Sandra Dodd

People ask me about writing, and unschooling kids, or about how to teach writing. Sometimes they mean handwriting/penmanship, and sometimes they mean composition (paragraphs, flow) and sometimes they mean grammar and punctuation. And often they're not sure what they mean. "Writing" covers a large range of thought and action.

In side e-mail, I received this and it's worth sharing with the list, for three reasons. It answers some of the question above, it will help others write on the list, and it's a thank you to more than just me.


Let me say thanks for your list helping me to become a better writer and clearer thinker. Words do matter! Now, as I compose anything in writing, no matter the audience, I think of how it would sound to you, your moderators and the frequent posters on Always Learning. To craft an answer, you must examine each word closely and carefully. There is no body language or personal knowledge of the poster - just the naked words lying there on the page as the sole representation of that person's problem and attitude. Hyperbole, absolutes, exaggeration, trite empty phrases, poor word choices, careless or no editing for the content, clarity and brevity - all these things I now instantly spot in new threads. Well, mostly! I then await the answers from you and your "team" of thoughtful list members to point out and question these inconsistencies and muddled thought. And then when I catch things and then see all of you see them and call them out, I sorta congratulate myself for silently catching them, too!

Thanks for all you are helping me learn.

Here's another bit I got in the same morning's mail:

Very effectively written information. It will likely be invaluable to anyone who usess it, together with myself. Keep up the great work � for certain i will try extra posts.

Some of you might recognize that one. It's spam in a blog comment field. I get something like that every week or so. When those are posted, there's either a little link in it, or the name of the poster leads to some phishing site. So as writing, it's just smarmy noise designed to get past spam filters.

Recently a mom wrote asking me questions, and I sent links she didn't seem to read before she asked me more questions, and I sent more links that correlated to her questions, and local contact information. In the course of asking, though, she inadvertently insulted me pretty hard twice, and I suggested she be careful how she asked those questions so she wouldn't offend people.

The things she first said that were offensive were:

" I have been using some of the unschooling phylosophy the last couple of days. Its great. I am a born again Christian and I have to say that term because I am not just someone who talks the talk and doesn't walk the walk. I have morals."
"In society there are rules everywhere not just in school, such as libraries, grocery stores, church, Pulic places etc. How do you not train children to behave certain ways in these places. They will look like "fools" and frankly we will to if we do not inform them on proper social skills."

My responses to those parts were "I have morals too, and I no longer believe in God."
My children have never looked like fools.
I don't think you intended to be insulting with your questions, but you have suggested that my children look like fools and that I have no morals. When you ask other people questions after this, when you contact people in [the local area], please try to be a little more tactful.

In an attempt to appease me and to make up for the awkward first couple of e-mails, she wrote this, to me, about my children (whom she had not met any more than than she had before:

My apologies if I sounded like I was being insulting. That was not what I was trying to say. What I was saying is that when I see other poeple say for instance look at my son if I don't train him then perhaps he appears to them as a fool. I don't know your children so I would never make a straight forward statement like that and let alone never make a statement like that even if i did know them. I hope I am not offending you. Your children look very well educated and I admire that of your family. They seem like they can think for themselves and create opinions on there own. They seem like potential leaders in the world. At least I've seen your daughters video and that is my take. I would never say they are foolsl. Again I am very intrigued by unschooling and frankly I do things regardless of what other people think.


I hope she'll settle out, find local contacts, unschool successfully and live a happy life.
But I wanted to bring the examples of extremes in writing. I don't think my children "look very well educated." I think they look happy, and they're interesting to talk to. The exchange was over, anyway, and she had the resources she had asked for.

The closing, though, "I do things regardless of what other people think" seems to negate all the rest of what she wrote, about religion, morals, rules and proper social skills. :-)

Thinking about good writing, and blustery/bad writing, and thoughtless writing, and thoughtful writing is part of writing. Being able to see what's good and clear, and what is muddly and murky (or dangerous or harmful).

The writing we do on this list is real writing, because it's actually communicating to other people, and because it has the potential to change people's thoughts and behavior, and their children's lives, and their lives. Writing rarely gets more "real" than that.


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