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

Monday, September 4, 2017

The beautiful side

"Being there unconditionally for our children nurtures the beautiful side of the human spirit that resides in each one of us. It cleans it. Reveals it. Keeps it fresh."
—Karen James
photo by Karen James

Sunday, September 3, 2017


"Three deep breaths are magical."
—Caren Knox

from a presentation called "Swimming in This Moment," September 2, 2017
photo by Amber Ivey

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Seven Years of Adding Light

Just Add Light and Stir was started in 2010 as a daily inspiration. Somehow it didn't occur to me that it might last seven years. So here begins Year #8.

I hope some of the posts have helped you be patient, and to smile.

Thanks for reading!

Last request for donations until 2020: SandraDodd.com/2017
beautiful stripey photo by Jill Parmer

Sorry I missed posting yesterday; I was up late
playing Chronology at the Free to Be Unschooling conference.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Poised and confident

I expected my children to learn, and they did. What surprised me was their ease at dealing with people of all ages, from younger children to adults. They made eye contact and shook hands from an early age. They're poised and confident.

the photo is from 2007, and is a link

P.S. I know kids are different; the statement above was about my kids.
Kids who aren't so at ease can benefit from being at home without pressure.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

More power

Help your children to be powerful. Let them have all of their power and some of yours.

(quote is from page 171 of The Big Book of Unschooling)
photo by Janine Davies

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Slow change

Living means changing. Appreciate the good things, however plain and simple.

Don't rush, don't stop, but live.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, August 28, 2017

Learning, relationships, integrity

Everything counts.

If school and grades form "the object" and life is the field, many things "don't count."

Living without school or schoolishness, everything counts.

In learning, in relationships, concerning integrity—everything counts.

The Luminous Mind, Episode 197, Sandra Dodd, “Everything Counts”

photo by Gail Higgins

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Making the world better

"The longer I live the more convinced I am that the way children are parented/raised has the greatest potential for changing the world. Raising whole, healthy people makes the world better."
—Brie Jontry
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Learning, peace and kindness

 photo upsideDownKarenJames.jpgLearning, peace and kindness make marriages better.

(and friendships,
and partnerships with children)
photo by Karen James, of a painting by Karen James

Friday, August 25, 2017

More "more," less in between

"Everything in moderation… no. Not everything. Not very many things at all. Bad things at the minimum, good things to the maximum, and hopefully not much at all sitting sadly in the in-between."
—Colleen Prieto
 photo flowerShadowPrieto.jpg
photo by Colleen Prieto

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Inventory your abundance

You don't need a full list of things to be grateful for, to feel abundance. Maybe think of three, and then take that smile into your next few hours, if you can.
 photo DestinyWalkway.jpgHere are three of mine: Kirby and his wife own a house (own a mortgage, anyway) and this is their beautiful walkway at night.

Marty and his wife will have a son, in December or January.

Lately and coming up, Holly has participated in several interesting and unrelated classes and workshops in dance, songwriting, burlesque, and yoga.
It's fun to see them continuing to stretch up and outward, and it's nice late at night to know they're all safely asleep in their various homes.

photo by Destiny Dodd

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An investment

Karen James wrote:

It might not seem like it now, but those early years pass fast. . . . 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

Please read the beautiful entirety of that at
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Choosing food

If children are allowed to turn foods down, they're not forced to eat, and they're given choices, they will come to choose good foods, know when they're hungry and when they're not, and actually learn to listen to their bodies and know what they need.  photo IMG_4994.jpg
This is such a departure from tradition in our culture that it seems altogether wrong, at first.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, August 21, 2017

Agree, disagree, but think first.

I don't care if people disagree with me. I wouldn't want anyone to agree with me blindly, nor disagree blindly.

Nothing personal to me—I just want to present information for people to consider.
—Sandra Dodd
1995 or 1996
(In a discussion, I care that the information presented is helpful to unschooling.)
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Two-way change

Unschooling is more than just the absence of school. As we change, our perceptions change, and the perceptions of others toward us changes.  photo BrieMay2014.jpg
photo by Brie Jontry

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Peace in the bank

Do what will help your baby. Be the gentlest, sweetest, most attentive mother you can possibly be, and you will be putting peace in the bank for you and your whole family.
Though that was written about infants, it could work with older kids, too!
photo by Lydia Koltai

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sit still

On bonding with babies:

"Sit still with them. And when they are still, sit still with yourself. Don't use so many moments of the day to do anything."
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo of Sandra and Holly Dodd

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Go for healthy.

There is a difference between lack-of-mental-illness and mental health. What I mean is that one is not right on the edge of the other. There is a large land between being incapacitated and being really healthy and energetic and usful to other people. Don't settle for barely-back. Go for healthy.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A tiny change of course

A different approach to life yields a very different set of results.

You don't have to turn 180 degrees from the way you would have lived before you decided to parent differently. At first it might seem pretty close. But as you move further from the starting point, you will see what a difference a tiny change of course made.

image by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Better moments

 photo IMG_0582.jpgIt helps a lot to try for better moments not days. Don't judge a day by one upset, judge it as a bad moment and move forward. A little bit better each moment. A little bit more aware.
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Rippy Dusseldorp

Monday, August 14, 2017

Talking less

 photo SchuylerWatermill.jpg"It was nice to be more quiet—to let things go unsaid. Not talking automatically and at length gave me more time to think about what I really wanted to say, if anything at all. I found I had fewer regrets—wishing I'd said something different or not at all. By talking less, I became a better listener too, I think."
—Karen James

photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Comfort and strength

8/13/17 Comfort and strength photo foodSabrinaPeng.jpgI have comforted my "inner child" by comforting my own children. I have felt like a stronger, better person by being a stronger, better mom. Then it's not imagination, it's reality.

Helping them grow up whole helped me feel more full and whole myself.
Changing the present, healing the past, hope for the future
(from a comment I made there)
photo by Sabrina Peng

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The expectation of learning

It seems lately that more and more people want to know exactly HOW to unschool, but the answer is not what they expect. Looking back at these stories, in light of others like them, the best recommendation I can make is to open up to the expectation of learning. It helps if the parent is willing for a conversation to last only fifteen seconds, or to go on for an hour. Remember that if your “unit study” is the universe, everything will tie in to everything else, so you don’t need to categorize or be methodical to increase your understanding of the world. Each bit is added wherever it sticks, and the more you’ve seen and wondered and discussed, the more places you have inside for new ideas to stick. A joyful attitude is your best tool. We’ve found that living busy lives with the expectation that everything is educational has made each morning, afternoon and evening prime learning time.

The "lately" in that quote was in 2002.
The photo is Holly's hand, in August 2017.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, August 11, 2017

Abundant beauty

Listen, feel, look. Something will be beautiful, even just for a moment, if you are present and open.

How much beauty would make a beautiful moment?

What could be set aside so that beauty could fill its place?

Turn your face toward beauty.
Turn your heart toward beauty.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Just add peace and stir

"Reading 'Just Add Light & Stir', then the link-following that follows has saved me from negative-mind-spiraling quite often recently."
She wrote that after having quoted this:

"The more local and personal peace there is, the more peace there will be in the world."
—Sandra Dodd
Knowing Peace
photo by Sarah Dickinson

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sunny and dry

Look for usefulness.

Look for beauty.

Hang out, you and your laundry.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Choose to live lightly

 photo AdamTreeJulie.jpg I think to move toward humor, live lightly and not so ponderously.

Problems can be seen as temporary setbacks instead of life-ruining horrors, if you remember to choose to live lightly.

photo by Julie D

Monday, August 7, 2017

Change in ourselves

 photo MeganValnesEurope7.jpg"Unschooling is *much* harder than school at home because it takes a great deal of self examination and change in ourselves to help our kids and not get in their way!"
—Joyce Fetteroll
photo by Megan Valnes

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Two things, two words

I wrote "two things, two words" as a title but most things have more than one name, most words mean more than one thing, and "two" is too small a number for this.

I've brought a photo by Lisa Jonick to help you consider this. If you try to say in one word, or two, what the photo shows, you will leave out three or four important parts.

What is the glass? Mirror. Window. Barrier.
What is the cloth? Backdrop. Projection screen. Drapery.

Is the tree touching the cat? Not really, but it envelopes him and his eyes turn to tree. Behind the cat is the reflection of mountains. It seems to be a continuation of his back. And as this is not "a photo of the mountains," the mountain seems to be inside the house, with the cat.

Lisa saw this, photographed it, saved it, shared it.

There will be many things in your life that you see, or fail to see. Seeing, thinking, naming, all have to do with thought, and categorization, and learning. Take a moment to see what you see richly, and deeply.
photo by Lisa Jonick

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Don't taint the ice cream.

It creates a trap, a trick question, an adversarial relationship, an opportunity for failure, if there is "a right answer" to the question "What do you want to eat?" Or if an overjoyed "can I have some ice cream?" is met with a sigh, and eyes rolling, and another sigh, and a dirty look, and a summary of what the child has already eaten that day, and a reminder of when the next meal is, and a head shake, and a mention of ingredients... or even ONE of those, it taints the ice cream. It harms the relationship. It makes the child smaller. It does not, correspondingly, though, make the parent larger.

photo by Sandra Dodd

Friday, August 4, 2017

Thinking and wondering

"Sometimes people just want to wonder, rather than *know*. Or maybe they will want to know in the future, but right now they're just thinking on it and wondering."
—Tam Palmer

Laughing and wondering might help, too.
photo by Colleen Prieto
"Barn Swallow fledglings - Rye, NH"

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Look for this!

"Don't look for 'behaviors.' Look for learning and thinking and pondering and excitement and happiness!"
—Robin Bentley
 photo TVSarahClark.jpg
photo by Sarah Clark

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Closer and better

 photo MeganValnesEurope14.jpg"The ONLY way I've learned how to be a more present, more caring, generous partner with my kids was by being with them, trying on choices closer and closer to radical unschooling, learning from those choices, then choosing again, better, each time (most times)."
—Caren Knox
photo by Megan Valnes
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