When one considers the benefits of homeschooling, it is often the academic advantages or perhaps a bad experience from the past that most influences the decision. But one of the most beautiful things about homeschooling is the ability to add caring for aging grandparents and creating amazing memories seamlessly to your days. We found this to be true when my own mother was diagnosed with cancer when Ben was just 10 years old.
“Can we take Grammy to lunch after her doctor appointment?”
Grammy days were special days. These were the days we took Grammy to her doctor’s appointments. On those days, we gathered a tote bag of educational materials ready to spend the morning in a waiting room. While Grammy saw her doctor, we solved handwritten math equations and used letter tiles to spell the week’s words. After the appointment, we took Grammy to lunch or drove to a nearby lake to feed ducks. Grammy days were a regular part of our routine for ten years.
As Grammy aged, my mother took her to most of her appointments. When we did help with Grammy, our time with her looked different. She moved slower and appointments took longer. She needed a walker which we learned to fold up and took turns lifting into the trunk. Sometimes we had to read medical forms to her as her eyesight dimmed due to macular degeneration. Amazingly, Grammy remained determined to enjoy time with us. It was a precious season of serving, giving, and loving.
In 2014, Grammy became ill. Her recovery seemed hopeful some days and grim others. At 95, we came to realize she could no longer live in her apartment alone. We researched living options. My oldest daughter insisted on helping with the process. She joined my mother and me as we toured facilities, met with care professionals, sampled food in dining areas, talked to financial advisors, and decided what level of care would be best for Grammy. We wrestled with her maintaining all the independence she could manage and she remained stubbornly determined. We were intentional about giving her the dignity.
Homeschooling and Caring for Aging Grandparents
We all knew we wouldn’t have many more Grammy days. This reality was hard. Yet, every one of my children voiced a desire to spend as much time with her as possible. Thankfully we were homeschooling and the assisted living facility was ten minutes from our home. For five months we visited Grammy two to three times a week. When we did, each child instinctively used their giftings to bless Grammy. The oldest packed Grammy’s favorite games—BINGO and UNO. One daughter (the most energetic and exuberant) pushed her wheelchair around the gardens. The youngest visitor made sure we stopped to buy Grammy her favorite treats—orange slices and a Frappuccino. During our time with Grammy, one of our children always asked Grammy about her childhood and the historical events she experienced. She, of course, loved talking about her life, family, and friends. On Valentine’s Day, we delivered handmade cards to the residents where she lived and the activities director asked us to be a part of the community egg hunt at Easter. The staff knew each of us by name.
During those last months of Grammy’s life, the last of our Grammy days, our family had many discussions about life, about what mattered, and how we could love Grammy well. We shared our sadness and shed tears together. The children all had questions, especially on the days when Grammy was transported to the ER and we visited there. Though the circumstances were often hard, we continued to hold her hand, helped her bring a straw close to her mouth, and told her how special she was to our family.
I remember the last day of Grammy’s life. Knowing she was close to leaving us, I hugged my children and went to be by her side. Within hours, I called my husband Mike with the news. The children wanted Mike to bring them to the facility. Though I wondered how they would handle the circumstances, I knew how close they were to Grammy. They wanted to be with her. The staff of the facility was so accommodating. When Grammy took her last breath, we gathered around her bed and prayed together as a family. Our family spent our last Grammy day, together. It was part of caring for her well.
I wouldn’t change a thing about how we spent our days during Grammy’s last five months of life. Yet, in the midst of that season, I often wondered how we would keep up with academics. At the time, I had a high schooler, two middle schoolers, an elementary-aged learner and a toddler. In June, shortly after Grammy passed, I sat to update my high school daughter’s transcript and almost cried. What was I going to do about her credits? My daughter overheard my plea and questioned, “What about all I learned while caring for Grammy?”
My daughter and I talked. I was amazed. She listed at least fifteen significant content topics she learned first-hand about caring for the elderly, everything from levels of care to financial options and obligations. Our daughter and her siblings learned about real-life—how to care for people and consider their needs—through experience, conversations, and decisions. After talking with my high schooler, and searching for high school and college level courses on elderly care, I didn’t hesitate about awarding her credit for a course we titled Cares and Concerns of the Elderly.
Perhaps you are entering a season of having to decide whether or not homeschooling and caring for aging grandparents will work for your family. I can’t make the decision for you, nor would I want to assume I could. I can, however, encourage you to be courageous and think outside the box in regards to education. Educational games, a read-aloud book, pencils and paper, and review worksheets can be placed in a tote bag, ready to grab should you have to leave the house for a spontaneous hospital or care visit. There will be hard days and difficult conversations, but don’t underestimate the potential and significance of the season. Pray together as a family. Ask your children for input. Listen to each person’s ideas about how to interweave home education and caring for your loved one. When a family decides together, they’ll be in it together. I’m cheering you on as you make your decision.
Cheryl Bastian began her teaching career by making worksheets for her brothers. Those days evolved into tutoring students while in high school, majoring in early childhood education, and most importantly homeschooling eight children—ages twenty-eight to three—for the last twenty-four years. As a magazine columnist, author, and speaker, Cheryl enthusiastically encourages parents to be intentional, real, and relational as they aspire to raise lifelong learners. Her resources are available at Celebrate Simple.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.