Israel Wayne: In what year did you begin homeschooling, and what was your initial reason to start home educating?
Mary Hood: We started in 1983, when our oldest son was due to enter first grade. He was already reading on a very high level, but, like many small boys, was not really ready for the sit-down, be quiet type of classroom environment, so we started for reasons that were specific to him. However,we soon found we enjoyed the homeschooling environment, and quickly pulled our daughter out of preschool, too.
Israel Wayne: What obstacles did you face in attempting to homeschool (resistance by family, legal threats, lack of access to resources, social stigmas, etc.)?
Mary Hood: Our parents were all public school employees…one teacher, one professor, one librarian…so we met a lot of family pressure at first. There were very few homeschoolers back in those days, so we were viewed as radicals. They were won over after several years when they saw the results, but in the early days it was a constant struggle to get along with the extended family. Of course, no homeschooling resources were available to us at that time, but we used the public library and participated in many community groups, such as community theatre, LaLeche League, food co-ops, community sports, and 4-H.
3. In what ways were/are you involved in serving the homeschooling community?
Mary Hood: I’ve been serving the homeschooling community as a speaker, writer, and teacher for thirty years. Some of my books are The Relaxed Home Schooler, The Joyful Home Schooler, and God-Free School Zones (an e-book available on our website). I also have my Relaxed Home Schooling Workshop and several other talks available on cds and/or MP3s on our website. One of my newer talks is on common core and how it will affect homeschoolers.
We ran a homeschooling resource center in the Atlanta area for nine years, ending in 2006. I’m the director of The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators, Inc., (ARCHERS for the Lord), which is a nonprofit ministry. We are currently in the process of starting a new center in the Cherokee County, GA area. This year we’re teaching in the home of one of our board members, and are serving primarily families with high school and middle school age students.
Israel Wayne: What do you wish had known when you first started homeschooling? What would you do differently?
Mary Hood: I was terrible at math when I first started homeschooling, and wish I had been more willing to address that and take a “can do” attitude towards it, rather than trusting that a particular curriculum could do the job for me. My oldest son should be great at math, but he was hampered by my unwillingness to recognize my own weakness and work harder at it. The rest of the kids thrived when I finally was ready to learn alongside them and work on it.
Israel Wayne: What trends have you seen in homeschooling today that concern you? Do you see new things about homeschooling today that you appreciate?
A lot of the people who are becoming homeschoolers today are coming out of the public schools quickly, usually because of issues with common core, and have not had the time to read books, listen to workshops, and generally learn from those of us who have been doing it a long time.
Because there are so many curriculum options out there today, they are tending to focus merely on “which one to choose”, rather than taking time to set their own goals, getting to know their children’s learning styles, and adjusting to family life during the daytime. They are trying to become mini-schools. The Bible tells us that new wine doesn’t belong in old wineskins. We have to create new structures, and remember that we are families at home, not small replicas of a school-like setting.
Israel Wayne: What advice would you give to young families who are just starting out of the homeschooling journey?
- First, be sure you know firsthand what the actual legal requirements are in your area.
- Then try to avoid purchasing a lot of curriculum at the outset. Set some goals, do some family projects, go on a few field trips, and spend time at the library and reading together at home. When you do purchase materials, do so with a particular child and a particular goal in mind.
- Understand that when you are looking for “free” materials, the best resources are not necessarily on the internet. All the books you will need for almost everything can be found at your public library.
- About the only thing you will need to purchase in the elementary years is something for math.
- Somebody once said, “All you need to homeschool is the Bible and a library card.” Wise man!
- Most people spend way too much money the first year.
Israel Wayne: Please tell us what life is like for you today, and give us an update on your family.
Mary Hood: Our five children are all grown. Four have college degrees, and one has a master’s degree in counseling. The fifth one is still taking one class at a time to earn his degree in communications, while he works as the general manager of a Chipotle’s Restaurant. We are about to become grandparents for the first time, but the new grandbaby will live in England, so that means I have to become a world traveller. My husband works as a federal investigator and I am still writing, speaking, fundraising for the new center, and teaching high schoolers two days a week.
Israel Wayne: Please share anything else that you think might be of value to our readers.
Mary Hood: Be a family, not a school! Put God first and trust Him and trust your own mama’s instincts. You can do this! Try to get rid of the assumptions you are carrying around from your own days in public school. Set your goals and don’t worry about conforming to anyone else’s standards.
Contact Info: Our website is www.archersforthelord.org. You can use the contact me button to email me directly, and there is info on the speaker’s page if anyone would like to have me come present our “Relaxed Home Schooler®s Workshop”, or invite me to speak at a curriculum fair or other event.
We also have a facebook group, relaxedhomeschooler-ARCHERS.
I also have a free e-newsletter I send out every other month. Simply request one using the contact me button on the website, or through our fb group.
Finally, I am a regular columnist with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Until recently my column was called “The Ordinary Homeschooler”, but it recently changed names to “The Relaxed Home Schooler”. You can read back issues for free on their website.