Special guest author – Jill Kimbrough, my mother, and homeschool grandparent extraordinaire.
I have eight grandchildren five of which are homeschooled and three of which are in public school. They have all blossomed, each in their own environment, and are continuing to find their place for the future. However this article is for the parents and grandparents of homeschoolers. I hope this helps.
When my daughter asked me to write an article on homeschooling from a grandparent’s point of view, I guess I was somewhat prepared for her request. I’ve been on the periphery of homeschooling for 12 years by observing her. Had she asked me this a few years ago my take on it would no doubt be different. This year, this week in fact, my opinion is this: I’m jubilant. I’m jubilant because I can see what has taken place, I can see the journey they’ve made, I can see the outcome. I’ve come from being wary to being envious of my children and grandchildren; envious of my children for being brave at a time when everyone thought they were crazy and envious of my grandchildren because they have a superior education with a full grasp on classical studies, languages, technology and the arts. That’s not to say I always felt this way. It hasn’t been the catastrophic outcome that I imagined in my head when my daughter informed me that she was going to homeschool her children. I probably did say something like ‘You’re going to do what?’
Like most people my age I came from a public school setting, as did my children, so when my daughter informed me of her decision to homeschool I was curious and scared at the same time. The only thing I knew about homeschooling was from an article I had read a long time ago in Time magazine of a homeschool family living in California who had successfully seen their children enter high ranking universities, one being Yale University. Who knew that years later we would also be living in California and homeschooling would be a part of my lexicon?
Homeschooling began for three of my grandchildren at preschool. Since I lived close by I could clearly see the struggles and successes they were having. It was an adjustment for everyone, as starting any school sometimes is. At the time that this was going on with my daughter in California, my son and his wife in Indiana were thinking about doing the same thing. They finally made a decision to pull their children from public school and bring them home to teach them in a less stressful atmosphere. Their oldest was anxious in school and the youngest got lost in the shuffle of a crowded class room. It worked for both families. As I look back, I think I did some kibitzing, but I also learned a lot: homeschooling doesn’t take all day when you’re only schooling a few children but covers a lot of learning. It fosters respect and relationships with others, it allows time to discover a passion and, with a diligent teacher/parent, it opens doors that one didn’t know existed!
So here are some offered suggestions on how to be a relaxed and supportive homeschool grandparent; a list I wish someone would have made for me during some handwringing and sleepless nights:
1) Do yourself and your child a favor and trust that they know what they’re doing. We are smack dab in the computer age where it is so easy to gather information and facts about any subject and, additionally, to find classes for highschoolers outside the home, and later, to research colleges that are homeschool friendly. My granddaughter has already begun this process and, along with her mom, has visited a few universities.
2) Don’t start comparing your homeschooled grandchildren to other children, perhaps to your peers’ grandchildren. Remember that children grow and mature and learn at different rates.
3) Ask your daughter/son if there is any subject you can help with-you’re not a grandparent for nothing.
4) Offer to teach a class in knitting or wood crafting or any talent you might have, even if it’s teaching your grandson or granddaughter how to write in cursive or how to cook. Any skill passed on from grandparent to grandchild is a skill worth having.
I took my grandkids to my painting studio in Laguna Beach to teach them about art in general but also to just have coffee and talk. I got to know them a bit better and they got to hear funny stories about when I was in school. I also was asked by my grandson if I would write a Scooby-Doo story. I did and that was several years ago and so began a bond that is still ongoing. Who knew that Scooby-Doo could bring a grandma and grandson together? Time spent with our grandchildren is time well spent, as they say. The bounty to that is your child and your grandchild will love you for taking the time and you’ll love that you discovered something about them you didn’t know.
5) If your grandchild has any kind of learning disability, however small, trust that it will show up and be caught by the homeschool parent. These parents are working with their children every day and will notice issues just as easily as any school would. And a homeschool parent can address many of these learning issues or other disabilities in a home environment because there are so few students. One-on-one attention goes a long way.
6) Finally, and probably what I have heard the most from family members and friends of the parents who homeschool, stop worrying about socialization of the homeschooled child! There are so many homeschool groups and classes out there where they can gather with their peers and yes, socialize! When my oldest granddaughter was a teen I had the opportunity to take her to park day many times where she gathered with her friends. As a group they would go to the coffee shop nearby or just hang out in the park and talk, sharing ideas and planning other get-togethers. And, as I have learned over the years, there is a plethora of online communities for these kids too.
This is an opportunity for you grandparents out there to buckle your seatbelt and start this adventure! Enjoy the ride whatever stage your grandchildren are at. I’m doing that now: I just got back from a trip to Europe with my daughter and her children to visit my son and his family. I may not have envisioned this adventure when my grandchildren came into the world, but it is an adventure I would have never wanted to miss