SDE Flash Fiction Collection
This is a collection of Flash Fiction (1,000 words or less) that was submitted to Tipping Points Magazine starting October 16, 2023.

People were asked to submit written content for the theme: SDE Flash Fiction. Some story format ideas were:

  • Six-word story
  • Twitterature (280 characters)
  • Microfiction (100 words)
  • Flash fiction (1,000 words)

See their creations below!

Six-Word Stories

Why aren’t you at life today?

Author: Oliver Fox-Rubin
Bio: Oliver has been a self-directed learner for three years, and is currently 15. He loves learning about the world, cooking, walking outside, doing creative projects, and connecting with other self-directed learners.

Door opens. Girl steps outside herself.

Author: Joseph E. Petta
Bio: Joseph E. Petta is the proud father of a self-directed 2e child. He lives in New Jersey with his family.

Child said, “Homeschooling is very fun!”

Author: Ai Sin Chan
Bio: Ai Sin Chan previously worked as an engineer specialized in cellular communication technology, having trained telecommunication engineers in 16 countries spanned over four continents, and written more than 10 technical training manuals. She is currently based in Malaysia, unschooling her child, and as a byproduct, finding herself going through the education process for a second time.

I’m afraid I missed the deadline.

Author: Annie Friday
Bio: Annie Friday is a youth advocate and activist working and playing at Blue Bridge ALC in Michigan. Annie shares her thoughts on being in relationship with young people on a weekly podcast called Out Of Line. Ironically, Annie feels most grounded when out flying alongside the Grand Rapids Flying Squad. When not flying, facilitating, or flapping her gums, you can probably find Annie hanging in a hammock in the backyard.

What if
We all played
On the streets

Author: Bria Bloom
Bio: Bria Bloom (she/her) is a born and raised unschooler, an unschooling mama, and an advocate for youth liberation. She is the Executive Director of ASDE; co-founder of the Flying Squads; an instigator and founder of PDX Flying Squads, a community for self-directed young people in Portland, OR; and a writer.

School’s out

Author: Bria Bloom
Bio: Bria Bloom (she/her) is a born and raised unschooler, an unschooling mama, and an advocate for youth liberation. She is the Executive Director of ASDE; co-founder of the Flying Squads; an instigator and founder of PDX Flying Squads, a community for self-directed young people in Portland, OR; and a writer.

Flash Fiction: 1,000 Words or Less


It may sound unaccomplished by normal standards when my child dropped out from her rhythmic gymnastics club before completing her first grade or when she quit her string orchestra membership before even hitting the one-year mark. But you should see the sparkles in her eyes as she wondered aloud, “Now that I’ve seen how pigs, lions, and dogs vomit, how does a horse vomit?” We were then on an amazing journey of discovery that horses don’t vomit, something that I had never learned before in my biology classes. Or you might enjoy seeing the engrossment when she plays with the puppet characters she created herself, each having a name, a birthday, and a personality. After three years of playing the piano, she has yet to sit for an examination but has added her own prelude to the Can Can piece that she was playing, of her own initiative.

When things become optional to learn, they are a joy to learn. There are just so many trivial success stories to celebrate on a daily basis. I would not have traded this for anything else.

Author: Ai Sin Chan
Bio: Ai Sin Chan previously worked as an engineer specialized in cellular communication technology, having trained telecommunication engineers in 16 countries spanned over four continents, and written more than 10 technical training manuals. She is currently based in Malaysia, unschooling her child, and as a byproduct, finding herself going through the education process for a second time.


I crept up to the building, the setting sun starting to throw shadows I could almost disappear into. With a stream of people coming and going, two teenagers walked near my semi-hiding spot. I took a breath, gathered my courage, and stepped toward them.

“Excuse me. Do you know if there are any age restrictions to get in?” I gestured toward the building.

One of the teens smiled and said, “I don’t believe so.”

I nodded. “Thanks.”

After they left, I slid back toward the darkness and took another deep breath, remembering what Althea told me this morning, “You’ve got this. It’s not like the place you went to before. It’s ok to be scared.”

Another deep breath. You’ve got this, ringing in my head.

I lifted my head high and marched toward the door like I knew what I was doing.

I yanked on the door and, because it was not as heavy as I had expected, it loudly banged on the wall. I winced, hoping not to get in trouble. No one looked over, so I stepped in.

Inside, I saw one giant room that looked like an old Blockbuster video rental store with rows of displays featuring DVD-size boxes facing out, like in a window display. Signs littered the ceiling announcing different sections.

I looked around waiting for someone to tell me where to go. No one came.

I felt the urge to flee, run out of the store, and never look back. But then my friend’s reminder from this morning came back to me, It’s not like the place you went to before.

I took a deep breath. Finally, someone walked over.

“Hi, there. I’m Alec, I use they/them pronouns. Do you need any help finding anything?” Alec smiled warmly.

I kept my eyes down. “Can you just tell me where to go?”

“Well, what are you looking for?” Alec asked.

“What do you mean? Aren’t you supposed to tell me what I should be looking for?” I asked, sneaking a peek up at Alec.

Alec’s face brightened with clarity. “Yes, right this way.” Alec led me to a comfy semi-private sitting nook. “Would you care to sit?”

I nodded and sat straight-backed on the front edge of the chair. Alec sat in the chair beside me.

“Can I ask you a few questions first?” Alec asked.

I nodded as I bit my nails.

“What do you like to do?” Alec asked.

“I don’t know.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “I’m sorry. What does this have to do with anything?” My eyes darted around looking at the other people, trying to figure out if I was actually in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing. A few looked tense like me, but most seemed relaxed.

Alec said, “You seem like you’ve engaged in this process before and are expecting it to feel like that. Is that true?”

I nodded, thoughts of my past ordeal surfacing.

Alec continued, “Previously, did someone else always tell you what to do or what was best for you?”

Isn’t it always like that? I wondered, but said, “That’s right.”

“Well, it’s not like that here. Here, people of any age can look around, try things out, see what works for them–figure out what they like or don’t like.” Alec leaned forward and asked, “Think about it. How would I know what’s best for you if I’m not living your life?”

“I’ve never thought about it like that before,” I said, a little stunned.

“It might take you longer to feel comfortable with the way we do things here. That’s totally normal, “Alec said. “Anyway, why don’t you take some time and walk around the aisles to see if anything piques your interest? If so, bring it back and we can talk about it. Sound good?”

“I guess so?”

Slowly, I got out of my chair and started to meander. Eventually, I arrived at the Creativity Section. I selected a DVD-sized box labeled “Illustrating.” It felt oddly warm in my hands. I walked it over to Alec.

“Find something?” They asked.

I turned the cover so they could read it.

“Wonderful.” Alec smiled. “Do you know if you’d like to experience this on your own or in a group setting?”

“On my own?” I guessed, not knowing which I liked better.

“Great, why don’t you check that one out and come back when you’re ready. We can talk about what you thought of it. Does that sound ok?” Alec asked.

“Ok,” I said as Alec walked me over to the checkout counter.

After I finished checking out, I turned to Alec. “Thank you for everything.”

“It was my pleasure.” Alec waved as I left.

Back in the parking lot, I let out all the tension I’d been holding with a giant sigh. Tears formed and fell–I couldn’t hold them back.

This place is weird, I thought. But maybe weird is just the thing I need.

Photo of a wooden model laying belly-down, legs crossed behind them while reading a book

Author: Janice McDonald
Bio: Janice is a mom of two self-directed young people in Portland, OR and Editor of Tipping Points Magazine. She loves connecting with others through sharing stories and experiences.


“You again.” Cleo says, smirking, when Tram appears at the base of the public dock where Cleo paints. “Why are you even still around? The Lakeside Arts school year ended like a week ago.”

“We’ve been meeting up here all week and you’ve just realized I shouldn’t be in town anymore? Wow,” Tram says, flirty. “What if I stayed just to see where your painting goes?”

“What if you shut up and answer my question, Trammel,” Cleo says, knowing very well that her playfulness turns Tram on.

“Fine. In addition to annoying you for longer, I decided to stay on as a Lakeside summer arts camp counselor,” Tram says.

“Super cool,” Cleo says. “My granny did that when she was young. In those days, there were only a few year-round lake residents’ houses and the art school in the woods for the trust-fund babies who came before you.”

“That’s fuckin’ sweet about your granny,” Tram says. “Also? You’re the spoiled one who gets to live here full-time and never had to go to school.

“Touché,” Cleo says.

“Anyway, I figure staying on as a counselor will help pass the time while I wait for a deferred decision from SAIM.” Tram says, but wishes he cared more about acceptance to one of the most prestigious visual arts colleges in the country.

“Seriously? That happens? Are they hoping you’ll resolve this yourself, by going with your Plan B?”

“It’s not like that. I wasn’t even going to submit anything, but my advisor convinced admissions to consider me slightly past deadline because of special circumstances. So, if everybody they’ve already accepted commits, I’m out,” Tram says.

“Huh,” Cleo says.

“Maybe they’d admit me mid-year. Or maybe never. I’m a second-stringer,” Tram says. “I haven’t been kicked off the team quite yet — I’m still on the bench, waiting to see if coach will put me in.”

“First, sports analogies? Ew. Second, that’s such bullshit! You’re a starter, Trammell. An A-team, homerun, trophy type,” Cleo struggles. “But, like, for art.”

Tram laughs, deflecting her attempted compliment.

“I’m serious,” Cleo continues. “I’ve stalked your online gallery. You’re ridiculously talented — a real up-and-comer.”

“Thanks. You’re so weird, and way too kind. But the deferred decision isn’t technically bullshit. I’m lucky to even be considered. And their decision doesn’t define my ability.”

“Or your potential,” Cleo says, tucks her paintbrush into her back pocket, then lies belly-down on the dock. Dangling her fingertips toward the water, she asks, “How are you so chill about it?”

“Not sure. I guess worrying doesn’t help me,” Tram says. “I write shit down, though. I keep a journal — always have. It helps me deal. Don’t laugh.”

“Really? I love that, you hardcore nerd!” Cleo says.

“Yep. Old-school, with pen and paper. I’ve filled like 14 notebooks so far,” Tram says. “And can I tell you the worst part?”

“It gets worse?” Cleo says. “Totally kidding. I love this.”

“Yeah, my journal’s name is Jackie, after my first hero, Jackie Robinson,” Tram confesses. “Because only baseball existed for me before I knew there was more to life than making the Little League playoffs.”

“But at least Jackie Robinson was a civil rights pioneer?” Cleo offers.

“Let’s definitely go with that,” Tram says. “Anyway, maybe it’s stupid to journal, but it helps me work through the shit in my head.”

“Excuse me? I hope it’s not stupid, because I do the same thing,” Cleo says. “Except I — please don’t judge — write to my dead granny instead of a famous dead baseball player.”

“No way! That’s fuckin’ amazing.”

“Journal nerds are just fuckin’ amazing people, Trammel,” Cleo says.

“And dead heroes rule,” Tram says, joining Cleo belly-down on the dock. He breaks off a dying cattail and draws eternity symbols on the water’s surface.

“So, what is your Plan B?” Cleo asks.

“No Plan B. Where — or even if — I go to college doesn’t define me. That’s kind of why I put off applying in the first place. So mature, right?” Tram pokes fun at himself. “Like how developed is my sense of self?”

“Scarily developed,” Cleo says. “You can art anywhere.”

“So can you. You’re an up-and-comer, yourself,” Tram says. “I’ve seen your work besides this never-finished painting. Your installations in town–they’re super conceptual.”

“Well, thanks,” Cleo says while Tram’s pheromones wreak havoc on her... imagination.

“So what’s next for you, mysterious townie who never went to school?”

“Undecided,” Cleo says. “Maybe college? Maybe I’ll join the circus?”

“You’re being funny, right? About the circus?” Tram asks.

“No!” Cleo says.

“Because circuses are a perfectly adequate way to travel,” Tram insists. “Don’t knock circuses.”

“Totally not knocking circuses!” Cleo says. “I’d join the right circus. As long as there aren’t, like, abuse and exploitation issues.”

“The right circus,” Tram says. “It’s important to be incredibly selective about the circuses one joins in life.”

“Exactly!” Cleo says. She can’t believe how fast she’s falling for this guy. Correction: has fallen for this guy.

“There’s actually one based in South America that only incorporates animals rescued from bad circuses,” Tram says. “They can’t be released. And they rotate them so actual ‘performances’ are completely humane and don’t happen a lot. Their goal is to educate humans about abuse situations at circuses and shit.”

“So you’re telling me it’s the circus to end all circuses,” Cleo says. “Impressive! You’ve... seriously researched this?”

“Yeah,” Tram says. “But it’s also known for crazy good caricature artists. So I’d apply to do caricatures. Basically, I’d be a sideshow freak, not the sexy ringmaster who rescues dancing bears from captors.”

“I mean, you could still wear eyeliner,” Cleo says, closing the space between them. “It’s all very cool.”

“You don’t think it’s a dumb idea?”

“Hell no,” Cleo says, very gently wiping a tiny piece of cattail fluff from Tram’s bottom lip. “I’ve never wanted to kiss a sideshow freak as badly as I do right now.”

An old journal opened to a page with handwritten text that says,

Author: Hazel Smack
Bio: Hazel Smack (she/her) is a former young person, counselor, university faculty member, and advocacy journalist. Upon learning first-hand that adults do not, in fact, magically age into knowing what the hell’s going on around here, she left the false security of Real Jobs and moved full-time to a subtropical island. There, she writes fiction and helps things grow in peace, like plants and children, for example.

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