Vail Daily column: Don’t let books become a relic |

Vail Daily column: Don’t let books become a relic

Jill Marchione Papangelis
Family Matters
Vail, CO Colorado

September is such a bitter-sweet month. I need to be dragged away, kicking and screaming, from these last lingering days of August. Summer is indeed difficult to let go of, especially when you summer in Vail.

But the fall is a breath of fresh air. School begins with a clean slate for every student; and as much as I can’t wait to be rid of their all-consuming agendas by the spring, I’m just that ready to get everyone back on schedule (and out of bed before noon) come autumn.

When my kids were small and homeschooled in Lake Tahoe, I looked forward with sentimental anticipation to the long mornings of having them all to myself in the crisp fall. We began every day with an hour and a half of reading and then I listened to them recite their poems to our little group of five. It was a lovely, relaxed way for them to wake up to the day. I loved teaching history – hearing their young wisdom and humor when looking at the past – and watching them color and create, but mostly I loved to see them with an opened book. Winter kept us inside a lot, and by spring I was practically bald from pulling my hair out and oh-so-ready for summer’s leniency again.

If you’re a person who thinks you need to be somewhere between saint and insanity to homeschool, you’re about right. But, the beauty of homeschooling is that when your children are learning and an interest is sparked, you can drop everything to concentrate on that subject for awhile. If there is a math lesson they don’t understand, you can work on it until it’s mastered before continuing to the next concept. Or, on a difficult day when nothing seems to be working, you can switch gears to the kitchen for a cooking lesson or go outside for a nature hike. The flexibility is priceless.

My kids’ afternoons were consumed with activities and I may have gone overboard trying to “socialize” them properly. There were ski teams, snowboard teams, swim teams, art classes, etc. My daughter was at her dance studio nearly every day. Busy kids.

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The greatest advantage by far of school at home is the unqualified time. We spent that time talking and we spent it reading. When I asked my sophomore daughter what she remembers most about those years, she recalled huddling in blankets while I read aloud. The kids were of several different ages and grades, but even my older sons enjoyed being read to. One of my kids read 29 books in a school year; another read 16 classics. They had time to read.-

The kids also reminisced about abandoning routines and bringing a deli sandwich to the beach to finish school there. We talked politics, current events, music, and life. We often got in the car and went to the zoo or took a trip to a museum in San Francisco and all I’d require is that they bring a book along. We could take a drive through Napa Valley or stroll the apple orchards when we grew tired of monotony. You just don’t get those luxuries on a public school program.

Most of my children read early. One didn’t. When I asked him why he didn’t want to learn to read he questioned innocently, “What do I need to learn to read for? You already know how.” I love that he assumed I would always be there throughout his life to read to him so he wouldn’t need to bother. Later, I couldn’t keep the books flowing quickly enough – all three of my boys devoured them. On the other hand, my daughter often read sitting on the “time-out” bench.

Now that they’re in conventional school, I hope they find time to read. Electronics of every kind have replaced the opened page, but I refuse to let books become a relic of my kids’ pasts. I know my days of reading to them are long gone, but I’m going to continue to put books under their noses as long as they’ll let me – and longer. Like Anna Quindlen said, “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”

Jill Marchione Papangelis is a freelance writer and mother of four. She lives in Edwards with her family. Send column suggestions or comments

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