The basic tenets of relaxed homeschooling 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 mindset 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 homeschooling, 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 year.

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 relaxed 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. Afternoons 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 homeschooling 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 sometimes!

Copyright 2017, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

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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.