Japan has a popular term for persons who are certified as “preservers of important intangible cultural properties.” They are called Living National Treasures. The term isn’t stated in the law, but it has become familiar to all. The “intangible cultural properties” in Japan include mastery of artistic skills in art, drama, music, and crafts.
It is a bold proposal, but couldn’t grandparents aspire to the title? Years of experience, growth in all areas of life, developing and honing mastery in one or more specific areas that enable us to share with our grandchildren must surely qualify as holding “intangible cultural properties.”
Perhaps your childhood mimicked that of our children—camping trips, hiking, learning to fish and hunt, visiting historical sites, museums, engaging in nature—wildflowers, birds, trees, animals—and because of that a Charlotte Mason education is an extension of ‘normal’ for you. Perhaps you didn’t experience most or any of the above, and that’s what you want—a relational environment rich in knowledge and experience—and you want your parents (the grandparents) to affirm and enlarge that environment and atmosphere.
We knew nothing of the CM philosophy of education until about 5 years ago when by God’s design we had dinner with Andy and Carroll Smith and began a conversation around our daughter’s desire to home school. What began as a visit over a common interest in miniature sets my husband designs and Andy’s artistic mother also designed, became a completely new design for our family, even an educational lifestyle change. Little did we know that much of what we as parents had attempted to offer our children growing up was mimicking Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of formation of character and laying a palette before our children. It was natural that our daughter adopted this method of education.
Three of our four grandchildren do not live nearby. In the last few years we made the decision to have each grandchild come for their own week in the summer—to be ‘king or queen of the hill’—to pursue their passions, to share ours with them, and they have thrived on the visits. We play and explore together, and they are in an environment away from home where they know they are safe and protected.
This year one of them said, “I get to go first next year—I didn’t get to stay as many days this year as you two.” (His days were interrupted by a CM conference!)
For grandparents: if distance or health is a limiting factor there are many other ways of sharing your life with your grandchildren. Our grandchildren have loved getting packages from us and even cousins and aunts on special holidays. The packages are filled with craft projects, puzzles and other fun items to decorate. Children can hardly wait to get a handwritten letter or a box in the mail with their name on it.
They enjoy stories of their parents’ antics as children and what made them become who they are today, and they thrive on hearing the stories of the ‘olden days’ when the grandparents were young and had to ‘walk 2 miles to school all uphill in the cold with a thin winter coat and leggings.’ (“What are those?”, they ask.) Actually, I did walk a mile to elementary school, even with a shortcut.
It has become a tradition each Christmas to read a favorite Christmas story. Even after introducing other possibilities, the one that has been chosen and is now set, is The Story of the Candy Cane. Perhaps your grandchildren have chosen a favorite story for you to read to them – one that will build memories of your voice, your inflection as you read, your laughter, your comments and their reply and narration.
Every grandparent is gifted—God designed us that way! Use your gifts—whether it be homemaking, baking, fishing, hunting, art , music, reading, athleticism, drama, naturalist, handcrafts, and so many others—and grace your grandchildren with them. They will not only grow richer in the atmosphere you foster with their parents, but they will become more sensitive to the aging, appreciate and respect their own heritage and expand their horizons.
We are reminded in Proverbs 17:6, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged . . . ” They are indeed our crown, and we can be their “living national treasures.”
© 2014 by Linda Fern