By Rich and Barb Heki, founders of Grandparents of Homeschoolers
Sometimes … homeschooling moms and dads sweat and get stressed out before discovering that the solution was right under their noses.
The answer to reducing the stress of homeschooling while deepening important, meaningful relationships is: Grandpa & Grandma!
Whether in person, or long-distance (via conventional communications or digital technology), the grandparents’ involvement can be a lifesaver for frazzled families! Here are 11 ways grandparents can be a big help:
Babysit with a purpose.
Grandparents have been baby-sitting since the beginning of time. But add a new twist and plan a purposeful baby-sitting time, filled with activities designed to foster education and discipleship.
Grandma and Grandpa can bring books and activities that complement academic subjects the parents are teaching. They also can find out what character traits the parents are focusing on for each child and create activities, read books and study Biblical examples that will nurture them in those areas.
Teach a skill.
Grandparents have a lifetime of hobbies and skills they have developed and love to do. And grandchildren just love to learn new things from Grandpa and Grandma!
Grandparents can teach craftsmanship skills like cooking, sewing and woodworking; life skills like car repair and money management; recreational skills like hunting/fishing and shooting baskets; or career skills like basic plumbing/electrical work or stock investing.
Teach an academic subject.
Really, anyone can teach a subject like history, math, science or language arts. If we don’t know it, we simply learn along with them. Grandparents can try teaching a subject they already know pretty well, or one that interests them, that they’d like to learn more in-depth themselves.
There are all kinds of resources online to give ideas for content and sites to answer difficult questions. As we humorously told our own children, “Google knows everything.”
Whether grandparents are on a tight budget or have ample financial resources, this is an area where grandparents can be of enormous help. Those who have the means might consider paying for the grandchildren’s music lessons, curriculum or science lab equipment. Ask the parents what items would be the most helpful for their current studies.
Grandparents on a tighter budget can help by shopping for bargains. Good deals are out there, but busy homeschooling parents rarely have the time to spend scouting out the best deals. Super-sleuth grandparents who have the gift of time can be a tremendous blessing.
Keep a scrapbook/portfolio.
Not only is it fun for grandparents to create a beautiful keepsake, but it’s also very practical, as many states require some form of documentation that the homeschooled children have made adequate progress.
Busy parents might have time to throw samples of school work in a box, but not time to organize it. Grandpa and Grandma can take home this “box” of educational treasures, add photos from field trips or projects, and create a beautiful keepsake album that can double as legal documentation of each grandchild’s homeschool journey.
Aargh!!! It’s an extremely time-consuming chore for parents, and thus parents are likely to get way behind.
Grandpa and Grandma to the rescue!
Correcting papers not only helps the family immensely, but also gives the grandparents a window into the progress of each grandchild. They can then relay to the parents their assessment of each grandchild’s areas of strength and weakness in various subject areas, and perhaps help coach and strengthen their grandchildren’s aptitude in those areas.
For long-distance grandparents, just mail (or scan and email) the papers that need correcting.
A Grandpa/Grandma camp.
Fun, fun, fun! All the grandchildren come to Grandpa & Grandma’s house (or a rented lake cabin) for a weekend of planned activities. Cousins have fun being together and moms and dads get a weekend “date” all to themselves!
The ideas for activities are endless: hiking/climbing/swimming (educators call that PE class); nature hikes, bug and leaf collecting, bird identification (science); baking cookies (math skills); drawing/painting or finger painting (art); movies (preapproved by parents, with a discussion afterward to teach analytical skills, discernment and Biblical worldview); storytelling (creative thinking, speech).
Supply writing prompts.
Many children seem to have writer’s block … before they even start writing.
Getting started is the most difficult part. Grandparents can solve this dilemma by supplying writing prompts to their grandchildren, encouraging them to have fun using their creative minds, and teaching accountability by giving them a deadline to complete the story. Then help them edit and perfect what they’ve written.
Here’s an example of a writing prompt: “You have just inherited land in a remote mountain area. What will you use to build a shelter or a house? What will you eat? How will you spend your time? How will you communicate with others? How will you accomplish the Matthew 28:19-20 mandate to make disciples?”
Research college scholarships, apprenticeship/mentorship opportunities, etc.
High school graduation comes so quickly, and the rigors of high school studies make it extremely difficult for homeschooling parents or students to find time to research scholarships or search out college alternatives.
Grandparents can play a crucial role in helping to do basic research in pertinent areas. Not only will it help the grandchildren discover opportunities for fulfilling God’s calling for them, but it also can result in their ability to pursue goals at a tremendous cost savings.
(Editor’s note: See our list of KC-area scholarship and financial aid opportunities.)
Plan a field trip for the local homeschool support group.
Local support groups are a tremendous blessing, but with membership often comes requirements, such as planning a field trip for the group once a year.
It can be very stressful for busy parents, but really fun for grandparents! It also gives grandparents a glimpse into the lives of other homeschooling families as they organize and attend this group activity.
It can be as simple as scheduling a date for everyone to meet at a library when an author is giving a presentation, or as complex as organizing a craft day, collecting money and purchasing supplies for children of all ages to make various crafts.
(Editor’s note: We have some field trip ideas in the Kansas City area for your next outing!)
Attend a homeschooling conference.
This is the place where grandparents can capture the vision for homeschooling.
Those who don’t really approve of homeschooling will learn why their children are educating their grandchildren at home and have their eyes opened to a whole new world that they didn’t even know existed. Grandparents who love homeschooling will have a great time soaking in the teaching from speakers and perusing the curriculum/resource hall, finding all kinds of goodies to purchase for their grandchildren.
If the grandparents are local, they can help take care of the grandchildren at the conference. If they live in another geographic area, they will be thoroughly enriched by attending a homeschooling conference in their locale. (For Kansas City-area families, Midwest Parent Educators has an annual conference in Kansas City.)
The grandparent/grandchild relationship is unique and special, and every moment they spend together enriches the lives of both. Grandparents who get involved in their grandchildren’s home education are a blessing to their families and experience blessings beyond measure themselves.
Rich and Barb Heki are the founders and directors of Grandparents of Homeschoolers™, a national, nonprofit ministry whose mission is to encourage, inspire and equip grandparents to support, engage in and delight in the home-education adventure of their grandchildren. Their goal is to get grandparents involved in the home education of their grandchildren whether they live locally or long-distance, and whether they love homeschooling or are not supportive. Grandparents and parents are invited to click the “join” button on their website (it’s free) to be on their contact list to receive creative new ideas, testimonies and resources on how to involve the grandparents.
This blog post was originally published in October 2014. It has been updated for timeliness and detail.