From 50s to Finger Paint: Our Journey Into Homeschooling

February 6, 2024
Written by:
Guest Author

Have you ever considered homeschooling, but quickly dismissed it for one reason or another? Whether age, perceived ability, or any other obstacle may lie in your path, don’t be so quick to write off homeschooling. Some hurdles may have to be overcome, but take a moment to consider the form your life can take. You may find the homeschool benefits far outweigh the barriers, as is the case for this grandmother and guest author, Alice Meanswell.

Accidental Homeschoolers

Our homeschooling adventure began in May 2020 when our oldest granddaughter broke her leg jumping down from a tree.  She was in Kindergarten, and it was a little over a month after the closing of her Elementary school.  Her break was severe and the cast went all the way up her leg to just below the hip.

Once the leg was healed, our primary concern became mobility and utility. We scheduled dance classes for her and her younger sister. Through the summer, we had a makeshift dance floor made out of scrap linoleum and an inflatable swimming pool that allowed her to use her injured leg freely with limited impact. In the meantime, we were cautious and aware of the growing scenario of masks, plastic, and hand sanitizer that awaited her should she return to school in the fall…if they even opened our schools back up.

We decided that at six years old, she needed oxygen and friendly faces, tapping toes and open spaces, and the ability to grow in a childhood where everyone was not afraid of each other. We looked into Charter schools and Homeschool co-ops before finally settling on an online public option, where we got to do all the teaching and be graded for the effort.  This quickly became annoying, but we stuck with it for almost three years while the world had its medical time out.

Can We Homeschool?

From the beginning, everyone who found out we were getting off the bench at 50 to play a whole new inning in the game of life thought we had completely lost our minds. I suppose we did, but so did everyone else… Honestly, grown-ups fighting over toilet paper and in front of little people. 2020 was a year of chaos for the history books.

My mom responded to our situation by saying, “Do you think you can teach them school?” My response was, “Well I graduated from the 1st grade and I actually remember and can do most of what I learned there, so I think I will be capable of teaching 1st grade.” She laughed and has since been an active member of Project Generation Homeschool. Our grandchildren know their great-grandparents well and visit often. (A bonus benefit!)

Creating a Homeschool Space and Schedule

We found a 1970s kindergarten round table, like the one I had as a child, and put it in the living room with 6 little chairs and a chalkboard on the wall, then we built a library in the garage. We had pencils, paper, and every curriculum that we could get our hands on going back 100 years, and more school supplies than 3 primary schools would ever need.

Second-hand stores were found to be amazing places to discover the discarded homeschool items from families past, so we used them until they became annoying or irrelevant, thenA Grandparent's Homeschool Journey sent them on to another loving home. We bought way too many resource materials, workbooks, music, balance beams, dance bars, scooters, mats, keyboards, and so many more books.  My husband often looked longingly into the area that once held his grown-up toys like his desk and chair and shook his head at the image of a romper room that stared back.

In the beginning, we were structured. Children, of course, want that. In the mornings, we pulled portable balance beams, parachutes, balls, and stepping stones outside for recess.  I will add that this is when my husband realized the temporary work-from-home arrangement was going to be a little less temporary and much more he now worked from home.

Things would get dicey when I’d set everything up in the yard for gym and my husband would decide to take his meetings on the porch.  That only happened a few times before we had a conversation about our home being run like a company. I suggested that he could conduct meetings in a more suitable location…perhaps, the office. It was a learning curve for us all.

How Homeschooling Changed Us

Homeschooling has reminded me that if you’re six years old and you find another six-year-old on the playground, you are twins. I also remembered that children do not care who they play with as long as they can play, and lunch at the park becomes the best day ever when it is followed by an ice cream cone.

My house is noisy and bubbling all of the time. We always have play dough ready to use under the table. My grandchildren have science labs with microscopes and experiments that fizzle and goo, and a ladybug nursery on a milkweed plant which has become a life science lesson. We are now frequent visitors to the skating rink, the girls have joined a local children’s musical theater, and wow, do we love our local parks.

Teaching is a natural state for me because I’m a bossy historian and a writer.  Questions turn into stories which turn into lessons because learning is not structured around a few hours a day. One of my favorite things to do is find a new word and have them learn all the synonyms including the exceptionally old ones from the dictionary.  For example, we learned blithe, mirth, eupeptic, and jocund are all words that mean “merry, happy, excited, and joy“. This holiday season, we had fun with that one. I am teaching them that words are the keys that open the doors in life.

Homeschooling Benefits and Life Lessons

My grandchildren know who they are.  They know they are loved.  They have boundaries, rules, and expectations, and they understand it is my job to help them unlock the potential that they were born to share with the world. They know they are important.

During this time, I have learned that at 53 years old, I can tap dance, but I should not hoverboard. I also discovered I can no longer roller skate… at least if I want to stay upright. I can do one bad cartwheel to prove to an 8-year-old that you never know what you can do til you try.

I have also found that I am way better at math than I remember. I love science. I still talk too much and too fast. I like painting. In addition, I’ve learned I do not need to tune into Dr. Phil every afternoon, and most importantly, this season of homeschooling is the best way I could ever spend this second inning in the game of life.


More About the Author:

Homeschool Grandmother Leslie Rasmussen Darr, pen name Alice Meanswell, is a writer, avid historian, book enthusiast, photographer, wife, mother of four, and grandmother of eight.  She was married in 1989 to her husband Andrew, and together they raised four children.  Their empty nest became a primary school in 2020 when she and her daughter began homeschooling her grandchildren.

Currently, she and her husband are developing her website where her writings, poetry, and photography will be posted. In the 1990s, she studied nursing but failed to finish when one of her children was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the family pivoted toward a journey of recovery.  Twenty-one years later, that child is the mother of 5. 

In Oct. 2021, their family suffered the loss of Ava Marie, their three-week-old granddaughter, followed in May 2022 with the loss of granddaughter Amelia Grace, who was just under 3 months old.  Homeschooling made it possible for their family to know every possible moment with these little girls and as they have moved through the immense loss, it has given the family the space to heal together.