Published with Permission
Written by Marilyn Rockett
With a good bit of apprehension, I started an ambitious project recently. I dismantled 20 years of family picture albums because the pictures were discoloring and because I had only one set of albums but four sons. Why didn’t I think years ago to assemble individual albums for my boys so each would have his own set by the time he was grown? Well, you know about hindsight.
As I reminisced while dividing the pictures among my sons, one thing stood out to me. There were a large number of pictures with the boys and their grandparents—sweet pictures of them giving a grandmother a hug, of an adoring grandson wearing his grandfather’s World War II Navy medals and sword, of a grandparent helping with some task, of a birthday or a trip shared with a grandparent, and the annual pictures of our family in front of a grandparent’s fireplace at Christmas.
Now that I have six grandchildren, the project also brought back many precious childhood memories of my own grandparents—of things they did or said. Isn’t this the way the Lord meant it to be?
A God of Generations
Scripture shows us that God is a God of generations. His message of love and grace is not confined to one isolated generation or group. In fact, he rebukes those who let His message die in their generation.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a familiar passage to many homeschoolers. It admonishes us to teach our children as we sit in our house, as we walk by the way, as we lie down, and as we rise up. Psalm 78:1-7 is another of the many messages of “passing on.” It tells us that fathers should teach God’s wonderful works to their children, so that the generation to come and even the children yet to be born may know and put their confidence in God. God designed the family so that we would hear the things we need to learn from our fathers and their fathers.
In the early 1980s when we began to homeschool, parents often endured the rejection of their own parents, who were convinced that their adult children had lost all good sense by deciding to home teach. Even with more universal acceptance of homeschooling today, you may be facing criticism from friends and family, especially grandparents.
Is it only an idealized dream that generations in a family can be united in the task of home educating their children? Can there be unity rather than division in an extended family? Will home education become a family tradition? Isn’t it closer to God’s design when we link the generations for the task?
I have heard heart-wrenching stories from families who desire their parents’ blessing in their efforts to love, protect, and teach their children. Many have faced criticism, rejection, and even excommunication from the extended family for their commitment to home teach. Conversely, grandparents have cried out to me that they have rejected homeschooling because their grown children have refused to associate with them or let them see their grandchildren because of trivial reasons, such as a minor difference in lifestyles (unrelated to sin issues). Surely this isn’t what the Lord wants for our families!
There certainly may be legitimate reasons to protect children even from grandparents in extreme circumstances, but aside from physical or ungodly harm to children, God desires for us to do all in our power to maintain a proper relationship with grandparents.
We have come far in over twenty years of the modern home education movement, but have we come far enough in uniting families? The very nature of home education is revolutionary in our time and is a different education option than immediate past generations have chosen. But God is a God of relationships and cares deeply about our families. While there may be differences between family members, He desires to teach each of us about His love, grace, and mercy through our extended families. The responsibility begins with us, the first generation of homeschoolers in our individual families, to bridge that gap.
Grandparents often have legitimate questions and concerns, and it is our duty to respond to them with grace and patience while giving them time to adjust to our homeschool decision. Twenty years ago grandparents feared the legal ramifications of homeschooling. While this is no longer a problem, there are other questions and doubts, and we must remember that parents never abandon their concern for their children’s welfare no matter how old their children are. We see that in our own parenting experience, don’t we?
Underneath grandparents’ questions we often see a deeper parental concern or even fear. They may ask questions like these:
- Why do you want to do this crazy thing? Public (or private) school was fine for you. Why not for my grandchildren?
Grandparents could be asking, “Did I do something wrong?” If you have criticized the schools, grandparents may feel that you are disappointed in your institutional schooling experience. To them, your attitude could be a reflection on their educational decisions for you. In the majority of cases, the schools supported them in their efforts to train you, and they often don’t realize how much the school culture has changed since you were there. If you guard your words, you will not unconsciously indict them for their past choices made in good faith.
You aren’t a professional teacher. How will you manage to teach everything my
grandchildren need to know?
We have emerged from a generation that views “professionals” with the highest esteem. They equate learning with being taught by trained, certified professionals, so grandparents might not feel confident that you are capable. They often are not aware of the many resources available today. Invite them to a curriculum fair or a convention. Take them with you to a support group meeting with a special speaker. Show them good books on how to homeschool or choose curriculum. Ask them to teach a special group class for homeschoolers. Get them involved in whatever way is practical. One homeschool mom I know of invited her mother to her house once a week to help teach. Tell your parents that you value what they know. If they are former schoolteachers, ask their opinion when choosing curriculum, or at least ask some questions. Broaden your own horizons to find new and interesting material. In whatever way you can, graciously remind them that you didn’t learn all you needed to know in school and your children won’t either. You are only laying the foundation for further learning in life.
- You (daughter or daughter-in-law) already seem overburdened with the children. They worry that you can’t handle home teaching in addition.
Often this concern rises from pure motives, especially if parents see you struggling in your homeschool venture. No family is perfect, and everyone struggles in some area. Allow the grandparents to help in any way that you can accept (on their terms rather than on yours). It is difficult to deal with overcritical parents or in-laws, but God often uses this to reveal that our sense of worth is in our performance as homeschool parents rather than in the Lord. If you struggle in the area of confidence, may I suggest a wonderful little book that changed my outlook from viewing my life based on my performance to looking at Jesus for security and confidence? We Would See Jesus by Roy and Revel Hession (1958; reprinted, Christian Literature Crusade, 2003) should be available at most Christian bookstores.
- Will my grandchildren miss fun school activities or events?
The socialization question continues to rear its head in spite of our best efforts! Grandparents might really be asking if their grandchildren will be “normal.” Time, along with excellent child training, usually resolves their fear, but in the meantime, patiently show them that your children enjoy many family activities. Include the grandparents as much as possible, and they will witness how your children relate to all ages. Be involved in outside activities, but carefully choose based on what will benefit your children. It is easy to fill our lives with too much activity due to pressure from others who think our children are missing out in life.
- · Will my grandchildren be able to get into college?
Grandparents want the best for their grandchildren, so share material with them about homeschoolers entering college. A wonderful book that is fun and encouraging for the entire family is Hot House Transplants (Grove Publishing, 1997) compiled by Matt Duffy and written by various homeschool graduates who tell their own story about life after homeschool, including college, jobs, and various ventures. Arrange for grandparents to meet homeschooling parents who have children entering or attending college. If you and your student do not choose college, patiently explain why, and show them other alternatives that seem better for your child. Remind them that students waste a great deal of money when they enroll in college before they know where they want to go in life beyond high school years.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our parents always approved of our choices for our family? Of course, they don’t. If we could hand them a list of all the things that grandparents should do to accept and support us, it wouldn’t help The truth is that we do not have ultimate control over others’ actions toward us. But, where does our responsibility lie? Even a cursory look at the word peace throughout Scripture will show quickly that we are not to let our differences with our family members divide us. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18, NASB). All refers to family as well as to friends and strangers.
Honor Your Parents
In spite of differences, you can demonstrate respect and honor to your parents and parents-in-law. Try listening to their concerns without a defensive attitude. They may actually offer some good suggestions! Their ideas probably come from a desire for your best interest even if they do not express them well. Laugh at yourself and your weaknesses. God uses humble attitudes to melt hard hearts.
The grandparent/child relationship is one that you must nurture and protect. Have you criticized the grandparents in front of your children? You will be the grandparent of their children one day, and they are watching your responses. As a family, pray for the grandparents. Model a grateful spirit by thanking God in your children’s hearing for the things that you were taught by your parents and for the things they do well.
It is true, as has been said, that homeschooling is more than an education movement—it is a family restoration movement. In the end it is not about us or even about our homeschooling. It is about what the Lord will do in our families to show His glory. Even if you do not have a Christian heritage, God will use your home education choice to mold you into the image of His Son. He will empower each of us to be an element of change for our generation, reaching back to the generation before us and forward to our own children. He will establish the most important family tradition in our families—generations of our descendents who love and honor Him.
Grandparents Can Help!
Encourage grandparents to:
- Pray for you and your children. (Give specific prayer requests.)
- Share their past with the grandchildren, written or oral.
- Take grandchildren (maybe one at a time) on trips.
- Give good books and educational gifts. (Share your catalogs with them.)
- Teach a topic or skill to the grandchildren (or a group of students).
- Make photo albums to share with the family.
- Read to the grandchildren.
- Help with tasks for the support group.
- Write letters and/or send audio and video tapes if they live away.
- Help with the household where practical.
Marilyn Rockett is a “graduated” homeschool mom of four grown sons, teaching for fifteen years before the Rocketts ran out of sons to teach. Marilyn and husband are Mimi and Papi to six grandsons, one granddaughter, and three great-grandsons. Marilyn has spoken at many homeschool events, contributed to multiple books, and has authored Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, providing encouragement and organizational helps with a scriptural emphasis. For over thirty years, she has worked in local, state, and national homeschool efforts and encouraged Christian women in their vital roles as mothers and home educators. She is a former Editor in Chief for Homeschooling Today® magazine and still writes to encourage homeschool moms and Christian women. Visit her blog at www.MarilynRockett.com.
This article is a reprint from the Nov/Dec 2004 issue of Homeschooling Today® magazine. It may not be copied or reprinted without written permission from Marilyn Rockett.