The basic tenets of relaxed home- schooling are the following: You are a family, not a school; You are a father, a husband, and
the head of the family, not a principal;
You are a mother, not a teacher;
You have individual relationships with
your children; not a classroom.
Relaxed homeschooling isn’t as much a
philosophy, or even a method, as it is a mind-set and a lifestyle. Some methods, when adhered to rigidly, can make it difficult to be
flexible. Because one of the major tenets of
relaxed homeschooling is to have individual
relationships with your kids, it becomes easier to modify what you are doing when it
isn’t working for one particular child.
When I first began writing about home-schooling, back in the 1980s, many people
pegged me as an unschooler, which wasn’t
really true. This was mainly in response to
the stories I told about my oldest son, Sam.
He spent much of his time under the apple
tree in the backyard, digging in the dirt and
thinking about the universe. He read incessantly, but did very little structured school
work. In time, he wound up with a degree
in philosophy, and a minor in geology!
However, my middle son, Dan, was the
direct opposite. He wanted a fairly rigid
schedule and a list of daily expectations.
If I didn’t draw one up for him, he did it
himself. He had all his books arranged by
the Dewey Decimal System at the age of six.
When I spoke at curriculum fairs, I often
gave each of the kids $20 for their service
at the table. Sam would head for the booth
with books or science projects; Dan would
go straight to the big box curriculum tables
and pick out a workbook or two for the
It was my interactions with my own children that helped me to develop the ideas of
relaxed homeschooling. Early on, I found
out what every mother of multiple children learns. What worked one year didn’t
work the next. A piece of curriculum that
meshed with the learning style of one was
torture to another. Their interests, goals,
personalities, and needs were all as unique
as God intended. I had to set aside my own
preferences in order to be able to connect
with each one individually.
There are two things necessary for a re-
laxed homeschool to function well, without
deteriorating into laziness and/or chaos. The
first is a basic schedule for the day, and the
second is a clearly delineated set of written
goals. Not only are they important for setting
up a framework for learning to take place,
but they also help foster discussions between
parents, so the fathers can better understand
what is taking place during the day.
The basic schedule for us started out with
our time at the breakfast table. We began
with some Bible study, and often worked
on a unit study or project. After that, the
morning followed a flexible schedule that
alternated work, study, and free time. After-
noons were often the time for family outings
or individual pursuits such as dance, piano
practice, or sports. However, we always kept
enough flexibility to allow for changes when
they were warranted by outside events.
The goals my husband and I set up covered the areas of values, habits, attitudes,
skills, talents and interest, and knowledge.
Rather than evaluating using the typical
tests and workbook assignments, I spent
time considering these goals and how we
were progressing toward them. If things
were going great, wonderful! If not, I’d ask
myself questions: Why weren’t they working? Was it a question of maturity? Learning style? Poor choice of materials?
We continued to lead a relaxed home-schooling lifestyle well into the teen years.
As they got older, of course, the emphasis
started to change. During the teens, we
focused on the development of skills, and
continued to stress the importance of individual needs. As they got older, keeping
things relaxed became a bit of a challenge,
but everyone (especially the mom!) needs
to keep things balanced and chill a little
Mary Hood, Ph.D., and her husband, Roy,
homeschooled their five children since the
early 1980s. All have successfully made
the transition to adulthood. Mary has a
Ph.D. in education and is the director of
ARCHERS for the Lord, Inc. (The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators).
She is the author of The Relaxed Home
School, The Joyful Home Schooler, and
other books, and is available for speaking
engagements. Contact her via her website,
Home Schooling® by Mary Hood, Ph.D.
One of the major
tenets of relaxed
homeschooling is to have
with your kids.