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In-laws and Parents Worried About You Unschooling the Grandkids?

by Beverley Paine, Sept 10, 2019

What to say to parents and in-laws who constantly question your decision to home educate the grandkids comes up frequently as an issue in support groups. I've covered the basic responses in my booklet Answering Objections to Homeschooling, but here I want to explore some ideas specifically for grandparents.

First of all, thank them for their concern, say you appreciate it and understand that unschooling can look a little worrying at first.

Reassure them that you thought through your decision to home educate thoroughly, did a fair bit of research and have a lot of support from other parents doing the same thing, including from people whose children have never been to school and went on to uni, TAFE or employment. That there is now a second generation of home educated kids happening in Australia, so it isn't that weird any more.

Invite them to borrow some of your books on unschooling, to give them a better idea of the pedagogy behind it.

Some grandparents find it reassuring to know that you have permission to home educate, that you go through a registration and review process. If that pertains to your situation, let them know.

Another tack to take, if you it is something you will welcome, is ask them if there is anything they'd like to do to help educate their grandchildren. Get them involved in a hands-on way. If they can't come up with any ideas, offer a few to help give them an idea about some of the things that would work.

Perhaps they have skills they can share with the children? Do they have any appropriate hobbies? Do they love gardening, knitting, wood working, bird watching, painting, etc? Would they like to take the children to the library every week, sit and read with them? Would they like to take the children to various museums, conservation parks, playgrounds, etc? Let them know that if they come with your family to activities like this it helps you and the children - their perspective and life experience will enrich these learning experiences.

Suggest child-minding so you can enjoy 'dates' with individual children (where your kids get to do something they'd enjoy without the company of their siblings).

Perhaps they'd like to learn how to play some of the games the kids like to play. Maybe they could teach the kids chess, or bridge or rummikub. Or maybe they could play online computer games with the kids, connect with them even when they aren't visiting.
Encourage them to write to your children, send them postcards, small parcels (if they can afford it). Tell them that if the children start receiving things regularly they'll be encouraged to write back...

There are lots of ways in which grandparents can contribute and get involved in the education of their grandchildren. They don't need to sit at home and worry - they can be part of the solution!

But if you have the type of parents and in-laws that won't listen, tend to push their own values and beliefs onto people, then don't hesitate or worry about being assertive and setting firm boundaries.

If you've been over the same answers time and again, change the subject. Talk about the weather. Deflect their questions. It isn't your responsibility to change their minds or even set their minds at ease. Do whatever you need to feel comfortable when in their company. Remind them that there is more to your relationship with them than the education of your children. Some grandparents may need to be reminded that you are no longer a child, and that their grandchildren are not their children either.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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