When Grandparents are Anti-Unschooling

When Grandparents Are Anti-Unschooling

Sometimes a grandparent doesn't know what to do when it comes to their unschooled grandkids.

What happens when their friends share all the school accolades of their grandkids?

What do they brag about with their friends?

What if they're sad their grandkid is "missing out" on school fun?

These kinds of problems are easily solved!

  • Parents can share more about what the kids are doing and maybe even some things they've learned about recently.
  • Parents can regularly share pictures of the kids having fun with other children (especially if the concern is "what about socialization?")
  • Parents can talk to the grandparents to explain all the advantages their child has because they're unschooled... or maybe calling it an "experiential progressive learning approach" would be a better way to describe what your family has chosen to do! The word, unschooling, can be a turn off.

But sometimes the criticism can be harsher. And it can leave parents stunned and saddened that the grandparents are not on board! Grandparents may have been stewing about the educational choice but not sure how to broach the subject. Or maybe they've dropped little hints of disapproval that parents are not picking up on or are choosing to ignore. 

Then they blow up and say something insulting - or they pull their grandchild aside and try to persuade them that school is the better place to be. 

This can cause parents to feel angry and hurt.

Let's break this all apart so we can see how to solve the situation. Getting our own ego under control so we can react with a calm head and clear thoughts.

Their Lack of Information

It's very likely that the grandparents are probably operating on way less information. They haven't been researching unschooling the way we have! Not only are they remembering schools from twenty or thirty years ago, but history and memories have a way of getting distorted.

Feeling Their Parenting Choices Are Criticized

Grandparents may feel that the message is that we're unhappy with how they raised us. Choosing a different path may feel like we're rejecting the choices they made. Grandparents may need to be reassured that our decisions about our own children and their education have to do with what we've learned about education and what we see in the world today. If you had a good childhood, you could even mention that your ability to choose what's best over what's popular was something they encouraged and nurtured in you!

Roles Shifting

Unschooling Guide: Critics
Dive deeper into reasons and solutions for coping with critics who are family members in this Unschooling Guide!

Sometimes the issue is all about roles - especially if you're new to parenting. Maybe when the children were little, you may have turned to them a lot for parenting advice. This isn't a bad thing, per se, because we can all learn a lot from generations before us. But sometimes it keeps us in the Daughter/Son role and doesn't allow us to move into our Competent Adult role. We may not even be 100% confident in this role ourselves! It's a process.

So our own parents step back into what's familiar to them - being in charge! As we all get older, roles shift and change. Learning to embrace our own ability to be The Decision Maker for our own family may be a new role for us. We may even send mixed messages to our older parents about our indecisiveness. If these roles are clear, we can do this. But if they're not, grandparents may overstep. After all, they love us and their grandchildren. It's not unusual to want to step in to offer their solutions! Leaving behind those roles can be hard for us - and even harder for our own aging parents!


A complicating factor for many of us has to do with people-pleasing and approval-seeking traits we've developed. It's not surprising that we have these! We've had years of conditioning from our own school experience as well as the mainstream parenting styles that were used - no wonder this can be a struggle for many of us!

It's important to realize that learning new ways is path filled with a lot of trial and error. (emphasis on the error!) But in the same way our unschooled children learn, we learn too!  It may take some journaling and/or internal work to see our personal journey and inner motivations - but that's how growth happens, right?

Compassion for Their Fear

Once you’ve embraced these ideas - and it may not happen overnight - it helps to remind ourselves that sometimes even the harshest comments are coming from fear.  You may know clearly that your own parents love you and your child. But their fear has gotten the better of them. When you can reframe that to see that it's possible that they love your child so much that they're will to risk making you mad. That might help you find the compassion and let go of the more ego-driven responses that get triggered.

What Can You Do?

So it’s about taking a deep breath, regrouping, and looking at where your priorities are. You may have to say something like,
“I’m sorry you can’t get on board with this, Dad. But it’s my family and my call.”

What Can They Do?

Sometimes grandparents need us to help them figure out ways they can connect with their grandkids (and with us) instead of the usual, "What did you learn in school today?"

Here are a dozen ways they can be the grandparents we know they want to be:

Grandparenting and Unschooling

Need Some Support?

If you're feeling alone because your family isn't being supportive, we have a private community, Creating Confidence, that may be exactly the support you need! You really do not have to be so isolated as you navigate your way through all of this with your family. So many families have experienced this and are happy to help you find a solution that fits! Sometimes it helps to have your own community of supporters!! Join us!

Leave a Reply