Thoughts on Changing

I've read about mindfulness for years (mostly in the context of yoga and/or nutrition), but the suggestions I've found here have provided me with the best practice of mindfulness I've found anywhere. —Katy Barrett, February 2013

"I think the people who write on your groups hold some of the best discussions in the world on philosophy, but more importantly how to practically live it out."

(Side comment in 2020, but I didn't keep the name with it.)

Sandra's response to this question:
As much as I read here and on your (Sandra's) and Joyce's websites, I seem to slide right back into schoolish ways...

How long does it take to really break that bad habit?

If you think of it in negative terms ("bad" and not just "break" but "really break"), you will just sit in that negativity, frustrated, forever. You will feel there had to be a winner (you) or a loser (you) and you will be angry with yourself.

The change you need is to live a different way. Step out of the grumpy dark into the calm decision-making choose-joy light.

Stop thinking about your own comfort for a while. If you become successful at attending to other people's comfort, their comfort will overflow all around you, and you will feel your success and that will be some of YOUR new comfort.

Stop thinking you know what they need and what you need. Try a new angle, a different trajectory.

I think you should play Angry Birds. While you're playing, think about the huge difference made by a slightly different angle. Put your desire to control into that for a few days, therapeutically. While you're playing, think about what you can control, and why you would want to. If you want to schedule and control and optimize and perfect, maybe clean out your spice rack, or pack away your winter clothes, or plant some flowers, all the while thinking about how much you love your family, and how beneficial real changes will be.

Leave the old habit to wither. Don't try to break it. Move to making better choices so that what you used to do and used to think will be left in the "choices I don't consider anymore" category.

The links below might help, but reading them isn't what helps. You can't read yourself to a new way of being. Being has to do with BEing, not READing.

Decision time isn't about what you will do next year or for the rest of your child's life. Decision time is about what you will do in the next five seconds. I recommend getting up and doing something sweet for another person, wordlessly and gently. Never send the bill; make it a gift you forget all about. Do that again later in the day. Don't tell us, don't tell them, just do it.

Then maybe come back and read here and follow links. Maybe not all at once. 🙂

Choosing More Peace

Choosing to make choices

How to be a better parent

Find the best

Consider your legacy

Peace is all about choices

Old and new


Glenda's (wtexan's) response to the same post:
===As much as I read here and on your (Sandra's) and Joyce's websites, I seem to slide right back into schoolish ways. How long does it take to really break that bad habit?===
Even if you read a lot, that's not the same as making the best choice each and every time you have an opportunity to make a choice.

When I was new to unschooling, it took A LOT of conscious effort to stop and make the better choice, whereas nowadays it's generally second nature. But there's been a lot of years between "new to unschooling" and "nowadays".

What I did initially was pick one or two unschooling ideas and focus specifically on those for a period of time. I remember reminding myself *frequently* throughout the day and evening, "say yes or some form of yes" and "why not?" (when my son wanted to do something and my knee-jerk answer was about to be "no"). Those times when I immediately defaulted to "no" or "in a minute", I would stop myself and say aloud to my son and myself, "oh, you know what, forget that! sure we can do ___ / sure I can come play Pokemon with you right now".

I vividly remember there being a point several years into unschooling when I realized that so many of the things that had taken conscious effort in the beginning, had become second nature for me at some point along the way.

So my answer would be, be conscious of what you're saying and doing. Be more aware of your thoughts. If you act or react in a knee-jerk way that doesn't help relationships with your family, apologize to them and make a different, better choice in that moment.

I found it pretty easy to make the paradigm shift in my interactions with my son, but it was much harder to make that shift in my interactions with my husband. And that's still an ongoing change in our relationship, although it does come more naturally now—but it's still not as seamless as it is for me in my interactions with my son.

When I'm tired or hungry or don't feel well, I have to be more thoughtful about how I talk to my husband and how I think about him, because it's easy for me to slip into a negative place and to focus on the things he didn't do that I wish he had or the things he did that annoyed me.

One of the best things I've done for our marriage is to be more quiet when I'm tired/hungry/not feeling well. In those instances, I'm more prone to feel like snarking at my husband, or commenting on something he did / didn't do, or otherwise saying something that would be hurtful to him.

What goes along with that, for me, is to remind myself of the things he *does* do. And also to remind myself that "it's not all about ME!!" If the trash is full and he doesn't take it out when he heads outside, him not taking it has nothing whatsoever to do with me, in spite of what my tired/hungry/cranky brain may want to think in that moment. 😉

When you're feeling competitive with your husband, be aware of what you're thinking and be aware of how easy it could be, in that moment, to snark at him. Then make the choice to not snark at him. And make the choice to think nice thoughts about him, to think about the nice things he does for you and your daughters. Be the one to make the better choice in that moment, to not say or do something that contributes to the competitiveness.


Heather wrote:

Sandra Dodd & Joyce Kurtak Fetteroll, I came to unschooling to provide a better way to learn for my kids. Then I came to radical unschooling because I discovered it was about more than school. Now I'm discovering my hang-ups about food/nutrition/healthy food obsessions/weekend "junk" binges and controlling the groceries in our home and now radically unschooling (and your wisdom!) is helping me to unravel these problems and live wholly in the area of food too! Radical unschooling has SO MUCH been about me discovering issues I didn't even know I had, and life at home is blooming. I can't thank you enough for sharing your knowledge!

—Heather Durden Stich, 2013

Paula F:

I recall posting on an unschooling list many years ago about the difficulties I was having with my boys with regard to getting ready and leaving the house in the morning (they were probably five and seven at the time). I was expecting to get ideas about how to make them do I what I needed them to do. What I got instead was a much needed wake-up call about respectful and peaceful family living. I remember feeling initially hurt and indignant that I did not get a "show of support" from the other moms on the unschooling list. I felt flamed and did not read their posts after that for quite awhile.

I continued trying to control my children as I felt a good parent should. But that early flaming and the ideas that were imparted to me slowly seeped into my brain. I WANTED to be a thoughtful, respectful parent. I didn't want to follow in the footsteps of my parents—however well-intended and loving they thought they were being. I wanted to say yes as much as possible, and respect and enjoy my children for who they are, not who I thought they should be.

It took a full year (maybe more) for me to really begin to get it. Sandra, your list has been SO helpful to me. I still read it daily. I have your book, and have spent hours on your website.

—Paula F.


In the past I believed that the world is cruel and we need to be competitive to get ahead and survive. I wanted to identify a path and help (push) my kids as fast as I can into this path to success.

Now I see the world is beautiful and full of unlimited possibility and abundance. I want to hold as big as possible space to let my kids explore and let their life unfold in their own unique way. I am confident they will find their path that I may not know existing. Life is way more interesting, fun and peaceful with my new beliefs. I am fine tuning the art of living with my kids' help. Not only they open up a new world for me but also inspire a new way of seeing and living

—Jihong, September 2012

Karen James in a discussion of surprising changes,
on facebook:
When I was in my twenties, I told everyone, including myself that I would never get married. My husband asked me three times. I said no all three times. I finally came to my senses in my early thirties and asked him. I was sure he wouldn't risk another rejection by asking me again. Thankfully he said yes.

Also, all through my twenties, I said I would never have children. I thought I would be a terrible wife. I though I would be an even more disastrous mother. But, after a year of being married, we had our wonderful son. I wish I could say that just having a child changed my whole outlook on having children, but in those first few months, I remember being incredibly scared that I had made a terrible mistake. I loved our baby deeply, but my own self-doubt ran deep.

Attachment parenting, then unschooling, showed me that I'm a better person than I ever believed. I'm capable of compassion I didn't know existed. I have a sense of humour that isn't belittling or unkind, but can bring relief to uncomfortable situations. I have so much love for Doug and Ethan, that it has begun to overflow and fill my own cup. My world is hopeful, even in difficult times. I still struggle a fair amount with inner critics, but I'm learning. And, I've learned, I love learning.

—Karen James

"Focussing on being my child's partner is helping me to place my real life children front and centre of my attention and to think deeply and respond kindly and appropriately to their particular needs in this particular moment."

—Zoe Thompson-Moore

(more at Seeing)

Shan Burton, commenting on a letter she had written to a friend:

...it was an exercise in mindfulness to work through my emotions, and to reflect on what a remarkable change unschooling has wrought in our lives. We were a happy, loving family before...but now... Now we are a joyful bunch, excited each day to be together, and it keeps getting better and better. My 5yo, Annalise, often says, "Remember in the old days, Mommy? You would've yelled at me for this, right?"

A child doesn't need to be very big to appreciate a good thing!

Darcel, on the Always Learning list, May 2009

I just signed up on the list not too long ago. I have to say that I am amazed at the change in my family over these past two weeks. Nakiah's language has exploded. She's asking more and more questions and I feel so much closer to her. I have always had a hard time connecting with her since birth. As she grew older I started to see her as I thought she should be, not for who she is.

We always thought we were engaging the girls, and we were, but not in this way. We've always been relaxed about food and bedtimes. We eat at the table sometimes, and sometimes we all sit in front of the TV. To us it's about being with the family not so much where.

We have a routine we do at bedtime, bath, books and then the girls would go to sleep.
Over the past two weeks I've noticed they come to us and tell us when they are ready for bath and bed, lol

We've been saying yes more and it actually feels good!

There are tough times too. I know it's only the beginning. I'm hard on myself and have a habit of comparing myself to others. I appreciate the discussion on that. Nakiah asked to go to school last week. I posted about it on the Radical Network and appreciate all of the responses I've received on that topic. She says she's having fun at home and she likes me being the teacher. I never told her I was the teacher.

My dad told me last night (he lives with us) that he has noticed a change in the household and especially the girls. He's impressed and told me that if he had known of this option when me and my brother were in school, he would've pulled us out and done it.

I look forward to watching our life unfold.

(on the wayback machine)

Shannon Burton, on Always Learning, May 2009:

I left Friday's chat with a lot of unschooling cud to chew. Like so many before me, I realized that, although I have read and read, and then read more, and although we've made remarkable shifts in our attitudes and the choices we make, there is a difference between grasping a concept and grokking (best word ever for this!) the full scope and possibility of that concept...

I have a lot to learn. And I've never been more open or passionate about learning!

So, in order that you all get the chance to open doors to that learning, that life I see glowing brighter and freer on the horizon, here's what I wrote in the wee hours of the orning after the chat...

1. Sandra (in my mind, Sandra the Wise 😊) mentioned that I seemed to be rejecting ideas or else trying to incorporate them into a big plan....well, I am a big plan kind of person (for fun, I write fantasy and fanfic, and I love epics), so I am likely guilty as charged, there. I'm still working away from seeing my kids as needing fixing. Haven't gotten as deep there as I thought I had.

But rejecting...I realize later that I kept saying 'no'. what I meant was, "I see the point, but this isn't quite the issue I'm clumsily trying to articulate, and I'm new to this format, there's stuff going on here, and I'm getting frazzled, which makes me feel trapped and panicky..." Or, more to the point, "slow down, please....let me think."

I do better with a pen and a notebook. But I've learned that it is not wise to begin a post with the word "no" here!

2. I missed some of the suggestions in my frantic state. But I see words in my head, and later they slid past while I was occupied with yard stuff. Someone suggested "cheating" games where rules were gleefully broken. Whoever you are, thank you! The kids love that idea, and since I suggested it, they've played several games together with no angst. Such a wonderful idea - playful and respectful to all of us, of every age.

3. The "seesaw effect" I talked about seems to be worse when Annalise is in a phase of rapid cognitive and developmental ability, as she certainly is, now. It gets trickier when both of them are, and - guess what - Jeremiah is also growing by leaps...so it may be just a matter of riding the wave to the crest and learning to balance as we go....

4. We are all very independent people. We all enjoy times of solitude to pursue our own interests. We tend toward intersecting orbits. Since we removed chore controls, though, I've been more focused on cleaning and doing than being....I'm consciously intersecting more with each of them, and both of them. And, where before I was intersecting with them where I was, now I am paying attention to remembering to intersect with them where they are. So I'm reading Lise more stories, dressing and tending her babies, and letting her spend 20 minutes to choose the perfect pair of pink sandals for a girl who is both a fashionista and a daredevil, among other things...and I'm listening to secret spy talk, buying invisible sugar drink powder and bottled water for the playground, and traveling through time, space, and physics with my young renaissance man....and I feel like I am being constantly gifted!

5. I didn't get it. I thought I did. But it's like mowing the lawn, or dishes, or laundry, or being their mom...it will always be evolving, because it isn't an it. It is life.

I was compartmentalizing something, labelling it as having to do with this our that. But it isn't. It is about a 7.5 year old boy and a not-quite-five who love each other deeply and truly and sometimes have conflict. It is about being with them both as they are, in this moment. Respecting that. Loving that. And letting them see it and love it in each other.

I hope that's it. That seems like it - but lately, assumptions don't seem solid. I don't know what I know..

Thanks to everyone who was open enough to share...I learned more about myself than about the "problem". Somehow, I think that was maybe the point...?

I am going to try to make tomorrow's chat about judgement and assumptions...can't wait to see what I'll be learning next!


Link to the transcript of the chat Shan mentioned there at the end:
Comparisons and Judgment May 11, 2009

The world changes

Even without anyone trying, the world changes. Ironically, we try to make the world better, and on the same day can feel sad that things are different.

We change. Our children change. Trees and buildings and cars change.

Miss the past gracefully. Accept changes with sweetness.

That will make the world better.

photo by Sandra Dodd