I'm Not your Mom

(If Kirby, Marty, or Holly Dodd reads here: I am your mom.)

Complaints about not being treated as children

Sometimes people say "You're not treating us as nicely as you claim to treat your children," or other versions of that.

This leads to a page with notes, quotes, and responses about WHY, in a discussion of adults, there is a disadvantage to treating another adult as one of our children. There is a collection of things moms have written in unschooling discussions, complaining that we're not treating them the way we "claim" to treat our kids. An Odd Complaint (Neediness)

Without a particular quote, here's something I wrote in response to the idea, in 2007, on Always Learning.

From: Sandra Dodd
Date: August 9, 2007 12:17:50 PM MDT
To: [email protected]
Subject: [AlwaysLearning] How many children do I have!?
Reply-To: [email protected]

From time to time someone wants me to treat people on this list the way I treat my children.
What I want to do with this list is to help other adults discover and refine ways to treat their children more the way I treat my children, if they want to.

I have a sign on my door, just put there last month, a paper taped there at eye level that says


No tree trimming,
no petitions
no missionaries
no encyclopedia sales
no yard cleaning.

Unlike some other people I know, I have listened to missionaries at length, invited them in, read their stuff, told them I admire their dedication, given them cold drinks or water. I've let Jehovah's Witnesses talk to me at length, and LDS guys. Lately I decided I need to spend my time in other ways. I'm getting old.

Kirby's working nights. Holly sleeps late. Whenever anyone touches our door the dog barks a high, painful bark. I don't want people to trim our trees or clean our yard and someone was coming to the door once a week or so. I don't want to sign petitions for anyone to run for office or for people to pressure the government to do something about something I never heard of.

Does that mean I'm telling my children not to talk to me about religion or not to help me in the yard?

I will let Holly sleep as late as she wants to and I'll make her anything she wants for breakfast, when she wants me to make her breakfast, which isn't all the time, just sometimes. This morning I was glad to make fried eggs and toast for her. She was sweet and grateful.

Does that mean I should let just anyone sleep at my house as late as they want and then request a special breakfast?

And on this discussion list, I'm not trying to mother people. I'm trying to discuss ideas and factors and practices that make parenting antagonistic, when those come up, so that ALL the people on the list, not just the person who posted, can look at their own thoughts, and rules, and expectations and see if they can't tweak them toward the direction they want to be with their children.

Several who have known me online (or in person) for the dozen or so years I've been in discussions like this have asked how I can patiently answer the same questions year after year without throttling people. It's because I know that when someone *does* change in understanding, the world gets better for their children. The world might be uncomfortable for the mom that day, but if she had wanted to stay the same, she never could have found this list. If she found this list and read some and thought it was bogus, she never would have posted on this list.

I assume that people come to this list because they want to change.

I am now, finally, getting tired of things like this (which came on the side, not to the list):

-=- i don't think i can do better!!! i think YOU can do better, if you could maybe be less confrontational and more in tune with the ideas of understanding and empathy, that you speak of regarding children.-=-
The understanding and empathy I recommend parents show to their children is a parent and child thing, and I can't be expected to treat over 1000 people (however many are on this list) like they're on my children.

BUT WAIT! This list isn't a question and answer column where all the answers come from me. Not at all. When people post here they get several people's feedback. And they get the feedback from people who are pretty likely to be giving unschooling-focussed answers. That happens because I keep the list running, and keep spam and distractions off of it.

Below is a link to an explanation of why I think people who want help should get help quickly and directly. With my kids, they have 18 years to learn to read, use a bank account and wipe their butts (not in that order). With parents who have children, they do not have 18 years to change. They don't have ten years. They don't have five. They need to change before more damage is done to their relationship, before it's so far gone they no longer want to regroup and re-direct.


And here are quotes from people who say they wish they had changed sooner:


I am very interested in helping those people. I'm less interested in helping people who want to be coddled, who complain about how I phrase things, and who want to take years to consider whether they'll change their ways. The statement before is NOT about any individual, it's about hundreds of people who have come through and complained instead of coming through to look at what they're doing in the light of what others have discovered.

If my website and articles and this list and UnschoolingDiscussion are not to someone's tastes, that's to be expected. That's fine. I really don't think I should change them because a few people wish they were different. I don't think it's courteous or reasonable for people to ask me to do my volunteer work just the way they imagine they would do it if they were me.

I have said before "If you can do it better, do it!" And I don't mean that in a mean way at all. Anyone who sees flaws and can help others in a better way should really, honestly, truly, do it. The more free help people have, the better.

Is it because it's free that I get complaints? Maybe. If someone pays money to a counsellor they just either accept the help or they quit going, they don't harrass the person to change and do differently.


In 2019, the busiest forum I'm in is on facebook. Here's its intro: Radical Unschooling Info

Someday that will be gone too, probably. Someday this website will be gone.

What do people "have to" do, regarding actually being supportive?

No one owes any other unschoolers support or assistance. Luckily, there are many people willing to offer help, information, assistance and ideas. But neither online nor in park meet-ups nor at their own kitchen tables is it ever *required* that someone help you.

I have a page of information on people who will help you for money, but even they are volunteering to put that service forth and could decide halfway through a session to send you a refund instead of finishing it.

This group won't last forever. I've been in groups and on forums I WISH still existed, for my own sake and new unschoolers', but they are, several, serially, gone. My strongest personal discussion, Always Learning, is quieter than it used to be. It is over a dozen years old, and solid, and waning. Radical Unschooling Info is only worth doing if it's done well and solidly—with the intention of helping people, and without the time-sink and confusion of the sort of "support" that hampers rather than helps.

Please be grateful for the help others provide, because they really don't have to help you. When people write here and share their lives, and photos, and best ideas, and experiences, they are doing it out of the joyful hope that your children can have happier lives. It's not to make the mom feel better this moment, but to help her change her life in ways that will make her feel immeasurably better later on.

Sandra Dodd, November 2014, Radical Unschooling Info on Facebook
When I brought it here in 2019, Always Learning was difficult to use and to search,
because yahoogroups is not being supported as it once was.

Always Learning has been successfully moved to a new forum which works very well, and is being revived!! Read about the group before joining.

Take and appreciate good help when you can get it!!

Joyce, in 2013, to someone who was flailing defensively:
Please see responses as feedback on how clear you're being. Why would you ask us to spend *more* time answering a question you felt had been answered? If you post a question it looks like you want an answer to it.

And do note, this isn't a peer to peer conversation. Picture stopping a busy person on the street to ask for directions. If they love being helpful, they might take the time to give the lost person directions. But they don't owe that person *anything*. They don't owe the lost person more time to ask for clarification. The lost person owes *them* the courtesy of being as clear as possible the first time so they aren't wasting the answerer's time.

(original here)
Intentionally and Carefully

Sandra and grown Kirby, under a sign that says Your Mother is not here, please clean up your own mess
For clarity of thought and for value of discussions about unschooling (or anything), it's important to use words intentionally and carefully. If a parent can't tell the difference between "consequences" and "punishment" and doesn't want to even try to, she'll probably keep punishing her children and telling herself it's not punishment, it's consequences. That muddled thinking can't lead to clarity nor to better parenting.

Sandra and Kirby Dodd, under a sign at a barbecue place in Austin

When Parents Have Issues Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch. Feedback

Healing An odd complaint — objection to unschoolers treating a new unschooler like an adult rather than as a child