Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Me, getting jumped, on facebook

Friends of mine who don't have children or who aren't involved with unschooling or don't care at all about TV should come back tomorrow and see if there's a better blog post! No one has been court ordered to read my blog, and so anyone who reads past this will have done so voluntarily and shouldn't bitch about having done so. The disclaimer is ended; go in peace.

In fifth grade I told a girl if she came to school more she wouldn't have to ask me so many questions. She said she was going to beat me up after school, and to be behind the Beta building. So I went there, afraid, and stood as near a teacher as I suavely could, and the girl didn't show up. I was willing to meet her where she told me to meet her. I had perfect attendance that year (the only year I ever did, I think) and that girl, sadly, dropped out, pregnant by one of her male relatives. She was already 13 and the rest of us were 10 and 11.

I was a safety patrol that year. A lieutenant! Had a canvas belt with a shoulder strap and a badge. Creepy, looking back at it, but there it is. 1963. I was out at recess, near the "I'll beat you up" area and, lined up to go back into that room, we were told that President Kennedy had been shot.

Yesterday I was minding my perfect-attendance online life, and being at home with two of my kids when I was jumped behind Beta by people who didn't know I was there.

The photos are of Marty and Holly yesterday, about the time much of the verbal ruckus was taking place; I stayed home for the unschooling chat and they went to stores.

Lyla Wolfenstein had sweetly and innocently posted a quote. Lots of unschoolers have been posting quotes on Facebook lately. I've quoted three different other-unschoolers in the past few days myself, here and there. I do it all the time. That random quotes generator on my unschooling page is mostly other people's words:

Lyla put up this quote: "If watching TV is his thing and complaining about TV is your thing, you've spoiled a chance to have a shared thing." It's on the page about sharing experiences with our children, which has the writing of three other unschoolers, not me:

Some people responded with justifications for limiting TV, and for "creating balance" in their children's lives. Some just went straight to "don't get me started on Sandra Dodd" and going off on me as some sort of TV-worshiping demon. One wrote, of that quote "Sandra just drips with cynicism and negativity here directed at the parent." Someone wrote "I would go out of my mind in a house where tv was a central focus or a battle and where kids spent their lives on a couch." I pointed out that that was a misconception, and our TVs were hardly ever on, but that was by choice and not limitation.

Someone else said that when that she occasionally parks her kid in front of a TV so she can do other things, and when she does watch along, the child is THRILLED (her caps). When I quoted that back and said "exactly what I was talking about," she got all pissed off that I had used her words to defend my point. But her words PROVED my point.

People were super snarky and sarcastic, and I kept trying to stick to the original point, and they kept trying to discredit me and seemed to accuse me of heading a cult and being or not being an "authority." There was much gnashing and flailing.

I can't quote it all whole, because it's only for facebook friends of the author to read. I can quote myself, though. After I was calm yesterday, I woke up thinking about it and went back to find there was even more, overnight. I wrote this:
You wrote that you didn't criticize me directly. Either you knew I was Lyla's Facebook friend and figured I would see what you wrote, or you thought I was NOT and intended to write those things behind my back. Either way, given all the choices in the world you chose to write negatively about me over and over. It doesn't make you a better person and it doesn't make me a worse person.

Someone said she hoped no one felt worse or had a knot in their stomach over this discussion. I'm not sure it's a good wish to hope that the hateful people feel just as happy as the kind ones.

I don't want to make parents feel bad about themselves. I want parents to make decisions that lead them not to have things to feel bad about. Big difference. And when I talked about being useful, I meant to this discussion, not to your children. I'm going to take this discussion out, now, to my blog probably, so that those who want to comment can.,
and that's here so the quote can end.

I'm used to people reacting badly to the suggestion that they should put their children's needs first. I'm accustomed to parents asking for help and then getting hostile when the help suggests they might want to change their point of view. I have a collection of the "supportive" statements people say all the time that they want:

Some people defended me, some hit me hoping I was down. But I wasn't down, and I wasn't hurt. I learned many years ago as an SCA officer to be careful what I put in writing, and not to give advice I couldn't defend or back up. That stood me in good stead when unschooling discussions came along. I already had a great deal of practice in "I meant what I said and I said what I meant."

I have represented my children's learning and lives faithfully, with their permission, for 23 years, starting with La Leche League meetings where mothers share their experiences for the benefit of other mothers, and moving seamlessly over Kirby's first five years to helping other mothers unschool. Kirby will be 24 in July. My kids knew that my sharing their lives was helping other children have more peaceful lives. They met other unschooled kids in the same situation, just as they had already known other La Leche League kids whose breastfeeding and early development took place with witnesses and sometimes the audience of new mothers.

I'm not apologizing for sharing what I I've done and am doing.

At least one of the people who ranted about my TV quote charges money to advise other parents. I realize sometimes people are frustrated that I'm giving away help that they'd like to charge $35 an hour or whatever for, but as I've been doing it online, about unschooling, since about 1991, I'm pretty sure I don't need to stop doing it for the convenience of people who don't even understand (nor want to try to understand) what has come out of these many years of discussions.

One person in the discussion did admit that she went and listened to my voice, and that I did sound friendly. She said "one of your podcasts," but I don't have any podcasts of my own. A couple of people have asked to interview me on their online shows, and have let me put up the sound file or link later. There are links to sound files and videos here:

People who have met me and heard me speak often relax their hostility (if they had any), and many of them apologize at some point if they badmouthed me without knowing what they were talking about. Some stick by their unreasonable rants to the point that they'll say "when I agree with you, I'm amused" in a too-self-conscious way. It's about me, again, instead of about the ideas of how to be happy with their children.

One person wrote (not a friend of mine, not someone I know):
I used to dismiss nearly everything Sandra said... I believed if she couldn't communicate with parents the same way she believed we should communicate with kids, she wasn't "walking the talk". As I've grown as a parent and unschooler, I see her words so differently now. Where others see (and I *used* to see) harshness and negativity, I see clear, caring communication. I don't know if I can explain the switch that happened. When I got that she was speaking to me as the mother of my children, NOT the injured child of my mother, that's when I saw her differently.
While I'm pulling quotes, I didn't comment on this one over there, but will here:
I set limits on tv b/c we just don't watch it. Maybe it is an issue of modeling--the kids just do other things. If they want to watch a tv show (at night) they do, but usually they are busy or they forget. Or they will watch it later on hulu. Or the kids will just watch several episodes of some show as if they are watching a movie. I have no idea which shows they watch..."
That makes my point too. The mom has no idea. They're not sharing those shows. There's isolation on top of negativity. And "I set limits because we just don't watch it" isn't clear.

Lyla wrote:
I have never seen more "balance" in my kids lives than once i fully embraced their interests, stopped trying to apply MY sense of balance onto them, and yes, stopped complaining about who and what they were passionate and interested. i could (and might) :) write a book some day.
If she writes one, I'll definitely buy a copy!

Someone wrote, "We parents out here are actual PEOPLE too." I responded: "All those parents' children are actual people too. I'm an actual person, too."

And so, full circle, I think that if watching TV (or anything) is a child's thing and complaining about TV (or whatever it is) is the parent's thing, an opportunity for a shared thing has been lost. How anyone could argue against that without admitting they have an antagonistic relationship with their children is a mystery. WHY anyone would argue against it so defensively and adamantly is less mysterious, but still I can hope they'll soften up some and be nicer people in public and at home, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Holt Quotes, and Something Sexy (and amusing)

Hand-written John Holt quotes wanted, just for the heck of it. Dan Vilter and I did a couple a few years back for Always Learning, but the project stalled. We can go again! Look how easy it will be for yours to look nicer than mine!! Just regular handwriting. There are John Holt quotes here if you don't have a book at hand to find one from:

My backwards handwriting is also my 8th grade, 13-yr-old handwriting.

And now for something completely different:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scattering and Gathering

Today was big and small, dramatic and calming. I dreaded going to the dentist. I started dreading it yesterday, to get a good dread going. But it wasn't so bad at all. Only the dread was really bad.

Then I remembered I had lost my debit card and went a couple of places to see if I had left it there. I searched again in all the clothes and books and papers I had had in the last two days. I looked under the seats in the van. I asked Marty. I asked Holly. I asked Keith to look online (again, as he had looked last night) to make sure it hadn't been used. It hadn't. But on the account there was a check for over $800, not our check number at all. Our checks are in the 7000 numbers on that account, which I've had since the mid-1970's and added Keith to later.

Keith was on hold to the bank when I left for the post office with eight books to mail. He called me there and said our account had been hacked and we would have to close it. But the good news was that my debit card was at the post office! I had dropped it on the floor and someone had taken it to the counter. They didn't call, because they knew I went there every day to mail books. Only yesterday, Keith asked me to work on taxes and that took two and a half hours and I missed the post office.

So I was happy to have my card, only unhappy to think it was connected to an account we were going to need to close. And it didn't sound right. A check with a 10xx number? A check. Not a withdrawal. The credit union is right across Juan Tabo from our back gate, so Keith walked over and I stopped on the way home from the post office. The oddity was was an electronic check to CarMax. We bought my van from CarMax just lately so at first I thought it might be an unscrupulous person at CarMax, but it wasn't at all. It was an account number nearly like ours, mis-entered, and it was easily fixed.

So although the day started in a dark and jittery way, by 5:00 all was dentisted, mailed, recovered and made right!

Marty is in the photo below, in the yellow hat and the scorpion tabard (baronial guard tabard). I lifted it from Facebook, and it is by a photographer I don't know, so I hope she won't mind.

"Kate Doster's Photos - Estrella War 2010"

When Holly woke up she said she was glad Marty was home. He was gone for six days.

While Marty was gone a few homely things happened involving the cat, a pot of catnip; the hottub, some bubbles... Nothing frightening, nothing bad. Just nice life stuff:

This is Nuee, on top of two boxes of The Big Book of Unschooling. I was going to unpack them yesterday, but noticed she was lying there, with her face next to, and sometimes in, a pot of catnip. So I left them. Today I had the camera when she was face in the catnip.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My family, one view

These were in a frame, and the frame fell apart today. Also it was all dusty, and they were just glued to construction paper and slipped into part of a page protector. But each of those images could inspire me to tell a thousand words.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Unexpected Benefits of Unschooling

This is part of a presentation I made during the Monkey Platter Festival last fall. We were at the Rio Grande Zoo.

This will only make sense in the context of the video. First they moved to California, but now they're in Pennsylvania. The other voice is Beth Fuller, the other presenter, who was sitting next to me, on a platform built around a tree, near the polar bear exhibit, at the zoo in Albuquerque. Marty had taken all the little kids who wanted to go over to the playground so the parents could be in on the presentations and discussion.

Links that tie in with this are about teens and unexpected benefits and unschooled children's responses to spanking.
(I always thought I would pick one URL and consolidate those pages, but nah...)
Unforeseen Benefits of Unschooling
Unschooled Kids on Spanking

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Blake's Guy, and Holly

I saw this new Blake's billboard this morning, when I was driving Marty to his friend Ben's house so they could go to Arizona (Estrella War / SCA event) while Marty's jeep stayed safely inside the back yard.

Later I drove Holly to yoga, and that was two yoga-moments in one morning. She could've borrowed the van to drive herself, but she wanted me to take her, and I didn't mind.

A couple of days ago when Joyce said she was going to pick Kathryn up from work (Kathryn is 19, and her car battery was dead), a guy on FamilyRUNning indicated that he thought that was proof that unschooling wasn't fostering maturity in young people (or some strongly vague complaint) because Joyce had "put her life on hold" to go and get Kathryn.

Ever since I read that, every time I've done something for Keith or Marty or Holly I've thought about how much this is NOT "my life on hold." This is my life in full, happy progress.

I'm going to pick Holly up in an hour, and I'm taking socks from her room, so she can try on shoes. She needs some warmer shoes for some time in Canada, starting next month. I could pressure and shame her and tell her to get her own shoes, and to drive her own self around, and if she can't remember to take socks she doesn't deserve shoes. But when I hear the people around me doing and saying and being that way, I cringe and I remember hearing things like that when I was little, said to me, said to other people, a steady stream of negative piss-and-moan, muttered and spoken and shouted. Not one bit of that ever did anyone's life any better.

Holly will be warmer and safer and happier with better, warmer shoes. It will be a benefit to her, to the family that's hosting her, to me, to anyone she walks around with or deals with, if she's happier and warmer.

When the world is made a better place, in however small a way, the world is immediately a better place.

Friday, February 05, 2010


It's been an odd week of weird and interesting bits and parts. I love odd weeks. I also love dull nothing-happens weeks. I love exciting busy weeks, but I'm glad I'm not having one right now, because the adventures of last-July-through-January tired me out.

My temporary resolution not to leave the county is doing okay. I've been to three neighboring counties, and late in the month I'm going to Colorado, but other than that I'm staying home until August, maybe! It sounds wonderful. And if I change my mind, I'm sure that will be because something else sounded more wonderful.

Today I mailed some onions to Illinois and a bunch of books to Australia, and that was satisfying.

Holly's off to a Scarless concert. She'll meet friends from Los Lunas and Bosque Farms and give them rides home afterwards. Marty's going to drive Ashlee (who's sleeping) to Bernalillo, as far away in the other direction. Keith's heating the hot tub. It's all peace & love here tonight. Most nights. But this one's particularly comfortable.

Computer realities and sorrows

My beautiful iMac G-5 was sitting in its sculptural glory at the genius bar at the Apple store yesterday. I thought I was taking it for a tweak and would take it home good as new. I described its problem; probably minor, I thought. The tech opened it up, pointed to a couple of things that looked a bit like corroded batteries, and said once that happens the video won't work right anymore and it messes up other stuff, and the whole logic board would need to be replaced. He thought perhaps it wasn't worth doing. The hard drive, though, could be removed and the information would still be good.

I stood there thinking maybe he could say something different. I loved that computer! Yeah, I have a macbook. And I also have the smaller macbook I got when I dropped the other macbook. But they're not beautiful big pieces of engineering glory like that iMac. I should have had its portrait made. I should have had my portrait made with it!

So I said I felt awful about that, like I had taken my dog to the vet thinking he'd be fine and we'd go home together, and they'd put him to sleep. The nice young man who was helping me said he knew exactly how I felt. I expected him to tell me of a favorite computer he had had to let go, too. But no, he said he took his dog to the vet and they put him to sleep right that day.

I felt terrible.

He checked the repair price: $550. I said it was okay not to fix it, since I had another computer. It was basically the printer driver and my iTunes, plus all its still-intact files.

He advised me about buying an external enclosure. Sounds like an urn, to me, though an urn from which the deceased can communicate, with the proper connectors.

When he was with me at the checkout, where I was paying for an Airport Express so my printer can commune with other computers without the G5, I apologized about having brought up the memory of his dog. He said that's okay. It had been three years and he had another dog now. I asked if he had noticed, when he was checking my records, how long I had had that. He said the warranty had been up for four and a half years, so... and everyone in the vicinity muttered "five and a half years." Oh. It seemed like a practically-new computer to me. Because I'm old, I guess. And I said "That's pretty long, for a dog," and my tech guy smiled.

What I liked about it is silly. It had a lot of room right on the front for sticky notes. Not Macintosh electronic sticky notes (though it had those too), but real paper stickies. That was awesome. I had to take stickies off to take it in to the shop yesterday.

Holly was 14 and a half. 2006. The computer wasn't new. I guess it did last a while.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Other People's Kids...

I love this photo. I love the lines, the colors, the moment, the way it will be seen in the future by a then-grown man, and his children. Love it.
from February 3 - Disney Day!
at "If You Give a Mom a Blog Space
an ongoing view of our shiny homeschooling life" which is well worth a look. There are photos of little-seen Disneyland bits, and thoughts to ponder.

Yesterday I watched and admired Van Stranahan, home-birthed in peace, held by his mother however Van wants to be held (that cloth carrier is going back, because Van isn't too young to make choices and he doesn't really like it), as long as Van wants to be held. He already has an air of confidence and contentment rarely seen in humans of any age.

Holly held him. He looked a little like Yoda. Wise and wrinkly.

That's Shane, to the right on the other couch. I met him yesterday too, and really liked him.

Those two photos are similar. They're grainy because I turned the flash off. Van wasn't asleep, though he looks like he is. Between those two photos he had stretched, looked around, smiled and yawned. He was luxuriating in the comfort and safety of having room to stretch and move, while being right on his mother.

We can't go back and enable a child to have been born at home without anyone telling his mother what to do. Van's mom gave him a life-sized gift. Van's special. But for any kids, the principles of unschooling can, have, and continue to make people's lives with their children better. Not only it happens every day, I hear back about it every day.

Peace is right where you are, if you choose it.

Lee and Lauren were interviewed on The Jenny Hatch Show on blog talk radio, about Van's birth and their lives. You can listen here:

(ooh! They talked about me a little bit!)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Baby Born on Twitter!?

Tomorrow Holly and I (and Marty, perhaps) are going to meet Mr. Van Stranahan, a little baby of our familial acquaintance. And we'll meet his brother Shane who's moved here from California (and we've already met his brother Jack and his sister Olivia).

So in preparation for the visit, I was looking at some notes about the birth, because I want to be all suave and not ask doofy questions when I go to visit. I like to study up a bit, y'know. And I found this really excellent article by Lee the dad:
My Son Was Born On Twitter

At exactly 1:37 AM on January 13, I sent the following Tweet from my iPod—"Baby!"

At that moment, I was sitting next to my wife Lauren. She was in the bathtub. Lauren had just reached under herself and pulled our son Van up out of the water and into the world.

Our new son was born in the age of social media. Within an hour of Van being born, I'd posted pictures on Flickr, posted the links to those pictures on Twitter, the originals on Facebook, and then e-mailed copies to our families in faraway places....

The rest of it's here, and it has links to the actual mentions (the photos on Flickr, f'rinstance), which is in itself awesome.
The article talks about the benefits of the internet in allowing people to get quick information, and that's certainly been true of the Always Learning list lately. LOTS of information, flowing among continents. I've had friends of mine who aren't involved in unschooling say how nice, that I'm helping people in other states. Yeah. Thanks. And Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, Australia... I got a Christmas card from an unschooling family in China. But it's hard to bring that up in casual conversation with old friends.

As much as I love things like my two weekly unschooling chats, I was moved and transported by the symposium in Santa Fe in early January (SUSS), which can hardly be summarized. People who knew each other variously, but online because of unschooling discussions, came together and spent time, and ate, and sat near fireplaces, and played games, and shared stories of our lives and hobbies. Then we went back home and got on the chats, and befriended each other on Facebook (those who hadn't already), and the quality of the discussions on the Always Learning list went up as a result among other results. And Kirby got to see his girlfriend—a girlfriend he has (indirectly) because of the internet and other unschooling conferences.

Kirby's photos from SUSS

I'm glad to be able to frolic in these not-so-virtual neighborhoods, which phase in and out of my house and my life and keep my family together even when we're apart. Twitter keeps me from worrying about Holly. Facebook reminds me how cool Marty is. Kirby's iPhone is a marvel.

Although I'm in an at-home phase of the neighborhood reality, tomorrow I'll be in person, face-to-face (IRL) with a new baby whose parents met me because of the internet. In August I'll speak at the HSC conference in Sacramento, and Kirby will be there too! I'll meet some more people there who will already know me, because they can read things I write whenever they're in the mood.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Fountain cat, dancing girl, rainbow shadows

Nothing important here, but the evidence of some of the interesting bits of the past few days.

There's a table fountain in one end of the kitchen, and the cat was drinking out of it. By the time the camera was out, the cat was through drinking out of it. I do not begin to have the means or desire to try to make a cat drink out of a fountain as a photo opportunity, and so it was gone too soon.

The angle of the sun has been improving, regarding the crystals hanging in the kitchen window. I noticed I was part of the shadow in one of the rainbows on the pantry door the other day and pulled out the camera. I could recognize my hair, but didn't know what the long thing was.

(a chopstick, stuck in with the pencils, on the fridge door)

Without knowing I had already taken such a set of photos, Holly pointed out a rainbow-shadow on the door of the library, across the room. It's harder on this one to see the rainbows on the flowers, but they're there.

And here's Holly dancing at the store. You might need to tilt your head or your computer there after a while. I forget movies can't just go sideways that way.

And Holly with our fat black cat, Shadow: