Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grandparents as Resources

When I first heard that my daughter wanted to home school, I thought back to the New York City teachers strike in the 70’s, my only attempt at home schooling. I lasted less than a day. But hey! My daughter is at a different place than I was and I respected her decision. What I could do, and what our family does so well, is help.

My career has been spent as a gerontologist, working with older adults. So I know that today’s grandparents are very different from my own grandparents. They are often better educated – both my husband and I have Masters degrees – and many have been professionals. They have so much to offer to the home schooling experience. I also believe that all grandparents have talents, gifts, knowledge, skills – whatever their educational level – that can be turned into a resource for the home schooler.

At the turn of the 20th century, my own grandmother, who finished 8th grade and went to work in NYC’s garment industry, had longed to be a teacher (maybe that’s where my daughter gets her skills.) She taught me to sew. My husband grew up in Puerto Rico; his native language is Spanish. What a help to home schooled grandkids learning a language. Plus he can fill them in with a first hand account of what it was like growing up in a culture so different from their own.

My bachelor’s degree is in Math so I sometimes help out when an algebra problem proves a bit too challenging. Having worked for non-profits for over 30 years, I was able to give my granddaughter an experience of social service work. She helped at one of our Harlem soup kitchens one year, giving out Thanksgiving turkeys. And she was able to observe and participate in the process of the event every step of the way. What a lesson in organization and planning, transferable to a multitude of real life situations!

My favorite home school resource role is enhancing my daughter’s lessons. Many retirees have the time and desire to take grandchildren on learning excursions, whether day trips or longer vacations. I enjoy bringing my grandchildren to the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens for onsite nature and science lessons. They really read all the descriptions of the plants and animals! When I take them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they recognize many masterpieces and artists from their Mom’s lessons.

Last February, thanks to my connections to the traditional school community, I was delighted bring my granddaughter to Italy on an educational trip with a Manhattan high school. There is no greater education than experiencing history and culture on the spot. I was so proud of how she prepared for our trip, learning Italian phrases and studying about the museums and cities we would visit. A win-win for both generations.

And of course, grandparents are the source of living history. The end of World War II, air raid drills during the Cold War, the early days of television, the Mc Carthy hearings, the Rosenberg trial – I lived this history as a child and can talk about it from that perspective, growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. As a young adult, I lived through Vatican II and Vietnam protests, Civil Rights and the Women’s Movement, assassinations and the first man on the moon. I remember my grandmother telling me how hard it was during the depression; it made that time come alive for me. I’ve left a written record of my memories – "Grandma’s Story" – for the next generation. I add chapters on everyday life way back when – which is my idea of history. Each of my grandkids receives the chapters in old fashioned book form but it’s also posted on my blog.

There’s much more that grandparents can offer as resources. Ask your own elders what they can share. But, of course, the best gift we grandparents can give is our love and support to both the home schooler and home schoolee.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I’m not complaining. We’ve had a delightfully cool summer this year. But when the heat and humidity returns, it doesn’t take long to be frazzled and fried. Anyone who’s lived through a New York City summer doesn’t need this poem explained.


I know I’m not a
I feel like a fish
breathing in a bowl of
liquid air that
drenches and drains.

While my green
friends soak up
the drippy atmosphere
and party.
I look
They look marvelous.
Guess that’s the upside
of humidity.

© E.M. Ramos 7/31/2009