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The Joyful Home Schooler Review by Michelle Gibson

Mary Hood, Ph.D.
Ambleside Educational Press
P.O. Box 2524
Cartersville, GA 30120
(770) 917-9141
Reviewed in2015

The Joyful Home Schooler is a lovely book about finding joy in the homeschool journey. Written for the homeschooling mom, the book is divided into four parts: Reclaiming Our Joy, Homeschooling with Joy, Down to Specifics, and Abundant Homeschooling. 

Part 1 is all about reclaiming our joy. Dr. Hood explains that the key to reclaiming our joy is to understand God’s love for us and rediscover the joy of our salvation. When we trust and obey, we eliminate the worry and fear that cripples us. When we let go of the past, we can live fully in the present. When we trust God with our future, we can let go of fear and live a more joyful life. And when we let go of busy-ness, we can slow down and live more fully in the present. 

We also learn about where our contentment should come from. Dr. Hood tells her own story of growing in contentment and encourages us to enjoy our families right where we are so we don’t miss out on the special moments happening right now. We can still hope for a brighter future, but if we find contentment in the here and now, we will enjoy life more. 

Dr. Hood explains the difference between being burned out and being on fire. About to begin my tenth year of homeschooling, I am on the verge of one or the other. I am excited for new opportunities but weighed down by years of trying to do too much. Dr. Hood reminds me where my power and strength come from. By abiding in our Heavenly Father, we will burn with a fire that does not consume. 

So much of this hit home with me and reassured me that I’m not the only one who has struggled. It’s wonderful that she is so real and down to earth. Dr. Hood turns all of the answers back to our relationship with God but in a way that is very practical. 

In Part 2, Dr. Hood first prompts us to wipe the slate clean, give up our preconceived notions about education, and start anew. To begin anew, we must first build a godly, unified home. Dr. Hood goes into detail about the roles of the mother and father in the home and homeschool. For mothers, she downplays the role of the teacher and up-plays the roles of wife and mother. When we are adequately fulfilling our roles as wife and mother, teaching our children will occur naturally, she says. This gave me much to think about because I wear my homeschool mom hat most of the day and have a hard time balancing home work and school work. Dr. Hood ends Part 2 by sharing how to create a relaxed learning environment. I appreciate her down-to-earth attitude as she shares the reality of her own home, and I feel a little more normal. I found myself rereading paragraphs from several chapters out loud to my husband

In Part 3, Dr. Hood’s relaxed learning style and educational philosophy become even clearer. She prefaces her philosophy with a warning that the reader may not agree with everything she says. I appreciate this because I realized very quickly that I don’t agree with her methods and philosophy. They resemble the philosophy of “unschooling,” where children learn primarily through natural life experiences. She rejects the usefulness of standard curricula and focuses on the individual interests of each unique child in her home. As a mother, she fills the unschooling role of a parent by providing resources, support, guidance, information, and advice to facilitate their learning but does not formally teach them. I am one step closer to figuring out what I believe about education, as predicted in the book. According to Dr. Hood, that is the most important thing. I also learned that I am already employing many of Dr. Hood’s methods, but doing so during my children’s free time, after formal schooling has taken place. However, she offers an abundant amount of practical advice on how to homeschool with a relaxed attitude. 

The Joyful Home Schooler was first published in 1997. A lot has changed in the past 17 years with regard to homeschooling and curricula available. Curricula that use living books and the methods of Charlotte Mason are now widely available and cannot be compared to dry, boring textbook learning, which was the primary resource back then. Therefore, some of her points seem outdated. 

I’m not sure I like her tone about “contrived educational activities,” as if deliberately creating learning experiences is a bad thing. I am passionate about being deliberate in creating learning experiences in our homeschool and my children thrive in this learning environment and find it fun and enjoyable. 

Even though I struggled through Part 3, I walked away from this book wanting to try a few of her ideas in my homeschool. I may start small in just one subject or two, but I’ve decided to relax a little to see if it helps bring more joy to our homeschool. 

Part 4 is about abundant homeschooling. Dr. Hood talks about overcoming adversity, finding support, and reminds us to rely on God. She goes into detail about how to not only recognize spiritual attacks, but overcome them. Finally, she talks about how to overcome financial difficulties. By overcoming these obstacles in our path, we can move forward and establish joy in our homeschool. I know I’ve been robbed of my joy many times, and I am encouraged by Dr. Hood’s book to see the battles for what they are and move forward! 

I recommend this book for any Christian mother who is interested in a more relaxed approach to homeschooling. While I don’t wholeheartedly agree with her methods, I respect her work. She is a veteran homeschooling mother with a Ph.D. in education, and her methods worked for her family, so they may also work for other families as well. I can see myself picking up her book to reevaluate my educational philosophy as I mature and grow in my relationship with God and become more comfortable with my own methods. 

-Product Review by Michelle Gibson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2015