This post is dedicated to my dad, who left us in 2015. He was always an avid encourager of education, a lover of learning, and my cheerleader.
Today I’m writing to the parents of adult home educators; the grandparents of a new generation of homeschooled kids!
It is written as a way to help educate you (no pun intended!) about how you can become involved in this aspect of their lives…as a way to open up communication with your homeschooling daughter or son…and your beloved grandchildren!
Homeschooling is growing by leaps and bounds these days, and with a larger part of our population living to an older age, it naturally follows that more and more homeschoolers will be interacting with grandparents as time goes on. Because many of these home-educating parents (the middle generation here) may not have been homeschooled, oftentimes the elder generation will not know how to provide support and encouragement to their adult homeschooling children, and by extension, their precious “grands.”
I have a friend whose mom is actually upset that her daughter homeschools their 2 children. She feels that her daughter is making a negative statement on the way she herself was raised and educated. As a result, she has not really become involved with her daughter and grandkids related to their education. The whole family has missed out on quite a bit, in my opinion.
When my husband and I started homeschooling, none of our parents “got it”, either. My in-laws had both worked in public education for years, and my dad, especially, was an education nut, with a few advanced Ivy League degrees as part of his resume.
Over the years, however, they all came around. As they saw how well our 2 older kids are doing in life, and how well-adjusted our other 3 are, they became confident in the process, and proud of us all! My dad, especially, was probably my biggest advocate over the years. Even though he may have neither understood what we were doing nor why we were doing it, he always encouraged me and let me know that he appreciated what a big responsibility we were undertaking. He always asked what he could do to help. My in-laws, too, as they learned more about our day-to-day lives and the challenges we faced living in a rural community, stepped up to the plate and offered support in a myriad of ways.
If your adult child is just getting started in homeschooling, they may not yet know how to ask for help. They may not yet even know what they’ll need down the road, or at the very least what to ask for in terms of support.
But they will forever appreciate your efforts!
How can grandparents support homeschooler family members?
- 1 – Listen to their grown homeschooling children. You know: when they’re having a tough day and need an ear, or a shoulder, or even a cup of coffee! The most important thing, tho, is to refrain from telling them to “just send ’em back to school” after those hard days! I mean, you had impossible days when you were working or parenting, too, right? And did you even once think that throwing in the towel was a serious option? It’s the same thing here…
- 2 – Offer to babysit the younger children – especially during testing or co-op classes or distant travel to visit colleges, etc. This is a great opportunity to not only spend time and strengthen your relationship with the younger ones but also become an integral part of their future education!
- 3 – Teach what you know. What was your career before retirement? What hobbies or talents or gifts do you have that your children could use to supplement their homeschooling efforts? At least consider what you would be willing to offer to teach, and if you’re really brave and energetic, offer to get involved in their local co-op classes! We had a homeschoolin’ grandfather that has been a regular history and science teacher in our co-op for years. We all love him 🙂 !
- 4 – Help them stock up on supplies. There isn’t a homeschooling family I know who doesn’t need office supplies or craft supplies or art supplies at some point. Do you have anything around the house they could use? Would you consider saving paper towel rolls or newspapers, or asking your friends to do the same? Ask them what they need, and see how you can accommodate.
- 5 – Act as a chaperone on field trips. Of course, you’ll need to judge what physical limitations you may have, if any, and you should never do anything that would put your own health at risk. But your presence would most likely be appreciated, and I’ll bet you’d be surprised how much fun you have, too! If you don’t live nearby, you could scout out some neat places for the kids to tour when they come to visit you, or even set up a day trip or two. I wouldn’t recommend doing this as a surprise, however; but communicating back-and-forth to discover what they’re studying and/or interested in may open up some great ideas!
- 6 – Attend music recitals and ball games and plays, whenever possible. Our grandparents often purchased “ads” in our co-op’s playbill, with their photo and an encouraging message from “grammie” and “pa”. The cost for the ad helped our co-op fund the production, and the kids got quite a kick receiving a public message of encouragement – truly a win-win!
- 7 – Offer incentives for good grades. When I was growing up, my grandparents always gave me a prize for good grades (usually ice cream, or as I got older, a few dollars!). Homeschooling families may not “do” report cards, but talk to your homeschooling son or daughter and see what they do to assess their children’s progress at the end of the year – and award that whenever possible!
- 8 – If your finances permit, cover the cost of a class, or art or music lessons, or a sports season. Music lessons are uber-important to my father-in-law, who retired after 35 years as a middle school band director. He covered the cost of music lessons for our 3 younger children for many years, for which we will all be eternally grateful! You may not be able to cover an entire year’s worth of classes, but perhaps offer to contribute some, or purchase a curriculum, or buy a pair of dance shoes, or…well, you get the picture.
- 9 – Again, if you have the finances and are able, you could send them an Amazon gift card (affiliate link) via email. Homeschoolers buy lots of stuff online, and you can be confident that whatever amount you can swing will not be put to waste! You can even stock it up on a regular basis so they’re never in need!
- 10 – Let your adult children “overhear” you tell others what a good job homeschooling they’re doing, and let the grandkids hear how wonderfully they’re growing by learning at home. Of course, don’t lie if it’s not the case, but more often than not, you’ll find that you really are impressed with the efforts being made – and the results!
- 11 – Plan date times, or if you live far away, Skype or Facetime when you can so that you catch up with what’s going on with everyone. Ask questions (write the answers down if you have to) so you can ask follow-up questions next time. Show sincere interest!
That’s what I have, but I’m sure you can imagine that this can be just the tip of the iceberg.