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 Davies

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 Davies

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Luck in life

People come and go and we change each other. We amuse each other if we're lucky and frustrate each other if we're not so lucky.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Learning about food

Moms feel self-righteous when they worry. And they sometimes feel fantastic when other moms approve of their concerns. While the moms are congratulating each other about being so controlling, the poor kids are sad and hungry.
photo by JR Terry

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Purposes and principles

Something that inspired me to choose principles over rules:
We were at my mother-in-law's house and I offered to help with dishes, so she set me to dry, as she washed. The dish towel got so wet it wasn't doing any good, so I asked for a dry one. She said "Just use that one." I continued to "help," but it was NOT helping. I was just wiping a wet cloth on already-wet dishes, which wasn't drying them at all. If the principle of helping is to make things better, and if the principle of drying dishes is to wipe them dry, I was twice removed from what I had intended to do.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, September 25, 2017

Effects and causes

I liked the shadow this basket was making on the wall and floor of my bathroom. You can see inside the basket which part the light shone on to make the pattern. Every bit of the shadow corresponds to part of the basetweave, and to the angle of the light.

What you do shines on, and sometimes through, your children. You affect them, and others can see the effect.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Live here now

Live with your children in the moment, and the moment is not in the past.
Live with your child in the moment, in the world where you are.
photo by Megan Valnes

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Everything is better

The better people have examined and come to peace with their childhoods, the better they are in every moment. Not just with children, but with other adults and alone with themselves. Sleep is better, eating is better, everything is better.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, September 22, 2017

New eyes

Joyce wrote:
Don't teach. Just look at *everything* with new eyes....

Just live life amazed.
—Joyce Fetteroll
To read the long middle part I left out, go to:
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Really out there

Ronnie Maier, years ago:
The collected minds on were my primary inspiration. Actually, my first reaction was, "These people are really out there!" But as I read a lot (LOT) of information about homeschooling, those unschooling voices kept calling me. The seeds were planted, and I began to see in our lives—even while our kids were in school—what the people "out there" were talking about. By the time we officially pulled our kids out of school, I was 80% an unschooler. One math lesson after that, it was closer to 90%.
—Ronnie Maier
(The message board named was once marvelous, but is long gone.)
photo by Chrissy Florence

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Knowing differences

"Compare and contrast," in school assignments, could have been called "tell how these are the same but different."

Here is a view through an old fence into some pens, in Maine. This isn't what old fences look like in New Mexico. I recognize it as a wooden corral, but they might not even use that term in Maine. It is the same, but different.

Our vocabularies, our understandings, our ability to think clearly—all can be expanded by considering "same but different" about animals, ideas, children, houses, music, stories, clothing, clouds... Don't dismiss children's questions, nor your own, with "it's just the same." It's probably just as different.
photo by Sandra Dodd
(and here was one in New Mexico)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Courtesy, and teens

I posted this story in 2006 when it was six years old.
Now it is eleven years old. Our family looked like this, when the story was new:

A story slightly involving allowance, but a snapshot of how kids who aren't desperate for money can act:

Two of Marty's friends were going to pick him up to go run around, but they ended up staying here. Then another friend came over to see all my kids. Then a friend of Kirby's from work came over. I hadn't met her before. She was nice. So my three (14, 17, 19) plus four more (17-21) were all having a great time laughing and looking at stuff on Kirby's computer and around our house, and Marty's big Lego Viking village, and so forth.

They decided to go out for ice cream and then to see "Over the Hedge." I asked Holly if she needed money, and she didn't. (She saves her allowance up.) Every other person there has a job. Outside of Kirby possibly having an interest in the girl from work, there were no couples. Two of those kids do have steady others, but didn't bring them over. So it was four teenaged girls, four teenaged boys, no romantic tension (unless Kirby and new-girl; didn't see any).

And here's the big success part. They asked Keith if he wanted to go. I didn't know they had, when Marty came and asked me if I wanted to go. So they would have taken me, or Keith, or both of us, with them.

We separately thanked them and declined and found out later they had asked us both. Pretty sweet!

We didn't "teach them" to invite their parents to the movies. One advantage of our not going was that then they could fit into the big van and didn't have to take two cars.

The van they went in:
Sweetness in Teens
The photos are links.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Falling asleep

For the first MANY years of their lives, our kids fell asleep being nursed, or being held or rocked by dad or mom, or in the car on the way home from something fun. They slept because they were sleepy, not because we told them to. So when they got older, they would fall asleep near us, happily.

We never minded putting them in the bed after they were asleep. It was rare they went to sleep in the bed. They would wake up there (or in our bed, or on the couch or on a floor bed) knowing only that they had been put there and covered up by someone who loved them.

Going to sleep wasn't about "going to bed."

Kirby, four, fell asleep while playing.
photo by Sandra Dodd, 1990

Sunday, September 17, 2017

In bits & pieces

Caren Knox wrote:
I don't even think about learning any more. It's not something I can quantify, or say how it's happening for anyone other than me - and quite frequently, I can't for me, either. It's organic. It's in bits & pieces so small we don't notice.

It's in this or that conversation, chance meeting, or something we come across on google. I can say, "I want to learn the lyrics to I'm Yours" so I google that, but who can say what I learn along the way?...
—Caren Knox
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Experience and confidence

Don't rob your children of the experience and of the knowledge that they can learn to read without help. If someone can learn to read, surely he can learn other things. I don't mean to say that after he learns to read he can learn other things by reading. I mean that reading is complex, moreso in English than some other languages, and if your child knows that he learned to read, he will have great confidence in his ability to learn. (So will his parents.)
(the quote is from page 86 of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Sarah Wassinger

Friday, September 15, 2017

"What's that?"

In reviews or analysis of...projects, new words certainly came up. The great thing was we were naming things they had already mastered or begun to understand, in discussing why something worked well, or didn't, or why a ball thrown fast against the wall could come back and hit you really hard. And so we came to words about physics, and force, and vectors, pulleys, gears, and materials. Anatomy lessons came free with sprains, scrapes and bruises. Biology just bubbled up when stickers or insects or rusty nails punctured skin. In the course of answering questions and trying to explain what went wrong or what might work better, we used new words. Science lessons for their own sake, or vocabulary lists, would have done little good (and some harm) but naming what they had already done, felt, tried and accomplished was just a bigger-kid's "What's that?"
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, September 14, 2017


Here is a mother and a child. It's a tiny copy of an original sculpture. It's not real ivory or solid gold, but is representing real ivory, or perhaps alabaster, in a real gold frame.

If you don't know who that mother and child are supposed to be, it can be any mother and child.

The piece of art came from the Vatican. There is much symbolism around and within the Vatican. I haven't been there. Someone who had been there brought me that pin. I kept it for a few years and gave it away to another friend, yet it can be still in my hand, because I have a photo. And now I've shared it with you.

The pose of my hand in that photo has some symbolism. A hand position can have a subtle meaning, or an overt one. Gentle and inviting; threatening or forbiding. Communication by symbology. A handshake. A caress.

On my hand is a ring really made of gold and symbolism, representing details of particular relationships, and stories.

Stories, meanings and connections are not always told in words. Be open to seeing more, in smaller ways.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

All directions

Be open to input from all directions.

Be willing to go in different directions, over the years—with your feet, and with your thoughts.
photo by Sandra Dodd, in Winchester

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Just Do It

"Just Do it - show your kids by your actions that their needs and feelings are important to you."
—Meredith Novak
photo by Cathy Koetsier

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sit and look

If you sit in a new place,
you will see some new things.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of someone else's
bench and fence

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trees need...

A good analogy for helping children grow in their own ways is the growth of trees from seed. An apple seed cannot grow an oak tree. Each seed has within it all it needs to know what kind of roots and leaves it will make. What young trees need is good soil, enough water, and protection from damage.
photo by Janine Davies

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Fun, home, family

Fun / home / family is more welcoming (and helpful for unschooling)
than not-school / your-behavior / autonomy.
from Radical Unschooling Info
photo by Lydia Koltai

Friday, September 8, 2017

2500 posts

Thank you for reading Just Add Light and Stir! If you receive this by e-mail, or see it on facebook or on my website somewhere, please do click through to the blog where it lives.

If you usually see this on a phone, occasionally go in with an iPad or computer, and click through to some of the older posts while you're there. Phones don't show it nicely. There are 2500 pieces of art there (word and photo combos), carefully formatted, with links to related posts. Use this resource happily and well, and may unschooling continue to blossom and flourish in your life.
Thank you for recent assistance, those who sent gifts.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Live safely

A common question is how to "make" children hold the mom's hand. It helps to live in such a way that the child wants to hold the mom's hand.
. . . .
Make yourself your child's safest place in the world, and many of your old concerns will just disappear.

The Big Book of Unschooling, page 67
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Sometimes an adult who had learned not to learn, or had grown up to be self-conscious about enthusiasm and curiosity, rediscovers the joy of discovery.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of a horse at Polly's house

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Learning like a kid

On indication that unschooling is working, or has succeeded, is that the adults see the world with child-like eyes. It might just be occasional, at first, but as time passes, wonder should return.
photo by Janine Davies
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