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Homeschooling: The Gift That Keeps Giving

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Number one grandchild, Emily, has in the blink of an eye reached that dubious milestone known as “school aged,” and yet her homeschooling continues. You can imagine this Grandma’s mental cartwheels, thrilled that what I consider the gift of homeschooling is still giving within my family after all these years. And you can imagine how, er, “supportive” a never-will-be-retired homeschooling grandma can be, even when she’s more than a 1,000 miles away.

Grandmotherandgrandson

And you can imagine how, er, "supportive" a never-will-be-retired homeschooling grandma can be.

So far the majority of support, as it has often been for new homeschooling parents over so many years, is simply lending an understanding ear. By invitation, my daughter unburdens her deepest beginner’s self-doubt, trials, and tribulations whenever the need builds. Since she was, without question, my own biggest homeschooling challenge, I’m sometimes happy we’re talking by phone and not in person. I confess, sometimes I smile.

“It’s like Emily feels it’s a put-down to be told something,” says Erika, “so she’ll say, ‘I already knew that’ or ‘you don’t have to show me that.’ Or sometimes she just ignores me!”

“She’s not ignoring you,” I assure her, stifling a giggle. “She hears every word. Don’t take it personally; just keep talking.”

In a conversation a couple of weeks later, one of the gifts appears. “You won’t believe it, Mom,” says my daughter. “We were at a friend’s house and the adults were talking about Africa. Emily overheard and without even thinking about it she joined the conversation, saying, “That’s where the pyramids are, in Egypt, actually.’ And she just kept on walking. She really is listening!”

From a distance, I’m supporting by sparking meaningful attention to marine biology, geography, and birds never seen in my granddaughter’s neck of the woods. First, I collected and delivered an array of sea shells, followed by a colorful post card showing they all are. A card with dolphins followed a phone call description of the day I went kayaking to watch the mammals play just yards off the wave-tossed bow. (That I was able to tell Emily what an alligator looks like close-up from the seat of a kayak was a surprise “gift” to both of us.) I sent a map of Florida (“Grandma, I didn’t know you live so close to Mickey Mouse!”), then a card showing an array of local birds. The post card of manatees contained a note stating I know little about them, and would love it if, when she reads a book about them, she would share what she discovers.

Still, as a homeschooling mom my daughter is light years ahead of where I was in my understanding of “homeschooling as educational freedom” at a relatively early juncture. And, like me, she does her best to spread the joys of the gift to others who might listen.

Homeschooling means at least one, if not more, trips to the library for the entire family each week these days. During one of the trips my daughter ran into a friend with a three year-old son. Already privy to the son’s penchant for trains, my daughter saw a National Geographic video about trains on the shelf, picked it up, and gave it to her friend to check it out. “He’s a little young for this, don’t you think?” asked the friend in response.

“Take it home, put it on, and see what happens,” my daughter replied.

A week later she ran into the friend who eagerly approached her at a social event.

“Thank you so much for giving me that video!” said the friend. “I thought it would be way over his head but Caleb has watched it at least ten times. Once while it was playing he came running to me in the kitchen and while in the middle of excitedly describing something he’d just seen, he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go; I’m missing it!'” My daughter’s pleasure was a deep as it was sincere.

The greatest gift, though, one on which no one can place a price tag and against which academic gifts pale by comparison, is hearing first-hand reports of busy, interesting lives from a young family growing, not just smarter, but happier, healthier, and infinitely closer.

Emily and her schooled friend Anita had their first fight the other day, my daughter reported. “I heard arguing and couldn’t imagine what was going on,” she said, “so I climbed the stairs to see what was wrong. I reached the top just in time to hear Emily say most emphatically, “No, Anita, my Mom is the best teacher in the whole wide world!”

I shared my daughter’s obvious delight and told her that’s a very sure sign that many things are going well. I sighed as I reminded her there was a time, not all that long ago, that she thought the very same thing about me.

“I still do,” she replied.

Ah, yes, homeschooling – the gift that just keeps giving and giving and…

Originally published in Home Education Magazine, Jan/Feb 2005
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2 Responses to “Homeschooling: The Gift That Keeps Giving”

  1. Michelle O'Neil says:

    Beautiful!

    : )

  2. Beverley says:

    Thank you for this from all us soon-to-be homeschooling grandmas!

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