Sandra Dodd

Lately on Just Add Light, a few times I’ve chosen a photo from the over-200 people sent me when I asked in November, and written something new to go with it. Then I link to the most-related page.

In moving this quote to the Substance page, I looked at it a different way:

In weaving, one thread touches all the others. At first, learning is in one place, play is in another, and work is in a third. Unschoolers can gradually become people whose lives are made of learning and togetherness. When play has value, and parents see learning in everything, the fiber and substance of the family's life change.

What is woven into your life is part of your being.

I wrote it to go with a photo of a girl at a loom. I was thinking of play, learning and togetherness. And it’s true that those can potentially become a part of the being of everyone in an unschooling family.

But this morning I saw the last line by itself: "What is woven into your life is part of your being."

It’s true of negativity, too.
It’s true of drama-seeking.
It’s true of cynicism.

Of course I’m aware that some people get huffy and leave discussions when I say “What you wrote is too negative and…” or “If you would change the words you use, your thoughts would change.” It really makes people angry, sometimes. Some of them write me hateful exit messages, when their defensive of negativity is overflowing.

But if negativity is woven all through one’s life—in their opinions of movies, cellphones, music, government, foods, weather… how can they be warm and accepting of their children? How can they create an unschooling nest that is not built with strands of negativity?

Here is that Just Add Light and Stir post, from December 16.

A few days later, December 21, I quoted Megan Valnes. At the time, I didn’t connect the two, but as a gift to every reader here: a connection.


"Radical unschooling can bring about such a sense of peace with one's own self, that it can be poured into the being of another."
—Megan Valnes

Collect and save what you want to share with and give to your children.

'You can't give what you don't have,' some people say, and if you want your children to give generosity and kindness and patience to others, you should give them so much they're overflowing with it. —Sandra Dodd


Clare Kirkpatrick

Thank you so much for writing these beautiful words, Sandra and Megan.

These words in particular made me think of something I wanted to share that recently really illustrated how children growing in unschooling families learn beautiful strong principles and values.

-=- 'You can't give what you don't have,' some people say, and if you want your children to give generosity and kindness and patience to others, you should give them so much they're overflowing with it. —Sandra Dodd -=-

We've always talked about our family's finances with our children honestly and openly. Never in a way that would induce guilt or when it doesn't naturally make sense to, but when conversations about the nature of going to work and how to earn money come up or to explain a delay in saying yes to something they want while we're discussing how to shift our budgets around to afford it, for example. Recently there has been much excited conversation about the possibility of extending our mortgage to afford an extension to our house meaning the children would get the bedroom each they so want.

Firstly, this obviously has meant a far more mature understanding of finance than I ever had at that age. But, secondly, because my husband and I work so closely as a team, that's how our children view our family. I work two long days a week doing something I love and my husband works full time doing something he really loves. He moved into his current role only a year ago taking a large pay cut that was only made possible by my return to work two years ago. He had previously been so unhappy in his job that it had affected the whole family - he was out of the house so many hours and when he was home he was stressed and unhappy; under so much pressure from his work and from being the sole wage-earner.

Now we are both earning money in jobs we find very rewarding and look forward to going to, we have all seen a rich, beautiful change in our family life. Both our jobs have the potential for working extra hours here and there to enable the buying of something big when we want to. And, because we both love our work, instead of draining us, it enables us to be so much more joyful and present in all the non-paid-work hours of our lives.   Our children are witnessing and clearly internalising the importance of doing what you love and of working together in partnership to be able to live life as joyfully and richly as possible.

Our 12 year old has recently found out that some places have schemes where they can legally employ children as young as 13 for up to 12 hours a week term-time (25 hours in the school holidays). The hourly rate isn't much, but she is so excited at the prospect of one of the potential jobs in particular. Her plan, when she was first telling me, was to contribute half her earnings to our family finances! She is quite determined and joyful at the prospect of being able to be an active part of the family earning team. We were so touched about it. Our 10 year old wants to contribute some of the money she hopes to earn from the business she and I have been planning to start in the new year as well.

Of course, we have tactfully and with great gratitude and love found ways to decline their offers. Their offers were so clearly not born of naiveté or guilt but of a sense of joy and of the family working together as a team.

At Christmas, they all insisted on spending their money on individual gifts for everyone in the family. They absolutely love the giving side of this time of year and take as much joy in it as in the receiving side.

The knowledge that our children are growing up with strong principles of prioritising partnership and joy in life over financial wealth fills my husband and I with so much gratitude for the unschooling way of life. But this is what they see - they see their grandparents being joyfully generous with their time and money. They see us being generous and having a mindset of abundance. To them, generosity and abundance, partnership and living joyfully is simply what life is about.

We learned these priorities ourselves through unschooling. I love our family life. I think our kids are awesome - funny, mature, wise, generous, trustworthy, knowledgeable, creative, reliable, kind. These are the sort of kids that unschooling nurtures. So here's my thanks to you, Sandra, for holding the space for all this learning and to all the experienced unschoolers who are generous with their own time and words. Thank you all.