Sandra Dodd – Unschooler Extraordinaire

Sandra Dodd is coming to New York City!   And I will miss it.   I spent much of yesterday evening trying to will the date on her speaking event to change.   It didn’t work.  She is still coming to speak to NYCHEA members on February 18th,  which is the day we fly back from Costa Rica.   Several of my friends have pointed out that it’s not like I’m missing it due to jury duty or root canal or something;  I will be returning from a week in Costa Rica, after all, but I am still dismayed that I will miss the chance to meet her.   For anyone unsure about unschooling or how it can possibly ‘work’, she is the person to talk to.   Her kids are grown and functioning just fine in the world without ever having set foot in a school classroom or taken a standardized test.

What is Sandra’s message?   If I were going to sum it up, I would say it is that life itself always presents opportunities for learning, but that often we miss it, or dismiss it.    To demonstrate this, I’m going to reprint excerpts from three entries regarding television that she wrote when her kids were younger.  I’ll also provide the link to the full entry on her website, if you are interested:

“Dr. Mae Jamison, a medical researcher and astronaut, credited watching Star Trek as her inspiration to study science even though she was an African American girl from Alabama.

Parents didn’t plan those inspirations.  It’s likely they thought their children were wasting their time, or taking a break from learning, when they were watching TV.

Even if you don’t decide to unschool, keep an open mind about where and what our children could be learning, and where they might find inspiration to become something like world changing scientists.”

“If watching TV is your child’s thing and complaining about TV is your thing, you’ve spoiled a chance to have a a shared thing.”

“The discussions involving television [or computers, video games, etc.] are among the top three issues that challenge parents’ thinking.  The other two are food and chores.

Parents fear brainwashing.  The word ‘zombie’ is bandied about.  They are told to fear children becoming corporate pawns, and drones.  Children will want everything they see on TV, parents are told.  Children will have short attention spans, teachers say.  Television will keep families from eating together, or talking to one another.

Those arguments are false and they are wrong.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Look at your own children directly, and not through the lens of a decades-old anti-TV book.  Don’t be swayed by the arguments of schoolteachers who would love for your children to think teachers’ classroom lectures are mesmerizing.”

These are just a few examples.   In her book “Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling” which is a collection of everything written on her website, there are hundreds more.   She talks about the ‘typical day’ and how there really is no such thing.    Every day is different.  Why do people think every day needs to look the same or have a time frame for every activity?

So I’m sad I’m going to miss her visit, but since I tend to carry her book around, her words are with me everywhere I go.   In a world where most people think you can’t learn on your own outside of structure and classroom, it’s good to have her competent reassuring voice nearby, at least on paper.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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