Sandra Dodd is an unschooling advocate, an author and speaker, mother of three grown up children and all-round wise woman. She has a wonderfully extensive and inspiring website with lots of useful information about living more peacefully with our children and supporting them as they learn. She offers great insights into what can help and hinder the natural process of learning and provides daily inspiration through her newsletter ‘Just add light and stir’. Sign up at Sandra’s website and every day you’ll get interesting and encouraging nuggets of wisdom delivered to your inbox, they are quick to read and yet can be immensely powerful and thought-provoking.
This summer I was lucky enough to see Sandra Dodd speaking in Leeds. It was a real delight to be in a room with so many people that share a love of Sandra’s writing, and to meet the lovely lady herself. As always she was full of wise words and so much helpful information. Here are just a few of the key messages that Sandra discussed…
Be a safe sanctuary –
Make your home a place that is safe and fun for your children to relax and to learn. Sandra has so much great information on her website about creating an unschooling nest. A safe space where children will feel inspired, encouraged and supported as they explore and discover the world. Where they can be honest and open about their feelings, ask questions and be reassured that they will receive honest answers.
So much parenting advice promoted to new parents is aimed at how to get children to do what the parent wants, how to effectively control them and mould them and how to survive the struggles and hardship of parenting. The promotion of a reward and punishment approach to parenting is so widespread and yet so damaging and dangerous for our relationships and downright disrespectful to our children. Fortunately we have Sandra, a true beacon of hope promoting a kinder, more peaceful and joyful way of being with our families and with each other.
The principles of unschooling offer an alternative to punitive parenting techniques and promote a partnership approach, placing the priority on meeting children’s needs and embracing trust, joy, kindness and respect as foundations for building relationships. Within this context learning will flourish naturally as we explore, enjoy and investigate the world and all its beauty and complexity together.
Being nice to others makes one a nicer person –
Such a simple but profound idea that by being nicer and kinder to other people you become a nicer and kinder person. By practising patience and staying calm when we feel agitated, we increase the patience and sense of calm we genuinely feel and the ease with which we can access these positive states of mind. Looking for ways to bring more kindness and joy into our children’s (and our own lives!) will increase the levels of kindness and joy in our home.
By extending the respect we show our children to other relationships, particularly for our children with their other parent, we enhance all our lives. Working together and nurturing and caring for our children as a team provides the security and the model from which our children can build healthy and supportive relationships of their own. By considering the needs of others and being generous with our time and our love genuinely for their benefit and not in a false, resentful, scoring points manner we create a more caring and supportive family culture.
Remember that there is always a choice –
It can seem like there are so many things we have to do, or should do, in life that sometimes we are left feeling overwhelmed and powerless. But if we can see life as a series of choices – about the way we respond to others or to changes in our emotions, where we place our attention or the actions that we take – we feel more in control and can make conscious decisions to choose the better option. “It only takes a second to do better” but only if we make that choice to do so.
Sandra speaks so eloquently and beautifully about respecting our children and about living in partnership. She has generously shared her wisdom for many years online, in print and in person. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her speak and hope she comes back to the UK again soon. I would highly recommend attending one of her talks – thought-provoking, engaging and funny too, don’t miss the opportunity if it arises!