Can My Grandmother Home-school Me?
By Ann Zeise
Yes, a grandmother may homeschool her grandchildren. And so may a grandfather, aunt, uncle, or older sibling, once the parents or legal guardians have set up a legal homeschool according to the laws of their state.
Since the dawn of time relatives have helped educate their grandchildren.
All parents may “outsource,” to use a business term, to any others that they wish to help educate their children. Many outsource to the public school system or private schools, and many pay for sports coaching or a music teacher and such when these lessons are beyond what they can offer at home. These activities have never been regulated.
If, as a grandparent, you have the legal guardianship of your grandchild, then just follow your state laws. If you do not, then the child’s parents need to set up a legal homeschool. It would be a good idea for you to read and know the laws so that you know what requirements of the law you can help fulfill, but ultimately, it will be up to the parents to see that the laws are obeyed. By being up on your state homeschool laws, you’ll better understand why your adult child is asking you to document your educational activities and such.
Let’s take some typical examples.
Situation #1: Parents and Grandparents Live in the Same School District
The parents work, so intend to drop the grandchild off each working day for grandmother to homeschool the child. The child will usually be picked up each evening. The grandparents are not being paid to homeschool, only to have their expenses reimbursed.
Check with your state law to see if it asks to know about any additional instructors. Some states, such as California, have room on their form to list others. While it would not be necessary to fill out this section for occasional instruction by another, if a grandparent were going to be the primary instructor, and the school district was not known to be particularly homeschool-friendly, then add the grandparent as an instructor. If the state doesn’t ask, don’t volunteer it.
Situation #2: Parents and Grandparents Live in Different School Districts
In this case it would probably be advisable to make copies of your homeschool legal documents and give a copy to the grandparents’ school superintendent, just so that truant officers won’t be sent out to investigate why your child is not in school in that neighborhood.
Situation #3: Parents and Grandparents Live in Different States
This might occur when two cities are fairly close together, but in different states. My advice: file in both states as a precaution the first year, but follow the record keeping and testing requirements of the state where the child is a legal resident. Or establish a small private school in the grandparents’ state, following those laws. The child would be enrolled in their “private school” then, much as a child who crossed a state line to go to a much larger private school. Get legal advice on this, as this could get complicated.
Situation #4: Grandparents Wish to Travel with Grandchild
How nice of you to offer! Parents should establish the legal homeschool, and give copies of the documents to the Grandparents to have along. If you will be gone during any reporting or testing period, make arrangements in advance to have the dates made more convenient. The Traveling Homeschoolers community has lots of tips and advice for those homeschooling on the road.
Educational Requirements for Paid Tutoring
A few states have parental educational requirements, but not many. None have requirements for grandparents. However, if you are being paid to tutor, beyond expenses, then you may need to meet the educational requirements of a tutor in your state, and to establish a small business as a tutor. This may seem like extra paperwork, but you will be able to deduct business expenses from your taxes. For grandparents with a college education, this might work to your advantage. As your adult children are likely not to be able to deduct any homeschool expenses, this might help the overall tax picture for the family. There are some states that do allow homeschool expense deductions. The parents could also say they are paying you for child care, and you are doing the tutoring for free. See a good tax accountant to see which would best suit your needs.
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Joys and Concerns
Those who teach often learn more than their pupils, as they try to understand the broader concepts so they can explain them better to their students. Your grandchildren may be able to teach you something about new technology, so be open to sometimes being the student!
Do set up some means of reporting to the parents what you feel the children have been learning. It is often a good idea to have some physical project to show each day.
Disagreements about methods or subject matter are bound to come up, so plan in advance how such disagreements will be handled. The last thing you want is a family rift! Plan an exit strategy in advance. How will it be determined that it is time for you not to be the primary homeschool adult?
While it is generous of you to give your time, do not let this turn into a co-dependent situation. The parents still have evenings, weekends, and holidays, and should be doing some homeschool activities during those hours with their children. If the parents are physically and mentally capable of sharing the educational responsibility, then make sure the full burden isn’t on you. You shouldn’t be homeschooling your grandkids so their parents can gad about, behaving like children.
Last word of advice: have fun! If you aren’t having more fun homeschooling then you would otherwise, then it may be time to give it up.