By Crystal Niehoff, Crosswalk.com
This is a tale of how one grandmother refused to let distance keep her from making an impact in the life of her granddaughter through home education. When the pandemic shut down schools across the United States in the spring of 2020, my oldest daughter, Stephanie, like many parents, unexpectedly found herself thrust overnight into educating her daughter, Lexi, at home.
Although the local school administration did eventually work out a system for students to complete their schoolwork from home, Stephanie found herself overwhelmed by the lack of parental support from school officials and coping with the seemingly never-ending Zoom meetings with teachers.
Early 2020 had already been extraordinarily stressful for Stephanie and her husband as they welcomed premature twins in January who required care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for several weeks. Then, within a short time of their release from the NICU, first one twin and then the other were hospitalized again with the Respiratory Syncytial Virus. It was a challenge, to say the least, for Stephanie and Lexi to finish the school year.
Over the summer, their local school district announced a mask mandate for students as they returned to the classrooms that fall. Lexi struggles with asthma, which is aggravated by the extended use of a mask. Stephanie, though caring for premature twins and coping with her own health issues, decided it was in her daughter’s best interest to be homeschooled. But Stephanie found herself wondering how she could possibly keep up with Lexi’s academics on top of myriad other demands.
My husband, Kevin, is an active-duty army chaplain, and our family is stationed several states away from our two oldest daughters and their families. My grandmother’s heart desperately prayed for a way to help long-distance. One night, as I was pouring my heart out to my husband, he asked if it would be possible for me to homeschool our granddaughter online. At first, I was doubtful. How would I oversee her curriculum, create daily assignments, grade her work, and keep records? However, Lexi was ten, and many schools were holding virtual classes for kids even younger than she, so I decided, "If there’s a will, there’s a way!" Upon sharing Kevin’s idea with Stephanie, she was thrilled! My daughter, herself, was homeschooled and always wanted that for her own children, but many obstacles made it seem like an impossible dream. Now she had a way, and I was grateful to be able to contribute in some small way.
How We Do It
First, my daughter and I worked together to create a plan. I felt it was important to communicate to Stephanie that I recognize that she is the parent, not I, and that I am supporting her and will follow her lead. We then searched for a curriculum that would work for me to oversee virtually but met my daughter’s spiritual and academic goals for Lexi. Next, we developed a schedule and school calendar, and mutually decided on how to keep records and communicate assignments. When we run into kinks, my daughter and I work them out together, but she always has the final say on changes to Lexi’s routine or curriculum.
Lexi and I mainly use a video chat app to talk when she needs help with her assignments. Stephanie answers many of Lexi’s questions herself now that she has more time to devote to homeschooling. However, Lexi and I enjoy working together on her schoolwork, so I am still very much involved, and our relationship has grown even closer than ever before.
A Word of Advice
One word of advice to other homeschooling grandmothers is to think of your role like this— as a grandmother, you are in a supporting role as your grandchild’s homeschool teacher; your grandchild’s parents are the principal and vice-principal. Always respect your grandchild’s parents and their place of authority in his or her life. This will go far in nurturing a peaceful and respectful relationship among everyone, and your relationships will grow closer as a result.
"The aged women, likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." (Titus 2:1–5 KJV)
Copyright 2021, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms. Read The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com, or download the free reader apps at www.TOSApps.com for mobile devices. Read the STORY of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine and how it came to be.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
Crystal Niehoff is an army chaplain’s wife, mother of five, and grandmother to five. In 2000, Crystal and her family began their homeschooling journey, which Crystal now continues with her oldest granddaughter, Lexi. Previously a child welfare worker and former owner and CEO of Army Wife Network, Crystal is a staff member for The Old Schoolhouse®, additionally holding certifications as a birth and bereavement doula and chaplain. Their family is currently stationed in Columbia, South Carolina.