Answers for a Concerned Grandmother of a Homeschooler

A concerned grandmother sent me the email below. It is quite common that grandparents are skeptical about home education and often very concerned about their grandchildren’s education.

I decided to publish her questions and my answer to this granny, in the hope that it may help other grandparents to get a fresh perspective of what home education may or may not look like.

The problem is that any generation that has only experienced schooling in the mainstream system, tends to expect home education to resemble school-at-home, and it doesn’t!

Here are the concerned grandmother of a homeschooler’s questions:

 

I have been a teacher myself albeit training student for the “outdated remnant of the industrial age ”.  Accounting still remains the same.  There is a debit and a credit for the same reason as it was a hundred years ago.

My daughter decided to choose home schooling.  We attended the seminars Martie gave and then…….then I saw that granddaughter decided when training shall take place.  Thus at 16 she still only has an  official Grade 7 qualifications.

At first I threatened that  I am under obligation to report the injustice done to the child but the two of them sided together against granny.

My daughter returned from another seminar in Pretoria.  Good news.  You only need to provide a Grade 12 certificate.  So how to get to Grade 12?   Easy…. we can do it in one year………….. never mind Grade 8.9.10.11

Thus if my granddaughter is the one falling through the cracks how many others are falling through the cracks as some parents are just too busy to do home schooling and leaving it to the child to do the work?  Where is accountability built into the home school system?

Yes I know that in every good harvest there are a few bad apples but the farmer takes precaution to avoid these to the minimum.  What system does home schooling have in place to protect the child from parents who live in la-la land?

What is a responsible citizen like myself supposed to do?

Report to whom and forfeit the relationship with you child!

Report to MEC Education who will shut down Home Schooling because of a few parents do not realise what it truly entails to train a child at home!

Perhaps the price my granddaughter has to pay will pave the way so that is does not happen to other children and that home schooling will indeed require some kind of reporting (accountability) at the end of every year.

Kind regards
[Concerned grandmother]

Below is my rather lengthy reply:

Answers for a Concerned Grandmother of a Homeschooler

I can see clearly that you are concerned for your grand-daughter’s best interests and I commend you for holding back and not acting on your instincts for the sake of preserving the relationship with your daughter and your grand-daughter. That is truly commendable. Keep that as the priority.

I will try to address each of your concerns. Since I do not know your daughter and grand-daughter, I can’t defend nor criticise their choice, but I will attempt to help you see things in a new perspective. However, there is always a risk that I might be erring on the side of being too positive, in which case, I think you are right to

  1. voice your concerns as you have already done, yet again, gently again and
  2. after doing that leave them to face the consequences of their choices.

Sometimes the best lessons in life are the ones we learn from our own experiences and even our own mistakes. As long as we LEARN from the mistake its actually a LESSON that holds value and its never too late to move on from there. There is no deadline in life and clearly your family have chosen not to stick to the usual school time-frame and that is one of the issues of concern to you.

I hope my answers below will help:

I have been a teacher myself albeit training student for the “outdated remnant of the industrial age ”.  Accounting still remains the same.  There is a debit and a credit for the same reason as it was a hundred years ago.

 This means that you are viewing your grandchild’s education through the spectacles of a professional teacher that knows the workings of the school system well. We have all been through that system for at least 12 years and as homeschoolers we have to make a huge mindshift. Once a child is out of that system, she does not have to keep up with it or replicate it at home.

Learning is not only measured in the pages of text books, worksheets completed, assignments done and examinations written. That is schooling. That is the System. The System today is not the same System that you and I were once part of. Things have changed and deteriorated drastically in many ways recently.

In life, learning happens in so many other ways than the System. We can learn so much more that isn’t found in the pages of text books when we are ‘free’ outside the bounds of the classroom, in the functioning ‘real’ world where we live our adult lives.

Some of us may choose to use curriculum products which are similar to the school system, but others choose completely unconventional routes, following philosophies of learning such as unschooling, which is self-directed learning. This is how we all tend to learn as adults – we read up online, take a course, attend a lecture, watch a video, read a book or do whatever we choose to learn what we are self-motivated to learn about. Children can learn that way too.

However, I hear your concern – there are some families who claim to be following an unschooling approach who are possibly bordering on neglect of their children’s education. Then there are those unschooled learners, who testify that as children they were unmotivated for some years, and then suddenly they found something they wanted to pursue and did it and achieved their goals.

So, one should always act with caution and not prejudge a family because their learning does not look the way that we think it should or because they are not following the time-frame that we expect them to follow. Home education is customised education. It does not always resemble the norms of the school system.

My daughter decided to choose home schooling.  We attended the seminars Martie gave and then…….then I saw that granddaughter decided when training shall take place.  Thus at 16 she still only has an  official Grade 7 qualifications.

My children have never achieved any ‘official qualifications’. until the eldest two wrote the GED as a foreign grade 12 equivalent..they have never been in the school system and never written exams to earn anything formal, yet I know that they are educated sufficiently for their age level as I see that they are mastering age-appropriate learning products which I use. I have 4 younger children still being home educated ranging from about grade 2 to grade 10.

Don’t confuse certification with education. There are children that are 10 years old and can’t read, but they can mow the lawn, care for a horse and cook a three course meal. They have learned a different set of skills than kids in a class and haven’t been labelled as slow, dyslexic, ADHD or whatever, as their parents have recognised that this child is on a different academic developmental time-line than the school-going ‘norm’. Many of these children suddenly master reading at age 10 and then never look back as they have not been emotionally ‘damaged’ by the labelling, measuring and testing that happens in the school system. The point is, that education at home, does not look the same as schooling.

Your granddaughter is way past that level, but still, she is now on a different track. Don’t keep comparing with the time-frame and norms of the school system.

Answers for a Concerned Grandmother of a HomeschoolerIf you think of the school system as a drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg, she is no longer on the N1. She is now going via Namaqualand and stopping to view the daisies along the way! Don’t expect to see her a Bloemfontein any time soon. She went a different route and got a different kind of education, instead of just the tar track and trucks on the N1.

 

If I were  you, I would do my best to hide my concern and ask questions about what your grand-daughter IS interested in. You might get a blank as an answer. Often when children are removed from the school system, especially in the high school years, they need about two years to DESCHOOL and find themselves.

After so many years of being forced to learn what the system dishes up, they have no interest in anything that resembles that kind of learning…but given time and freedom, they often find new interests and hobbies which eventually become their career path. They need time to discover who they are and what they are interested in.

They need time to realise that “This is my life. I can choose what I do with it. Oops. I’ve done nothing much for a year (or two), maybe I should starting doing something!”

I know a homeschooling mom whose 3 boys (twins and an older son close in age) did nothing much besides play computer games for two years around ages 10-12. They were waiting for Mom to take charge of their education again, but she never did, on purpose as she wanted them to follow self-directed learning. Suddently at a point, in their teen years, all 3 decided they wanted to get a Cambridge matric and that was the first exams they ever wrote. Now they are all in their final years of 3 different degrees at Tukkies and all 3 have received academic distinctions – in IT, Physiotherapy and Mechanical Engineering respectively. One of them battled with dyslexia but has not let it stop him. Not all homeschoolers are academics – but it shows that when children want to learn, they will be motivated to do what it takes.

Read the article about the “Los die Kind” approach – as it highlights this sort of scenario and how it can ideally play out.

Tell your grand-daughter, you are not asking her about her homeschooling with your teacher hat on, because you know that they are not following a traditional educational path. Tell her that you are asking with your grandmother hat on, because you are interested in HER.

Ask her what interests HER, what motivates HER, what bores HER, – show interest in your granddaughter as a person, not as an “educational bucket” to be filled with a curriculum to pass a test. Ask her if she has discovered any new interests, any new hobbies, got any new ideas about her future career path. What are her talents? – How can she develop them? How can she discover them, if she doesn’t know?

She might be pursuing things that you don’t consider as schooling because they are unconventional. Worst case scenario, she might really be doing nothing, in which case, she might appreciate a granny who inspires her to try something new…like one girl who took a course in cake decorating and learned to make the most exquisite birthday and wedding cakes and did it for money at age 15, then she took a course in videography, but decided it wasn’t for her, then she got interested in studying law and so now she is getting formal academic credentials so she can go in that line. She was suicidal in grade 8 and battling with ADHD her whole life, when her mom decided to opt for home education instead. It saved and changed her life!

Maybe she is arty, or could start a business or take a course in photography or grow things…suggest things that don’t necessarily look like school if she has no interests of her own at this stage. Dont expect her to rush to all the suggestions either. She’s a millenial kid. They are wired differently!

Approach this as a learning adventure, because that is what it should be.

At first I threatened that  I am under obligation to report the injustice done to the child but the two of them sided together against granny.

 She is now beyond compulsory school going age..so any reporting will do nothing but damage the relationship, which it is clear you would prefer to preserve.  Schooling is only compulsory until the end of the year in which the child turns 15 or the end of the grade 9 year, whichever is sooner.

You make it sound like your grandchild’s life is over and her education is ruined with the words “injustice done to the child” – but I hope that I have helped you to see that this is just a part of her life journey, and all of life is learning. If she has taken a ‘vacation’ from formal learning, which I doubt, then she will learn something from that experience too. 

Better for her to have the time to find herself now, than to go through the expected motions of getting a matric, going to study and then bombing out then because she doesn’t really know who she is or what she wants to do with her life – which is what happens to many students in their early 20s.

It is never too late to continue one’s education, but it is pointless trying to take a horse to water and make it drink, if there is no motivation. Your grand-daughter needs to find something that she wants to do. She may have done so already and you just don’t see it. Maybe she is mad about horses, or  biking or music or dancing or something …that could become her career…but its not school, so you are discrediting it? Are you?

My daughter returned from another seminar in Pretoria.  Good news.  You only need to provide a Grade 12 certificate.  So how to get to Grade 12?   Easy…. we can do it in one year………….. never mind Grade 8.9.10.11

There is no requirement to first pass grades 10 and 11 if a student chooses to write the GED as a school-leaving certificate. However, the student will have to have mastered the skills required to pass the tests – Algebra and Geometry, essay writing skills, reading comprehension etc…so there will definitely be some academic preparation required. This information is out there. They know it. She will have to have reached at least about grade 10 level in the GED subjects before she will cope well with the GED prep course. But she can do it anytime.

Also the GED does not require parrot-fashion learning of facts and information, cramming the night before the tests, like traditional schooling…so when your granddaughter is ready to write her GED, she can enrol on the online study programme, do the preparation course, and write the tests when it tells her she is ready. Exam dates are self-selected and can be booked year round so there is no pressure to do it by June or November like with traditional school exams. There is also no deadline or time frame in which students must write the GED….so its much more flexible than the traditional matric option. That’s probably why they are so relaxed about it. They are allowing her to get other life experience as well.
The GED is recognised by SAQA as a foreign grade 12 equivalent.

Thus if my granddaughter is the one falling through the cracks how many others are falling through the cracks as some parents are just too busy to do home schooling and leaving it to the child to do the work?  Where is accountability built into the home school system?

She is only ‘falling through the cracks’ in your eyes, which are measuring according to the school system.  As I said, there is a good chance that she is simply getting a different kind of education than what you expected to see. They are not replicating school-at-home.

Many, many children also fall through the cracks in the school system. They drop out in droves (over 40%) in grade 10 and what happens to those children? Who is accountable for their incomplete education or lack of education in the dysfunctional school system?

Would putting this child into a school give a better result, if she is unmotivated or has learning difficulties, experienced bullying or has other emotional challenges such as depression or anxiety because of school?

Parents are in the best position to judge what is ‘in the best interests of the child‘ and are assumed to be doing so, until proven otherwise in a court of law. The parents know the child’s history, health, developmental issues, educational history and have other intimate information about the child that nobody else has, no teacher or other professional. Unless they are neglectful in other areas of parenting then it will be very difficult to prove that they have neglected this child’s education. In fact, they have attended seminars to LEARN more about home education, which is more than many other parents do.

This shows me that they are pro-active parents, who are seeking information about how to approach homeschooling and be successful in this counter-culture choice. Parents who are lazy or neglectful don’t spend time and money attending seminars about home education. Not TWO seminars especially!

I suspect that they may have made the choices they have for good reason, they have given the child some autonomy and responsibility for her learning for good reason and they are probably also waiting for her to mature and to take up that responsibility as a young adult.

What the parents probably need more than anything, is your support and interest, not your criticism. You are free to say that this is NOT what you would have chosen because of your background or whatever other reasons you may have, but tell them that you want the best for your granddaughter and you are interested in helping her to achieve her full potential, outside of the school system, on whatever path she is going to choose. Let them define what her full potential is to be!

Yes I know that in every good harvest there are a few bad apples but the farmer takes precaution to avoid these to the minimum.  What system does home schooling have in place to protect the child from parents who live in la-la land?

The same system that protects every other child in the country. Concerned citizens, friends, family members like yourself, as well as mandatory reporters in the community, such as pastors, medical personnel, teachers, policemen and others are obligated to report any signs of neglect of the rights of a child to shelter, clothing, education, food, healthcare etc.

In such cases, Social Welfare investigates the matter. This same system applies to school-going children and to children who are educated at home.Research suggests that there is far more neglect  and abuse of various types in the school-attending population than the children being home educated. Generally parents who want to neglect their children would rather send them away to school than keep them at home all day.

Parents who choose home education value building good relationships with their children and are willing to make sacrifices and take on that responsibility themselves, instead of delegating it to the school system.As I keep saying, home education can look very different to schooling, so be careful how you evaluate it.

Is your grand-daughter happy, is she confident, is she emotionally stable, does she seem happy to be home educated,  – those are also factors to consider with regards to her well-being.

Ask them if they are involved with other homeschooling families in a social network in their area – this is important for both the parents (moms especially) and children so that they have support and relationships with like-minded families who can also support and encourage them.

The moms need a ‘safe’ place to share their struggles and concerns. She is unlikely to confide in you at this point in time and needs support from others with more experience of home education.Is your grand-daughter interested in or involved in any extra-mural activities? Are there finances for this? Maybe you could offer this if necessary, if there is something she’d like to do?

Is there something that you (or one of your friends) could teach her that she wants to learn – to bake or sew, knit, crochet, scrap-book or garden or make jam or watch birds or play chess or paint paintings or whatever?

I don’t know their situation, but some homeschooling families battle to survive on one income if the mom is home full-time with the child/ren. Grandparents can enrich the children’s lives immensely by sharing their talents, wisdom and experience. And the benefit of the relationship is priceless, but its a challenge I know. I have millennial kids and its hard for my parents to relate to them and all their gadgets and online interests!

What is a responsible citizen like myself supposed to do?

If you truly believe there is neglect, you can report it. You can call social welfare and ask them to investigate. However, as I said, schooling is only compulsory till the end of the year in which a child turns 15, so I don’t think they will do much about this situation. Therefore the best suggestion I can think of, is to show interest and build a relationship of trust with the family, so that you can encourage and share in their lives more.

They will keep you on the outside if they feel that you are skeptical or critical of their choice. If you have offended them in the past by expressing concern that was perceived by them as a challenge or as criticism, then apologise for that and try to build and strengthen the relationship. They can all benefit by you being positively involved in their lives.

Report to whom and forfeit the relationship with you child!

Not if it is done anonymously. …but I don’t recommend this path. I don’t think it will bear any good fruit in this situation at all.
Report to MEC Education who will shut down Home Schooling because of a few parents do not realise what it truly entails to train a child at home!

They can’t just shut down homeschooling. Home education is a legal choice to make, written into section 51 of the SA Schools Act and the DBE claim they are very protective of the right of every child to receive basic education. They want to monitor homeschoolers much more strictly.

Unfortunately, they want to force home educators to replicate the school system and its ADMIN system and RED TAPE at home…and that is not in the best interests of most children (even the ones in the school system, in my opinion) and so there is likely to be a clash of interests during the legal process of getting new legislation passed. But in general, homeschoolers are well-informed about their rights and their RESPONSIBILITY and take it very seriously.

Perhaps the price my granddaughter has to pay will pave the way so that is does not happen to other children and that home schooling will indeed require some kind of reporting (accountability) at the end of every year.

Kind regards
[Concerned grandmother]

Perhaps the price is not the price you are envisioning. I hope not. I hope that she is just getting a completely different kind of education than what you expected to see. I would encourage you not to alienate them, but to keep on encouraging HER to take responsibility for her own education. She is in a position where she has the freedom to pursue almost anything she chooses.

Encourage her to discover what it is that motivates and inspires her. Ask her questions about her future…

Ask her what skills she thinks she still needs to develop to function as an independent adult one day…

ask her what her dreams are…

what her talents are, what hobbies she has…

what business ideas she has…etc

As I said before, don’t make this a ‘check up quiz’ about her schooling, but show interest in her LIFE and this ALTERNATIVE route they have chosen. Show an interest in the relationship and forget about the schooling. Its unlikely to ever be what you expect it to be!

As soon as they sense that you are genuinely interested, rather than concerned or “the disapproving school teacher”, then they might open up and tell you more about what is or isn’t going on with your grand-daughter. Maybe she is just having some down-time and deschooling, while she decides what she wants to do with her life.

Remember, there are no deadlines in life. She doesn’t have to have a matric by age 18 or any other age. The most important thing, to me, is that a child must be emotionally whole and healthy and know what they are good at, and believe that they can succeed at whatever they (eventually, in some cases) choose to do. That to me, is much more important than have a matric in hand, but you are insecure, don’t know yourself and don’t have confidence to take on life as an adult and pursue your own goals.

I deal with insecure parents daily, who are products of the school system and are petrified of going against the norms, even though they know that the System is failing their children. They have been groomed to be obedient followers who trust the ‘experts’ to tell them what to do with their lives and their children’s lives and so making a decision, taking the responsibility and facing the possible consequences is very scary.

The ones who do it are BRAVE, they deserve admiration for the courage to make such an unconventional choice, they are saying NO to the failing school system and YES to finding a better solution for their children, even at the risk of the disapproval of their own family. Its tough for them too and they don’t always get it right because they are on a learning curve themselves. They weren’t ever home educated, no one modelled this role for them, they are pioneering the way for their child and they may take a few wrong turns, but at least they had the courage to try something different and learn along the way. All of life is LEARNING and it never ends, its never over.

I hope you don’t mind this very long rambly reply. I really enjoyed your challenging questions and I hope I have not offended you by challenging you back, but my intention is to try to help you get a different perspective on the situation with your loved ones that concerns you.
Keep the dialogue open with them and learn with them as they go.

I am sure that the unknown future is also scary for them but  I would assume that they are trusting their child, your grand-daughter to find something she wants to pursue and to do it, in her own time and her own way….and if the worst is true – they attended seminars and still did nothing – there is still nothing stopping your grand-child from learning via unconventional ways or conventional ways WHEN SHE wants to.

Millennials have the internet at their fingertips and she has a Granny who is a professional teacher too. She can learn if and when she wants to. Keep encouraging her. Don’t write her off as “falling through the cracks’ as  ‘bad apple” as a suffering an ‘injustice’ and ‘paying the price’….  Don’t use that kind of language in their presence. Her life and her education is not over, only her schooling is. As Mark Twain said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”

She is not a victim of her education or lack of schooling. People who succeed in life are successful because they have an “I CAN DO IT” attitude. This article Schooling is not the Secret to Success in Life highlights that

  1. successful people did not become victims of their circumstances and
  2. although they may have dropped out of school or university, they never dropped out of LEARNING.

Your grand-child needs to take ownership of her life and her learning. I think her parents are giving her time to realise that and their choice should be respected. If they are not and they are neglectful, she still needs to be gently guided to that place where she decides what she wants to do and then takes the steps to do it.

At 16 she has enough skills to pursue self-directed learning when she wants to. I think she has family support to help her succeed. I don’t think its all doom and gloom.

Her educational path and time-line is just very different and very unknown to everyone – and I remain optimistic because they are brave enough to defy the norms and go off the beaten track.

Regards
Shirley