Altitude adjustment

Altitude adjustment

As junior Madeline Stanfield packs her parka and ski boots, she knows she is one day closer to being in the crisp mountain air. She anticipates the next few months, which will be filled with gliding in the snow and relaxing. For Madeline, skiing is not just a luxury of vacations. It is her life for almost half of the year.
For the first time last year, the Stanfield family left their suburban lifestyle behind from January to May to spend time at their cabin in the Taos Ski Valley of New Mexico. Although they are not extremely experienced skiers, her parents’ flexible jobs helped make the family’s decision to spend six months away from home possible. The family was eager to make the short move to both indulge in their love for winter sports and to find a more relaxing way of life.

“I just enjoy being there and being able to slow down,” Madeline said. “It’s a lot less stressful than being here. It’s just a completely different lifestyle.”

The family owns a red A-frame cabin that is barely 1000 square feet, making for close quarters for the family of five. For Madeline, the lack of space is irrelevant because she is constantly involved in various outdoor activities. Madeline spends her day either working with children, running the front desk at the local ski school, or skiing on the blue and black slopes, which are the highest levels of difficulty.

Although the relaxing lifestyle has its perks, it also has some downfalls. Because Madeline and her siblings are taken out of school to enjoy the mountains, they must be homeschooled for half of the school year. After enjoying a day of skiing, she has to focus on her schoolwork. However, sometimes the relaxing lifestyle of Taos can affect her study habits, too. Madeline said that because she is able to pace herself, she sometimes falls victim to procrastination.

I just enjoy being there and being able to slow down.”

— Madeline Stanfield, 11

“I wasn’t very good with time management,” Madeline said. “So it ended up being more [work] than when I’m in public school.”

Returning to public school after having the freedom to focus on schoolwork when it was convenient also proved difficult for Madeline. Though at times her work piles up while being homeschooled, the rigid rules of the classroom are even more strenuous. Sitting in a desk for extended periods of time after getting used to being active all day is the most difficult transition for her. Ultimately, though, the switch between public school and homeschooling has made Madeline learn how to thrive in both situations.

Adjusting to the self-directed aspect of homeschooling is not the only part of living in Taos that Madeline must endure. The small mountain village has few other residents, leaving Madeline to find other ways to pass the time. The lack of social gatherings with friends creates opportunities for the family to spend time with one another. Madeline’s mother, Christina Stanfield, said that although living in Taos can be difficult at times, she knows that the mountains can provide the opportunity of spending quality time with family.

“We spent a lot of time reading books and just being together,” Christina said. “There were rough times when sometimes the togetherness was too much or the homeschooling proved difficult, [but] the positives definitely outweighed the negatives.”

In the height of ski season, the whole family is constantly involved in various activities on the mountain, but towards the end they begin to get cabin fever. Madeline begins to miss life at home with her friends. She said that despite being able to stay in touch through phone calls and text messages, it’s not the same as being able to spend time with them.

“When it is busy, I don’t get bored, but when it slows down I miss my friends, and I want to come back here, back to civilization,” Madeline said. “It’s hard to be gone for that long.”

While absence from friends makes Madeline anticipate her return, Taos has become a second home for the Stanfield family. Although several months away from school and friends may take its toll at times, Madeline awaits their move every year. Christina said that living in Taos has fulfilled her family’s dream, and has allowed them experience the best of living in two totally different worlds.

“We are going to try it again this spring semester,” Christina said. “And as for future plans, we just take the six month plan approach and find ourselves so blessed to have the experience of suburban life and life in the ski valley.”