Life is like this:

Some things that used to be easy become more difficult.

Some things that used to be difficult become easy.

Things we thought would be around forever are gone.

Things we never could have imagined would exist are here.
chalk lettering and photo by Sandra Dodd
(There's my first cellphone, for scale—I liked that little flip phone.)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Easier, more manageable

"The more you're aware of how good things are when they are good, the easier it will be to wade through the times when things are less good. If you're aware of how lucky you are, everyday problems by comparison can seem smaller, and more manageable."
—Deb Lewis
photo by Janine

Monday, October 2, 2017

Geek intelligence

Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences has a category that explains serious hobbyists, gamers, and comic-book collectors:

Naturalist intelligence involves recognizing and categorizing things. Birds and clouds, certainly. Trees. But it also applies to flags, heraldry, automobiles, computer components... the talent for recognizing a widget or a seed seems to be the same.

If your child knows all the Pokémon and their stages, a hundred Minecraft tricks, or the history and evolution of My Little Pony, this is a strong ability to discern the nature of things—to identify and analyze. Each child will have other intelligences, too, and those blend together to help him or her learn easily and to make fun connections.
(The middle paragraph is on that page, the rest I added here just today!)
Focus, Hobbies, Obsessions
photo by Andrea Quenneville

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Life changes

Impermanence is irritating, but can also be a relief.

A few centuries ago, people believed strongly in the wheel of fortune—that circumstances would change, and did change, and that nothing good or bad would last forever.

You can't keep air, or save rain. Clouds are wet and wispy.
The weather of the soul
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trees let the light in

When the shady days end, deciduous trees do us a favor and let the sun shine through to help keep the ground warmer.

If you've seen this happen 20 or 40 times before, remember that to children it's exciting and wonderful. Slow down and see what they're seeing.
Happy Springtime to readers in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

Equatorial folk, keep enjoying your tropical flowers and birds. Know that you live with beauty that most others will never see in person.
photo by Andrea Justice

Friday, September 29, 2017


Get oxygen into that part of you that fears the tiny monsters.
photo by Gail Higgins
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