An Interview with Mary Griffith, Part 4

Adrienne: Did the girls ever want to try institutional schools?

Mary: When Kate was 12, her best friend, a homeschooler, decided she wanted to go to junior high because she was tired of her current friends. Kate seriously considered going to school then, but it only took her about five minutes, she said, to decide that the odds of making a new best friend were not high enough to offset the disadvantages of not being able to read whatever she wanted whenever she wanted or sleeping late or not having to raise her hand to go to the bathroom.

Adrienne: What prompted you to start writing about homeschooling?

Mary: Ah, there were two stages there. Early on in our homeschooling, I got involved with what was then the Northern California Homeschool Association – when I offered to help the editor with the newsletter, she invited me to the next board meeting, at which, when they were divvying up jobs for the next few months and everybody seemed to have one already, I took the one that was left – newsletter editor. I never had to resort to the previous editor’s occasional need to write articles under two or three different names to fill the thing up, but it did mean I wrote regularly about homeschooling.

Eventually, I was also elected to the board and was dragged into other fun and games like conference planning and legislative watch and marketing and outreach (we eventually became the HomeSchool Association of California, which meant we had a much bigger territory to reach). We – the board, that is – used to talk about doing a book about homeschooling as a nifty big project worth doing someday.

Which gets me to the next stage. One day I got a call from a woman at Prima Publishing who said they were considering getting into the homeschooling curriculum market and wanted more information about homeschooling. I sent her a bunch of stuff (HEM, HSC newsletters, GWS, etc.) and eventually they asked me to come take a look at what they’d come up with and tell them what I thought.

What they’d come up with was completely silly (blank box with yet-to-be-developed board game and yet-to-be-written text as English curriculum for unspecified grade level(s) at a price point of $50), which I told them, and I went home, thinking it had been a fun little lark.

But a couple of weeks later, I got a call from a different editor there, who said they’d scrapped the idea of the curriculum but thought there might well be a market for a trade book on homeschooling. She invited me to submit a proposal, which I did, and they accepted, and that’s how The Homeschooling Handbook came about. I proposed The Unschooling Handbook almost as an antidote for me, in reaction to some of the school-ier stuff in the HH, and it took a bit of persuading to talk them into it. But I think the fact that the HH had done so well right from the start made them willing to trust me a bit. (Of course, after Prima sold itself to Random House, the whole proposal process is an entirely different matter now – my nice little mid-list books chugging along aren’t quite the volume of sales they’re really looking for.)

Anyway, it’s not a leap to say I just fell into writing the books.

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