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How Grandparents Can Be Involved in Education

Written by Conrad Plimpton

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My wife and I are grandparents now, but first we were parents and before we started as parents, we were students and graduate students.  We both attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, directly marrying upon graduation from undergrad at Wellesley College and Harvard College respectively.

We were both intensely interested in science and research. My wife passed her PhD exams in Cellular Biology, Microbiology, Immunology and Virology. Less talented, I earned two graduate degrees: Astrophysics and Business MBA.

Graduate students and already with two babies, I found, by economic necessity, my focus became finance but my heart remained in education and research, as well as early childhood education.

With six children (two severely mentally handicapped), we poured all of our efforts into their education and development.

Now, eighteen grandchildren later we are able to do the same for them. Thanks to God's graciousness, we are able to provide our grandchildren with the best in private education and tutoring at Veritas Scholars Academy. But pouring all of our resources into their education is only one way we are involved.

A grandparent’s involvement starts with presence. Presence as a quiet, living witness to our own personal commitment to our own continuing education, which includes learning from each grandchild what that child is interested in.

Being a grandparent is very different from being a parent. The pressure is off since presence is our purpose. We let go of  parental vigilance, correction and direction that was so long ago our responsibility. We must not be patronizing or parental in anyway. Our sole purpose is to love, encourage, nurture and inspire our grandchildren’s interests by simply listening.

So I was thrilled when I was invited by the parents of our Veritas grandchildren to accompany them on their Travel Through Omnibus tour to Italy and Greece and a few years later on their Reformation Tour. It was an opportunity for me to be an unobtrusive presence available for encouragement.

Sharing a room with one or several of them on the trip provided a camaraderie opportunity to share stories about the day(s) just completed and the day(s) to come. Since I am well traveled, my Veritas grandchildren were always interested in my observations and experiences.

For example, in Athens, the Hellenic Parliament was only a few blocks from our hotel.  Students were holding demonstrations there as Laney, my granddaughter, and I were walking by. To her consternation, we stopped to talk to the students about why they were protesting. I explained to Laney that similar protests happened near our house in Bogotá, Colombia and succeeded in bringing down the dictatorship and restoring democracy. I explained that students can be the voice and conscience for a better future for all.

With my grandson, Abraham, the experience was entirely different but equally inspiring. In Rome and Athens, we focused on his passion, shoes. It was a great opportunity to canvass the neighborhood around our hotel and discuss the humble lives of multi-generational shopkeepers and their significance in their broader economy in contrast to our American neighborhoods.

All grandchildren in their different ways appear to look at their grandparents in awe and respect as an infinite sources of worldly wisdom and hopefully spiritual inspiration. They cling onto the stories of their grandparents’ lives that connect with theirs in a mysterious web of DNA and acquired similarities in temperament, energy proclivities and sometimes interests.

The greatest accolade I received was from our eldest Veritas grandson, Chris, at the end of his first year at Wheaton College. During a Facetime from his study group friends he said, "Granddad! I'm learning the excitement of pursuing my intellectual curiosity deeper into subjects the way you do!"

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