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Reading is medicine and other summer discoveries

2017 July 13
by Rachel Turiel

“I feel so much better,” Rose tells me after a midday slump, in which she was certain we’d already spent our whole summer at home, isolated and lonely, wringing feeble drops of fun out of a motley assortment of neglected playthings.

I didn’t mention that we had just returned from a mother-daughter backpacking trip with friends, or that she had declined a tubing invite for the sake of rest and regrouping after skinny-dipping in mountain lakes and “feeling so responsible” hefting her pack through the mountains. I hugged her, listened, murmured my understanding and led her to the couch to read to her. Because reading is medicine.

Alternative reading positions.

Everything else is so July-familiar: the way I’m waiting for the monsoons without an ounce of equanimity – the clouds aggregating and posturing like teenagers while I feel only greed; the way Rose cruises through the buffet of our garden nabbing peas, raspberries, serviceberries, and cherry tomatoes – and how I pretend to care that she gets first crack, but secretly love her foraging ways; the way I return euphorically sweaty from early morning runs, Col greeting me at the door with a hug that he retracts when he sees how damp I am and then overrides it, falling into my arms; the way I tell Dan that I’ve got a good idea and he says, “really?!?” eyeing the bedroom.

I think summer is halfway over, if school starting up is the benchmark. This may or may not be the time to announce that after six years of homeschooling, the kids are going to (a project-based) public school this fall. I know. What is this: 6512 and growing institutionalized learners?

The metaphor here, Dan says, is that for so long we fed our babies in the nest and now they’re ready to fly. And there’s so much more to it, like the part about how I never exactly loved being my child’s teacher. I loved snuggling on the couch while we read another chapter of Harry Potter (language arts?), loved lounging around making cookie balls in our pajamas (fractions?), loved that they had time to play, so much time to play.

But also, honestly? I feel a huge sense of relief in handing over this responsibility to someone else. I have ambitions that don’t involve selecting and overseeing another semester of curriculum. I don’t want to be the enforcer of sentence capitalization.

And I will miss them like crazy. I will worry about the pressures of school, popular culture and fitting in. I will secretly wonder if much of institutionalized learning is a time- and soul-suck. And I will remind myself that Col and Rose are emotionally intelligent and self-aware, cooperative yet empowered, and that they love to read; and if that’s what came from our past six years of homeschooling (plus an encyclopedic knowledge of airplanes and excellent gymnastics skills), then I’ll celebrate that.

What we’re reading:

The kids and I are reading Land of Stories, about which I feel the same way I do when the kids ask to play at a park – like some wholesome, innocent nub of their childhood still remains. Also because Col is reading books in which children are starving and parentless and pitted against each other, this series seems really tame, despite all the (predictable) villains. And I’m not even talking about Hunger Games, though he loved that series too.

Col is devouring this and this series.

I read and loved:

The Leavers (novel – about immigration and adoption, China and NYC, and the most gorgeous, wrenching, arresting writing).

Unsettlers (non-fiction – about people breaking up with consumerism and forging their own way in America).

All These Wonders (delightful, illuminating and surprising true stories from the Moth live storytelling event)

And the Dark and Sacred Night (fiction so believable you forget you’re reading about people that don’t exist).

The Bright Hour: a memoir of living and dying (memoir – painfully beautiful and heartbreaking).



7 Responses leave one →
  1. July 13, 2017

    More adult than YA, but I’ve really loved the Divine Cities series by Robert Jackson Bennett (starts with City of Stairs), and the Crimson Empire series by Alex Marshall (Crown for Cold Silver is the first one). I’ve always been the Sci Fi reader in the family and my husband is the Fantasy reader. These are both Fantasy, but I loved them – Can’t wait for the last one in the Crimson Empire series. If you think they aren’t too adult for him (no steamy sex scenes that I recall, but a good dose of violence – Stairs series is maybe slightly tamer), Col would probably love them.

  2. July 14, 2017

    I loved The Unsettlers! Will have to check my library for the others. It sounds like your family has some exciting changes coming up! Can’t wait to hear about your new adventures.

  3. July 24, 2017

    This post! Thank you so much for all of it. <3 <3 <3

    Marykaye :)

  4. July 24, 2017

    PS I loved sharing a little YA fiction with my son this summer (uplifting but really exciting/engaging series’ with brave, wise, kind and very human protagonists):

    1. Trenton Lee Stewart’s “The Mysterious Benedict Society”:

    2. Anything by Terry Pratchett but especially:
    “Wee Free Men” (Tiffany Aching Series) tiffany-aching-4-book-collection?from_search=true

    Thanks so much for the titles you shared, will check them out.

  5. Ellie permalink
    July 28, 2017


    I still don’t get your posts in my inbox and therefore have not visited in a few months. Such a breath of fresh air to be here again. Also, a question: is Cole reading the entire Gone series? Our son read the first two (or three?) last year at age 10, and then I did some research and decided to ban the rest until he’s older. I haven’t read the books myself though, so I wonder if I overreacted.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      July 31, 2017


      Col did finish the Gone series. He told me the general plot and it seemed sort of familiar, as far as young adult dystopian novels go. He is 12, so there’s that, and also, though I do screen and censor movies, I’ve been pretty lax with books because I just feel so positive about reading.

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