Homeschool my Nephew? | The Unplanned Homeschooler

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

My nephew is going into middle school in the fall. He seems so unhappy in public school, and has told my kids that he wishes he could be homeschooled like they are, but my sister is a single parent who works full time, and to be honest I am not even sure he has been honest with her about how miserable he is at school.

I really want to offer to homeschool my nephew alongside my own kids, who are close to his age. I think he would be so much happier. How do I broach the topic with his mom without making her feel like I am stepping on her toes? She does sometimes seem resentful of the fact that I have been able to stay home with my kids while she has always had to work to support her son alone. I don’t want her to think I am judging her life; I just want to help.

Hoping to homeschool my nephew

Dear Hoping,

What a generous offer to make, especially if you are considering homeschooling this young man without compensation for your time and efforts! Homeschooling is not an easy job, much less when you are teaching someone else’s child. Assuming it is legal to homeschool someone else’s child in your state, it sounds like you could make a huge difference in his life.

Your sister will need to be confident that your offer is genuine, and from a position of love and not superiority. You have to make it clear that you know she *is doing her best, and that you want to support her and work together as a team, where ultimately, as your nephew’s mom, she will be the team leader.

I would say the best way to bring up the idea would be to just ask her if, assuming it were free or totally affordable, she would ever consider a private tutor for her son instead of public school. If *her answer is an emphatic no, don’t press. But if she hesitates to think about it, or says yes, then make your offer and see what she thinks.

Either way, please find a way to talk to her about what your kids have told you. She may already know her son is miserable, but teens often tell each other things they don’t feel like they can say to their parents. You’d want to know if your kids were feeling this way, right?


Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

Why do people keep telling me to just let my son play? He is five years old, and other kids his age will be going into kindergarten in the fall. Other kids his age in preschool have been learning sight words and basic math, and from what I understand, they will be expected to read in kindergarten. But as a homeschooler, when I ask for advice on curriculum for students his age, other parents jump all over me and tell me kids in Finland don’t start school until they are seven, and I should just let my son play and do whatever he wants. That sounds crazy!

Ready to start teaching right now

Dear Ready,

Although it is true that pushing too much on kids, academically, before they are ready can have a negative impact on their lifelong love of learning, I am not convinced that parents should refrain from all formal instruction at an early age. Some kids love playing with flashcards, doing workbooks, and otherwise doing school. Others, not so much.

Personally, I believe in introducing colors and shapes, letters and numbers as early as a child seems receptive, but in a fun way and definitely in small doses, maybe ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Children learn best through play, but that doesn’t mean your play can’t be educational. You know your child best. If you are ready to engage in more formal teaching, and he is ready to learn, go for it. Just remember to keep it enjoyable for both of you, and start with very short lessons, increased slowly over time. You’ll do fine!

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

My kids and I live in a community that is mostly black, just like we are. That’s been good in a lot of ways, because they feel supported and empowered by seeing community leaders, business owners and other professionals who look like them. But as they are getting older, I’ve noticed they are showing some negative attitudes toward others, and I don’t like that. I want them to be kind and respectful to all people, regardless of their color or background.

How can I help my kids become more accepting of people from other races and appreciate cultures other than their own?

Expanding our world beyond the neighborhood

Dear Expanding,

I hear you. I grew up in a small town where virtually everyone was either white, Native American, or mixed, just like me. I knew only a handful of black or Hispanic kids, one family each from India, China and the Middle East. I never met a Jewish or Muslim student until college.

You can do a lot to increase your children’s acceptance of others by having them read stories about and by people of different cultures. Films, especially historical dramas or documentaries, can help widen their view of the world. Discussions about life from the perspectives of others can help your kids put themselves in their shoes and develop empathy for people who do not match what they see in the mirror.

I think most importantly, your own attitude toward others is the greatest influence on your children. If you are kind and accepting of people who do not share your skin color, your religion, your language or your culture, your kids will be much more likely to follow your lead. It is a small world, and it’s worth working to get along with all the people we’ll meet.

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is the Unplanned Homeschooler. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three kids. You can find her*writing regularly about life,*love, homeschooling and sometimes bacon at

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