E16 - Always Learning: A Conversation with Unschooling Pioneer Sandra Dodd
🗓️ Recorded April 25th, 2023. 📍Chateau de L'Isle Marie, Normandy, France
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About this Episode
What if you could reimagine education for your children, breaking free from the traditional school system and embracing their natural curiosity? Join us as we chat with Sandra Dodd, a prominent figure in the unschooling community, about her journey from skepticism to advocacy for this unconventional approach to learning.
Throughout our conversation with Sandra, we explore her experiences with deschooling, the obstacles schools create for unschoolers, and the evolving dynamics of the American education system. We also talk about the future of education, emphasizing the importance of offering community programs to different age groups and harnessing libraries as learning centers.
As we venture further into the unschooling community, we delve into the complexities of unschooling, often misunderstood as simply a vacation. We discuss the crucial distinction between learning and teaching oneself, the unique dynamics of men and women in the unschooling community, and the necessity of understanding one's self before attempting to enforce unschooling rules.
Sandra has inspired countless families to embrace unschooling as a holistic and child-centered alternative to traditional education. Her thoughts have resonated with numerous parents and helped shape the philosophy of unschooling as it is known today.
Don't miss this insightful episode full of valuable lessons on unschooling, parenting, and personal freedom.
- Website: https://SandraDodd.com
- Beginning Unschooling: Some Ideas from Sandra Dodd
- HELP a page with good advice to the new unschool parent from Sandra Dodd
- Daily inspiration, online or by e-mail: Just Add Light and Stir
- Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling
- Free to Learn by Pam Laricchia - Really good book for concerned grandparents
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Transcript of Self Directed Episode 16
Please note: This transcript is autogenerated by AI voice recognition - so there will probably be some transcription errors along the way 🙂
Jesper Conrad: We're live Okay. So today, this week's guest is Sandra Dodd, and when you look at the on-schooling then that's a name that is quite hard to get around. So we are very happy that you're here, because I know this is a central name in the community. A lot of our friends have said oh, have you read this book, and all that. So now, here we are.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, we've been looking forward to this conversation. I remember one of my friends. I think she drove to a conference in Amsterdam Maybe Lighten, my friend's name, or No. It would have been in Lighten, okay, yeah, but it wasn't in the Netherlands. Yes, yeah, yeah, i remember she was so excited And now I get to talk to you. I'm really happy. I appreciate your time here with us. Thank you for inviting me.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, one thing I would love to start out with is you do not any longer have any kids at home. They all escaped the nest of. That is a stupid way to put it No, no, no, no, no, no, no that would. That would maybe more normal how children feel. They have flown away and are now being adults on their own and living their own life, and but you're still having a voice about on school schooling, so I think that could be interesting to hear. Why is it so important?
Sandra Dodd: When I first started helping people, i did it as penance. So I noticed that you had asked someone else in another interview why are you doing this? Why are you helping other people? I have a cousin, my age a little older, who grew up with me From the time we were eight. She lived with us And so we were like sisters and the same age and in the same grade and everything very close. And then when I was at the university, i was, you know, all junior, so I was my third year. I thought I knew everything. Right, i'm 19 years old, i guess.
Sandra Dodd: I went to university early And she came to visit me in Albuquerque and we lived like 90 miles north, so she had come to visit me. That was very cool. She had a little boy named Paul And she said we're thinking of keeping Paul home and home schooling in. And I said, ah, what a bad idea, that's a terrible idea. I said the schools are changing. It's going to be great. There's all this new research and schools are reforming And New Mexico is just, you know, big into this. And then I, you know, I had all the other arguments about, you know, social stuff and, and it's so silly, I mean some of those arguments, even if I were to just start reciting them, it seems so silly in Northern New Mexico, anyway. So she believed me because I was confident and pushy And she didn't homeschool.
Sandra Dodd: So some years passed, years passed, many years past, and then I had a, and then I had a child and he got to the age of five And I started reading about homeschooling And I started thinking, oh, for one thing, the schools didn't change. They sort of experimented with change and then rolled back to the old way, because that's another. I could talk about that for an hour, about why trying it doesn't work. With school reform You have to do it big time And it can't be done with public schools. They're too big, it's too big a monstrosity.
Sandra Dodd: So anyway, um, so my cousin's name is Neda And I and I, um, i called Neda on a morning, like early in the morning when I, when I, the day that we decided, i think, that we were going to do this, that I was really confident that it wasn't crazy, and I was reading John Holt's Teacher Own, and I, i, um, i called Neda and said Neda, i am so sorry that I told you not to homeschool, paul, because I think I was wrong. I was totally wrong. She, she does this. She pulls the phone away from her and says Hey, kids, they're getting ready for school. You don't have to go to school today if you don't want to. And so I thought, well, that's, i feel better, although it had been like 10 years, maybe more I don't even want to add it up because I'm more embarrassed if I think about that But I decided that to make up for that, i was going to help other people for two years, and then that stretched to three years.
Sandra Dodd: I thought, ah, two years isn't enough. And I thought, and then I will have redeemed myself. But, as it turned out, i really enjoyed that And I was learning from them too. You know, once we started telling stories back and forth, it just blossoms. It's so much richer to have a conversation with a lot of people in it. And so at first, the at first I was just talking to people locally a little. Uh, in Albuquerque, you know little groups that had formed out of La Leche League sort of, and um, then then I went online And I all at first it's hard for people to imagine who have only been online in modern days with with color photos and music and stuff. It wasn't like that, it was dusty.
Sandra Dodd: It was just it was uh like in white text, not even as pretty as a nice typewriter, but, like you know, computer type.
Sandra Dodd: And there were user groups. So you leave messages like a message board by topic, and people come and answer. So it's one long, long, long list of all the responses which is fine, like comment sections now. And, um, so I was in a in a user group for home education. There were about 80 people in it and about three were unschoolers, but I was the only one who was brave enough to say anything. That's okay So. So most of them were fundamentalist Christians, because in the 19, late 18, 1980s and 1990s in the United States there was a huge movement of homes of fundamentalist Christians to begin homeschooling.
Sandra Dodd: They had, they built curriculums, they built conferences. It was a huge deal. So for a while here, if we would go oh, i'm homeschooling, so are you fundamentalist Christian? No, it was weird, it was a little difficult, and we had neighbors who were like that and you know, their daughter baby sat for me. So I got to see that too.
Sandra Dodd: Anytime I had a chance, i wasn't infiltrating, i was just curious, you know, i was just really interested in in how and why. But at church the ministers would say the men should tell their wives to homeschool And if they didn't, they weren't doing what God wanted. I mean, it was just, it was. It was some serious pressure, and so she didn't want to homeschool, but she did because her husband said, because the minister said. But so I made it easier for her by taking her 13 year old daughter and giving her fun stuff to do at my house. So I used her daughter as a mother's helper. I just paid her a little bit to come hang out at my house and she was glad to do it because she didn't get to go anywhere otherwise. It was great for me. So anyway, i was in that group.
Sandra Dodd: And then America online came along, which was better still not photos, but much more organized And so we had a homeschooling section that we could have Christian and non Christian separated a little bit. And then after a while, after a year or two, we had unschooling and unschooling section huge luxury. And by then there were 100 people talking about. Unschooling was great. And so we started having chats, and some of those chats are on my website now, some from the late 90s and just text chats, people writing out, but all still all in one room. So the ideas kind of roll over each other really fast.
Sandra Dodd: But there was also the thing where one person could say a thing and three people could say that didn't work for us. There's some value in that, in the numbers And in a conversation like this. I always loved panel discussions at conferences, especially for the people knew each other, because if somebody says something, you see the expressions on the other faces. Maybe not everybody likes that, maybe not everybody has that, but I always liked it's like okay, somebody said something, three people went like that, what? or they all went yes. So that's valuable for me. It's like a confirmation that this was a good thing to say, and so I like those sort of tapestries of communication, information yes, communication, right where, where it's going back and forth.
Sandra Dodd: I like that a lot. So that was fun for me And I and people started asking me to speak. I had spoken at a couple of little local things here And I was invited to speak in California twice in one year I think it was 96, 97. And and then in Texas. So after that, because I had spoken, other conferences invited me And I've the first time I was going to speak and they were going to record me. I was terrified. I thought what if I say a wrong word and I do and I have and some of the recordings on my side I say, oh, when I said this I meant this, you know, but you know who's going to read it for sometimes.
Cecilie Conrad: But so did those two or three years of paying back to humanity ever stop? Not yet.
Sandra Dodd: Because it was just another thing coming, it just sort of built itself a scaffolding And that's where I was And it was. It was very satisfying. And over the years I've had groups of friends. It's a little like being a Girl Scout leader, i guess, like if you're a Girl Scout leader because your daughter's that age and then she grows out of it, usually the moms leave too. Same as La Leche League. Somebody might be a La Leche League leader because she has little children and then when they get older she might not be anymore, and that happens a lot with unschooling.
Sandra Dodd: So I've had friends, really good friends, that I wake up in the morning and I'm really happy if they've posted. Something is like yes, and the last batch just topped out, the last batch who came when they had little boys who were eight. All those boys are 19 and 20. And so I'm. It's just a little sad for me because I didn't want to foster another batch, so I'm topping out. Now I'm. I'm to the point where I people used to say how are you so? how are you so patient, answering the same questions over and over, and I said, i rephrase, i think if I can do it better or I try to particularize it for the other people in the group because because you know from a different point in your life, so it will always be a better or new answer.
Jesper Conrad: of course.
Sandra Dodd: that's true too, yeah that's true too, and very many times I had collected so many. I have pages of collections of people's best ideas of topics, and so very often we would answer the question, we, whoever was in the conversation, and then also give them a link. So you know, here's, here's how you can start getting toward that. But here, go read this if you want to. And very often the person we were talking to didn't they were impatient, they were off to do something else, but other you know five other people did That's another event of the big groups.
Cecilie Conrad: When I started on schooling I had a lot of information about what I could read about on schooling, but I also had four small children. So this, go off and read this book in that magazine and that website and that book and this book, i was like no, i simply didn't have the time for it or the bandwidth or I couldn't stay awake at night to read the book. So I kind of read the reviews and talk to other people And so in that respect I understand that people are impatient and everything and tired and their babies. If you have a lot of small children, then yeah, and it's too bad. I wish I'd read all those books before I had the time now to read the books.
Sandra Dodd: Well, i saw I, i, there's more information available now in one day. Even if you just said I'm only going to read for one day, then I'm going to stop forever. That existed in the whole earth when I started? Yeah, absolutely I can imagine There wasn't. There wasn't a book except Teach Your Own. And that was the first time John Holt had said just don't even send your kids to school, because the other things before that were all about school reform. Yeah, schools could be made better, but he hadn't gone so far as to say just don't send your kids to school until that book. So I, when I decided that I might unschool, the only resource I had other than talking to people online which was really not rich and fast, it was occasional and slow was growing without schooling magazine. So we could get that magazine. I read it cover to cover, every word. When I got it. It might take me a couple of days, but I read everything. And then that was it for two months And before I was online, that's all I had, because there was a while. There was a while when I only had my neighbors.
Sandra Dodd: There were two unschooling families out of our law-law lexical group. They had formed some of the leaders and I was a leader applicant for a while but then I quit to go work with the Caesarean Prevention group. But in that group there were four homeschooling families. There are about 15 families in the group. It was a home babysitting co-op where we would let each other's let kids come over. The kids just think they're going to play, but the moms are really keeping points about who has credit to have their kids watched and stuff. It was nice And so we knew a lot about all those families because once a month we got together with dads and everybody and had a barbecue or whatever picnic And then once a week we had a park day where whoever was home sometimes dads, mostly moms and kids would meet at a park and play together. And then otherwise I would have sometimes just the kids over or their mom would come in and hang out a while, or my kids would be at their house And when I picked them up I would go in and hang out a while. So pretty much we had been at everybody's houses and those monthly meetings would be at a house. So that kept us more confident about leaving the kids there because we'd been to the house. I mean, you have parents. So it was nice. It was nice And I was involved in that for a few years.
Sandra Dodd: So in that group there were two families homeschooling with a curriculum and there were two families just unschooling. That's kind of informally, not hardcore, like they weren't out preaching it and researching it. They're just doing it calmly. That was nice. And so I wasn't going to homeschool. I knew they were doing it, but it didn't matter to me. I'm just not paying that close attention to it.
Sandra Dodd: Until when my oldest was four, he wanted to take a dance class and it went horribly sadly wrong. I was so sad for him. And then he wanted to take an art class and that went wrong another way. So the art teacher said I'll just do him private lessons, okay. And I just thought, oh my gosh, if he goes to kindergarten he's gonna be like this, either super hyperactive or hiding and crying in the corner. He has two little girls now and they do that. They were over here just the other two days ago and one of them had a popsicle and she tasted it and she didn't like it. She goes, i'm gonna throw it away And I go. No, because her sister liked it And I thought she would give it, but I said it too fast and too loud And she just hid her head by the trash can Like that and wouldn't say a word.
Jesper Conrad: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Sandra Dodd: And other times she's, like you know, zipping around and doing so. That's how her dad was. His options were zing, climb, scream or So I thought, well, he's just not ready for school. But he had a late summer birthday and the way it works in New Mexico is you can just say he's not ready yet on kindergarten.
Jesper Conrad: Oh, that's nice.
Sandra Dodd: So, yeah, it depends on the birthday, like there's a range, there's an age range where you have the option in and around, and so when we decided we would try to homeschool, we had the longest, smoothest runway I think any human could ever have. So not only did I know these families this is before I was online I knew these four families. We didn't have to put Kirby in school yet If we signed him up to homeschool for kindergarten. We have kindergarten. Then the next year, if he wanted to go to school, we could put him in first grade or kindergarten. Ta-da, if we fail to sufficiently homeschool kindergarten, yeah, yeah. So yeah, oh yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: And so I got the students from the school.
Sandra Dodd: What does he have to know by the end of the year? Because when I was in college they were talking about the open classroom. The people who had invented that term and written that book were professors at the university where I was And there were buildings built in this town to incorporate those ideas, like with a science center and a history center where they would have actual things, plants and animals. And anyway it didn't quite work And some of those buildings are still there. They've just built walls out of filing cabinets and bookshelves and stuff And use them for regular classrooms. But anyway, i had been trained that the whole world's changing is gonna be great. We know things we didn't know before and here's how people learn. And they made me read John Holt. How children fail, how children learn, which is funny. You know you sit in a desk and they're making you read John Holt. But that's okay, i'm stuck but I'll find it again. So we knew that it was gonna be easy And within about two months we knew that as long as he wanted to stay home, we were just gonna keep him home. It was fine. But then we thought but he had a little brother and we thought he probably will wanna go to school because he's very jockish and likes to play ball and ride bikes and he's gonna wanna go to school and wrestle the other boys. So we'll just. You know, kirby's like this, but his brother's not.
Sandra Dodd: I was pregnant at the time with Holly, who's now 32. So that's how long it was. And when Holly came out to after a while, we noticed she's a little fashion girl. She always dressing up. Marty would announce her outfit as she came down the runway, down the hallway, and we thought she's gotta go to school to show off her clothes. But as each of them got to school age, we'd say what do you wanna do? Like, oh, i wanna stay home. So every year we used to say anybody wanting to go to school? what are we gonna do this year? No, no, we're staying home.
Sandra Dodd: So, that was nice, that was easy.
Cecilie Conrad: We do the same thing actually. We ask them, and not very systematic, but in theory we ask them once a year or twice a year. Well, i could ask after three years. Well, i don't really do it now because it's ridiculous. Well, Holly nearly went back.
Sandra Dodd: She kind of wanted to go back for eighth grade or ninth grade when she was 13, 14. And we checked out the school. I would drive her along as kids were walking to school. So she saw where it was And she said when the kids were walking to school they were all like hang dog and just sludging along. And then we would go down there and see them come out of the room, out of the building and start walking home And she said when they come out they're all happy to come out. Yeah, not schooled and made them happy. Coming out. Made them happy, yeah, yeah, yeah. But she also she didn't wanna take PE and this and that. So she just she decided not to, but we tried that.
Sandra Dodd: You know, one day. One day I really had to go to the bathroom. So we're in the parking lot And I said I gotta go home and go to the bathroom. So she said I'll stay here. So she sat on a bench right outside the door where the kids are flowing around her And she said she could feel the energy and it was a little disturbing.
Sandra Dodd: It just were agitated and unhappy various ways, and so that was. I think that was a good way for her to feel it out. Also, she had a lot of friends in school. She had friends at that school, so she had people she could ask to. Okay, so that's how long it took us to be absolutely sure no one was going to school, i guess. But I think this most of the damage that can be done by school can be done at home. It's possible for parents who are using a curriculum and to accidentally they don't do it on purpose. But I just feel so bad when, if a kid doesn't like homeschooling and he's being homeschooled in that schoolish way, he can't go home at the end of the day. Yeah, that's actually even worse. At least if you're going to school. It's like it's three o'clock, let's go home.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I see.
Sandra Dodd: So when it came down to how are we going to do this, i had no question by that time because the two unschooling families were really friendly, sweet, nice to their kids. Their houses felt comfortable, nobody was afraid or hiding or hateful. And in the other families I couldn't even say that Sometimes there was one little girl who her parents would make her stay in the car when we went to the park day. I mean, this park day is part of our operations where all the kids are supposed to get out and play together. They would make her sit in the car until she finished her math homework. That's not a good use of park day.
Jesper Conrad: No, that's not a good use of park day. It's not a good use of life.
Sandra Dodd: So I was glad to have had that. That was also part of our runway preparation, so it sounds like really optimal We had never heard of or met any unschoolers when we started our journey.
Cecilie Conrad: Maybe we met one? Yeah, we did. I'm lying. We had met one family, but not only briefly, And it was very radical and rare. So if I had known several families, that would have been just so much easier especially I.
Sandra Dodd: It was a luxury, huge luxury, and I've never known anybody else to have that much advantage as I have. Also, i wasn't afraid of it. I wasn't afraid of it because I had already taught and because I had been in school when they said here's what's wrong with school. So I had that step ahead too, which helped me with other people, because other people would be saying I don't even have any idea why the schools do this, and I'm like I know, i know, so I could explain to them in calmer terms why the schools had those policies because they're afraid of lawsuits, because they're afraid of children being abused, because they're afraid of children being neglected, because they are. I don't know if they have this concept. Where you are living, traveling, but there's a thing called not obligatory, but like you have to report. I'm not thinking of the adjective.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, yeah, yeah, i get it.
Sandra Dodd: Before I reporter social workers, policemen, doctors and teachers don't have an option. If they see child abuse, they're obligated to report. That's mandatory. Yeah mandatory reporting. Thank you, i appreciate you telling me the English words. I can't remember. I'm getting old. And nouns are the things that go right, The names of things I don't know.
Cecilie Conrad: You know that thing, the washing machine, the thing behind the other thing that you used to do, the thing, i forgot the other thing, the thing behind the washing machine.
Jesper Conrad: I don't have anything there.
Cecilie Conrad: I don't have a washing machine. My brain doesn't even think behind it.
Jesper Conrad: Something you said made me think about our personal journey, where I was more hesitant with it, and I think that often the men in the families are And I think it's quite fun if you look at some of the big names in homeschooling that have written books and are researching, are often men But when it comes to being a father, saying yes to unschooling, we tend to be more scared.
Jesper Conrad: And I think that one thing I hope with our podcast and with talking with different dads I want to help grow is kind of like a community for dads that they can hear other dad's stories, because I needed to restrain Cecilia kind of, you know, say oh, but if you're homeschooling, can you please make sure they do this and this? And it comes out of fear from inside And I was afraid to say yes to it And I was afraid, you know, of this societal judgment of would my kids be weird Or not? actually not if my kids would be weird or not, but what other people would think about them and think about us as parents. And I actually think that the dads silently have this fear, maybe larger than the mom does, but it is often the mom that we would. You know, cecilia is probably not agreeing.
Cecilie Conrad: You see my face now.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah.
Jesper Conrad: No, no, not at all.
Cecilie Conrad: To be honest and fair if we're sharing ours. So yes, but it was hesitant to homeschooling. I was totally on board with the idea. We have exactly your story. We had a child who said school, maybe the other kids like it, it's not for me, i don't want it. And so he, long story short, he didn't start And yes, but didn't like the idea. I thought it was very radical, very weird, very hippie style. And what would the neighbors?
Sandra Dodd: think That was your point of view.
Cecilie Conrad: And told me you can do it for six months, but make sure he can read. You know, this kind of that was where we started. But after a short time we realized we were homeschooling. I had to sit down one afternoon and admit to my husband I was not actually teaching the children, because it made no sense And it wasn't fun and it was just annoying. So we let go. We had at that point two friends who were unschoolers And I called one of them, had a good long chat And then I sat down with my husband afterwards And he said OK, let's let go. It's crazy the whole thing, let's just forget about it, let's unschool. And you let go. Much easier than I did.
Cecilie Conrad: Yes, because of the aftermath of that, my de-schooling process. I believed in the idea of unschooling. I totally am on board with it. But I'm from an academic family. I was schooled for 23 years straight. I have a nice university degree And it scared the hell out of me when my kid didn't read. I really had to work hard with myself And you were so cool about it.
Jesper Conrad: No, but maybe you just didn't care. No, no, I think my reality is I had been living an unschooled life after what is similar to high school. I just did what I want.
Cecilie Conrad: In school. You lived an unschooled life because you didn't listen. I didn't listen so much.
Jesper Conrad: Never paid any attention When we met and had kids. I had had had a career for 10 years without having any sort of education, so I was not really afraid that you cannot learn on your own. But to come back to the fear, then I was afraid of what other people would think. But I don't think we meant talk a lot about it. I think we silently enforces it on our wife that hey, they need to do this and this, and the judgment from the society then I think would often be on the mom and not on the dad.
Cecilie Conrad: Then So I see now that we were afraid of different things because I couldn't care less what the neighbors thought, but I was worried about the children. I would have those black days where I thought I'd just ruined their life, and I had them more frequently in the beginning. I don't read Now it's not a day, now it could be an hour. I might think is this crazy? And then I talk to them and they tell me it's not. In one of the interviews We're talking about two different things, so maybe we should go with one.
Sandra Dodd: I want to go back to the thing about that, but I know it was on a blog post of yours. I think you said something about if the schools won't want to take the kids unless they want to commit to being there for a long time, or something like that. I don't remember if it was an interview.
Cecilie Conrad: Can you say it again?
Sandra Dodd: What did I say? You had said I don't remember if you wrote it on a blog post or in an interview, because I've just been like binging on your stuff this week OK, but you said something like unless the kids want to, they don't want to take kids who aren't going to commit to being there for years in the schools, public school or something. And in the United States that has never been the situation. I don't know why. I don't know what the difference is, but here, because school is mandatory and has been well for the kids to go when they're little I think that was 20th century, but 19th century places started making it available for at least the first few years And that kept growing growing up to eighth grade, which is when kids are 13,.
Sandra Dodd: Up to now, a lot of places You have to stay in school until you're 18. It's just crazy, but anyway, because in the United States you can move anytime you want to. You don't have to tell anybody you're moving. You're not registered to live in a place If you want to just leave in the middle of the night in secret and abandon your electric bill, and all that after electricity was invented. So not mid 19th century, but you know what I mean. There's no law against me packing up My husband's off shopping right now. If I pack up and go to Alaska while he's gone, that's not illegal.
Cecilie Conrad: We don't have that. I think I don't know what I wrote.
Jesper Conrad: What we have is that a school gets money based on how many students are in there.
Cecilie Conrad: We also have, so that the responsibility for the education of the child either belongs to the school or the family. Yeah, that's an advantage, then you own the responsibility of educating your own child.
Sandra Dodd: Oh, like you've opted out of the system.
Cecilie Conrad: So you opt out of letting the system do it. That's how our laws work, where we come from Oh, ok, ok. Well, that's what the Constitutional right And you have to sign off Now. It's not your responsibility, which it should always be, i believe.
Sandra Dodd: Got it. Got it, because we do not.
Cecilie Conrad: You can't come Tuesday and Wednesday to school And then homeschool Monday, Thursday, Friday. No schools would accept that. I suppose that's what I've been.
Jesper Conrad: We have actually What's that writing about. No, no, we have actually also experienced, But we just didn't respect it. Even with a very free school, our grown up daughter was in. What made sense in our life when the rest of them weren't in school was to take long winter holidays, because Denmark is cold in the winter And you can get tickets.
Cecilie Conrad: When. Who was in school? Ljubljana, Oh we just had the rest of them.
Jesper Conrad: So we had one in school And the rest of them were homeschooled, Yeah, So it made sense for us to take long winter vacations And we could take them out of season so they were cheaper. But the school were not very fond of us saying, hey, you know what, we will take our kid out of this period. Luckily it was a very private school that is more free than many others. But some schools won't allow you to take your kid out of school for a longer holiday, which is just insane that you cannot control your life.
Sandra Dodd: The funding changed here But here, if you. So if I do move to Alaska and I have kids, i put them in school, like I can put them in school halfway through the day. If I get there at lunch I can go down there and go. I'm enrolling these children in your school And they have to take them. Yeah, and I learned that being a teacher, a kid can change schools, like the week of finals, and we just take them and make it work. We say you have to have your records on the other school. That's not true that we say we need the records from the other school, but that's because we need not. They have to.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, they don't need it. It's not a.
Sandra Dodd: It's not a yeah, it's not a federal crime that they can't get their records And if we ask the other school or if they never were in a school, there's nothing anybody can do about that. You just make fake up some records So people can. When I was a kid because records were different because there weren't computers they counted the kids in school twice a year. Once, like after about a month of school, they counted how many people were in each class And then they gave them funding for half a year. And then once in the spring they did that again and they gave them funding. So if a kid was there that day and left woohoo, that's good for the school They got more money.
Sandra Dodd: Now they do it by day because they can't. So that's why here the schools don't want anybody out at all. So if you're enrolled in school, they want you to be there from eight in the morning. I think they may be doing it by hour. That if the kid, when they say you have to have a doctor's excuse and all that, they're super strict about that now because their funding goes by. How many people were there? Okay?
Cecilie Conrad: Okay.
Sandra Dodd: And that's horrible.
Cecilie Conrad: I think it's less crazy here. I can't speak for all of you, No it's caused a lot of problems.
Sandra Dodd: But even when I was first involved in unschooling and I don't think that was in effect yet everywhere it's different states If they had enough money to get it together to have a fancy system and they could do that sooner. But there were two stories that were going around And one may have been in Australia or it may have involved Australia, i think, a girl. I think she was American, but she was invited to be in an international orchestra and she played violin And they were going to go on tour in Australia. I think that was the story, and the school said no And we were all saying, well, the parents shouldn't have asked, it had already happened, the story had come and gone, so they didn't let her go.
Sandra Dodd: And there was another story like that where the family wanted to go on a sailboater, something very, very cool, where most people never get to do that in their entire lives. The kid would have learned more than they would ever learn in a year of school And the school said no And the parents said okay, yeah, so it was really eating those stories, kind of fresh with those stories, true, and kind of fresh where people to go, okay, well, screw the schools. They don't own my kid. Yeah, and that is true, but it goes too far for some families.
Sandra Dodd: When I was a kid, my mom well, when I was a kid, my mom was an alcoholic and she was getting worse And school was way better for me than home. I love school. I love school because one time I told this story and I started crying So blah, i'm not going to cry, it's not a big story. In first grade I was six and I went to school And I learned to read as the teacher was telling us how to read And she came to me. She taught me how, but I think I would have learned if I had more books at home.
Jesper Conrad: Of course.
Sandra Dodd: But everything she told me I took it in and it made sense. So I was just ripe And she told me some phonics, things and I went, got it, okay. So I thought she was a genius and a miracle worker. That was great for me. She liked me, she looked at me, she asked me questions and she listened to the answer.
Sandra Dodd: I wasn't happening to me at home except with my dad who was super busy. but when my dad was around he was so sweetie and he was nice but he worked really hard. And then he came home and ate and fell asleep. But he was a welder and he used to let me go with him to buy the oxygen and the acetylene and stuff like that, so I would get to ride in his truck and hang out with him, sometimes on errands, but pretty much he was super busy But my mom was being ignorant and drunk And that's not a place to homeschool.
Sandra Dodd: So when people say the school should be taken down, i hate them. They're terrible for everybody. Yeah, if everybody's them, if everybody is sweet, responsible, has two parents, has a place to sleep and some food, that's different. That's way different. So you know, we had a house, we had food sometimes, but sometimes we didn't have very good food because my mom was being sneaky with the grocery bills so she could hide beer. And so there are. I've never been a person who said your kids should never go to school, and some people come to unschooling before they even have kids for political reasons of their own. They say my child, if I ever have a child, we'll never see the inside of a school And it's like whoa, how about you? just don't ever go back to school, yeah how about you have?
Sandra Dodd: a child, Right. How about you? you solve your own childhood trauma in some other way. Because that's the same as a parent saying I always wanted to be a ballerina, So my daughter must be a ballerina, isn't it? It's almost the same, That's close enough.
Jesper Conrad: I understand that you can be inspired by the idea and think it's not the right for their child. But again, to push unschooling or homeschooling down over your child is not the right thing.
Cecilie Conrad: Sure, i agree. I'm sorry. I think it's really annoying the way the whole society is spinning around the idea of school, and when the child is five years old, everybody are like, oh, you're going to school soon enough. Do you have a new school bag, would it be?
Sandra Dodd: exciting. What's your teacher's name? What subject do you want? What's?
Cecilie Conrad: your favorite subject. Oh, you're so big, now You can go to school. And the whole circus of manipulation, kind of making the child feel wrong if they don't want to and trying to sell it as this very exciting, amazing thing, which is obviously. In your case it was better than home, but in most cases it's not.
Sandra Dodd: Right. But if you take it down and it doesn't exist, well that's another story. You've done the same damage to half the kids, as was done by having it. I don't know, I think it's a very fictional thing to say. Let's take it down. I mean it's not going to happen anyway, we can, and I don't discourage people from letting their kids try it, because if the kids would rather be there than at home, there's something happening at home.
Cecilie Conrad: I would just wish that. But maybe we come from a place where we are. There are not a lot of homeschoolers and obviously unschoolers are even more scarce. So it's hard to say, it's hard for the child also to grow up and know that some kids are actually not in school and they're perfectly happy. And so in a way, i think some level of force, some level of adult responsibility, i believe it's better for you to not be in the school and you might feel you're missing out. But I know what it is And we can go to the playground and we can take the art class, after school activities of all sorts. We'll find you some friends, but the whole school circus, we're not doing that. I would, in hindsight, i would have liked that I did that with our oldest. I liked it.
Sandra Dodd: She would have liked it. yeah, see, well, that's a legitimate thing. But what if my mom just didn't want to bother waking us up anymore in the morning, and she just didn't want to bother picking me up for music practice?
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, i just really have trouble. I come from broken homes as well with abuse, so I'm totally on board with you. But on the other hand, i think we should come up with a better system to help broken homes than schools.
Sandra Dodd: I also want to admit that schools aren't as good. I don't believe that schools are as good now as they were when I went to school.
Jesper Conrad: I went to school.
Sandra Dodd: The time that I was in school, from 1958 to 1970, is probably the glory days of the American school system. Okay, big post war, boom. President Kennedy had his whole physical fitness program. So we had two recesses a day with nice equipment, jump ropes, balls. It was let's beat the Russians, let's go to the moon, it was. So we all had new science books and math books that were interesting.
Jesper Conrad: And there was playgrounds. When you came home, You could hang out with the neighbors. There wasn't this? people weren't afraid.
Sandra Dodd: Yet on that little day, Bikes around town Yes yes, And I was in marching band, which was fun. I was in choir. You can't do that at home. My cousin Neda could do harmonies, So we could do two part harmonies, but to be in a place where I could do four and five part harmonies with other people thrilled my soul. I also did music at church. I was, so I really liked music And that's something that school was good for me too. And then I was a when Keith and I also. I liked the school library and I used to read a book under the table, and so I was always reading a book.
Jesper Conrad: And when Keith and I started, to homeschool.
Sandra Dodd: I did that, yeah. When Keith and I started to homeschool, we went. But what about marching band? Cause both of us were in school music programs a lot And we said what if our kids really want to do marching band? And we actually found a homeschool marching or not, marching band, concert band for Kirby to try, and he's like that's terrible, the leader's terrible. And we thought okay, okay, let's think Why did we like that so much? Because it got us out of class. It got us out of classes. Why did I love the library? Because you got to pass from the teacher to go to the library. I liked all the things that got me to the class You chose to put yourself. It was voluntary, so I would do extra to get to stay at school longer. If there were any after school things happening, i want to do it. If there were early morning practices, i want to go.
Cecilie Conrad: So if there's no school, Who said that maybe what we can see in the future, would hope to see in the future, was that the libraries would open up to be learning centers, and maybe they could march to the band Right. nobody needs a library anymore if they have a computer, well, they do need community, yes, and they might need the band and the choir and the football team. They're not there anymore.
Sandra Dodd: What Bands and choirs aren't there anymore?
Cecilie Conrad: No.
Jesper Conrad: They did.
Cecilie Conrad: But can we have them back, please, and maybe can we do it at the library? The library, not at the school, because the library.
Sandra Dodd: That would be great, that would be awesome. So they're off your own free will. Community programs of different ages That would be good too, wouldn't it?
Sandra Dodd: It would be wonderful to sing with all ages, not just all of the 11 years of year olds together, and I shouldn't say the band and choirs aren't there anymore, but they're not there the way they were when I was younger, So a lot of those things started falling away right after I was too old for it. Yeah, I got you Universities too. Universities in the United States in general aren't as good as they used to be for various all kinds of reasons, and it's getting worse. So pretty soon, a university degree is going to be about like a high school diploma used to be. Yeah, I know I think it already has passed that. I think it's going to go another time.
Sandra Dodd: It's going to be like the high school diplomas now, which are kind of worthless. You don't even have to know how to read. You can get a high school diploma. It's horrible, It's really bad. So I think when I talk about school now, I don't know what I'm talking about, And that's been true of all. People Like my grandparents would talk about school. They're talking about school that they went to in the 1930s, 1920s. My parents are talking about school in the 1930s, 1940s or whatever right The image they have in their head.
Jesper Conrad: And I have a mental detector when you came to school.
Sandra Dodd: Oh no.
Jesper Conrad: No.
Sandra Dodd: No.
Jesper Conrad: I know, yeah, no, that's just weird.
Sandra Dodd: So I just think things are changing so quickly that the kids with the most ability in the world are those who are home with their parents, because there's some continuity, yeah, there's some routine, there's something that there's safety, there's expectation, and I would like that more parents were that way. If you have not seen any unschooling fail, i salute you And I hope it stays like that for your whole life, because I've seen some people botch it badly. I had something to say about dads already. I have a note, i have notes.
Jesper Conrad: But is that?
Cecilie Conrad: Let's give pause for the notes. I think the note is the good one.
Jesper Conrad: I look forward to the notes.
Sandra Dodd: When I was a kid, when I was in this glorious school, it was a little school in northern New Mexico, espanola. I went to Espanola Elementary, espanola Junior High and Espanola High School. No one else can do that because they all have different names now, but when I was very little I hung out with girls and boys both. And then when I was in junior high, when I was 12, i guess I started hanging around with girls because I thought I should And because the girls would say who's your best friend? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. So when I was 12, 13, 14, i hung around with this group of eight girls And of those eight girls they were best friends. So it was me and Deanna, like that, pairs of girls getting into this bigger batch.
Sandra Dodd: I didn't like it. They tended to talk about makeup and about clothes that I couldn't afford, that they saw in magazines, that I didn't have, and how to get a boyfriend. I usually had a boyfriend and they usually didn't, so I didn't want to take their advice about getting a boyfriend. I also didn't want to discuss it. Then I started playing guitar. I sold my clarinet and I bought a guitar. I'm glad my parents let me do that because they had paid for that clarinet. And I decided I would just do choir and not band anymore when I was 14. And so they said OK, and I bought a guitar and learned to play guitar.
Sandra Dodd: Now I started hanging around with boys because they played guitar, because they would talk about music And my boyfriends would be in bands. So I knew all their bandmates and their friends And I would very often be hanging out with guys. And in college I mostly hung out with guys And I would always have a boyfriend. But that was separate from the activities hanging out. So I understood how women operated together And I thought it was a little nasty, a little mean for my tastes, a little cruel, Like women are always complaining about men being violent, but women are violent is just very verbal. And so I went to college, got out of college, hung out with mostly female teachers. That was fine.
Sandra Dodd: So when I was teaching it was all about how teaching works And I had been interested in that since that. First grade teachers I liked so much because I thought how come some kids don't like a certain teacher? other kids love that teacher Because it's it's. There's a relationship between the child and teacher Personality differences, similarities of background or whatever, and that all makes a difference. So I paid attention to that when I was in school, because I knew I wanted to be a teacher than I was a teacher. Then I quit being a teacher because it was frustrating and schools hadn't changed. I couldn't stand giving bad grades and hurting people's feelings and just being part of that whole for the, for the kids who were having fun I wasn't hurting them. For the kids who were having a miserable time, i was contributing. So that was before I had kids. That was before I knew I was going to have kids. So that was already in my little arsenal too when I pulled out all my tools to decide what to do.
Sandra Dodd: Then I I started going to adult children of alcoholics meetings. Some friends of mine took me there. It was wonderful And that was led by men and women both And it was done on a 12 step program tradition which is not about men or women. It's been working for years for men and women both. So this is interesting. It's a very neutral sort of delivery And it's a formulaic a little bit. Like you know, you go down the steps and you talk about these ideas And because it was not excuse me, because it was not alcoholics, anonymous. We weren't in there saying, oh, i'm an alcoholic, i'm ruining other people's lives, i need to stop. We were in there going. I was an innocent victim of alcoholism but it wasn't my fault. And I could pass these things on without meaning to if I'm not really careful, because even even grandchildren of alcoholics can pick up bad tactics.
Sandra Dodd: Yeah about living in a family, living in a home. They can be abusers. They can be like just casually mean, casually cruel or inattentive and justify it because that's the way their parents were, That's the way their grandparents were, And they, they, I. I was in a group then where people are telling stories And we were learning from the stories that the other people were telling, And then I was in there for three years and then we lost the building and I tried another meeting and it wasn't the same, And by then I was involved in La Leche League anyway, which is all women, all women all the time, all women all the time, but talking about something that only women can talk about.
Sandra Dodd: So in La Leche League, what had the way it worked is we're nursing our babies in front of each other, and I also lived through the worst of the United States as to breastfeeding, because nobody was doing it And scientific early 20th century 30s, 40s, 50s unless you were really poor, you wouldn't do it. Because you need to sanitize the bottles, you need to measure the input and the output, because we are scientific, and so I had never seen a baby breastfed And that's hard for people to believe now.
Sandra Dodd: But there was a time when, unless you were super poor, you had no reason to see it. It was considered unsanitary, ignorant and gross. So when I decided I wanted to live a more natural life how do people? because when I was in college I studied English and psychology secretly. Education because it was embarrassing, because that's what the dumb girls did, unfortunately in those days And anthropology. So I started taking anthropology in my second year. The University of New Mexico was a big anthropology school and it was just. Everybody was enthusiastic, it was glorious, i loved it And so it started making.
Sandra Dodd: It was also the hippie days, early 70s, and I started thinking so what's natural for humans? What humans as a thing, as a big thing? what do they do? What do humans do? And that became a way that I started thinking about all kinds of aspects of life. What does shelter need to be? What does a bed need to be? What do humans sleep on? Not what do Americans sleep on in my town, but what's the average of all humans, kind of you know what's in common? What do we really need?
Sandra Dodd: So I was interested in that, just as a kind of a hobby, because I couldn't I didn't have any room to take more classes. But if I could have started over. I didn't know about anthropology when I first went there and I loved it, so I've kept reading that over the years. So I went to La Lettuce League because I wanted to nurse babies and I saw people nursing babies and I heard their stories and they helped me. And now I've done something with women. That's super useful and it's not mean. There's nothing mean about it. So now I've calmed down about can I work with women? That helped, yeah, i get that. And so when very soon after that, during that really, because I was still you know, holly wasn't born yet I started helping people with unschooling. I thought I'm doing this penance to make up for what I did to Neda, inconvenience her and discourage her, and I kind of owe people in general to help with what I know how to do, what I can do in front of them.
Sandra Dodd: With La Lettuce League meetings, i had asked Kirby, do you mind going with me, even though you know you're a bigger guy? will you go anyway, although you're not nursing anymore? because it helps the other moms to see that a baby who was nursed a long time can still be normal. You know, not a weirdo, not a clingy mom's baby. He said oh yeah, sure. And then we quit going for a while.
Sandra Dodd: After Marty was two or so and then I had Holly and we started going back. Holly had problems nursing And so we started going back. And Kirby said why are we going back, mom? Because you already know how to nurse babies. And I said partly I'm having some problems, but partly it just helps for them to have more examples. And so it helps other moms And it helps other moms to see Holly nursing even she's having problems, and that we can figure out a way. She was a pre-median. She wasn't sucking right, so Kirby went okay And sometimes we would talk about that. I would say thank you so much for you know that was so nice when you talked to that other mom because it made her feel so much better.
Sandra Dodd: So when I started unschooling I said do you mind if I tell these stories, if I tell this story when I'm speaking at this little conference? they knew the people who were in the conference. So at first it was like you know, friends of ours doing things together, saying kind of an outgrowth from law, the same adults moving into talking about education, and they said no, that's fine. I said if I tell these stories then those moms will be nicer to their kids, it's a way for them to see some things. They said that we don't mind.
Sandra Dodd: And over the years, even when Marty got in trouble for looking at porn, i said can I tell this story? because he said, sure He wasn't. Look it's on my site If you want to look it up. It's like send it out slash six. It's actually funny now in retrospect. But they had been playing a table game and somebody had said there's porn about everything. These are all like 13 year old boys give a take a couple of years, yeah. And they said no, there's not. And the kids said yeah, there is, there's. He said there's not minotaur porn And he said I bet there is. So Marty was off looking to see if there was.
Sandra Dodd: When I came in in the morning there were popups and I said, eek, marty, so it turns out he knew how to take them off. We were all sharing a computer at the time and it was dial up So, but he knew how to clean it up and that was fine. So we talked about it. So minotaur was a sin tar, but anyway, yeah, there was, he found. Yeah, it was probably a story. You know written words, erotica, but still, so they there were. There were a few stories that they said don't tell this one.
Sandra Dodd: When Holly was was a detain by the police for having wrestled and putting at a party, she said, yeah, no, tell it. So there are photos. And so they were so used to it because they had seen, because other parents had come to them and said, because of this thing that I read about you, i was, i was calmer. When my kid got in trouble, driving or whatever you know, had his first driving ticket, yeah, i wasn't so afraid. So about men? about men. So now I'm in a situation it's almost all women online talking about unschooling. It's mostly women because partly it's because the women are doing it and partly because the men are off at work And they're not for fun.
Sandra Dodd: Writing. You know typing. Typing was for the longest time what women did, and they would type letters for men and type newsletters for men's groups and all that. So I was aware of that. And then a man came into a chat one day. So we're having a chat and there would be usually 20 women, sometimes 20 women in one manner, two men.
Sandra Dodd: This guy comes in. I don't know him, he doesn't know me, he's I've never seen his name on, you know, on screen, before He shows up And he says he writes this Are you willing to risk your child's future on your theory? It wasn't asked nicely, right? I was talking to him In context. He was pretty much wanting me to shut up And I said yes, aren't you? And he shut up because his theory was sending kids to school is better, yeah, or using a curriculum is better. It's like, okay, well, if you do that, you're going to risk your child's future on your theory. I think it's hard to explain today. It's always been hard to explain how prepared I was. It's like looking back. If a person becomes a zoologist, you look back at how they were collecting lizards when they were little kids thinking about particularly an unschooling dad in Australia.
Sandra Dodd: And when I look back although I knew when I was a kid I was going to be a teacher and I was and I was I got to be a teacher. I was 21 when I started and I was 26 when I quit That's enough, but I did it. You know my life dreams. I wasn't even 30 and I'm done. Now what? So I thought there's something about men and unschooling and it's just like you were saying yes, for it's about fear. It's like like about almost panic and almost because they have a small window to look at it, they can't easily, like you, have now relaxed into a whole life 24 hours. Men never put 24 hours into anything before they sleep because they have to go to work.
Sandra Dodd: And so if you, if you get to the place where you're retired or you work from home or something and you can relax even a little bit, you start to, you start to feel the rhythm of the little kids lives, like, okay, they're really energetic, but now they're going to be tired and grumpy. They're going to be energetic again, and it's not a 24 hour cycle, it's maybe six or eight hours when they're little. Yeah, and so when you start to see that everything goes slower, like your heart beats slower and you see the world slower, and you can see that a week is a long time, but until you've hung out with little kids at their speed, it's hard to even consider it. So if a man can only look for a half an hour And that's it, he's going to come and say teach him to read, i'll see you later, bye.
Sandra Dodd: So that happens with unschoolers too, and I've known a lot of unschooling couples And the dad would go to conferences and he would be involved in conversations and then, five or 10 years later, my husband, or whoever it is, says something really stupid. What You know? I thought you were getting it, but they don't.
Cecilie Conrad: It's hard to get it. It's hard for a person who really wants to understand unschooling.
Sandra Dodd: It's not easy.
Cecilie Conrad: No, I usually say when people ask me what are you doing, I ask them do you really want to know? because then I'd need like three or four hours to explain to you what our life is. And I say this from the kindest point of view because, understanding it, if you just look at it for a few hours, even for a few days, it just looks like vacation, basically.
Sandra Dodd: And we've had interviewers who said, well, I'll hang around with you guys for a couple of days, I'll come and stay for hours. It still doesn't work. They still don't get it. No, Peter Gray he's been reading what unschoolers have written and asking unschoolers questions and doing surveys and stuff for years, And when he put an article in Psychology Today he titled it unschoolers teach themselves to read. And I was like oh no, Listen, unschoolers learn to read. Yeah, no, he hadn't had the difference. Yet That learning is not teaching yourself.
Cecilie Conrad: No.
Sandra Dodd: And so I think that's an English language problem. So anyway, I understand about that.
Cecilie Conrad: No, no, no, no, it would be the same in our language. And it is not just the language problem, it is the point of view Do you believe or understand, that all the things we learn we learn because we absorb them? while we do something that is meaningful, instead of like kind of almost punish ourselves, force ourselves to take some boxes to make sure we get to a certain point. That's very different strategies, idea wise, as to how we reach a certain destination. And while we're at it, maybe we don't need that destination. We're not afraid. Children will never learn to walk. Obviously they will learn to walk, and we shouldn't be afraid whether they would learn to read.
Sandra Dodd: They will Some do take till they're 14 or 15.
Cecilie Conrad: Well, we had one, You know 13, 13,. Our first took some courage.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: So if you could hold on to that.
Sandra Dodd: If you can get men together, that's great, it's admirable. I've seen it attempted a couple of times and it kind of falls down around. The men don't have the kids with them, they can't be as pushy with the other dads as the moms can be, as the moms can say well, if you're going to act like that, of course it's not going to work And the men don't seem to have that. So it may be that the way women communicate and are willing to be mean, they're willing to push back, that maybe the men can't, because men are all, like you know, pat them on the back and you got to be friends. Even if you just set up this fight, you have to make up.
Cecilie Conrad: But you're not like that. You like to provoke.
Jesper Conrad: I don't. I don't find it provoking, i find it fun. Well then, that's good, that's good. But I've seen a couple of.
Sandra Dodd: There have been a couple of online places but it's not men's style to check in there very much.
Jesper Conrad: But what I feel is just you know that when I look back at all the mistakes I did, For example, is to see we talk breastfeeding. I thought it was weird that she wanted to break free for a long time And for me one year was a long time. And now, when I have solved the knowledge about what breast milk is and how it works and how a child naturally chooses to leave the breast, I feel like why weren't that knowledge presented to me in a way where I would understand it? That's what I'm saying. That's why I said presented to me.
Jesper Conrad: Because we are not. I cannot speak for all men, but it's not always something to not listening to that one. No, no, no.
Sandra Dodd: There's no hook to hang it on. It's like any other learning If you have something else, you can connect it to, but if it's just like if somebody gives me a long phrase in Chinese and says learn this, remember it, i have no way. I won't be able to pronounce the words, i won't know what I'm saying, it won't stick, and so I think breastfeeding to men can be like that. It's like remember this, like I can't even picture this. Sorry, it's biological beyond me.
Cecilie Conrad: And I think also for the men. It's about where actually this conversation kind of started with the. What will neighbors think that it's really helpful? It is for women as well, to be honest, but it's really helpful to see someone else who did it or who are currently doing it. Just someone not me, that, or not my crazy wife Someone who says, oh, we do that every day, and then suddenly it's normal, or at least it's it's normal in certain circles, and just like you said, just seeing a child that has been breastfed for a long time, or seeing right now we're in this amazing social situation that we are gathered with, i think, 15 families that are world schooling and, just by coincidence, they are mostly on schoolers.
Sandra Dodd: So we have a huge teenage group of unschooled teenagers and are most of the dads there, so you can hang out with that for all there.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, except for like one or two A lot of them. But this would be preaching for the choir. This is teenagers who's been on school for years. It's just amazing to see them.
Sandra Dodd: And the people with younger kids when they see that the teenagers still talking to their parents. That's so valuable. Yes yes.
Cecilie Conrad: And that just the teenagers are just happy and content human beings carrying themselves in this nice and will be nicer to younger kids.
Sandra Dodd: That's another thing that kids at school are not allowed to. the older kids are not allowed to play with the younger kids, and so to see kids playing with, with kids of younger ages can be very impressive to what you just said reminded me of A lot of the years we have spent in Spain.
Jesper Conrad: We have had a base with our boss in Spain for some time and traveling back and forth to it, and there a lot of our friends and people around us called us La Familia, the family, and it took me some time pondering about it. But then I started looking around Also, our dear friends, some of them, when they have small kids, the kids are near their parents But, as you say, when they become teens they weren't there. So the families kind of break apart on an earlier scale than you see when we became La Familia, because we're always together.
Sandra Dodd: That's sweet, that's very sweet. You said we're going to overhear this You talked about in Italy, i think, that the parents stay, the kids stay home until they're married, and I'm at stay home when there's, when they're still in school, and I in the United States I don't remember which which one of you is telling this where, but that in Denmark people leave when they're 18, pretty much. Yeah, they get up and go. I know people here who charge their kids rent when they turn 18.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, that happens in Denmark.
Jesper Conrad: That happened as well.
Sandra Dodd: And so I was at a little conference in Minnesota, which is way north by Canada, and this there are some guys from Mexico there doing some work, like they were up there, contractors working on the hotel or something, and we're in the computer room it was in the days before laptops And I'm in there with the, with a couple of young Mexican guys who are 22 or 23. And they're talking about they still live with their parents, but they're on this job with their uncle, blah, blah, blah. And I told them about unschooling, you know where. so we're talking about what we're doing there. Why are you in Minnesota? I'm not from here. I'm not from here And I'm from the very southern border too, so you know, we're from the far end of the United States.
Sandra Dodd: And and they and one of those guys just went off and he said I don't know why Americans throw their kids out in Mexico. you can stay with your parents as long as you need to, and I have a place to go home. so, like when he was calling home he's calling his mom, right, not his roommates. And and he said I don't, i feel sorry for American kids who get thrown out and when they're not ready.
Cecilie Conrad: Well, that was, that was a weird difference. It's a huge difference, it really is.
Jesper Conrad: And also when I look at American culture from outside, i am weirded out by what is going on, because what I see from outside is children, very in my world, world, overprotected, driven to and from school, don't have, cannot, roam free after school, and then when they turn 16, they move away and can just go crazy without having had the tools to learn how to behave themselves among other people And and and even also not having had. We talked about hair recently. I don't have a lot of hair, but we talked about What does it do to a person when, when someone decides when your hair needs to be cut, so you don't actually have autonomy over your own hair, maybe your parent have put out clothes in the morning, so you don't have autonomy about what you're wearing. What does that do on a deeper level of your ownership to your own body? That that I find quite interesting.
Sandra Dodd: My son cut his hair last week. Last Friday he had it to his waist And I was over there picking the kids up Sunday And I didn't notice, always leaving like I'm backing out and I see the back of him and his hair is gone.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah.
Sandra Dodd: That's about the fifth or sixth time in his life he has cut waist length hair short. He just goes straight from waist long to this And he said he threw his neck out in the shower with his hair wet. he threw his head like that And his hair was so heavy when it was wet that he hurt himself. He has the thickest hair And then my other son is thinning already and he's 35. So they don't match on that. but my dad had really taken care too, but he never let it grow because he was a World War two guy and they didn't. My son and I both have really long hair to can have mine. I had a short perm a year ago and it's grown out this much so that we Keith and I and Kirby can grow a lot of hair quickly. So curbies will grow back and he'll forget. you'll throw his neck out again.
Cecilie Conrad: And then he'll cut it again.
Sandra Dodd: I think when a parent especially tells a kid don't touch alcohol, don't even touch it, don't even think about it when you look at it, don't even think about smoking pot if you smoke pot I'm throwing you out of here. You know and is really harsh about stuff like that, they're just pretty much making a checklist for that kid to do when they go to college And the kid will not have any practice with how much is too much and how do you act when you're drunk And you know. Not that we gave our kids practice on purpose, but if we knew they're going to party, we just said you know, be be careful.
Cecilie Conrad: The funny thing is you say this when they go to college and we come from a culture where so on the one hand, it's where we come from and obviously, especially in our unschooled family, they grow up with a lot more personal freedom than children in general, as I understand it in the United States, and we would find it quite radical to let a 16 year old go off and live by themselves 100 kilometers and hundreds maybe of kilometers away from home. So if they move out from home when they are 18, it's usually not that far away and they would still go back and Sundays and you know it's not like it's very this, this college thing is very radical.
Sandra Dodd: It's like from one I think college I should try to say university, because college, especially in England, is a whole different thing. it's like 16 and 18 year olds, but they still live at home like the specialty high schools. But we don't have that we have you're in high school until you're 18 and then you go to university for four years and then maybe you two more and then maybe three more, and so some people just stay at university till they're almost 30. I did that point. they've done all the drugs and alcohol We don't live at the university where I come from, we don't have that campus.
Cecilie Conrad: Thing.
Sandra Dodd: I think World War two. In World War one people went to war in home groups like their local militia And that caused some problems. I don't know the whole stories. I don't know, and so sorry military history buffs who are watching this I could be wrong. In World War two they tried not to do that. They purposely tried to mix people up so that they would send people for basic training to other places. They would station them other places, not by their mom, and then a lot of those guys then met women from other places, had friends when they went to the military. They were all mixed up in World War two and they, when they came home then they knew people from other parts of the country, which wasn't so easy before, and so they were in the service They might have. I don't know how conscious it was that they shuffled people around a little bit and that just became an ideal almost, that that people shouldn't live in the same place their whole lives. And I guess you probably know, the United States is huge.
Sandra Dodd: It's hard for Europeans. I mean, they're like eight states that that the UK fits totally inside, including all their water. The British Isles just drop into Mexico and with extra space. And so they, when they accuse us of oh, you don't know, a lot of languages, is like we can drive for days and still English speakers. Yeah, i find that we might have a little pocket of Spanish or French, but that's it, that's all. And and people's, and people will say, well, let's just go visit the Grand Canyon and then let's go to Florida. It's like, no, you can't do that. It's two different trips. It's too big, it's huge.
Sandra Dodd: And so when people want to get away from home, i think it's like when I, you know those rubber band airplanes that you twist, twist, twist the propeller made out of balsa wood and you twist and twist and twist, and rubber band tightens up. If you over twist it, it's just going to go crazy. It's not going to fly, it's going to wreck. I think that's what parents do when they tell a kid no, no, no, no, no. They wind it up, and wind it up, and wind it up, and the kid turns 18 and wants to go as far as they can, because they want to away from their parents. They don't want to go to a university in that town and come home. Why would they do that? they want to go as far across the country as they can.
Cecilie Conrad: It's just too bad because obviously it comes from love. when parents tell their children no, comes from wanting to do your best and really wanting your child to have a good life And really wanting your child to have the best opportunities and and not fall into all the cracks that might open.
Sandra Dodd: That's the greatest way anyone has ever described that in my whole life. You are very nice person.
Cecilie Conrad: No, i'm not Asking, i'm not a very nice person.
Sandra Dodd: But I don't think that way. I think some of them are just doing it because it was done to them. It's like hazing. This is how you treat teenagers you tell them no because I was told no and I get the passes.
Cecilie Conrad: Okay, i get you there, I get you there. But the another deep reason for doing it is they are really trying to take care of their children. They're just doing it the wrong way What I would consider the wrong way, but it comes from love. I, i, i, my, i love my parents deeply. I have four because of an early divorce, so I have surplus of parents, but the parental energy was not very huge. They have their reasons, all four of them, and I respect them.
Cecilie Conrad: I have seen from my own personal life and all the many different families I've met that all parents really try to do their best. They love their children. They want to do the best they can. Sometimes it's horribly bad, like you can't believe it. I actually try and I think we need to not judge parents who say no to their teenagers or push the younger ones in school, or we really need to be part of just threading some light into that darkness, because it's a vast culture. It's so big, the whole idea of ageism, the whole idea of a child that needs all of this instruction, the idea of the curriculum in and of itself, the idea that the adults know, know how to say that the adults know what the kids need to learn this whole It is. it comes from the idea of trying to help the children enter life the best way they can, but in reality it's so hurtful And I just want to try to.
Jesper Conrad: On layer.
Cecilie Conrad: On layer.
Sandra Dodd: Open up More notes, and I think we're out of time.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, you talk to us again.
Jesper Conrad: No, but I would actually love one more question, and, but I also think that we should.
Cecilie Conrad: Four more questions.
Jesper Conrad: We should go to bed. We should go. We need to restate your lens Longer. If I can put in a question and then you take one of the notes afterwards, okay, so maybe it's not an easy question to answer, but how have choosing on schooling chains The way you live your life?
Sandra Dodd: I'm nicer to my husband. I was nicer to my pets. After that, yeah, i already knew that part of being A wife And being a wife the way I thought it should be done Was to remember that my husband used to be a little boy and he still had bad memories and he still had wounds And once in a while Needed to be babied or I need to avoid some topics that are pissing off because of his own childhood trauma. So I tried to do that. I was like what did I just scratch that I should. that I could have maybe avoided in the future. That helped even before. But with unschooling I thought well, you know, why shouldn't he also be able to make a lot of choices about what to do and how and where to put his stuff and how? I didn't want to dictate to him exactly how to be, and that helped a lot And that helped me not to be as grumpy with myself about being a pack rat.
Sandra Dodd: I collect things, a lot of things, and so I know it makes a mess and it's going to be stuff my kids have to get rid of, but it also is kind of for me. It's the way I'm making connections between places. I have a collection of potato measures. I made a video of them And I have a collection in India. That's really nice and I have some from Australia and England and the United States just to compare like this is this is the kind they have in England. You're going to see them in thrift stores And they work better than ours, than the American kind, but the best one of all is the one I've got in India. I didn't check all of them potato measures in India, but I have one And it's awesome And most people would think that was dumb. You already have potato masher. Forget potato masher is. Nobody asked you. You're not a potato masher museum curator, but in a way I am very small museum at my house.
Cecilie Conrad: We also have the one that squeezes it through some kind of sip. You know that kind of potato masher.
Sandra Dodd: Oh, so Maybe send me a picture of one I will, I will.
Sandra Dodd: It's genius one. A problem that I have seen with people who come to online groups And sometimes the conferences I saw a couple of times at conferences people would go to a conference with a, with a plan, with an intention that we couldn't or shouldn't provide And that was hard to explain to them Impossible, and that was they were coming to join an unschooling community. I know you guys are staying with a bunch of families and that you have friends that you visit again, and so people living on the road deal becomes sort of a group because you have information to share other than unschooling. You know totally separate from that about how are you storing food, how are you doing this now. But they people will, will find a group online and they'll go. I found my tribe. That's always really bothered me because I live in New Mexico where there are Indian tribes and it's like you, that's not your tribe And I know those people for a minute. They're not genetically related to the. People want to join They. There's so many things like churches or clubs that you can join. If the library gets those choirs, i'm joining. Yes, as soon as I join and they go, okay, you're in, then I'm in.
Sandra Dodd: But unschooling can't work like that. So all that we can provide them is information about how they might be able to learn to do it, to take that in to themselves. We can't put it in, we can't sell it to them, we can't. You know, they can't say I'm going to read all this and then take a test and then I'll be certified unschooler. No, no, it's not. Everything else works like that and this doesn't. And so they will say I would like to be an unschooler. And I'm like well, you're not really an unschooler. Yet You can't say I'm not an unschooler. So they're so used to that if somebody else affirms them or blesses them or accepts them that they're in.
Sandra Dodd: And in 1997, holly was just five and we went to a conference in Texas And I could tell the conference was trying to be more than unschooling. It was sort of a new, agey thing. But I was just there to talk about unschooling, because that's what it was about. It was called Rethinking Education and I was there to talk about that. But I overheard a young man in the hallway just on passing, and a young dad, probably late 20s, said to the organizer of the conference so what do we think about dentistry? And I got a chill. Who's this? we, and why are you asking her what we think? So I think that's the biggest danger of people thinking community or tribe. I've also seen smaller groups of women families, but the women who got together and made best friends became best friends, and then one of them, who has a powerful personality, decided that unschooling was stupid And now I'm going to go do this. And so the rest of them went to. They weren't so much unschoolers as they were followers of one individual human.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, sandra, what you're saying reminds me of sometimes when I talk to people I'm saying we don't do isn't at all, and certainly not unschooling isn't. We have met people and I think again, it comes from from a good place, but it also comes from the schooling inside their mind that they need a checklist. If I am going to be an unschooler, then if I can take these things, then I have done it correct And I actually I totally agree that it will ruin more than it will help them because they do not feel themselves, they do not know where their limits are inside, inside what they think is right and okay as a parent, to say yes to and to say no to. I quite like Pat Ferenker, who says it's about giving the child as much freedom as you can, as a parent, manage.
Cecilie Conrad: Actually John Halt who said that wasn't it, he was.
Sandra Dodd: Patrick is.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, yeah.
Sandra Dodd: He used to use that definition at conferences. I don't like it, that's okay, go ahead.
Jesper Conrad: No, no, no, but I understand why you said it, but, yes, no, but it's what I like about it in this, in what I'm trying to say now, is that if you try to be unschooling as an ism, then you will try to enforce stuff you maybe don't know about good enough, i have felt and understood, and then you do it because I heard this was right, i should be a parent like this. If you cannot be a parent like that, then I think you actually hurts your child more, because your child can feel, if you have an inner conflict in your life about Yeah, that's what I like about it, hi, john, halt, calm down.
Cecilie Conrad: Don't go any further than you can comfortably go. Please do some de-schooling.
Sandra Dodd: Yeah, do some de-schooling, exactly So the problem is some people took that definition, said well, i'm not comfortable with any of this other stuff, so I'm not going to do it. I'm an unschooler.
Cecilie Conrad: I'm still an unschooler, even though I don't understand it, so that comes back to my definition of them wanting to be part of a group.
Sandra Dodd: So unfortunately, pat's definition was letting people into a group and saying you are unschoolers as long as you're doing as much as you're comfortable with, and I'm like wrong, yeah.
Jesper Conrad: I don't follow that. But what I believe is that children are so fine tuned to look at their parents because that is part of how they are learning when they are young Looking at their parents, what is right, what is wrong, and then they are mimicking. So if you have a parent who is saying, oh, you should go just play the whole day, but you can see the parent is kind of tritching because it doesn't work for them internally, then you leave a confused child And that is not fine And that's why I'm also sometimes not happy about this. The isn't that? I feel that some people they need crutches in their teeth, helping to learn, helping their child to learn whatever the child wants to learn.
Sandra Dodd: Yep, yep, yep, i like it. So yeah, almost everything can cause a problem, so it's just, it's good to to like stay on the path and not get in the into the stickers.
Cecilie Conrad: Which is very complicated because, okay, i have two very different things to say about this. The first thing is, i think people, some people, want to join the tribe or get the stamp you are true on school or you can be part of the club because of something very, very hurtful that happens to children in institutions. You take children who are fairly young they're five or six years old when they start school and some of them have even been to nurseries and kindergartens before that Take them away from the family every morning and they will have to spend all day, five days a week, with strangers, basically feeling there is no unconditional love in that context, and the adults may be the same as yesterday, may not, and you, there is nothing to rely on. Basically, so you, you, they have, they become very dependent on the field of social life going on between the children. I think that's also the reason so many people find it so interesting whether homeschool and school children have friends or not, because they believe that that is the core of childhood.
Cecilie Conrad: Schools provides friends And it's obviously friends is nice, but but it's just not. If you have a family, if you live with unconditional love, then then it's not. You're not that dependent on having a large group of friends And the whole social life friendship thing becomes this power over the child. The, the, the thriving of the child is dependent on whether that child has some friends or not. Because they need a relation they can rely on and they can't because it's other children and they actually need adults who love them unconditionally. So that's one thing that's really hurtful.
Cecilie Conrad: But we are conditioned into feeling we need this and we might need it more than we need our authenticity. We might need it more than we need to know ourselves. We just need this because something very valuable is lost when we let go of the children too early and push them out. So I think this need when you're an adult and you're trying to do good and you want to go to school, you really need to be part of that group And it's part of basically a trauma. So that's one really important reason. I believe we should be very kind to those who feel they need that.
Cecilie Conrad: And on that note, on that note, I I I have felt in the beginning, when we called ourselves unschoolers or started our journey, that it was really annoying when the older unschoolers would sometimes say something like you're not a real unschooler. It would become this secluded club of people doing it the right way, And I had actually several years where I wouldn't identify as an unschooler because I didn't want to take the bullshit. I just said, well, I do what I do and I don't want to call it anything because no one should come and tell me how and why and when and where to do what I do, what is right for my family, and I do it. It was unschooling all along. but there was this I don't know.
Sandra Dodd: Well, in a in a discussion some of these discussions were huge 800 people, you know they. they were not. they were not there at the same time every day It was. it was, you know, message boards. Some of those are old, like 20 years old, and they're not as busy as they used to be. But if a person comes in and says I'm just as much an unschooler as you are, but I make my kids do math workbooks and I do this and I do this, yeah, that's really annoying.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, i'm kind of bad with now who says to the others no, you're not an unschooler If I just said well, come in sit down.
Sandra Dodd: I didn't. I didn't, i said that won't help. If you're clinging to this, unschooling will not be. Unschooling that we're talking about won't take root. But the thing is that when people first asked me about unschooling, they were asking about me because there wasn't an ism. There was. There were the stories in growing without schooling, which is people would write in a question and two months later and four months later they would get some responses. By then the question was too old, it was all over, but some other people could learn from reading those responses. That was like we could do that in a half an hour What used to take four months. Yeah, so we're getting stories and information in front of people And the question was to me at the beginning how are you doing that?
Sandra Dodd: What are you, sandra Dodd, doing? I could come from that in a group that was mine, that had my name on it. That's why I could do that. But it wasn't like we're not all going to unschool like Sandra Dodd. Okay, there are 25 people here who have been doing this for 15 years, who have been in this discussion regularly.
Sandra Dodd: For 15 years We've been churning these ideas around. We've seen people come and fail. We've seen what happens if you require math, next you're requiring reading, next you're requiring the entry to the science fair. It can go the other way. Your progress can go towards school If you look at school and thinking about school and talking about school. So the reason that I have been in situations where we've said this is not unschooling is because we're trying to stay on topic. Stay on topic of what will make it better, cause all little decisions are going somewhere. Are they going toward more peace and more options and more choices and more understanding of how kids learn, or are they going back to? we got to back up, we got to stop, we got a limit, We've got to.
Cecilie Conrad: I'm totally on board with you and I find it so frustrating when people call it unschooling and it is homeschooling. I don't mind homeschooling.
Jesper Conrad: But they're on school on first days.
Cecilie Conrad: And in some holiday. I believe in in everybody's freedom to organize themselves as they please. I'm not trying to judge homeschoolers. I'm just saying if we can't separate homeschooling from unschooling as the home, if the homeschoolers start calling it unschooling, then we have no word for what you and I are doing And we need a word so that we can agree on what we're talking about. I totally I'm there now, but I felt before I would find it really not that I did math, but but if I did something, some of the homeschoolers on schoolers would would not agree with it. It would be like now you've ruined it all. I found it unsettling and I would like to find at least from a journey.
Cecilie Conrad: I would like to find a nicer way, more kind and inclusive way to talk about people you're staying with this week and the place where you are.
Sandra Dodd: Some of them will probably be friends of yours in 20 years or 30 years. And that will be personal community, but it doesn't have to be the world's schooling community. No, no no, no no, it's not to try to manage people and gather them back in.
Cecilie Conrad: But I think that's a beginner's thing. Once you start, you want to try. Once you start, you want to find your group. Then what I always say when I coach about this is yeah, you can look for play groups and unschooler groups in the beginning, but what happens is you make some friends.
Sandra Dodd: And then you have to be your family, the people who need to be happy with the way you're doing it, as your kids, you and your, the parents and the kids, if they're satisfied with it and calm in their learning. that's what's important, not that theirs matches the neighbors or their friends. but my defense is that we were trying to run a discussion where people came and learned about well if something that we had that we had pretty much purified.
Sandra Dodd: we purified it. So we don't want people sticking a turnip in our potato soup or whatever, If we are to put a button line on this.
Cecilie Conrad: You have been the one walking in front with light, so I'm not going to start to judge the way you've done it. Personally, i am very grateful you did it. It has halved out a much wider road for the rest of us to find our way in, and I find it amazing. So it's not you personally. No, no, no. No, it was reflection back up when we started At an hour beginning 10 years, 15 years ago, whenever that was.
Jesper Conrad: And I think the search we did for community ourselves back then was we felt so alone in the start. You know it felt alone in having found another way, because in Denmark we were very few families that even homeschooled, so it was every time we met someone you're almost clinging to them. Oh, should we meet again? And until you, until we found bigger in a piece our need for meeting often with other people that did the same as us live without. I think It's changed now. We just live.
Cecilie Conrad: It's changed. We become kind of experts.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, so I'm very sorry to say this. We should, but one hour has become almost two hours And I love talking to you and I think we should do part two. We should definitely Because there is so much more And I know you have a note with more questions, but I also know we have some children who needs to be fed.
Sandra Dodd: Well, I'll keep my notes.
Cecilie Conrad: The sun is setting here and maybe we should do.
Jesper Conrad: I would like to say something, yeah, okay.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, no, no. Sandra, first of all, thank you for all you have done. For all you have done during the years. I know you have changed many more people's life than the ones you accidentally, as you said, hurt by saying hey, stay in school. You have helped so many people over the years that the sin has been gone for many years. I'm absolved, thank you. It has been absolved. Bye Oz, bye Oz, no, no, no, no. So what I'm saying is people who are listening in wants to get to know you better, because it's not all who have read your book out there. So where do they find information about you and what should they do?
Sandra Dodd: No one has ever asked that that way to me, I think. If they want to know more about unschooling, I write one thing every day and I put it at Just AdLight and Stir and I'll send you the link. And it's a photo and a quote or something I've just written depends on a link to something. There's two links and they can subscribe by email or just go to the blog every day. I will totally do that.
Cecilie Conrad: I will totally do that.
Sandra Dodd: And so that will eventually lead into lots of other things.
Cecilie Conrad: Really What a great way of doing it.
Sandra Dodd: Because I also have a couple of intro pages for people who are new and would like to start there, and I can give you those links.
Jesper Conrad: Perfect, and then some books also.
Sandra Dodd: Yeah, they can always buy the book I like mine and I like Pam LaRickias First one, her first one Free to Learn is a miracle book. That's the one people should give their grandparents. Perfect.
Jesper Conrad: We will recommend that in the show notes and then we should say goodbye and we will promise everybody who listened That will be more time where we can go even deeper. I look forward to it.
Cecilie Conrad: Let's do it. Thank you very much. Thank you for this.
Jesper Conrad: Thank you.
Cecilie Conrad: Thank you.
Have you read the latest articles by Cecilie Conrad?
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E19 - The Power of Connection in Parenting - A dialogue with Naomi Aldort
E18 - Ask Us Anything: Embracing Radical Parenting & Unschooling: A Journey of Trust & Empowerment
E17 - The Adventure Is the People: An Interview with the caricature artist Samuel KingDavis
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I have a hard time with remembering numbers; always have had.
Kirby was four years old (not five yet) when we opted not to register him for kindergarten.
At the time of this discussion, our youngest, Holly, was 31 and a half. :-) Not yet 32.
And I forgot to say that Nada's kids, by the time I called her and apologized, numbered five, and all school-aged.
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