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Ask Jeanne: Don’t Homeschool My Grandchildren

Ask Jeanne: How can I talk my son and daughter-in-law out of homeschooling?I know you know about this homeschooling thing. I understand it probably can help some kids, but my grandchildren are absolutely fine, and they don’t need it. My daughter-in-law quit her very good job when they were born (twin girls) and now when we bring up preschool, she says she’s homeschooling. I thought this would pass, but she recently mentioned not registering for kindergarten next year.

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We have really good schools here, probably some of the best in the country, and I am devastated thinking about these dear little girls missing out. My son won’t talk to me about it; I think he has his head in the sand and is so busy supporting the family (this is a high cost area) that he just goes along. I know homeschooling should be legal for the children who need alternatives if they can’t function in school, but this is not the case. How can I get them to open their eyes?

You sound really concerned for your grandchildren. The thing that gives me hope here is that you found me and wrote to me, a homeschooling advocate. This must mean your own eyes are at least a little bit open to homeschooling. However, if you have done much research beyond finding me, you know that homeschooling advocates don’t think that homeschooling is only for children who “need alternatives if they can’t function in school.” You may be thinking of homebound instruction, which is sometimes provided by a school division when a child cannot attend school due to illness or a specific situation.

Homeschooling is different. Homeschoolers come from all walks of life, and it is a positive choice families make because of its many benefits. Even the best schools in the country don’t do the same things as homeschooling families. You can read some of the articles about the benefits of homeschooling by googling that phrase, or looking for Benefits of Homeschooling articles at TheHomeSchoolMom.com.

I encourage you to learn more about home education and explore the many reasons why families choose it. At the same time, consider some of the things that have been happening in public education these days, and see if you can understand why parents may not want their children to attend. While public education has been the default for many years, an emphasis on standardized testing and minimum standards has greatly changed the nature of public schooling, so much so that many of my long-time teacher friends are even making career changes if they can, while others are doing their best to provide a more varied education in the midst of the testing mania, telling me they often feel they are swimming upstream against the regulations they are required to meet.

There are many other reasons that parents may seek alternatives to school, some of which are unfamiliar to those who grew up during a time when attending school was just not questioned. Do some reading and research.

Most importantly, though, I think you need to consider a shift in your perspective to your adult son and his wife. While you can provide information to them about the good schools in your area, and you can share your love and concern for the little girls, you cannot “get them” to change their minds.

There is a chance that the reason your son will not talk to you about this is that he and his wife have already made a firm decision, and you have not respected their decision, but considered it open for ongoing debate. In some cases, “the homeschooling question” between generations is not actually about homeschooling but is about relationships.

You sound concerned for your son, that he has to work hard as the breadwinner in a two-income world, and you’re a bit blame-y here that your daughter-in-law’s choice to quit work and homeschool is the cause of this. However, many parents make these decisions together. You are casting your son as a victim here, but he’s not complaining about it, and in fact isn’t consulting with you on the topic even when you give him openings.

I say this part of the problem is one of acceptance. Your son and daughter-in-law have made decisions about the way to raise and educate their children that you don’t agree with. You don’t know much about homeschooling, but you’re not mentioning reasons they shouldn’t homeschool, like the children not being well cared for or not learning, or that their mom has a mental illness or a drinking problem.

This puts the question of homeschooling firmly in the realm of other decisions that your adult children make. As in, none of your business.

I sympathize. Having adult children who make independent decisions can be a giant worry. Our task as parents of these older children becomes how to handle this changing aspect of our relationship with them. You can find good books and articles about this, or you may want to talk with a pastor or counselor about learning to deal with this.

In the meantime, I can guarantee if you want your son not to talk to you and you want distance from your grandchildren and daughter-in-law, keep criticizing and questioning their decision to homeschool.

There is another course you could take, however. Be honest with your son and say something like, “I don’t know much about homeschooling and I worry about it, but I’ll try to learn, and I want to support your decisions.” Then ask how you can spend time with the kids, what educational resources they might enjoy as gifts, what experiences you can share through field trips and attending plays or art exhibits. Perhaps you can enjoy weekly or monthly library visits with the girls. That would make a great memory for them, and would provide a break for their mom.

Expect a slow warm-up; they will be waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Over time, though, you can demonstrate that your love for this young family does not amount to needing to control it. Over time, you can learn to better manage your anxiety when your adult children make decisions that you would not have made.

Finally, consider the possibility that you are feeling a bit “burned” by the fact that your son is making a decision to do something very different from what you did in raising your own kids. Sometimes these decisions can feel a lot like criticism to us oldsters (I myself have a mix of still-homeschooling and adult children, so I qualify as an “oldster”). As in, “We did the best we could when we sent our kids to school as was expected. Does this mean they think we did the wrong thing?”

This manages to cast you yourself as a victim. Chances are, your son is not judging you at all because you sent him to school. Even if he didn’t love school when he attended, he knows that school was the status quo during his growing up years. He is, with his wife, simply making a different choice for his own children. Examine your heart and see if this feels directed at youthen examine the logic: this is not about you — it’s about what a mom and dad feel is best for the children they have responsibility for.

The children happen to be your granddaughters.

Love them, stay close, and enjoy learning about homeschooling and relationships.

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Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

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Comments

  1. donna herman

    I m proud of my children who been homeschool and grandparent disapproved is wrong. her son has right chose , for some states charter programs do help parents become the best teacher for their child. remember you are your child first teacher.

  2. I thought that was an excellent response. I do want to point out that just because your daughter in law is home, does not mean she is not working, Homeschooling is work, hard work at times. Also please do not expect their home to be immaculately clean. In fact, it might be worse than what you are used to since three people are now home and using the space all the time. Most homeschoolers choose to concentrate on school when they are schooling, not house cleaning, just as you do not expect a public school teacher to also be responsible for mopping her won floor while she is teaching.

    • Home Schooling Granny

      I just want to say that I am a 69 year old grandmother that has home schooled my 9 year old granddaughter for almost 3 years now. And no she lives with her mom and dad. It has been the absolute best decision me and my family have ever made. I have a bedroom all set up as our classroom. My granddaughter chose how she wanted it decorated and the colors on the walls. It’s so pretty and she has thrived in her classroom. As a 69 year old woman it has given me a reason to get up in the morning. It has helped me as much as it has helped my granddaughter. I was diagnosed with cancer last year. I went through surgery, chemotherapy, and lots of bumps but we didn’t stop home schooling. No plans to ever stop home schooling. I love it. My granddaughter and I have had so much fun and we are very close. I believe any child would benefit from home schooling. I wish more grandparents would keep an open mind. Help out when they can. Maybe take a turn and teach their grandchild something fun. Home school can be lots of fun if you choose to make it that way. Grandparents have lots of wonderful skills that could be taught in home school.

      • Jenny

        What a fantastic grandmother you are! Your grandchildren will absolutely cherish these memories with you. This made me so happy to read. 🙂

  3. Erin D

    A very thoughtful response, Jeanne. I wanted to offer my own thoughts to the concerned grandmother: Like you, my inlaws and my own parents (most of whom are teachers) were concerned when both of their sons’ families decided to homeschool. After seeing that bright children as well as those with learning challenges can thrive in a homeschooling environment, they have become our biggest supporters.

    They have enriched our family’s homeschooling for 10 years now with field trips (as suggested above) as well as helping as a lap for reading practice, math lessons, and lots of love. If there is an area where you can support your son and his wife’s decision to homeschool, I think that in a year or two you will be very happy that you did. You sound like an intelligent woman with a lot to offer, so start brainstorming not about how you can dissuade them from homeschooling, but how you can be their biggest cheerleaders.

    P.S. We have graduated one student already and the others are performing well above grade level due mostly to the one-on-one time they receive regularly!

  4. Kacie

    Wow. To the grandmother, it’s clear you love your grandaughters very much. It will help in your relationship with them to improve your relationship with your daughter-in-law, which I know can be difficult.

    Even the best public schools have their problems. Public schools today are not the same as they were when your son was in school, and absolutely not the same as when the grandmother was in school.

    Children today do lock-in drills in case of an active shooter. Kindergarteners can be exposed to words and topics far beyond their maturity levels from their own peers. Then in a classroom of 25-30, the teacher must often cater to the louder students, or the ones who are behind. There is little time for individual attention.

    Test scores are paramount. Teachers are often frustrated that they need to teach to the test.

    Students often spend lots of time lining up throughout the day, are rushed through a quiet lunch, and their recess minutes are dwindling. They must sit in their chairs and be still and quiet for 7-8 hours.

    It is not ideal.

  5. Kacie

    Also, if the concern is that the children will miss out on things — field trips, sports, social activities, prom, music, etc., that is not the case. Homeschooled kids have more opportunities! It is wonderful!

  6. Excellent response! Except for the mention of mental illness, which is no reason for a mom not to homeschool (I know many moms with bipolar disorder who are homeschooling – even some of these homeschool bloggers have bipolar disorder. Four of my five kids are diagnosed and will still homeschool their kids), I agreed with every word of the article. Sharing it!

    • Mental illness can be a reason not to homeschool if it’s not being managed well. Kids who have a chaotic home life may find school is a refuge. But you’re right in saying that it’s entirely possible for a parent with a mental illness to do a great job homeschooling.

  7. Rosemarie

    When we began broaching the subject of homeschooling our four children, 30 years ago, one set of grandparents were open to it, the other were not. I gave them good books on the subject and tried to discuss it but it went nowhere. They did not attend our homeschool graduations or any of our outings or field trips. Now that we have four adult children who are brilliant @ what they do and are thriving as Christians in their various spheres. One is a master carpenter, one is a marketing whiz, one is a youth pastor, and our daughter just graduated college with honors having played two college sports. Three are married and having their own children now. These same grandparents are very proud of them now but I have never had a kind word about how we educated them. I am sad that they allowed a wedge to come between us because of our choices. I struggled mightily all those years of school — I am smart and capable but have an artist brain….. Even with that, God was merciful. My children tell me how grateful they are for their education and they say that I taught them to think and their dad taught them to work. The open-to-homeschooling grandparents ended up being a bigger part and influence on their lives. Now that I am a grandmother I can sympathize with the difficulties of differing choices with your grown children….but I also have seen first-hand that
    it is far better to be supportive and to undergird rather than to oppose. You can be a beautiful resource and a beautiful memory and influence in your grandchildren’s lives.

    • Lourdes Relyea

      Great response! By reading the grandmothers question, it seems that the root of disagreement goes beyond her son and daughter-in-law’s decision to homeschool. Hope Grandma sees the light! Getting to homeschool our son is the best decision we made.

  8. Sara Audette

    Our case is reversed. It took forever to convince my daughter to homeschool my granddaughter. I have been fortunate to have had my granddaughter living with me for 7 or her 11 years due to family circumstances. After spending 1 year with her mother in another state, I brought her back with me to my home in Florida. I started homeschooling myself for her and it has worked wonderfully! She was an A student (honor roll) and although her grades slipped to low 90’s — she “gets” it. She thanks me continually for letting her “ask” questions, re-read a passage, stop for her to take notes (I found out these were all things she was sometimes reprimanded for in public schools). This beautiful (inside and out) child was physically and verbally bullied at school. Her consistent high grades were her doing of studying at home and after school with little time for other activities. Now she “gets” it and has time for her passion (swimming). When we finally realized what was happening, I realized, once again, our children do not “ask” to be born; it is 100% OUR responsibility to take care of them, protect them when possible, and provide for them. In our case, homeschooling was the “only” answer! And as the grandparent, it works. Next school year, my daughter has agreed to continue the process. I’ll miss being the teacher and grandmother, but thrilled this works!

  9. Anna

    Hi all, so I have made the decision to homeschool my son again for his 4th grade year, he also has a 2yr old baby sister whom I also intend to homeschool. I home schooled my son up until 3rd grade when I made the choice to allow him to go to public school because of personal health issues among the fact my mother and younger sister would not stop arguing with me about how he needs this that or the other that he can get “more” of in public school, which I knew was wrong but here I am having this argument again and I don’t know how to deal with them, they have a tendency to be very opinionated but mostly behind my back but in front of my children. I don’t want to tell them they can’t take the kids anymore but I’m tired of this! Do any of you have any suggestions that might help dealing with family that disagrees with you??? PLEASE HELP! Thank you! Anna ~the homeschool mama~ 🙂

  10. allison

    I have a 15 yr old and 2 yr old twins. My oldest has always been in a public school but I do wish my circumstances had been different so he could have been homeschooled. The distractions from other students, bullying, teasing, learning foul language and inappropriate topics from “friends”, no individual attention, or worse, a bad teacher has made me dislike the current system. Even in the “good” schools he has been in have elements common to every public school. He is in high school and struggles but after dealing with teachers all day he shuts down from it all. My husband and I are planning on homeschooling our twins. We helped teach them to walk, use a spoon, count, etc. Why should it stop there? Having two also means double the homework help, projects, classroom expenses…..it adds up. We can go outside and teach them both without worrying about what crap they are learning from classmates. Schools are scary these days. I applaud your son and daughter in law for making that decision.

    • Brian

      Well said, I couldn’t agree more with you. Not that long ago I was that impressionable kid learning (and unfortunately teaching) classmates curse words and other terrible things. Feel so blessed that my wife and I can homeschool our kids.

  11. Brian

    Thank you for the awesome response Jeanne. I was always opposed to homeschooling; but now I couldn’t be more for it. In my opinion, it is the only way to build a solid Christian foundation in my kids lives.

  12. Look at it this way, you can spend as much time with the grandkids. Be a part of their education, thus being in your sons life forever. You have a choice too. Teaching them to be in the community along side you as you run errands, interacting with all race and age. Everything is a teaching moment. Enjoy them

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