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Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling

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Sandra Dodd lives and breathes unschooling.Her family’s unschooling story began in 1991 when her eldest turned five and didn’t go to school. In the end, all three of their children were always unschooled and, along the way, Sandra generously shared their experience. Over the years she’s spoken at more than sixty homeschooling conferences and events spanning eight countries, and is still adding to the most extensive and helpful unschooling and mindful parenting site on the web today, sandradodd.com.This book is an insightful summary of her website, with hundreds of practical ideas about how to move from schoolish thinking to living a life of natural learning and joy. Where reading around the website is a marvelous choose-your-own-adventure kind of experience, the book is different. Its more clearly landmarked journey flows beautifully and feels deeper; more connected and personal.Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling is a wellspring of ideas and inspiration for both new and seasoned unschooling parents alike.“If you want to measure, measure generously. If you want to give, give generously. If you want to unschool or be a mindful parent, give, give, give. You’ll find after a few years that you still have everything you thought you had given away, and more.” ~ Sandra Dodd

371 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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Sandra Dodd

6 books6 followers

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5 stars
112 (46%)
4 stars
72 (29%)
3 stars
40 (16%)
2 stars
13 (5%)
1 star
4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for Kelly.
10 reviews3 followers
July 27, 2013
Sandra is one of the most well-known names in unschooling. She can be perceived as VERY tough on individuals who post on her Yahoo Groups list, Always Learning. The list is intended for very pick-apart-analyze-the details-of-your-thinking discussion of the topic of unschooling. It's my opinion that Sandra comes across as tough on posters, because she is fiercely dedicated to protecting children from what she perceives to be harmful practices engaged in by well-meaning (or not necessarily so well-meaning), but unenlightened parents.

In person, Sandra is quite engaging, and not quite so tough-seeming. I've had the opportunity to see her several times at conferences, and she is very thoughtful and helpful in her speaking engagements.

I've read her list discussions and wisdom for years, and some of the stories that she's relayed are so often quoted, that I will remember them like a story that is passed down in a family from generation to generation. Her book, the Big Book of Unschooling, is a collection of those stories, arranged in topical format. It reads like a collection of short stories, rather than a guide or instructional manual to unschooling. I find it is fun to browse through occasionally, even now, when my children are getting older.

I consider Sandra to be part of a revolutionary group of thinker-practitioners when it comes to childhood education. She and a handful of very intelligent, caring, daring parents chose to experiment with their children's learning, and then to share this experience with the rest of the world. A movement has grown out of it. Words that she and her peers have written have, literally, changed my life in profound ways. I look at children, and human relationships, and motivation and contentment and the purpose of life differently as a result of these (mostly) women.

I encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to read this book, and Sandra's other book, Moving a Puddle, which is also a similar collection of stories.
Profile Image for Alex Polikowsky.
32 reviews42 followers
August 13, 2012
This books lives in my bedside table. I often re-read chapters here and there.
It is an easy read book with short chapters but the content is nothing but life changing.
Thank you Sandra. You wise words and observations, you candid telling of your own family stories , are so inspiring and clear.
Mindfulness , joy, peace, connection for raising, living and learning with our children.
That this book has to offer.
Profile Image for Kathleen O'Mara.
154 reviews12 followers
January 23, 2010
Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling book is intentionally written for the radical unschooling parent, however, any parent who wishes a better relationship with their child, better learning strategy and just an all around calmer household would do well to mine this resource for the jewels within. It is unquestionably about parenting in a loving way.

Employing short essays to frame and focus on particular aspects of child-led learning, assembling a child focused household, Sandra Dodd’s book brings the concepts and the practice of unschooling into spotlight for the reader.

Inspired by the Open Classroom model of learning practiced in classrooms during the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the writings of John Holt and others, Sandra Dodd trusted the theory that humans are innately curious and left to their own they will inquire and learn a variety of information and skills with which to thrive. She determined to raise her children in this way.

Dodd uses examples from her own life raising three children in New Mexico, fulfilling her desire to create an environment supportive of free learning and free thinking as previous educators only hypothesized about doing with classrooms full of children.

Part One: unschooling is arranging or strewing for natural learning to take place. The 250+ essays bring the reader from neophyte to understanding of the process. Part Two: gives insight and a behind the door kind of information about an unschooling family.

Beginning with the profoundly accurate statement: “Neglect is not unschooling.” I was drawn into this book so entirely that I didn’t want to put it down. This great read was over so quickly. Well, quickly for 350 pages. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book.

I especially like the way Sandra Dodd presents each issue. Each short essay, most a page in length, poses questions, gives ways to find the answer or examples of results. Because the answers are different for each parent and each child, there are no hard fast answers. Someone looking for answers in a Dr. Spock style: if A happens, insert B; would do better building a piece of furniture rather than raising a child. But parents who are truly looking for a better way to parent can’t help but learn from this book.
Profile Image for Kate Hyde.
133 reviews2 followers
April 9, 2010
What an AMAZING book! I've been interested in the concept of unschooling for a while now, but I've never seen it so well explained as in this book. Like the author says, unschooling is really an extension of Attachment Parenting.

This book isn't only about an educational philosophy - it's about a whole new way of parenting (at least, new to me!). So many of the parents I know - even the Attachment Parents - limit their children's choices in many ways (mostly in the areas of TV and food). But this book makes such a good case for letting your children make as many decisions about their lives as is safe and possible.

After years of feeling guilty about the amount of TV my daughter watches, I'm finally realizing how much she actually LEARNS from the shows. And I'm interacting with her more when she's watching - explaining new concepts and answering questions.

I highly recommend this book to any parent, or anyone who wants to know more about unschooling.
Profile Image for Krista.
577 reviews20 followers
Shelved as 'gave-up-on'
March 3, 2016
I admittedly didn't get very far into it (though I did skim-read through the rest) but I struggled a lot with the tone in which she seems go be implying that if you don't go 100% all-out Unschooling as SHE defines it, then parents will "make a big confused mess of their home and children".
Talking with other homeschoolers, they agree that Sandra Dodd definitely prescribes an all or nothing approach, which is just not for me. I consider us to be part time unschoolers, and I believe that is OK.
I was hoping for more of a guidebook with inspiration on ways to incorporate an Unschooling approach, but instead what I read was more of a list of reasons why you have to do it her way.
Profile Image for ⚜️XAR the Bookwyrm.
2,318 reviews17 followers
February 9, 2017
I thought this was a great introduction to Unschooling! It talks about what unschooling is, how it is a bit different from deschooling, and then takes you on a skipping journey about the author's experiences and anecdotes. I viewed it as more of index of learning more so than anything else, but I did find it very useful!
Profile Image for Sharahyah.
1 review
August 13, 2021
This is the book I keep in one arms reach of my homeschool desk. I pick it up randomly when I’m in need of inspiration or getting out of the schooling box we homeschoolers so easily place ourselves in. I read each piece like a devotional that gives a jolt of energy. As a long time homeschooler who is not a pure unschooled, I think every home can benefit from her realistic experience of getting out of the learning box.
Profile Image for Desiree.
155 reviews
February 25, 2016
revising this because the author took offense and called me out about what i wrote.

i'm not sure why it's unreasonable to come to the conclusion that this is a copy/paste of her website when the dedication says "For Hema A. Bharadwaj, who said she wanted my whole unschooling website in a book. I said it wasn't possible, but the thought stayed, and here's an artistic impression of my website in a book, for Hema." but i used that word "just" and apparently there are some copy/pasted things, and some new things, and some things that ended up on the website from the book after it was published.

so i read the dedication and skimmed through the book and came to the conclusion that it was the website in a book and wrote that down in my review, with the intention that maybe it would be helpful to someone else. knowing how the book is formatted might be useful information to have. this format wasn't for me.

original review from 2012: i'm not saying this book doesn't have good information to share but i didn't like how it was set up. i didn't realize that it was just a copy/paste from her website before i bought it. i just picked it up at the HSC conference because sandra's name was on it. i gave it to my husband as a reference guide. maybe he'll find it more useful.
52 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2014
Loved it! Though it seems written more for the radical unschooler (hey, I do tend to get a bit radical with my philosophies! ;-) and I may not follow all of Sandra Dodd's advice (I don't care what anyone says, having a consistent bed time works for my children AND me!) I do love how this is more than a book about learning without school, it is a whole parenting book that offers fantastic insight into growing your children into wonderful, individual and whole beings...and experiencing growing right alongside them! :-)
14 reviews2 followers
November 3, 2011
This is a very eye-opening, thought-provoking book that I know I will be turning to over and over again. I keep going back to re-read everything and think, "Wow! That is SO interesting. I never thought of that before. There is so much truth to that!" I've thought about unschooling off and on for years now and I think it truly is the best way for people to learn. If your child isn't pressured or afraid to learn, they'll learn. It's easy. I've seen it in my own life.
Profile Image for Katy Barrett.
4 reviews
October 19, 2012
This is a good book, but I didn't realize beforehand that it's just a copy/paste of pages from her website. It might be nice to own it, and leaf through the paper version rather than reading it online, but it probably wasn't worth getting through inter-library loan, since it's not a "sit down and read it through" type of book. I'll just continue browsing her website! :)
766 reviews
September 14, 2022
Once again, thank you my public library system for saving me money I am glad not to have spent on junk. According to the author, I am not the correct type of person to unschool. As if this were not bad enough, she tells the reader that children do not need rules or bedtime routines at home, to me, this is unparenting.
35 reviews
July 8, 2013
So good I feel like I should go back and read it all over again just to make sure everything sunk in!
Profile Image for Sara.
628 reviews
January 20, 2016
This is a collection of quotes from Dodd's blog, lectures and other work. I like what she has to say, I just did not appreciate this format at all.
Profile Image for Kelly.
37 reviews1 follower
January 7, 2023
Woah boy. First off, reading this book makes me feel like I’m perpetually in my worst day of ADHD symptoms. It’s basically a collection of blog posts that were copied and pasted, so it’s like reading a bunch of opinion columns all thrown together, with no real organization or flow. I might actually need to go get a prescription for some stimulants, something Sandra would highly disapprove of as she neither believes in ADHD or in taking medications. That’s not my main gripe, though.

I really struggled to rate this book. I would actually say about 70 percent of the materials itself is decent, when she is sticking strictly to the topic of unschooling as a philosophy and in how her family implemented it, as long as you completely ignore anything that relates to mental and physical health.

Here’s a few spoilers:

Sandra Dodd is
-Anti intellectual
- Is promoting disinformation in particular about mental health, sleep and nutrition
- Transphobic ( not as obvious from this book, but it is from some of her recent Facebook posts)
-Narcissistic and rude. ( only slightly less obvious here but more apparent if you look her up on Facebook)

I would say my family unschools, but apparently we “can’t“ be unschooling according to Sandra because we don’t agree with her very extreme version of unschooling that is actually only practiced by a tiny minority even of unschoolers.

I suppose this book is interesting if you just kind of see it as a classic work on the unschooling movement, but I would encourage readers to take it with a HUGE grain of salt and read the works of other unschoolers who have a kinder, less rigid view.
Profile Image for Laura.
37 reviews
January 17, 2021
If someone asked me for the best parenting book I had ever read, this would be it (at least at this point in my life). If you are a parent, even if you’re not considering homeschooling, unschooling, or any form of it, read this book! The book in summary in my own words, “create peace in your home, with your spouse, with your children. Make opportunities for them to learn. Learning happens all around us, naturally. Let it happen. Be joyful.” I finished this book and felt peaceful. What a wonderful way to feel after a book is done. ♥️♥️♥️
Profile Image for Natalie.
547 reviews
October 13, 2020
yikes, I’m afraid to review or leave a star rating based on what I see on other reviews, but I think it boils down to I didn’t need this book at this moment in my life. I have a love / hate with what I saw as a shallow depth in a variety of topics. It’s all just too short and I wanted more navel-gazing, but I’m also extremely long-winded and introspective myself so it’s an unfair imposition to place.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
131 reviews
March 1, 2019
Loved it! We're aren't exactly "unschoolers" But Sandra has lots of great tips and encouragement for Homeschool families. I love hearing from people who have children who have graduated from homeschool. It's not so easy taking advice from people who have younger children. I feel they lack some of the experience that I need to glean from.
85 reviews
June 17, 2018
A bit dated, and not structured as a book in terms of chapters. Rather, each section is distinct and can be read stand alone or in its entirety. Explains and provides examples of radical unschooling philosophy.
Profile Image for Valerie.
3 reviews
August 21, 2023
This book changed everything about my parenting and how we homeschool, forever grateful to Sandra dodd!
Profile Image for Lori Scheffler.
79 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2014
I can't help but admire an author who causes me to seriously question my values even if I fundamentally disagree on a number of points. I loved the challenge of reading this book and will adopt some of her wisdom into my parenting style. I might have rated it higher if I didn't place it in the category of parenting books written by parents of compliant children who therefore think it must be what they did that made their kids so compliant and what other parents are doing wrong that causes non-compliance. Or in this case I suppose the author would disagree with the term "compliance" altogether and maybe instead call it "joy" or "kindness." But we all know the things we want for our kids to be as adults, whatever we call them.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,158 reviews312 followers
April 6, 2015
This is a very helpful book for unschooling families or for those thinking of unschooling. Essentially a paper sample of what is on Sandra's website, the book is great to just have around and pick up and read when you have time. It is not a "how to" book, but more of a book giving you things to read and think on over time.
Profile Image for Tim.
Author 1 book
August 3, 2016
An eclectic collection of material (from Sandra Dodd's website) covering a variety of issues in unschooling. If you are interested in what life might be like without school, and without all the (often unspoken) rules and attitudes that go with it, then read this book.
13 reviews
May 19, 2016
This book had some of the best general parenting advice I have read, whether or not you're interested in unschooling. If you are not interested in radical unschooling, however, it comes across as pretty harsh and judgmental to adults (though very open-minded toward children, which is refreshing).
Profile Image for Tori (Book Chick).
809 reviews48 followers
April 13, 2014
This had a lot of great info. It was nice to see I'm not the only one thinking the way I think regarding school.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews

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