When kids go to school they receive merit certificates, sport ribbons and report cards. These things show that your child is doing well in character, knowledge and skills. Presuming a child is doing well these rewards and certificates are passed onto the grandparents who love and confirm the child. As a homeschooler though you may have a different philosophy or certainly different opportunities and practices and there may not be a report card to pass onto Grandma, there may not be a sports day ribbon to show Grandad. We may not put much weight on these things but maybe our parents, the kids’ grandparents do. If our kids have cousins who go to school, they will see how the Grandparents respond to report cards, and may well wonder why their grandparents don’t encourage them in the same way. How can we create opportunity for the grandparents to see growth in their grandchildren without simply mimicking the school system?
I think the first distinction we need to make as we talk about this issue is that I’m not trying to convince family members that we are doing the right thing by homeschooling; I’m simply giving them an opportunity to see how well their grandchildren are doing, giving them a look into their grandchild’s little world. Keeping this as my attitude, keeps my heart soft and undemanding.
The second is that we need to make sure that we never slip over into looking for praise for ourselves or for homeschooling itself. This is a slippery slide and soon we find ourselves doing things to please other people – be it the State Education Department, our Parents (kids’ Grandparents) or our neighbour down the street. If we are being responsible with our child’s education, we can proudly show our kids achievements whether ‘they’ approve or not.
My desire is to find ways to let family members know what we are doing, and how well the kids are going, without compromising my educational philosophy. In our homeschool we focus on the whole child, on the child’s individual interests. My priorities are their relationship with God and people, on growing as an individual, on developing life skills, on their talents and then, on academics. I don’t want to get those priorities mixed up just because I want someone to have a glimpse into our life, and give praise to my kids.
Here are some ideas:
- One thing I’ve done is passed on my report to the Moderator, and the Moderator’s report to me. My report to the Moderator is written from a lifestyle/discipleship perspective – I use the subheadings of: Relationships, Intrapersonal development, Life skills, Talents, Academics. I write it in diary type style, outlining the activities and opportunities that the child has been involved in, the interests they are pursuing, and formal studies that they undertake. The Moderator’s report has always been positive so it is a positive tool in my hand.
- Regular photo updates (especially if you live apart). Photos are a great way to record life learning – co-ops, outside the home classes, hands on projects (progress photos as well as the completed project), service opportunities etc, but unless stated grandparents may just see them having fun. I include a few words with the photo – maybe why I’m proud of our child and in particular the character they showed while doing this activity. I may also say, in a conversational way, how this photo reflects learning – maybe say that it was a science experiment at our homeschool co-op or an opportunity to learn something new by going horse riding with our friends.
- If your relationship is good with your parents, you can share your goals for each of your kids, and then you have a basis for reporting back on how they are going. If your parents are Christians, maybe you can ask them to pray for specific things for their grandchildren, and then you can give thanks together when there is growth in the child.
- Invite them to celebrations – When our children learnt to read, and were reading independently we had a Reading Celebration. Our grandparents live a long way away, but we invited our closest friend (surrogate Grandma) to join us.
- Involve them in your real life projects – they will then be there, on the spot, to support and encourage your kids.
- Encourage your kids to tell their grandparents about the things they do, and the things they’ve done well with.
- Create a report card for each term, or each year. I personally would find this a waste of time, but if it is going to be something that helps people get on board, if it fosters relationship in your family you may well find it worthwhile. There are plenty of free templates for homeschool report cards online. My one encouragement would be to make sure you balance the time you spend doing this, with the value you put on having them done.
One last thing, your parents may never get it! They may never be able to make a jump from seeing a formal school report, from a school teacher, maybe even signed by a school principal. All the more reason not to try and copy that model, but instead simply involve them in your life, share with them your experiences, and focus on the relationship you have with them, not some aspect you wish you had with them.