Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see – Neil Postman

Where are grandparents in homeschooling?

Photo: © Samm Bennett

Recently, I had a conversation with an old friend, a grandmother, who described her involvement in her grandchildren’s home education. It prompted me to go and look on the databases for research into the home education/grandparent relationship. I was surprised to find very limited research into this field. One study (paywall), provides advice to homeschool families who are having trouble with relatives and suggests strategies to alleviate stress among grandparents (the homeschool mother’s, and it is usually mothers, parents/in-laws) over the choice.

Another paper (paywall) advocates for the role of grandparents in homeschool families. They argue that, in a networked world where most of the information taught at school can be accessed outside of it, there is an opportunity to use homeschool to connect with broader information as well as with significant family members.

Kenner, Arju, Gregory, Jessel and Ruby (2002) describe the role of grandparents in fostering a love of learning and a positive learning environment with children, however its concern is with home/school relationships, not home education. Similarly, Zimmerman-Orozco (2011) and Hiatt-Michael and Hands (2010) also suggest the important role of extended family in successful home/school interactions.

However, these studies are not advocating a role for grandparents in home education families. Where is that research? Why aren’t the home education researchers examining the role of extended family in the development of educational experiences for home educated students. I suspect that, in some cases, there is a tense relationship with family, particularly if extended family is not supportive of the decision to home educate (and the Ray study seems to bear that out). However, as anyone who’s involved in researching home education knows, Ray is an advocate of home education and thus, he’s probably seen a lot of research and interview data that finds that home education can be tricky for some families to negotiate.

Perhaps there is limited experience among the home education families of positive relationships with grandparents. The notion of positive home education family/extended family relationships is something I want to explore. Maybe I need to write a paper that discusses the positive experience of extended family involvement in home education and the important role grandparents can play in successful home education endeavours. I suspect that it might be something that would help parents who are struggling with familial differences of opinion over the choice.


10 Responses to “Where are grandparents in homeschooling?”

  1. thehomeschoolmomblog

    It would be interesting to see more grandparents take an active role in their grandchildren’s education. I have already talked to our children about how we would like to be involved in their children’s lives (when they are married w/kids). Hopefully this will help them realize it becomes a family endeavor and they are not in this alone.
    I wrote a post (A Family Affair) a little while back commending my in-laws and my mother for their involvement in my children’s education. Both my in-laws help teach our children (electives, but essential) and my mother supports us by providing materials and resources that she finds.
    I believe grandparents would love to be included in their grandchildren’s educations. Perhaps they just need some encouragement.

  2. Chantel-LaVonne

    Reblogged this on Off The Soapbox and commented:
    Really enjoyed this article about grandparent’s role in home schooling. I know that our children are blessed to have their Meemaw and Nana actively engaged. Although there may have been a time when my parents were unsure if this ‘home schooling thing’ was actually a good thing for their grand-babies (way back when my eldest sister began home educating her daughter, Jordan) they showed nothing but support. That support throughout the years has been priceless — be it encouraging words, money for supplies, helping to teach a lesson here and there, or being present to hear the children read their latest, greatest essays. This school year my mom has really stepped up and has given up her time to drive my girls and I to and from Cherie’s house where we meet every Tuesday for Village School. Her support in this manner has been priceless. The children truly enjoy having grandma around and love to show-and-tell. The memories they are allowed to build with her will stay with them always. For that I am grateful!


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  4. Nikki

    I’ve pretty much begged my children’s grandparents to join us in our learning and help out. They approve of our homeschooling and “brag” about it to their friends, but they just don’t have any interest in wanting to help. It breaks my heart. In all other areas they are fantastic grandparents. They just don’t want to invest their time in helping to educate their grandchildren.

  5. willo

    We are in the USA.

    We took our older son out of school last spring for a few reasons (both educational and family-situational) and he’s been learning at home with me ever since. As an intellectual woman who left work (engineering) to stay home as a full-time mom, this has been so much fun for me, and my son is so much happier than he was with almost all aspects of school. To the point of this post, however, I want to add our experience with the grandparents.

    My own mother trained as a teacher, though she didn’t work in education for very long before staying home with my brother and me. She really only supports having kids in public schools. She is really disapproving of homeschool in general, but she also disliked the private school in which our boys were enrolled. Even she can see that my son is blossoming under the new program, and I’ve noticed her criticism diminishing. It helps that his new, flexible schedule allows us to spend a lot more time visiting them at their home on the opposite side of the country. My dad is less vocal, but I sense that he quietly approves, and maybe even wishes he’d had this kind of opportunity as a child, like I do!

    My husband’s family immigrated to the US together when he was nine years old. Because of that, they tend to be much less tied to our social norms (they had to learn all new ones as adults!) and they are also very approving of our parenting in general, and have a huge trust that we are doing what’s right for our kids. My in-laws are so eager to be involved with my son’s education, I actually have to hold them back! My son prefers to work on math with his grandfather, and they also play chess and do art appreciation together. We’ve continued practice with the foreign language my son was learning at school, but I think he’s about to ask to begin working on my husband’s native language with his grandfather. My mother-in-law is in less robust health, so she isn’t as consistent, but she is proficient in both handwork and music, so she shares that with my son. She’s also much more fun than I am when it comes to artistic projects. It is really a beautiful situation. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we’d all like to do!

    • Rebecca English

      Interesting that your husband emigrated, from Europe? It’s largely illegal to homeschool in most European countries, so it’s such great news that he and his family are on board!


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