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Raising Grandchildren: Education

How to choose the right learning environment for your grandkids

Your grandchild's education is vital to his future success. Even before he is ready to begin formal school, he needs to be in an environment that offers a positive, caring place for him to learn. Here's what you need to know:

See also: GrandFamilies Resources.

My grandchildren aren't old enough for school. What are my options for child care?

  • In-home care is ideal for infants or for a few hours a day. You hire someone to come to your home to care for the child.
  • Family day care is offered in someone's home. Usually this includes fun activities for your grandchild, such as story times, outdoor play, crafts, naptime and more. In some states family day care has to be licensed by the state.
  • Pre-schools or child care centers usually have more structure and learning activities to help young children get ready for school, learn social skills and develop physically. Some of these programs may have a reduced price for families with low incomes.
  • Head Start and Early Head Start offers child development to families with low incomes with a special focus on helping preschoolers develop the early reading and math skills they need when they start school. Early Head Start serves children from birth to age 3. Both programs help with education, health, nutrition and social services for children in the program, and involve grandparent caregivers in their grandchild's learning.

How can I find child care programs?

  • There are child care resource and referral agencies in most areas. They provide referrals to local child care providers, as well as information on state licensing requirements and on child care subsidies to help pay for child care. Child Care Aware is a program of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) that helps you find a child care resource and referral agency in your area. Call toll-free 800-424-2246 or go to

Can I get financial assistance for child care?

Every state has a child care subsidy program that helps pay for child care for families with lower incomes who meet the rules for eligibility. You will need to contact your state or local child care government office and fill out a form. The income, work, age of the child and other requirements vary from state to state, so you'll need to find out what the rules are in your state.

What do I need to know about enrolling my grandchildren in school?

If at all possible, it's a best to keep your grandchildren in the same school they've been in. (The fewer transitions they have to deal with, the better.) But if you do have to move your grandchildren to a new school, you may have trouble getting them enrolled in some states if you do not have legal custody or guardianship. There are "education consent" laws that make it easier to enroll children in school — but not every state has one. Ask your school or a Family Law lawyer what the laws are in your state, or check the GrandFacts state fact sheets for your state to see if there is an education consent law. Sometimes you can sign a legal paper saying you are caring for the child, or a parent can sign a special form. If you are unable to reach the parents, you may need to prove that you have tried to find them.

I can't afford to pay for school lunches; where can I apply for assistance?

The National School Lunch Program is a meal program in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides healthy low-cost or free lunches each school day to children whose families have lower incomes. There is also a school breakfast program. Ask your grandchild's teacher or social worker about these programs.

Grand Families Guide: Family Challenges. »