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Former teacher revisits role for 4-year-old grandson during pandemic

Tom Meyers has been driving from Corinna to Hermon three times a week since September to do preschool with his four-year-old grandson, Mason.

HERMON, Maine — "Two peas in a pod" -- that's how Rachel Kempton of Hermon describes the relationship between her father and her four-year-old son. As of late, though, this dynamic duo has taken on a relationship greater than grandfather and grandson. Now, they're also teacher and student.

Rachel says her son, Mason, was supposed to start preschool last fall, but the idea of sending him to a classroom during a pandemic made her nervous. An unconventional thought led to a successful solution, though.

"My Dad was retiring this year from teaching, and a thought popped in my head," Rachel smiled. "I jokingly, but not jokingly, brought it up to him to say, 'Hey, what would you think about coming to our house and teaching Mason?'"

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Nearly five months later, lessons on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings have been going quite well -- and both Grandpa Tom Meyers and Mason are enjoying the quality time. Rachel says Mason would have been going to school just one day a week through the Hermon School Department, so this solution of 10 hours of learning a week has worked out well.              

"Just coming to hang out with him -- it's always a good time, but to come and do something that's a little productive has been fantastic," Meyers, who has committed to the more than 30-mile drive from Corinna to Hermon for lessons, said.

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Mason says they learn about math, reading, writing, and problem-solving. While snack time is obviously a favorite activity, Mason also expressed his excitement when it comes to solving puzzles and journaling. 

Meyers used to teach the fourth and fifth grades in Harmony but retired last June after more than 20 years. He says working with a younger kid like Mason has been a new and exciting experience.

"These little guys are just little sponges, just waiting to have the info introduced to them," Meyers noted, playfully nudging Mason. 

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To Rachel, it's meant a lot to watch her father and son grow even closer as a silver lining to a particularly challenging year.

"(My Dad) is just one of the most selfless people that you'll ever meet and has always put everyone else's needs before his," Rachel expressed. 

Rachel says she and her family and her parents have been staying safe during the pandemic by remaining primarily at home and not seeing many other people. Meyers says he wants people to know that this kind of at-home learning doesn't cost much and is really valuable to young minds. The Kemptons bought school materials at places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and yard sales. Meyers plans to continue school with Mason until next fall when he'll hopefully be able to start kindergarten.