Quotes for Unschoolers

Collected from discussions over many years

I didn't treat my child as a real person. I acknowledged from the beginning that he WAS a real person. I recognized and nurtured his wholeness and tried not to screw him up. I became his partner, rather than acting like his partner or "treating him" as a partner. ** —Sandra Dodd

With anything, if a family moves from rules (about food, freedoms, clocks, what to wear) to something new there's going to be the backlash, and thinking of catapults (or trebuchets, more technically, or of a rubber band airplane, or other crank-it-up projectile) the more pressure that's built up, the further that kid is going to launch if you let it go all at once. ** —Sandra Dodd

It helps unschooling and mindful parenting to be aware of your kids and their unique needs rather than treating them as generic kids with all the worst possible traits. — Joyce Fetteroll, November 29, 2007

I can spend my energy on limiting my child's world so that he will be safe and happy or I can spend my energy on helping my child learn the skills to navigate our world himself so that he will be safe and happy. I think the latter has a better chance of success in the long term. —Eva Witsel, April 17, 2010

Unschooling is *much* harder than school at home because it takes a great deal of self examination and change in ourselves to help our kids and not get in their way! —Joyce Fetteroll

A joyful attitude is your best tool. **—Sandra Dodd

People who look at what they have and how they can work with it find the way quicker (and are happier) than those who look at what they don't have. *—Joyce Fetteroll

School calls a small sliver of the world "all", and we call all of life's learning "some". —Sandra Dodd

The goal of unschooling is not education. It is to help a child be who she is and blossom into who she will become. Education happens as side effect. —Joyce Fetteroll

A different approach to life yields a very different set of results. —Sandra Dodd

Kids who are in school just visit life sometimes, and then they have to stop to do homework or go to sleep early or get to school on time. They're constantly reminded they are preparing "for real life," while being isolated from it. —Sandra Dodd       (original, 2004)

I think unschooling works better when parents get over their prejudices about relative value of the media. —Sandra Dodd

Halfway between the past we can't change and the future we can only imagine, we find ourselves in the present. Not just the present year, but the present day; not just the present day, but the present moment.* —Sandra Dodd

How you live in the moment affects how you live in the hour, and the day, and the lifetime.* —Sandra Dodd

See if you have a dial in your mind that says "everything" at one extreme and "nothing" at the other. It's impossible for anyone to do everything or nothing. Maybe label it "too much" and "not enough" instead, and try for the midpoint. Replace any on/off switches in your mind with slide bars or dimmers!* —Sandra Dodd

Try to learn to be, and to see learning in all kinds of things. —Sandra Dodd

If you're following any curriculum at all, you'll be missing the happy unfolding of real life. If you schedule so carefully that you can't change your schedule when something really cool happens or you pass by a folk festival or you get invited last-minute to see a magician, that schedule could be detrimental. —Sandra Dodd

artsy text of cooler since I had kids, cool.jpg

My world's pretty cool. It has become gradually cooler since I had kids and have tried to figure out how to make THEIR worlds cooler. Mine got the side benefit of what I learned about how to help keep them happy. —Sandra Dodd

The point that I am trying to make here is that I feel that I am more keeper of the flame than flame-maker. I feel that my kids have these interesting lives that I have the honor to not just watch unfold but guide in any way they need. As I told a friend, I sometimes look at them and feel like I have nothing to do with who they are. Not that I have no influence, because I do, but that the whole idea of parenting as authorship of children, as if they where things to be molded and not human beings living life, has been blown away by my kids' greatness. —Sandra Dodd

"A child does not have to be motivated to learn; in fact, learning cannot be stopped. A child will focus on the world around him and long to understand it. He will want to know why things are the way they are. He won;t have to be told to be curious; he will just be curious. He has no desire to be ignorant; rather he wants to know everything. " —Valerie Fitzenreiter, in The Unprocessed Child: Living Without School

Only listen to your mom if your mom is worth listening to. If your own childhood was screwed up, there's a good chance that she doesn't know better than you. ** —Lyle Perry

PLAY with your kids. Playing can be the single best way to really get to know your kids. Get down on the floor, follow their lead, and PLAY with them. ** —Lyle Perry

Let your kids be WHO THEY ARE, not who someone thinks they should be. Throw away the mold and let your kids LIVE. ** —Lyle Perry

Respect your kids. Too many adults DEMAND respect from kids without showing any respect in return. Doesn't work. ** —Lyle Perry

"Unschooling has had an incredibly positive impact on our lives, and not only in an educational aspect, but in everything we do. It's changed the way we live, the way we think, and the way we look at the world in general." ** —Lyle Perry

"I think it's been the changes in my parenting that have really made our unschooling lifestyle so positive." —Gail Higgins

"Unschooling didn't blossom until I stepped away from traditional parenting." —Mercedes/mulwiler

Jon and I do not see housework as a chore. We do it cheerfully, in order to make our home a place we all enjoy. —Rue Kream

It only takes a second to do better. —Sandra Dodd

We make choices ALL the time. Learning to make better ones in small little ways, immediate ways, makes life bigger and better. Choosing to be gentle with a child, and patient with ourselves, and generous in ways we think might not even show makes our children more gentle, patient and generous.—Sandra Dodd

Unschooling, in a very real sense, IS a mindfulness practice.:) Being in the moment with our children, trusting the flow of life, seeing our connections to them and to all of the universe etc... ** —Ren Allen

One interaction at a time. Just make the next interaction a relationship-building one. Don't worry about the one AFTER that, until IT becomes "the next one." ** —Pam Sorooshian

My real and happy kid says a lot more about unschooling than I could ever convey by analyzing human nature. ** —Deb Lewis

The more you strew, the more you do! —Cinnamon [C.K.]

"The thing that works with unschooling is to follow delight - and scatter it like a flower girl in front of the bride - not every petal will be crushed to release fragrance - but enough will. ...of course to follow delight, you have to admit to yourself that you feel delight." ** —Nora Cannon

[The] curiosity to learn new things is VITAL in my opinion, to helping our children be life long learners and seekers. ** —Ren Allen

Unschooling should and can be bigger and better than school.
If it's smaller and quieter than school, the mom should do more to make life sparkly. ** —Sandra Dodd

Unschooling really is a mutually rewarding lifestyle! My family has never been happier. ** —dragonfly

There's always something to do, someone to talk to, some road leading somewhere. ** —Deb Lewis

A bed isn't the only place to sleep though. The idea that sleeping must equal a bed is the same thing as saying that eating equals a fork. ** —Brandie

graphic created by Tracy Talavera

When our children were babies and others would ask 'When does he go to bed?' Keith used to say 'About half an hour after he goes to sleep.' ** —Sandra Dodd

For a lot of people, thinking too deeply about what they believe is too painful. It's just easier to do what was done to them. ** —Deb Lewis

Rules in the absence of principle are often found to be irrelevant by children. Principles lived fully make rules unnecessary. ** —Karen Tucker

[On Negativity:] It's a hole.
A dark hole.

Hop out into the happy light! ** —Sandra Dodd

Maybe because I kept playing I had an advantage, but I don't think it is beyond more serious adults to regain their playfulness. **—Sandra Dodd

The more we practice these principles, the more peaceful our house becomes. ** —Amy

Confident kids who communicate well with parents and wouldn't be tempted to sneak out or to lie wouldn't be in danger of meeting someone who says he'll marry her if she meets him at the train station. That doesn't happen randomly. **—Sandra Dodd, on Online Safety [This quote jumps track some, and was amended and shortened for the quotes generator.]

Predators are looking for vulnerable, needy kids. They know there isn't a reason to waste time on confident secure kids. **—Joyce Fetteroll, on Online Safety

Every time you feel the urge to control a choice, you can ask yourself "why?" and begin to question the assumptions (or fears) about children, parenting, learning and living joyfully that you are holding on to. ** —Robyn Coburn

'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

Once the power struggle stopped, the learning could begin. ** —Amy

I seems to me it is about saying "yes" through my actions, as well as my words. ** —Robyn Coburn

Unschooling works well when parents are interesting, positive, thoughtful, considerate, generous, passionate, honest, respectful individuals. —Deb Lewis

All this talkin'—what is it good for? Everything in the whole wide world. ** —Sandra Dodd

Unschoolers don't "just live." They live large. They live expansively, and richly and joyfully. Those are the things that make it work.* —Sandra Dodd

As we get older and our kids grow up, we eventually come to realize that all the big things in our lives are really the direct result of how we've handled all the little things. ** —Pam Sorooshian, June 4, 2007

One of the first effects of school is to break the bond between parents and children, when the children are five or younger. It breaks bonds between siblings, and replaces them with prejudices about age and grade, with rules against playing with kids of other ages, and with social pressure to be hateful and secretive. —Sandra Dodd

Nobody here is going to tell you 'I wish I'd found unschooling later.' I could just kick myself for not pursuing it any earlier. —Kelly Lovejoy

Translation and layout by Alicia Gonzalez-Lopez

Kids blossom and get bigger from doing adult things because they want to, instead of kid-things they have to do because they're small. —Sandra Dodd

"We wanted our children to become thoughtful, intelligent, undamaged adults." —Keith Dodd

"People learn by playing, thinking and amazing themselves. They learn while they're laughing at something surprising, and they learn while they're wondering 'What the heck is this?'"—Sandra Dodd

Until a person stops doing the things that keep unschooling from working, unschooling cannot begin to work. It seems simple to me. If you're trying to listen for a sound, you have to stop talking and be still.—Sandra Dodd *

What you're dealing with is a very well-meaning person who is convinced the world is flat and is worried that you're so clueless that you want to head off across the horizon. It's a lot healthier and more useful to listen to the people who've been across the horizon than to the person who fears it. —Joyce Fetteroll

Our culture lies. They say they want to encourage and reward individuality and creativity, but in practice they try to hammer down the pointy parts, and shame off the different parts.—Sandra Dodd *

"I was asked in public once, 'Are you willing to risk your children's future on your theories?'
'Yes. Aren't you?' was my answer then and still is." —SandraDodd *

'Self discipline' is like 'self regulation.' It's still about discipline and rules. How and why should one discipline and regulate oneself, when decision making in the light of compassion and goodness will work much better? —Sandra Dodd

They're not embarrassed about their interests or hobbies, they're not afraid to wear used clothes, or to play with younger children, or to hang around with adults. Because they are respected, they are respectful.—Sandra Dodd*

"Make it happy and funny and comfortable and exciting so that they want to be with you. Be sparkly." —Sandra Dodd*

For me it's as if I have a spontaneous and totally unpredictable tutor jumping out from nowhere asking questions on any topic under the sun.
—Sarah Maitland Parks
(from e-mail, discussing Moving a Puddle, talking about the kinds of question her ten year old son asks, about cars and maths and...)

"Scientifically speaking, my children are not a control group. They're not isolated and kept purely away from school methods and messages. But what is unquestionable is that there are now thousands of children who are learning without formal teaching."—Sandra Dodd*

Once you start looking for connections and welcoming them, it creates a kind of flow that builds and grows. —Sandra Dodd *

That all 'just happened,' but it happened because we've been building up to it with our whole lives and our whole style of communicating and living together in a constant state of open curiosity. —Sandra Dodd *

I don't remember who created this image; sorry.

Given a rich environment, learning becomes like the air—it's in and around us.— Sandra Dodd

The way to learn math naturally is to let it be a natural part of everything, like it is, and not make such a point of it all the time. — Linda Wyatt **

Don't pass your fears and prejudices on to your children! — Sandra Dodd **

How will you be, as a parent, and why? What's keeping you from being the way you want to be? — Sandra Dodd

Mindfulness is about remembering that what I'm doing right now is going to have an effect on what will happen next, not just in my own life, but in other people's lives. — Sandra Dodd

Patience is about trying to endure the present moment until a better one comes. Unschooling is about enjoying the present moment for what it is. — Melissa Wiley

It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't. Being connected is better than being controlling. Being interested is better than being bored. Being fun is more fun than not being fun! — Melissa Wiley

It has more to do with why people are doing what they are doing and what they believe about it than WHAT they are doing. — Sandra Dodd

If you're trapped by have tos then there are no other solutions. If you recognize that there are other solutions then you can free up your thinking to allow them to come. —Joyce Fetteroll **

When I started rethinking how to handle conflicts, a shocking thing was how immediately and drastically the number of conflicts dropped.— Melissa Wiley **

When I stopped seeing my daughter as adversarial it changed the world for us. —Joanna Murphy **

image by Amber Ivey
(the episode called "food")

If you want to measure, measure generously. If you want to give, give generously. If you want to unschool, or be a mindful parent, give, give, give. You'll find after a few years that you still have everything you thought you had given away, and more. — Sandra Dodd **

It helps to think of the solutions instead of the obstacles. —Schuyler Waynforth **

Practice being accepting of whatever cool things come along, and providing more opportunities for coolness to unfold. — Sandra Dodd **

What will help to create an environment in which unschooling can flourish? For children to learn from the world around them, the world around them should be merrily available, musically and colorfully accessible, it should feel good and taste good. They should have safety and choices and smiles and laughter. — Sandra Dodd **

Any time a mom thinks there's nothing to know, I don't think she knows nearly enough.
When a mom thinks unschooling is doing nothing, she's not doing nearly enough. **

Instead of being my mother's child, I am my children's mother. Sandra Dodd **

It's much better to be their partner than their roadblock. If you become an obstacle they'll find a way around you. Is that what you want for your relationship with your kids? —Joyce Fetteroll on Unschooling Basics, early June 2008

It still amazes me how a few words on a page-sometimes entirely (seemingly) unrelated-can trigger a massive door that I didn't know was there to open in my brain. It lets in the light and the fresh breeze of new thoughts. — De (Denise R. Smith) on Always Learning, early June 2008

Funny how parents say 'It's your home too and your responsibility,' when it comes to chores, but 'It's my home,' when it comes to setting standards or how money is spent or how to decorate it or ... —Joyce Fetteroll **

...it is the place where the relationship exists that everyone fantasizes that they will have with their children before they are born, but then you don't because you are caught up in power struggles!—Joanna Murphy **

translation and image by Lourdes Garcia

Unfortunately most people are convinced that when control fails it's because they didn't control enough. —Joyce Fetteroll **

"When I was in school, the only bad grades I ever got were C's in "conduct" or deportment. I talked too much. I didn't leave other kids alone. I was told many times, 'You're not here to socialize'." — Sandra Dodd SandraDodd.com/socialization

When we can we should always do more, offer more, think more, and make our bit of the world as big and full as we can for our kids. Our kid's lives get bigger and better when our thinking gets bigger and better. —Deb Lewis **

Being happy has never diminished my partnership, and being miserable has never enhanced it. —Beth Fuller ** (originally in a discussion on the Peacefulpartnerships list)

Get the world swirling around you (first) and your children (second) so there are sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures... —Sandra Dodd Add Light and Stir

School kids don't know the world is a million times bigger than school's version of it. —Sandra Dodd Add Light and Stir

If your child is more important than your vision of your child, life becomes easier. —Sandra Dodd **

If the goal is to know everything, and if each person's internal "universe" is unique, then the order in which the information is acquired isn't as important as the ease and joy with which it is absorbed. —Sandra Dodd sandradodd.com/checklists

Parents who do make meeting their children's needs a higher priority will find that life is good and they, often unexpectedly, find that they are, themselves, less needy when they feel like really good parents.—Pam Sorooshian (source site is gone—familyRUNning)

image created by Nicole Novakovics

Every morning is good here. We wake when we feel rested and we eat as we will each morning. It's a good feeling. —Hema A.  Bharadwaj **

Start with love and respect and all the good things follow—it is not magic, and it is a lot of hard work especially at the beginning. —Marina DeLuca-Howard **

I want my kids to feel empowered, so I empower them. —Jenny Cyphers **

****NOTE TO SELF: Add these below to the quotes generator.

We don't clean up messes to have a clean house. We clean up messes so there is room for more mess! —Dawn Adams**

Children's questions are answered and an atmosphere of learning is created so that questions are constant and answers are never far away.
—Sandra Dodd All Kinds of Homeschooling

When learning is recognized in the fabric of life and encouraged, when families make their decisions based on what leads to more interesting and educational ends, children learn without effort, often without even knowing it, and parents learn along with them. —Sandra Dodd All Kinds of Homeschooling

[O]n the whole, the spirit of the home has changed. And the spirit now prevalent is consideration. —Julie B **

Unschooling works best with more choices, not less, and TV should count as a choice. —Jenny Cyphers **

So how do you choose? You decide where you want to go before you decide to turn left or right, don't you? Just like that. —Sandra Dodd **

The way to know the right direction is to identify the wrong direction. /screwitup —Sandra Dodd (on the always learning list 4/29/09)

Who can argue with joy, healthy relationships, and learning?? —Susan (DaBreeze21)**

"Self regulate" means to make a rule and then follow it yourself. They're not self regulating. They're making choices. It's different. It's better! —Sandra Dodd **

It's amazing to see doing for others as a gift. It takes the whole angst about servitude away. —Schuyler Waynforth,    Service

LIVE LOVE LAUGH LEARN—That's the best thing about unschooling, having all of those L-words bundled up into one lovely lifestyle. —Ronnie Maier **

A rich world for a baby is similar to a rich world for anyone else. A baby is a person. A lucky baby has an adult partner who understands that. —Sandra Dodd **

Too many parents talk and talk to their kids, and ask them how they feel and ask them what they need.

Learn to guess. Learn to provide in advance. Food is good to practice with. Soft, clean cleared-off beds are good to practice with. Clearing off space for video gaming is nice. Soon you start to think about heat, softness, clean clothes, toothpaste before it runs out, favorite foods when you shop. And then people feel heard and comforted and entertained and loved. —Sandra Dodd Always Learning

Make yourself your child's safest place in the world, and many of your old concerns will just disappear. —Sandra Dodd Big Book of Unschooling

One of my epiphanies as a parent actually came when I realized I was not being as good a friend to my own kids as I was to my adult friends. Changing that made a world of difference. —Lyla Wolfenstein, in a chat August 2010

I have seen my kids change the way they interact with each other as I have changed the way I interact with them. —Renee Smock, in a chat September 2010

Some of the quotes were saved by Ren Allen and put on Wikipedia. Editors at Wikipedia decided there were too many Sandra Dodd quotes and so removed them all. Thanks for trying, Ren!

Jin Burton in Idaho saved some quotes on her MySpace page where I found them (thank you!). Also, thank you to Lee Roversi, Hawaii; Heather (Crazyzeus1); Mrs. Stranahan; Gil from RUN

The graphic of "Kids who are in school just visit life sometimes..." is by Jordan Norris. Here's a larger version: art/jordannorris.jpg

Quotes on "wonder"
(not all by unschoolers, but some are)

9 Sandra Dodd quotes on parenting that rocked my world
By a mom named Hayley
(backup copy)

Top 12 Quotes by Sandra Dodd

Sandra Dodd Quotes at goodreads

This page existed before Just Add Light and Stir did, so that's another source of quick inspiration.