My children do not believe, as I do, that the first day back-to-school is, for some people, a national holiday. Sadly, parental celebration excludes the amazingly dedicated teachers who show up to greet their new halflings for the year. In acknowledgement and appreciation of these Lions of Education, many parents will volunteer hours in school, including slipping yummy treats into the lounge.
While the kids may complain about getting up earlier and the new routine of school, there is another, simple reason to observe this annual ritual: education is a privilege. Most Americans are fortunate to have access to organized learning that has not been disrupted by war, famine or is completely unaffordable. Some families even create their own schools at home. Bring out the balloons, kazoos and cake!
So that our children understand this gift and our unwavering support for it, parents should model the importance and privilege of learning by the way we continue to learn.
One way I show my kids I want to learn is by reading.
My father had an eighth-grade education, but he devoured the newspaper every day. He knew the world. I also read news in print, and I access in-depth, global news sources because I have a very smart phone. I scrutinize the news for my own knowledge, but that’s not all. I recently shared a story with my kids about a boy in New Mexico who literally stumbled into a fossil while hiking with his family. That boy learned, and we learned.
While on vacation, I bought Roald Dahl’s “Boy: Tales of Childhood.” Soon, I was slapping my knee and snort-laughing, my boys begging me to read about the author’s escapades. A few days later, the book was missing, swiped by our oldest, compelled to join Dahl’s hilarious world.
At our house, we also read aloud, a tradition that began with board books for little hands. Last year, we added 20 minutes a day for our kids to read to us, having had some stumbles at school. That was before I read recently that a superintendent in Florida eliminated elementary school homework this year in place of—you guessed it— twenty minutes of reading at home. Do you see me high-fiveing? Even my retriever, a new therapy dog, is known as a Tail Waggin’ Tutor. (Ask your CALS librarian.)
I still go to school too. In July I traveled to a writer’s conference for several days. My kids knew I was going to learn more about putting dark marks on a page. While there, I visited a cool, local bookstore owned by author Anne Patchett. Yep. I came home with more books, books for everyone.
When school starts, there are many important supplies: paper, pencils, new crayons—oh that smell—and computers. But no one will ever convince me that books aren’t the best, the greatest tool for learning. Just ask Hermione Granger, who frequently shared the knowledge she gained from books with her less avid bookworm friends, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, sighing often, “How will you ever learn?”
This blog post was originally published in Betsy's column, "Parent-ish" in Little Rock Family Magazine.