As a kid I was always excited about back to school. It was a thrill returning to the classroom with teachers and classmates. My birthday in September always felt extra-special, with textbook distribution happening around the same time. In middle school we spent more time in the hallways, racing from room to room. I noticed everyone else seemed taller, perhaps because of the October 31 cutoff date for registration. In high school I did well on the standardized college tests, and one of New Jersey’s most prestigious schools even offered me a scholarship. My parents and teachers encouraged me to accept. Instead, I went to vocational school and got a job.
A few years after joining the workforce, I had my daughter. Not long after, she went to a babysitter and then daycare. When she was in daycare our city announced plans for an early learning program. There was one catch: it would be a half-day program. I moved to a new city with a full-day schedule and after-school program inside the school building. While this got my daughter into a daily routine, it did nothing to stop all the changes: homework, group projects, holidays off, summer vacation, internet research, planning for high school and college. It didn’t seem so complicated when I was in school.
This past year, my teen applied to the culinary program at a technical high school. Weeks passed, and she got a one-page letter instead of an admission packet. Unlike the stereotype, she cheered for joy. “Yay! I’m so happy, at least they sent something back.” She is currently debating whether to apply next year to this same school, or perhaps apply to culinary school after high school.
My daughter’s persistent enthusiasm for school reawakened mine. Truthfully, shopping for school supplies has always been my favorite. My assortment of pens and tote bags is nearly infamous in my social circle, rivaled only by my zest for research. As a result, it surprised almost none of my friends and relatives when at the end of July I applied for college. The weeks have flown by as I took my placement exam, met with an advisor to set up my schedule, finalize registration, get a student ID, attend orientation, meet the student body president, secure financial aid, visit the bookstore, organize books by day and class.
My first day is before Labor Day, and my teen’s first day is just after Labor Day. Our war chest includes red notebooks and folders for her, blue for me, in a neutral corner with report covers, presentation binders, highlighters and mechanical pencils. Her bag is packed with a Zip-It pencil pouch, LockerMate locker shelf and Mead student planner. These were nonnegotiable items, like the graphing calculator requested by her school.
While establishing our new school routine, my teen and I have begun to plan our first-day outfits. We still have to set up our study/homework space, which makes me think of a favorite quote from “You’ve Got Mail” as Tom Hanks’ character enjoys the change of seasons.
Joe Fox: Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils …
DISCLOSURE: I got the Zip-It, LockerMate and Mead items as review items from Staples.