meet along the way: Dana Perkins

By Rachel Ashworth

Women do incredible things. Here, we feature the stories of women who are a part of the Southeast Missouri community by way of living here, being from here or passing through. We hope these stories inspire you to connect with others and that they encourage you to be who you are in the world. We need you and your unique gifts.

While thousands of Southeast Missouri children have headed back to the classroom throughout the past couple of months, Collin Perkins of Perryville, Missouri, plans to stay at home for his seventh-grade year. A fair number of students will stay home from school this year, in fact. Many will complete virtual classes online through their school districts, and others like Collin will be homeschooling, though this year is quite different.

Grandparenting and homeschooling

Collin has lived with Dana Perkins for the past eight years. She has been primary caregiver and guardian for Collin, as well as cheerleader and educator. Dana is Collin’s grandmother.

Grandfamilies and kinship families like Collin’s are not uncommon in the United States. This year, many of these families are implementing home and virtual schooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to, almost 9% of children in the U.S. live with a relative other than their parents, and the majority of these children live with their grandparents.

Grandparents and individuals 65 years old and older are at a high risk of COVID-19 complications. Collin doesn’t attend a local school, but the risk of exposure has changed the way Dana does everything this year. Both Dana and her mother are at high risk for COVID-19 complications, and being able to interact with each other is important to both Dana and Collin.

Precautions at home

Dana’s biggest concern in the midst of this global pandemic is for her health. She takes extra precautions because she says she’s “all Collin has got.” It’s the reason she stepped into the role as parent when he was five years old and the reason she chose to homeschool him before he began middle school. Dana takes extra care to keep them both safe and healthy.

The Perkins have stopped attending taekwondo classes in person and instead opt for Zoom classes. Their usual history field trips can no longer include in-person tours and study. Even Boy Scouts, which began to meet again recently, took a two-week hiatus as COVID-19 cases surged in Perry County.

Quality time

Children and caregivers have never before experienced the ongoing high level of stress brought on by this pandemic. To make the most of the time at home, they focus on quality over quantity. Many grandparents are afraid homeschooling will adversely affect their relationship with their grandchildren or “rock the boat” with other relatives. For Dana and Collin’s relationship, however, it has done the opposite.

Collin says he likes homeschool because he has the best teacher. Their relationship has grown over the past three years, and speaking about homeschooling lights them up with excitement. Dana especially enjoys finding methods and lessons Collin will love, and Collin specifically enjoys going on adventures and learning through experiences.

The two try to take trips throughout the year that focus on Collin’s love for history. This year, the family stayed in a cabin for a week, sightseeing in the Smoky Mountains. School time is a one-on-one, personal time for the family. When Dana and Collin are at home, they have a classroom where they work together — Dana on her business and Collin on his schoolwork. The work doesn’t stop while they’re on their adventures, either.

Dana wants to model a work ethic she can be proud of. Until her husband passed away, she didn’t work for pay, but now, she owns her own skincare business that she runs from the comfort of their home classroom.

Dana Perkins points out a photo caption as she and her grandson Collin Perkins, 13, work through his history lesson at Perkins’ home.

It takes a village

Dana is pleased and excited Collin has great role models. He is blessed to look up to mentors who have a positive impact on his life, global pandemic or not.

Collin logs onto Zoom many times per week for taekwondo classes with Legends ATA Martial Arts in Jackson. The team there has been a game-changer for Collin, who began as a shy and nervous new student and is now a district competitor. Taekwondo instructor John Johnson says Dana saw a need in Collin’s life for routines as well as social and emotional skills. As his martial arts skills improved, Johnson says “his personal struggle was accomplished without him noticing.” He credits all this to Dana’s dedication to Collin’s education.

Additionally, Dana supplements much of Collin’s coursework with Boy Scout merit badges in which he completes self-led tasks that are sometimes difficult and time consuming in order to attain his goals. This summer, Collin received the SuperNova Award for his invention of a milk-pouring mechanism that assists children or disabled individuals in pouring.

More recently, Collin earned the entrepreneur badge by shadowing a business owner, meeting via Zoom and completing a detailed business plan for an auto detailing business. His scout master has been careful to maintain health and safety precautions while still trying to meet with the boys and work toward their goals. Along with martial arts, Dana credits much of Collin’s confidence and success to Boy Scouts.

Collin plans to be a black belt and an Eagle Scout. Through his own dedication and commitment as well as the unwavering support of his grandmother and family, he is well on his way to attaining both.

Dana’s Advice for New Homeschoolers

1. Talk to teachers, consult IEP teams and talk to your child before withdrawing your child from school. Prepare in advance!

2. Withdraw your child from the school district where they’re enrolled. Find detailed instructions about how to do this at

3. Join Facebook homeschool groups and follow helpful pages.

4. Consider a full curriculum for the first year. Find an exhaustive list of curriculum reviews at

5. Find out your child’s learning style. There is a great 20-question quiz for this at

6. Design a workspace in your home with comfortable seating, books and a computer station.

7. Sit beside your student whether he or she is fully homeschooling or learning virtually through the school district.

8. Find valuable role models and mentors for your students, whether through a local organization or online.