There are many decisions to face when a family chooses to home educate their children – curriculum choices, schedule changes, activity selections, and sacrifices to be made! One thing that strikes fear deep in the hearts of many new home schooling families is how to break the news to the grandparents.
In 1981 when we began home educating our sons, some families were taken to court, and others endured the rejection of parents who were convinced that their adult children had really lost all good sense. Even with the acceptance of home schooling in recent years, you may be facing criticism from friends and family – especially the grandparents.
Is it only an idealized dream that generations in a family can be united in the task of home educating children? Can there be unity rather than division in an extended family? How do we move from tension, division, or even hostility in the family to unity, joy, and a combined effort and support that draws family members closer together? No, it does not take a village to raise our children, but it is closer to God’s design when we link the generations for the task.
Where do we begin? The very nature of home education is revolutionary in our time. It is a different education option than immediate past generations have chosen. Grandparents need time to absorb the idea. The responsibility to bridge that gap begins with us as we gently and patiently educate them about why we have chosen this education lifestyle. Grandparents have legitimate questions and concerns, and it is our duty to respond to them with grace while giving them time to reconsider their position.
We have come far! “Is it legal?” is no longer the first question asked. Twenty years ago grandparents feared the legal ramifications for their children and grandchildren. Today there are other concerns, but we must keep in mind that parents never abandon their concern for their children’s welfare, no matter how old the children are. Do we not see that in our own parenting experience?
Let us explore some other questions that grandparents might ask. Underneath we can often see a deeper parental concern or even fear.
Why do my children want to do this crazy thing? Public (or private) school was fine for them. Why is it not for my grandchildren?
Grandparents could be asking, “Did I do something wrong?” If you have spent time criticizing the schools, your parents might feel that you are disappointed in your institutional schooling and that it is a reflection on their educational decisions for you. In the majority of cases, the schools supported them in their efforts to train you, and they often do not understand how much the school culture has changed since you were in school. Our responsibility is to guard our words when we are around the grandparents so that we do not unconsciously indict them for their past choices.
My child isn’t a professional teacher. How will he/she manage to teach everything my grandchildren need to know?
We have emerged from a generation that views “professionals” with the highest esteem. Learning was often equated with being taught by trained, certified professionals, so grandparents might not feel confident that you are capable. They often are not aware of the many resources available today. Invite them to a curriculum fair or a convention. Take them with you to a support group meeting when there is a special speaker. Show them the many good books available today on the different methods of home schooling or on curriculum selection. Ask them to teach a special group class for home schoolers. Get them involved in whatever way is practical. One home school mom I know invited her mother to come to her house once a week to help with the teaching. Let your parents know that you value what they know. If the grandparents are former schoolteachers, ask for their opinions when choosing curriculum, or at least ask some questions. Broaden your own horizons to find new and interesting material. In whatever way you graciously can, remind them that you did not learn all you needed to know by the end of high school and neither will their grandchildren. Higher education and life further teach them, and you are only laying the foundation.
My daughter or daughter-in-law already seems overburdened with the children. I worry that she cannot handle home teaching also.
Often this concern comes from pure motives, especially if parents see you struggling in your home school venture. Remember that no family is perfect and that everyone struggles in some area. Whenever possible, allow the grandparents to help on their terms rather than yours. It is difficult to deal with overcritical parents or in-laws, but God often uses this to reveal that our sense of worth is in our performance as a home school parent rather than in the Lord. If you struggle in the area of confidence, may I suggest a wonderful little book, We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession? It changed my outlook from viewing my life based on my performance to looking to Jesus for my security and confidence.
Will my grandchildren miss fun school things? Will they miss the prom?
The socialization question continues to rear its head in spite of our best efforts! Grandparents might really be asking if their grandchildren are destined to become social misfits. Time and excellent training of your children usually resolves their fears, but in the meantime, patiently show them that your children find fun in many activities that revolve around the family. Include the grandparents as much as you possibly can, and they will witness how your children can relate to all ages. Be involved in outside activities, but choose carefully based on what you believe will benefit your children long term. It is easy to fill our lives with too much activity because of pressure from others who think our children are missing out.
Will my grandchildren be able to get into college?
Grandparents want the best for their children and grandchildren. Share any material you have with them about home schoolers entering college. A book that is fun and encouraging for the entire family is Hot House Transplants compiled by Matt Duffy and written by various home school graduates who tell their own stories about life after home school – including college, jobs, and various ventures. Arrange for them to meet home school parents who have children entering or attending college.
The grandparents may have differences with you, but you can show them respect even so. Listen to their concerns without a defensive attitude. They may actually have some good suggestions! What they offer most likely comes from a desire for the best for you and your children, even if they do not express it well.
Above all, remember that God values relationships. He cares about your family and your relationship with the grandparents. The grandparent/child relationship is one that you, as parent, can nurture and protect. Pray for the grandparents and thank God for them in your children’s hearing. Model a grateful spirit by thanking God for the things that you were taught by your parents.
You may have heard it said that the home schooling movement is more than an education movement – it is a family restoration movement. How true! God will use our home education choice to mold us in each generation into the image of his Son. He will empower you to be the element of change for your generation reaching back to the generation before you and forward to your children.
Scripture references are from the NIV version.