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When the Grandparents Disagree with Homeschooling

by Beverley Paine, Jan 2020

Our parents sent us to school and thought they were doing the right thing, and well, for most of us it worked, we were educated more or less as intended. Sometimes parents can feel very lost and insecure about our choice to home educate our children. Some will respond defensively, as though we're criticising their choice to educate us at school. Some will feel we're having a go at their current or past occupation, especially if they've been employed in the school system. Others are just stuck in cultural dogma - and that's okay because most of us are, in one aspect or another.

A parent, as her first year of homeschooling came to close and she was preparing her registration reports, found herself arguing with her dad about home education, feeling the need to justify her choice as question after question attacked it. She sought reassurance and a few tips from fellow educating parents on how to handle this situation should it arrive (and it usually does) again.

I'm 61 and never had a good relationship with my parents and in-laws. At the time I was convinced they needed to change, if not their beliefs, then definitely their attitudes and behaviour. Now I'm a grandma to 5 awesome kidlets and mum-in-law to 3 wonderful people, I realise that it is up to me to be the change I want to see. Which basically means letting go of that need to change others, and instead of focus on the positives, the constructive action that can be taken to get us all to a more satisfying place.

First piece of advice: stop arguing with your dad. Stop trying to convince him. You don't need to. Remind yourself of that everyday. You don't need to justify home educating your kids to anyone but your kids. Well, maybe you need to jump through some bureaucratic hoops once a year to be registered, but don't fall into the trap of thinking you need to explain to anyone your educational choice. Nod and smile and thank people for their interest and concern and change the subject. Every time a comment is made.

And then, find ways to get them involved. Grandparents are awesome home educating resources. They don't have to know they are - they simply are. Some, like me, can't and wold hold back from jumping and doing things with their grandkids (maybe that is because I home educated my kids? LOL). Others need some help and guidance. Ask them to come along on visits to the zoo or museum or playground. Invite them kayaking, camping, bushwalking. Have regular games afternoons with them, where you play new and different games. Focus on activity - lots of constructive, positive, busy activity that involves doing things with the kids while you are with them.

And then slowly, begin to point out how their interactions with their grandchildren are enriching the children's education. This will demonstrate, faster than anything else, that you are aware of your children's emerging educational needs, how you are naturally covering many different aspects of the curriculum. That it is happening differently to how it happens in school, at different times and rates but it is happening. Best of all, they'll slowly start to see this anyway because they're at that edge of exciting activity too.

Also, ask for advice from them. Ask them for tips on different resources you can use. (You don't need to use them straight away or ever - thank them, if they ask afterwards, say you passed that information on, that it was useful, thanks). You can get their brains and talent working pro-actively to support home ed, enlist them as part of a larger educational reform movement - perhaps without them being aware that they're playing a part - let that awareness slowly dawn on them.

Also, if possible, have a few barbecue days at home, invite them and one or more homeschooling families who are friends, for an afternoon of fun. Maybe run an activity for everyone - could be environmentally or community themed, or just for fun. The aim is to build connection and relationships. But what will be happening is that the grandparents will be seeing that families that home educate are simply ordinary people, with a range of skills and talents and personalities and experiences - and that home education doesn't happen in isolation.

All this is hard work because we have to put aside our instinct to defend and justify our choices. So many of our parents haven't let go of the notion that we're children - they still feel that they need to parent us, guide and protect us from ourselves. Many parents won't change that behaviour - it is up to us to stop responding to it, ignore it, and be the example we want them to adopt: parents that respect their children as people, with thoughts and ideas of their own that need to be supported rather than approved. We need to think of ourselves as peers, rather than offspring, create that boundary clearly in our own minds - to stop wanting approval and instead seek ways we can create mutually beneficial support for our separate paths in life.

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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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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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