Always Learning: Sandra Dodd's Interview

Anyone who does an online search to learn more about the educational philosophy called unschooling will probably run into the name of Sandra Dodd at some point. Sandra has been out on the front lines for a long time now helping people understand that learning happens quite naturally, if we only relax and let it happen.

Sandra has a website about her life in general, another link inside this website about unschooling in particular, and a blog. She also runs an email list and is generally all over the internet sharing her thoughts about unschooling.

Let's see how she answers my 4 questions about homeschooling freedom and fun...

The Dodd children in 1998.

The Dodd family in 2008.

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

Over 18 years, and attachment parenting for four years before that.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

When we were sharing one computer, we would work shifts on it. Kirby would stay up late, I would get up early, the younger kids could use it during the daytime. We didn't time "turns," but would let whoever was using it use it until he was done, but Kirby knew he could have it to himself when Holly and Marty fell asleep, and I knew if I got up at 6:00 in the morning I could have e-mail and message board for an hour or two before anyone got up. Eventually Kirby got his own computer. After a while Marty got one, and then Holly. Our habit of showing people the good stuff remains, though, and of sharing photo files.

We could have company, or visit other people, on weekdays as well as weekends, and that opened up the schedule tremendously. Because there weren't three or four hour times when we couldn't get to food, the kids didn't need to be hungry, or wait and wait for a school cafeteria lunch or an after school snack. By the time they were old enough to have their own jobs, they were easily able to remember to eat before they went in, and wait for a break for more food. They didn't need to "train" for it.

Because I was able to be home with them, they didn't have to wait hours to consider whether to talk to me about something or to just share with school friends, as I usually did when I was a kid. Other kids don't always make the sagest of advisors.

We could watch movies together at leisure, and pause and come back to them, or watch the good parts over and over. Some families are trying to squeeze a movie in between "dinnertime" and "bedtime" and wouldn't even think of watching one in the morning or during lunch!

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Meeting other unschoolers has always been fun. Our children knew other unschoolers in town, but to meet a whole family with children who also were happy and not school-bound was always a joy.

I think everyday things were made more fun by unschooling, because when we went to a play or to dinner or a picnic or to visit grandparents, the preparation and the drive and the discussion after were sweet and peaceful and supportive. We weren't argumentative and blaming as so many families around us were. It was very rare for someone to get too cranky to talk to others in the car, even on cross-country trips. We sang along with the radio and CDs a lot, too. Surely the most rulebound of families might have had similar fun, but ours wasn't occasional, it was the predominant mood.

When someone was very sick or had minor surgery, it helped that school wasn't a factor (nor "schoolwork"), but that the new injury or disease or recovery became an opportunity for learning, compassion and aid.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

Once Marty was eight or nine, he woke up hungry and whiney. I said I had a hard time understanding him when he was whining, and could he say it another way. He stood at attention and in a movie-marine voice said "MOTHER, I require Food NOW!" I couldn't stop laughing.

Kirby was 14 and had an 8th grade girlfriend who invited him to her middle school graduation. Marty and I were delivering him there,and we were parked right outside the front of the school. No one else was around at all. Kirby was reaching into the back seat of the car, where Marty was, for his jacket. The school bell rang—one of those big domed wall bells. I wasn't surprised at all, but both Marty and Kirby jumped in fear and Kirby jumped back and said "What was THAT!?" Kirby was 14 and Marty was 12 and they had never heard a school bell before.


Sandra Dodd said...

Oh, NOW I see the errors. :-)
They were 14 and Marty was 12 and they had never heard a school bell before.
Kirby was 14 and Marty was 12. I guess you knew that, but still...

And I used "jumped" twice in once sentence, which I regret. But it's the best word. They were both sharply startled, and Kirby kind of leaped back out of the car in case the noise was coming from inside the car or something. It was the total "I don't know which way to run" physical reaction.

When I was a kid, and when I was a teacher, I heard bells like that over a dozen times a day. In my life at that point I must have heard a school bell (180x14x17...) Yikes! over 40,000 times. I'll trade in days I was absent for years there were three lunch periods. And when I was in elementary school we shared the campus with 7th-9th grades and they had lots of bells we could hear.

Debbie H. said...


I tried to edit it for you but obviously missed this one. I fixed it. I think having jumped in there twice works just fine.

Whew, that is a lot of bells you heard. Your ears are probably still ringing!

Thanks for participating.