The Past, the Future and Now

A presentation for parents interested in unschooling, given at the LiTTLe Conference in London in 2011:

When thoughts are stuck or whirling, which way can we go? Where can we turn? What helps with natural learning, and what hinders? Can people go too far, or not far enough? Is it possible to mess this up?
Below are the images and the sound file of that presentation (and a good-parts summary review by Katie Pybus who was there that day).

If you don't see arrows, try moving to the next picture with your finger, depending on the device you're using.

The talk can be downloaded from The Internet Archive, or you can listen to it directly here or maybe here:

and change the image when it seems right to do so. The thistle/clover page stays a long time.


The introduction is by Julie Daniel.
I wish to point out that to put a book in the toilet, in British English, means to put it in the bathroom. In American English, it would mean to drop it into the water in the toilet bowl. So the recommendation was to use it as a bathroom book. I think.

Corrections and clarifications:

BRUCE saved a journal from his great aunt. Bernie is his wife. I was nervous and fumbled a name. Sorry.
Bruce Curtis's bridge is pictured there, and there's a link to more information.

When I said "the bus from Derby," I meant "the train." (I did ride the bus from Selkirk to Edinburgh, but I was sitting.)

"My van" is a mini-van—a seven-passenger Chrysler Town And Country. I've been informed that in the UK "van" is only what north-Americans would call a panel van, or panel truck. Sides without windows.

I asked people to translate in their heads, like unschooling to autonomous ed. Then after the conference, later, at Julie's house, Mike Fortune-Wood said that Automonous Education wasn't the same as unschooling, and never was. Well good. I hadn't thought so, but for years some Brits had said it repeatedly, "We call it Autonomous Education," or "...autonomous learning." And so for many years, there were people in the UK who were confused and frustrated.

Did you notice I said "We just let them play"? After I said to avoid "just"?
We let them play! :-)

At 47:00 or so on the recording, there's something good about two people having different experiences from the same input or experience, or when people who hear me speak are all taking different information from it, and connecting things to their own experiences.

I've transcribed a part so I can find it again, from about 10:10:

If you're living in the past, that's a problem for now.

If you're living in the future too much,
In the future that you're imagining,
in the future that you're predicting,
in the future that you would like to imagine you can control,
in the future that you would like to imagine that you can even imagine, that's a problem.

So it's good to aim for living in the moment in a whole way—your whole self, not separated from your past or your future, but also not really over-focussed on it.

The bio from the website, which Julie was reading and elaborated on:

Sandra Dodd is an inspirational unschooling advocate from New Mexico, U.S.A. She has three grown up children who have been unschooled all their lives and who are delightful, engaging, polite, curious and fun to be around. 

Sandra says "I've been interested in teaching and how people learn since I was six, and (as is usual in big busy lives) all I've done before has led up to what I'm doing now. I grew up in northern New Mexico, I've been blessed with curiously bright and curious friends who shared their questions and answers with me, and there's nothing to do with that but pass it on to any curious others."

Sandra's articles have been published in homeschooling journals and have been translated into several languages. She has published two books - "Moving a Puddle" and "Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling"

Her website is here:


Katie Pybus, of Pulborough West Sussex, wrote of my talk that day:

The second speaker was Sandra Dodd and she spoke very articulately about living in the now. Not focusing too much on the past or planning too much for the future. She had a fabulous quote that she heard at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous "If you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future then you are pissing all over today."

She encourages parents to learn how to live thoughtfully in the moment and explained her view that if you do not think before you act then you are acting thoughtlessly, she also encouraged the audience to "Look at your life through different eyes" and she gave a great example of how, when she took her son to the zoo to see a star attraction he was more interested in the crow on the fence!

I first read Sandra's work when my first born was a baby, nearly 7 years ago now, and it is fabulous to see how successful her children, who are now young adults are becoming. They have secured careers for themselves in the fields connected to their passions in a very natural and organic way. Sandra talked about how, for about a year, one of her sons would only wear a tiger dressing up suit but has now matured into a pretty conservative dresser. I was interested to hear this as dressing up clothes are popular in our family and free choice of what to wear is important to the smalls.

Sandra's presentation was very inspiring, encouraging the listener to have faith in their child and to trust the process and not belittle or undermine what a great thing is happening by saying "just" as an adjective.

Katie reviewed other parts of the day as well, on her blog "Outside the Box." (backup)

Another attendee wrote this of my talk:

Our next speaker Sandra Dodd put me in my place, unknowingly. A lyrical speaker she regaled us with her tales of unschooling her family and had me nodding vigorously throughout her talk 'live in the moment' 'dont' let the past bring you down' 'too much management is bad' 'wonder as it will make life more wonderful' ' live by principles rather than by rules' i could go on and is about living in the now & enjoying it. Her talk was so uplifting i bought her book 'Sandra Dodds Big Book of Unschooling'

The LiTTLe Conference in London where I also spoke in 2012, but recordings weren't made
and where I plan to speak in 2013, along with Joyce Fetteroll

Links to other sound files (and some videos)