Just Change Your Title
By Barb Heki
During the final few years of homeschooling our children, I vividly remember listening to friends in a similar situation. They had conversations about “what’s next.”
Some lamented their children leaving. They assumed that an empty nest would be extremely lonely and wondered what they would do with their time.
Others were excited about the prospect of going back to their former profession, or starting a new one, in order to FINALLY have a higher disposable income.
But it was the third type of empty nesters that attracted my husband and me. Since they had already been living at their present income for years, these parents didn’t need to default to the job world. Instead, they spoke of ministry opportunities — in their communities, churches, missions, and in the homeschooling community.
Yes! They wanted to encourage younger homeschooling parents to follow the desire that God had put in their hearts to homeschool their children — and to stay that course through thick and thin, because they themselves had successfully done it, and so could these new parents! They had insights, ideas and first-hand experiences to offer — not only things that worked perfectly, but also things that were utter failures — and ultimately how God worked through it all to prepare their children academically for life. With God’s enabling, these parents had learned to spiritually disciple their children through every waking moment. They longed to help new homeschooling parents discover that education is a family lifestyle of learning together – an integral part of biblical discipleship — preparing and equipping their sons and daughters, not just for this life, but for eternity.
That “they” is now “we,” because my husband and I joined their ranks! We have encouraged homeschooling families for more than a decade since completing the homeschooling of our own children K-12.
So what, exactly, can veteran homeschooling parents do to help younger families who are right in the thick of it, or maybe even afraid to start? There are myriad ways:
Help the “Crisis Homeschooling” Families
Because so many families have literally been “thrown” into educating their children at home after schools were shut down by a virus, there are countless open-door opportunities to encourage them. Their most immediate need is to understand how much EASIER and even more FUN homeschooling can be compared with what they have been forced to do. We tell families that, although we homeschooled our children K-12, we could never do what they are doing for any sustained amount of time; it is simply overwhelming to perform and report at the school’s beck and call! After their initial looks of shock, we describe how freeing and less stressful it is to homeschool independently. Instead of being handed curriculum, assignments, deadlines and reporting requirements, answering to the public or private school online teacher, they can choose their own curriculum, create their own schedule, tailor courses to their child’s future interests, do hands-on learning with lots of field trips instead of reading about topics at a desk, take family vacations any time of the year, and get lots of support from other homeschooling families through local groups. They are amazed. They don’t know this! But you offer them a credible testimony as a veteran homeschooler and they can see the results in your children. They need a convincing vision of the end result, and you are it!
Formalize Your Mentoring
Another way veteran homeschoolers can get involved is as a “mentoring mom” or “mentoring dad,” which some local support groups offer. These can be small-group sessions or one-on-one meetings. Either way, they are extremely valuable to help new homeschoolers work through whatever struggles they may be having.
The Sky is the Limit
The ideas for hands-on help are endless. You can help plan field trips, advise on curriculum, connect families to helpful digital content, informally chat with parents as their preschool children play together in “play groups,” teach a class at a co-op, help with a drama production, coach a sports team, offer science experiments in your back yard or at a park, and on and on. As we all remember, there are so many things that busy homeschooling parents don’t have the time to research, prepare or execute, simply because their plate is overflowing. This is especially true if they are simultaneously working a job or are single parents – as a growing number are.
Get the Grandparents Involved!
Inspiring and helping grandparents to actively take part in their grandchildren’s home education is our heart and passion. THIS is the parent’s ticket to relieving stress, while enabling the grandparents to forge deeper relationships with the grandchildren and become part of the discipleship process.
To that end, we founded an international organization, “Grandparents of Homeschoolers,” to encourage, inspire and equip grandparents to come alongside — whether they live locally or long-distance. There is so much grandparents can do, either face to face, or digitally!
If you don’t have grandchildren of your own, consider “adopting” a homeschooling family at your church, or in a local homeschooling group, who doesn’t have involved or supportive grandparents. You’ll find many such families out there, especially single-parent families, who would love to have a “surrogate grandparent” around to get involved in their children’s lives.
Continue Supporting CHEWV
You may not realize it, but you were able to freely homeschool your children precisely because CHEWV and sister homeschooling organizations here and elsewhere worked closely with the Home School Legal Defense Association to secure this freedom. This partnership not only helped make homeschooling legal for every parent, but continues to help KEEP homeschooling legal by fending off threatening legislation … which is introduced ALL the time! If you want to keep homeschooling legal and parent-led in West Virginia for other families including your future grandchildren and great grandchildren, the best way to do that is to remain an active member of CHEWV. Like most state homeschooling organizations, CHEWV relies on membership income to fund its legislative battles and occasional academic research studies, to maintain its presence in the public arena (e.g. website) and to promote additional benefits for WV homeschooling families.
Be A Homeschooling Advocate to Lawmakers
It’s easy to get out of the loop when you’re no longer homeschooling, so purpose to stay abreast of what is happening legislatively by reading communications from CHEWV. Then take action: pray! Prayer is the most spontaneous and important thing you can do. Additionally, allocate some of your extra time to make phone calls, write emails and visit legislators to establish relationships. Then when West Virginia homeschoolers need a friend in the state legislature, you’ve already established rapport! By staying closely aligned with CHEWV, you will know what is needed, and when. Even just a few veteran homeschoolers can make a huge difference because, again, YOU and your successfully home-educated children are the living evidence that homeschooling works!
The biggest factor for my husband and me, in continuing our ministry to homeschooling families as veteran homeschoolers, is the eternal perspective we get from Scripture. Life is short, and Christ instructs us to make disciples. Education IS discipleship. So the best way to make disciples is for parents and grandparents to educate their children and grandchildren – with Scripture as the foundation and substance of every academic subject. Those of us who are veteran homeschoolers can also reach beyond our own families and help disciple younger families who will one day follow in our footsteps — with their own new ideas, experiences and encouragement for the families they will serve.
Stay involved! And enjoy your new journey!
© 2020, Grandparents of Homeschoolers
Barb Heki and her husband Rich are the founders and directors of “Grandparents of Homeschoolers.” As 19-year homeschool leaders with four adult children and three grandchildren, they speak nationally and internationally to encourage, inspire, and equip grandparents to become actively involved in the home-education adventure of their grandchildren — whether they live locally or long-distance.
Rich and Barb are both graduates of Drake University and have volunteered in various Christian ministry leadership capacities for 40 years. They are passionate defenders of parental rights and homeschooling freedoms, encouraging families to seek God's direction in every aspect of their homeschool journey. They view education as a lifestyle, believing that if we teach children HOW to learn, how to LOVE learning, and how to follow GOD's direction in their lives, they will experience what true success really is.