Friday, December 15, 2017


"Time passes, they grow and they change and they move on in their interests and abilities."
—Schuyler Waynforth
photo by Julie D

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hard paths and soft ones

Some paths are solid and man-made. This one has beautiful tile on the step risers, but few people ever see it.

Some paths are worn into the dirt by animals, like cow trails. Sometimes kids can follow them where adults don't fit.

Other paths are proverbial, mental or imaginary. They lead from one thing to another, and on out of sight.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mess with chess

Sink-Like-a-Stone Method: Instead of skimming the surface of a subject or interest, drop anchor there for a while.
If someone is interested in chess, mess with chess. Not just the game, but the structure and history of tournaments. How do chess clocks work? What is the history of the names and shapes of the playing pieces? What other board games are also traditional and which are older than chess? If you're near a games shop or a fancy gift shop, wander by and look at different chess sets on display. It will be like a teeny chess museum. The interest will either increase or burn out—don't push it past the child's interest.

When someone understands the depth and breadth of one subject, he will know that any other subject has breadth and depth.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

All seasons

Time out.

It's December, and I live at a high elevation at 35 degrees latitude. It's freezing.

I like this butterfly photo from Chrissy, though. And it's good to remember that Just Add Light and Stir has readers
near the equator, in India and Hawaii; in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa; in Alaska, Canada, Scotland. Maybe it's winter, maybe it's summer, maybe the days are long, or short.

We can all share this butterfly and blue sky today.
photo by Chrissy Florence

Monday, December 11, 2017

Gentle with a child

We make choices ALL the time. Learning to make better ones in small little ways, immediate ways, makes life bigger and better. Choosing to be gentle with a child, and patient with ourselves, and generous in ways we think might not even show makes our children more gentle, patient and generous.
photo by Lydia Koltai

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Theoretical broccoli

If my kids watched TV for hours each day, I might not be a good person to listen to about this, but I'll say it again: Unlimited access to TV and to food in my house has produced kids who only watch TV when they want to, and who only eat what they want to eat which is NOT a bunch of candy.

Holly asked for broccoli Tuesday. I bought some and cooked it before I knew she had gone to her friend's for an overnighter (she got the invite and left while I was shopping). So yesterday she asked about it, I reheated it and brought it to her at the TV where she was playing a game, waiting for the Simpsons to come on. She finished that bowl of broccoli, salt and butter, and asked for more with less butter.

I cooked the rest of it, and she ate most of it.

When The Simpsons ended she was done with the TV.

This isn't theoretical broccoli or TV, it was yesterday.

[It was 2001, sixteen years ago, but I wrote it the day after it happened.
Holly was nine years old.]
photo by Kate Green-Bagy

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Practice being accepting of whatever cool things come along, and providing more opportunities for coolness to unfold.
photo by Janine Davies

Friday, December 8, 2017

Running in the fog

Once there was heavy fog at our house. Kirby was four or five. He had never seen it at all, and this was as thick as I have ever seen fog. He wanted to go and touch it. I yelled "Let's go!" and we ran up the road, and ran, and ran. About seven houses up we got tired, and I said "Look" and pointed back toward our house, which was gone in the fog.

I did not say "See? You can't touch it, really, it's touching us, it's all around us."
I didn't say "Let's don't bother, it's just the same wherever in there you are."

I let him experience the fog. He learned by running in fog and smelling it, and losing his house in it.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of snow on plastic netting

This post first appeared in February 2011.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The abundance around you

"On our walk, I was contemplating finances, and was stressed 'til I remembered to notice the abundance around me: uncountable leaves on a tree, innumerable blades of grass... Yes, my life is rich. Nice."
—Caren Knox
photo by Gail Higgins

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Joy and connection

I felt very limited when I needed me time. I was needy and restentful when I didn't get it. I'm glad I don't feel I need it nightly anymore. I'm glad I have been able to find the joy in being around Austin even after the sun goes down and find times for myself throughout the day if needed. I'm glad that I can find connection with my husband even when Austin is still awake. It feels so free! I wish I could help everyone feel this free!
—Heather Booth, 2011
photo by Gail Higgins

Monday, December 4, 2017

Coincidence and confluence

I don't believe in magic, but I find joy in wonderful coincidences and confluences. I like looking at a digital clock right at 11:11, for its pattern and symmetry. When planets line up I'm happy, even though I believe it to have no effect whatsoever on humans on earth outside the happiness they might have if they know about it.

The quote is from,
which was written about my kids about this time ten years ago,
when they were 16, 18 and 21.

photo by Chrissy Florence

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Learning everywhere

Kids want to learn. When people unschool their kids, the relationship with the kids becomes the driving force, and it becomes the environment for more learning and more happiness, which primes the pump and you can’t stop it. Try not to learn. You can’t do it.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Right in front of them

Had I just taught my kids to read and then unschooled, they would not be the calmly confident people they are today. They might be saying "Okay, mom, time to teach me division" or "Mom, you didn't teach me to spell yet." Instead of that, I help them learn whatever is in front of them.
photo by Brie Jontry

Friday, December 1, 2017

Living better 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."
photo by Megan Valnes

Thursday, November 30, 2017


If you've seen all the cool things on the shelves at your house, look at other people's shelves!
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


"What I like most about rivers is
You can't step in the same river twice;
The water's always changing,
Always flowing."
—Stephen Schwartz lyrics, for Pocahontas to sing

Just Around the Riverbend
photo by Lydia Koltai

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Colorful Colours

Natural colors, accidental designs, artist-chosen combinations. However you spell it, find and name some coloured colorations that you might have missed otherwise.
photo by Joyce Fetteroll

Monday, November 27, 2017


Keith and I installed that peekhole in our front door when Marty was little. Now Marty is 28 and lives in that house with his wife of three years, who is expecting a child.

What you see from your own house, through your own eyes, starts small. The way you see the world as you're growing up can be like a peekhole. We will never be able to see out through others' front doors, as they do. We can't see through their eyes.

Remember your view, no matter how vast it becomes, is personal and limited.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Some children have seasons of wanting to cocoon at home (some adults, too). Sometimes an unschooled child will go through a year or two of not wanting to go out. And some are inclined to be inward-looking.

I think in Howard Gardner's intelligence theory, this might perhaps involve more intrapersonal intelligence than average. But there are artists and writers who prefer a great deal of time alone, too. And even among those with kinesthetic intelligence, there are some who prefer hiking, climbing or skiing. There are those who practice sleight-of-hand and juggling for many hours alone. There are musicians who play a thousand hours in private for every hour they might share with others.

Slightly edited from the page
photo by Sabine Mellinger

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Arts and sciences

Art, engineering, form and function. See beauty not only in exotic or historical things, but also in newer, serviceable objects.

Even brooms and dustpans are designed and created to be attractive and serviceable.

Some art is seasonal and fleeting—does someone in your family wrap gifts beautifully? Make beautiful cookies?
photo by Broc Higgins

Friday, November 24, 2017


Conditions change for many reasons. Comfort levels vary.

Even one small improvement can positively affect a moment, a mood, a person, a family.
photo by Karen James

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Visits make memories. I still remember places I visited when I was very young. I recall things I ate, saw, heard, discovered, and learned. The houses and places are like characters in the book of me.

For everyone who has hosted my kids when I wasn't there, I'm grateful. They have memories of many things I didn't see.

My life is richer for visits as an adult, being able to see architecture in neighborhoods unlike my own, happy homey artistry and collections of everyday things, oddities, back yards and gardens.

Take your kids visiting. Have guests. What is small and routine for you might last forever in them.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Clarity and focus

Clarity and focus make things easier.
Muddly confusion make things harder.
photo by Janine

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Preserve joy

With kids in the house, wanting mom's positive attention, the creation and preservation of joy provides a better environment for the whole family.
photo by Sandra Dodd

Monday, November 20, 2017

Helpful and supportive

I have suggested to parents of infants to imagine that a child comes with a book of coupons for saying "No" 200 times (pick a number; I've said 300 before, too). That is how many times a parent can say "No," and the child really listen.
So it's good not to use them all up in the first year or two, because the child won't hear you anymore. It's good to save a few dozen for when they're teens and it's crucial.

To extend that to marriage, how many hateful statements can a relationship endure? How many fights will crack the foundation? Keep hate out of your house. Only say helpful, supportive things.

Parents who wouldn't dream of telling a child he is stupid seem not to notice saying similar things to that child's other parent. Don't be hateful, and save your fights for very important things in the distant future. (If the rest of this goes well, you might never need those.)
photo by Cátia Maciel

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mom in the middle

The mom is in the middle. She's the pivot point, the center, the way in which all these people are related.

A mom was worried about being in the middle,
in a situation involving her husband and four children. has other encouragement for moms.

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
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