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A Paean to Sandra Dodd

Posted by Frank Maier on June 6, 2009 at 6:29pm in New to Radical Unschooling

A confession, an apology, and a story, all wrapped together in a melange of flavorful goodness. Sorta. So little to say and so much time. Strike that. Reverse it. Let me begin in media res.

Back in the last millennium when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and the internet was being worked on by Al Gore, my wife, Ronnie, started interacting with the eminences grises, the doyennes of unschooling. There were several and they all deserve mention in the greater scheme of things; but this is a particular story, and it's my story. So I'm gonna talk about Sandra Dodd.

I did not follow or participate in those early online forays of Ronnie's except when she'd call me over once in a while to view a particular message or thread. After about a year of these sporadic, limited looks into those discussions, I opined to Ronnie that it seemed to me that that Sandra Dodd person was pretty blunt and maybe newbies would be put off by her style.

That brings us to the confession portion of this post. Yes, Sandra, my first impression of your online self was that you were awfully blunt. Perhaps too much so. Ronnie demurred and said that when Sandra or the other blunt speakers were offline, threads would drift into odd and unuseful directions. Stuff like: Well, if *you* feel it necessary to limit tv, then maybe you should. Ok, I understand that you're saying that you differentiate a swat on the butt spanking from hitting and I guess that's ok for you. Etc. You get the idea.

A lot of years passed and a lot of stuff happened during those years but let's fast forward to here and now. Viewing and participating in, briefly, this recent spate of threads has prompted me to state publicly what I learned in those intervening years.

Sandra, you are a saint with the patience of Job. I hereby officially apologize for thinking otherwise all those years ago. Ronnie was absolutely correct and I was absolutely wrong. Your bluntness is blindingly necessary and your patience is vast, especially compared to my own. I'd typically rather be playing with my wife and kids than writing on any ng and that's where I'm heading now.

Sandra, thanks for being you!"

Sandra Dodd:

Did he say I was a peón? Ese dude.

Thank you, Frank, for sharing this slice of the historical record, and for your kind words. And thank you Ronnie/df for your kind words behind my back years ago, and for all the cool things you've written in these kinds of discussions, too!

I have no wife and kids, so I'm doing other things today. (An account to the minute, or the hour, more or less, is here: Blake's, and a day with grownish kids
Kim Zerbe:
Wow Frank! This is pretty cool of you to share! I think Sandra gets a lot of flack for her online bluntness, and in the wake of their whiny complaints it's nice that she gets some glorious praise, too. I hope she knows how many people she has impacted in a positive way over the years. :) I'm sure it is A LOT and she'll probably never really know just how many of us are out there, thinking and absorbing the things she has written and collected for us over the years.

I ditto the thanks to Sandra for being you!
Ren Allen:
Yeah, when people whine that *I'm* being mean I sometimes think "You should have a chat with Sandra!!" lol
Sandra was/is one of the many voices in my head that helped me be a better parent and in turn, a better person.
Schuyler Waynforth:
I am often surprised by the vitriol that gets heaped on Sandra. I understand how hard it can be to listen to the criticism of others, but I have a hard time writing one post a day. Sandra can do both quantity and quality day in and day out and she does.

I also want to thank her for not molly coddling, not hand holding, not assuming that ego is more important than the goal of unschooling. The credit that she gives to each person by responding honestly and clearly completely undermines all of anyone's complaint that she isn't treating them with respect.
What a fun idea, an appreciation thread.
I hardly ever write, but I read and read. Thank you, Sandra, from one mostly invisible voice--I have been harvesting value on a daily basis for years, from your writing. You've had a HUGE impact, all good, on our family.

ETA: I went away and then came back because I wanted to appreciate Joyce some, too. She is amazing. Another HUGE HUGE Power of Good in our family. Thank you, thank you, Joyce.
Nancy Machaj:
I am so grateful that Sandra freely shares her wisdom. I am grateful for her patience, her integrity, her unflinting and unflinching honesty, her ability to get to the heart of the matter and not be distracted by all the defense mechanisms people throw up.

I once wrote that reading alwayslearning was entertainment for me. I meant in it in the way that watching great debates is entertaining. I am so often impressed by Sandra's, Joyce's and Pam's writings. They are clear, rational, insightful, intelligent, and yes, even compassionate.

I have met Sandra a few times, and have found her to be friendly and open. Her husband generously picked me and my toddler up from the airport in Albuqurque, one of several free trips he was making that day (for conference attendees). She walks the walk and she talks real talk.

thank you Sandra. a million thank yous.

Thank you Sandra God ( as Brian affectionatly calls you) for all you do and specially for making my thoughts more clear about unschooling.
I have become much more mindful of what I write and which words I use because of you.
We love you!
PS- I am going to keep this just for Sandra because Joyce deserves a thank you thread just for her.
Oh what a great post here! Sandra knows already, how I feel about her because I've told her, but I can do it publicly too! She's pretty dang cool, in my book!

I know that for years, she's been getting both the good and the bad of feedback, and yet, she hasn't buckled. She's got way thicker skin than I do! The few times that people have flamed me online or via private email, I've cried, and it would kinda ruin my day. Gosh darn it, mean people suck! Sandra, though, she doesn't let it get to her, and it's a good thing too because it keeps her clear and still writing wonderful and helpful advice on unschooling!

I LOVE that she calls it like it is... BS is BS wether it's dressed like a beautiful cream puff or like those nasty brussel sprouts. Some people like to make BS look all delightful and Sandra has a way of looking at it and saying "hey wait a minute, that's not delightful, the chocolate looks and smells a bit like poo". Then other people see it too and avoid the poo puffs!

Personally, I like to avoid poo puffs! So thanks, Sandra, for keeping things real! Yes, I do enjoy Sandra, have been for years, and will continue enjoying her for many more years to come!
I have always appreciated Sandra's bluntness and patience.
Reply by Frank Maier on October 8, 2010 at 1:15am:
Recent threads on this site have reminded me about this post, which I made more than a year ago. In the intervening time, I neglected to create a similar one for Joyce, which I had originally intended to do in conjunction with this one. Mea maxima culpa! This is not as lengthy as my Sandra comments but it's certainly as hearfelt.

Joyce Fetteroll, you're magnificent. You are truly one of the eminences grises, a delightful doyenne, and a thoughtful, caring, and endlessly patient apologist, and when necessary defensor fidei, when it comes to unschooling and radical unschooling.

Thank you for your years of selfless effort and committment. You've contributed mightily to our growth as a family and as individuals. I can only speak with authority about my own family but I believe that you've done the same for countless other individuals and families.

Joyce, thank you for being you!

Sandra Dodd:
n addition to Joyce's site, which is wonderful and always growing, and her writing here and on several lists, she is tireless at helping moderate several discussion lists. She's patient and generous with her time and abilities.
So this is a place to heap the thank yous? My gods, THANK YOU. And yes, I meant that as a shout, a shout from the rooftop of our little house on the side of a hill, thousands of miles from Sandra and Joyce, but unbelievably, profoundly, and magnificently evolving into a place of more warmth, more respect, more happiness, and more open-hearted acceptance because of their "presence" in our lives. Meredith, too, has contributed mightily to this change in our lives, most especially in the area of open hearts. She has a way of sharing wisdom--the nitty gritty and the big philosophies--so gracefully and so warmly that her words sink in even on the hardest-headed days!
Joyce Fetteroll:
Thank you :-)

And a HUGE thank you to all the people who repeatedly put their tripping points out in public and allow their stumbles to be analyzed. You not only help others by your willingness to question yourselves, but help people see where the explanations need improved to be clearer.

How did I miss this thread from last year? (Perhaps it was while I was off line from a dead router.)

Thank you, Sandra! It took me a while to get what you were saying 16 years ago (and I appreciated the "Sandra interpretters" on AOL ;-) But I sure could see that what the unschoolers had was what I wanted and spent hours reading, absorbing as much as I could, reading a couple of years back into the archives. (Ironically taking advantage of a free AOL trial while Kathryn was in preschool.)

And every time Sandra was gone from the forum, I *really* appreciated what her presence meant and her ability to keep the talk from devolving into fear-soothing that supported moms but also what got in the way of unschooling, as Ronnie also observed.

And thank you Meredith! Your calmness astounds me. I want to be as patient as you when I grow up :-)


Oh gosh (blushing)! I've so appreciated all the input and thoughtfulness so many experienced unschoolers have shared over the years. I've gotten a special kind of reassurance from unschooling discussions in general and from Joyce's posts and site in particular because I have a lot of baggage around "smart girls" and the idea that "being a good mom" is intuitive first and foremost and that's not really my nature. So it was a breath of fresh air from the start to stumble into unschooling discussions that had strong, confident, women who were clearly Thinking about parenting, not just feeling their way along. In an unschooling discussion I've never felt I had to downplay Either the fact that I have a brain Or that I love being a mom - what a luxury.
Amy Jackson:
Although I am VERY new to the idea of radical unschooling, I want to add my thanks to Sandra, Joyce and Meredith. I went from a homeschooling mom who felt wrong about school to a Mindful Parent who is actively working on changing the way I think so I can show my dd the respect she deserves and allow her the freedom to make HER OWN choices. We are learning how to have a joyful home where everyone is important.

We would not be on this wonderful journey if not for the wisdom that you all have taken the time to share with others. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Kathy T, January 9, 2011:
Absolutely a thank you from me and my family. What a journey our homeschooling experience has been and with all your help to where we are going from here! So, thank you all very much!!!
What a much needed thread!
Another dad took another look (Jamie, from Canada, in 2011) other feedback Joyce Fetteroll's site