First Day of School, 2013

Truth, Justice and the American Way. And also, ninth grade.

Athena is officially in high school now, which is a little strange to think about but also pretty exciting. As I joked on Twitter, now I officially have to start worrying about college. Here’s a secret about that: I’m not actually that worried. And anyway, I’d rather have Athena focused on the here and now. She’s excited for the first day of school, as she usually is. I like that about her.

On a related note, it’s odd to think that around this time thirty years ago, I was starting my own freshman year in high school. It really doesn’t seem that long ago, and also, it does.

74 thoughts on “First Day of School, 2013

  1. For those about to ask why she starts school so early: Got me. They start early and then take several days off for the county fair. Why they don’t just start after the county fair is a total mystery to me.

  2. Love her choice of t-shirt. Wow 9th grade and still excited about school. That’s fantastic.

    I’m sure starting this early is padding for snow days and crazy storms.

  3. My daughter is turning 16 in a little over a week. Just yesterday she was a wee little thing… and a million years ago. It’s amazing how much children muck up our perception of time. (As for high school, I’d like a laser to burn some of those memories from my head; thirty years isn’t long enough.)

    We start school on Wednesday. The reason our district gives for such an early start was for the high school students to be on a schedule more like the universities’; final exams are before xmas break (no forgetting everything over xmas, then coming back to tests).

  4. Thirty years ago I was starting college. Gah, now I feel even older. Most of my favorite current authors are now younger than me.

  5. Congrats. I am there with you. My second daughter starts HS this year. I am messing it up a bit for her by moving the family next week from NC to Cali for work. The truly ridiculous part is that the Monterey school district started school 7 Aug. So she is not exceptionally excited about starting school without her friends, but is resigned to the fact that it has to happen. She just keeps telling me that at least there will be surfer guy eye candy. Not awesome!
    Good luck to your daughter with school and good luck to you as well.

  6. Hell, I still remember holding my brother in my arms and feeding him a bottle like it was yesterday. He’ll be 36 this year, and he’s a foot taller than I am.

    Best of luck to Athena in the new school year!

  7. Go Athena :). That makes her, what, 14? Sorry, I’m English, and have a hard enough time working out the school year/ages in our own educational system.

  8. I think that first-day portrait rocks. Lucky you she is a good sport about photos. A lot of HS Freshmen are not.

    Also, I think Athena is a kick-ass name. I’ll have to consider the Greek Mythos for the next kid.

  9. Bearpaw, I agree that starting school before Labor Day is un-American. And starting school before the middle of August is unconscionable!

    Starting high school *is* exciting. I hope she has a great day.

  10. Why does she start school early? Because centuries-old agricultural needs! I think that covers the school start and end times in most of North America and Europe.

  11. So they’re starting school in early August up north now? I first ran into that down South, where the excuse was they started early so they could finish up in late May, before the worst of the summer heat. Ignoring the fact that mid-August is the worst of the summer heat, that almost makes sense….

    I grew up in schools that didn’t start until after Labor Day, but we didn’t get out until mid-June. Apparently a lot of people down here did, too, because the city of New Orleans has a perennial problem with parents who simply won’t send their kids to school until after Labor Day. Might have something to do with the inner city schools mostly not having working air conditioning.

    Thirty years ago, I dropped out of college to enlist in the Navy. Went back after my four years and finally completed my degree ten years, a major switch, and a daughter after I started it.

  12. Go get ‘em, Athena.

    My youngest begins her senior year of college next week, with a completed Mars research project under her belt already. It’s surreal to me that when I was in high school, people were still publishing books trying to convince girls that they could go to college (the year I graduated from high school was the first year equal numbers of male and female students entered U.S. colleges).

    Some things do change for the better.

  13. My daughter loved her first day of ninth grade — a handsome senior boy held the door for her, and after the torment of middle school, she thought she’d died and gone to heaven. I hope Athena has a fabulous time in high school — she’s certainly growing up to be a lovely young woman!

  14. For instance, the Northeast US and the Maritimes used to have a “potato break” in late September and early October so students could help with the potato harvest.

  15. Good luck, Athena!
    That is early though – in my area of the UK they only got out for the summer on July 24 and they go back Sep 3. ‘Back to school’ sale signs are in most of the local shops but those are great for picking up writing supplies here – loaded up on my pens and notebooks for the coming year already.

  16. You know, looking at this picture and then scrolling down to the photo of you in the newspaper (in the previous post), it’s clear that she has many of your features including the same left ear. Most charming.

    High school in August. In my hometown, we’d have seen that as reason to empathize with the peasants during the period just before the French Revolution.

  17. Our school district in Massachusetts starts the week before Labor Day (with a strange three-day week that seems hardly worth the trouble), but goes until mid-June. But there are *two* week-long vacations during the period I think of as relieved only by “spring break”: one in late February sometime around Presidents’ Day, and the other late in April. We also typically lose a few days to snow, depending on the weather.

    Starting the week before Labor Day is actually consistent with what I experienced growing up in northern Virginia. But our spring break was typically a single week sometime around late March (which would still really be winter up here), and we ended the year earlier.

  18. In past winters, I’ve noticed John noting Athena not having school almost the entire month of February, due to snow. This is why they start in August, I suppose.

  19. I assume not thinking THE Ohio State. Since you are a Big 10 grad, you really should guide her away from that school. I have several friends that graduated from Denison. Great small school that they all talk very highly of.

  20. Week off for the county fair? That’s what you get, living in rural America. :-)

    I think air conditioning is part of the reason school schedules are so different now. Here in Ohio, August is typically so hot and humid – I’m thankful we didn’t have to face that! Nowadays it’s no problem, thanks to A/C.

    Hope Athena has a fantastic high school experience!

  21. School ends early as well in Ohio, if I am remembering correctly. I had been at Centerville High School, and I thought they were on an hours system rather than a days system. So you would start early in the year and be in classes until 3 or 4pm in the afternoon, but be done with school by the end of May. As opposed to Massachusetts, where we have 180 days or so depending on weather, but school typically ends near the end of June, and each schoolday doesn’t quite make it to 2pm.

  22. She’s too smart for The Ohio State. There is always the University of Washington. They only admit out of staters, so that gives her a leg up over the actual children of Washington.

  23. Kilroy:

    The University of Chicago hasn’t been in the Big Ten for something like 80 years, so it would not be a consideration, actually.

    I don’t think Athena has any bias against Ohio State, but it’s not one of her top choices at the moment.

  24. Wondering if kids treat Athena as “celebrity child” or if she gets to be her own person? Of course, high school would be different than grade & middle school was. I presume more high school kids would be familiar with the celebrity of the father than the younger kids have been. And of course, the father is becoming a bigger celebrity as time goes by.

    And there’s the opposite POV, of course. It will be interesting seeing how it is being a high school girl’s father over the next four years! (My father told everyone it was because of me that his hair turned silver over the course of just one year… the year I turned 15).

  25. lif strand:

    These are kids who have known Athena her entire life. She’s not treated as anything other than herself. And my “fame” is of a distinctly underwhelming sort in any event, in terms of impressing teens.

  26. My first day of high school was 42 years ago. But that was 10th grade (we had 3 year junior high and 3 year high school then). Got to school that first day, got off the bus, and on the second step tripped over a sprinkler head and did a faceplant into the dirt. It was all downhill from there, sad to say, as high school wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.

    And, not really that early for school to start (although when I was in school, we never started until the middle of September); Fresno City College started today, some local districts start this week, and Fresno Unified starts next Monday.

  27. University of Chicago is still a member of the Big 10, just not on the athletic side. But very much so on the academic side through the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which is what matters, isn’t it?

  28. Kids Today (TM) are thinking about college when they enter high school? I think I was more concerned with what jeans were acceptable.

  29. I learned to drive in a state where you could get a day-time-only driver’s license at 14 due to the theoretical needs of agriculture, and yet the state fair happens before Labor Day, while school is still out. I don’t think anyone that I knew well was driving farm vehicles on public roads at 14. They have since increased the minimum to 15.

  30. Kilroy:

    As the CIC says on its Web site that it is “a consortium of the Big Ten member universities plus the University of Chicago,” that would suggest that the U of C is in no way a current Big Ten member. But it was nice of the Big Ten to let us in its academic club.

  31. In the very first comment, Bearpaw took my precise words out of my mouth. All I can add is that I hope the schools there are air conditioned.

    Best of luck to Athena. I hope she retains her enthusiasm through the whole four years and has a better high school experience than I did.

  32. Time gets wonky when you hit the mile markers. Also when you realize that the six weeks she had to pack for college last week are now one week.

  33. High school is almost nine years behind me, yet my brain insists on treating it as if it were a recent affair. Imagine my (value-neutral) alarm upon seeing that even Athena is approaching those shores that still don’t seem all that distant in my memory…

  34. The older you get, the faster it goes. I’m heading down to Lubbock next week to get my eldest daughter ensconced at Texas Tech…. so she can start her Ph.D.

    That seriously freaks me out.

  35. nicoleandmaggie said: Wil Wheaton [...] was on the Big Bang Theory.
    Was he? I didn’t know he was famous for that, but rather for playing Wesley Crusher in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. *shrugs* Shows what I know.

  36. @Sheogorath– You know that, and I know that, but I bet you that a current average 16 year old is going to be more impressed by BBT given that it’s one of the most popular shows on TV today. High schoolers from my generation might have been impressed (although probably not because um, we kind of thought Wesley Crusher was a tool), but that was a long time ago. Back when current teens were in preschool.

    And of course Sheldon and Leonard on BBT also know that, as Wil Wheaton plays himself on the show, sort of, and Sheldon and Leonard are also in their 30s.

    It is also unlikely that kids today think that NPH’s big claim to fame is being Doogie Howser MD. Not when he’s on HIMYM and has done such a smashing job on the Tonys.

  37. yeah, whenever I am around a group of high schoolers, they just cannot stop talking about NPH hosting the tonys. they even made customs t-shirts.

  38. My oldest is going to be starting Kindergarten this year, and he’s so excited about it. I can’t wait to hear about his days when I get home from work. :)

    Good luck to Athena in High School!

  39. @ Mr. Scalzi:

    And my “fame” is of a distinctly underwhelming sort in any event, in terms of impressing teens.

    I don’t know about that–I for one am a teenager who quite literally worships you. Of course, I am not arrogant enough to call myself a priest–I am merely a thrall. Scalzi ftagn!

    And good luck to Athena, not that she needs it. In this country’s schools, anybody with somebody as brilliant as you for a parent will succeed.

  40. @Joel Cunningham
    I don’t know if you’re being sarcastic or not, but I think the only reason my college freshmen have heard of the Tonys is because of NPH (from HIMYM) making them interesting. The only reason I even know that he has hosted them is because of my undergraduate students talking about it.

  41. I agree with flooredby, I think there might be a few teenage boys who are very aware of you, just as I was of my favorite authors at that age. whether they would approach Athena to meet you…I would hope if they did they would be upfront and not devious about it. I would like to think that teenage boys into science fiction wouldn’t be that manipulative. I would honestly be more worried about her interest in boys vs their interest in her but that’s okay too, Hair is overrated and worry lines add character.

  42. August 12? I used to start a week or so before Labor Day, but never that early. Ridiculous. I hope they at least get out in early May to make up for that.

    But she looks lovely and strong! She’s the very picture (literally) of what we want our American girls to be.

    Please don’t send her to Ohio State. She deserves much better.

  43. Oberlin and Wooster are good colleges–Wooster has great professors and the cleanest, best-organized campus I have ever seen, and Oberlin is Geeklandia. Both much, much better than Ohio State.

    Also, I agree with Lurkertype that Athena is the embodiment of the ideal female human.

    Oh, and Lurker–I’m homeschooled, so every day is a school day. Chew on that!

  44. I agree with flooredby, I think there might be a few teenage boys who are very aware of you, just as I was of my favorite authors at that age.

    But at Athena’s school quite a few such teens will have known Athena longer than they were aware of John’s fame.

    That would be sort of strange. Suppose I had gone to elementary and middle school with a with the child of an author as well known in SF as John is now.. At some point in elementary school she might have said that Dad writes books and I would have thought that this was mildly interesting, in the same way that I thought it was interesting that one of my classmate’s parents owned a doughnut shop. Then one day I might have picked up one of his books in the library and come to the conclusion that her father was famous. That’s not a sure thing; I might have shied away from a book written by a classmate’s father when I was that age.

    Then I might mention this to a geeky kid who came from the other junior high in our district, and his response might be “Really? Her dad’s famous!” It’s that kid from the other school would would really take note.

    Meanwhile, most of the student body wasn’t reading SF, and might not have noticed that the part of the public library where the SF is shelved is dedicated to our classmate’s father.

    I don’t know how big Athena’s school is, but surely there are a few geeks to whom John is famous.

    That must seem a bit odd to Athena. Around town, Dad doesn’t seem to be particularly well known, but there is this crazy little corner of the internet that contains thousands of people who watched the video of her seeing a vinyl LP for the first time. Perhaps the most rational explanation from her viewpoint is that the readers of Whatever are crazy.

  45. Perhaps the most rational explanation from her viewpoint is that the readers of Whatever are crazy.

    I think there’s an extraneous “from her viewpoint” there….

  46. Daughter Miranda starts HS today as well, and was also quite excited about it. Um … 42 years since I started. Like Mike, I lived in a state where you could get your daytime license at 14, and I already had a car!

  47. Best wishes for a successful and satisfying high school career to your bright and beautiful daughter, Mr. Scalzi. The impression I’ve gotten of her is that she is far more self-assured and comfortable in her skin than most folks are at her age, so odds are excellent that she’ll have a good experience. Kudos to you and your spouse for giving her that kind of grounding – she may not yet know how lucky she is, but I’m guessing she’ll figure it out relatively soon.

    In the way-back category, I started high school 42 years ago next month (ulp). Seems unimaginable, somehow; the hurt and isolation of those years are still very, very present in my psyche, despite the passing of time.

    Moreover, 30 years ago, when you were starting high school, my own daughter was a couple of months old – and if you REALLY want to feel old some day, try saying “my daughter is 30 years old” out loud. Gaaaaaa!

  48. About college: I ended up not going to my first choice (or second, or third) because of financial considerations. I really wanted to go to Vassar (my grandmother is an alumnus), but they just didn’t give me enough aid. Same with Colby and Boston College and most of my other choices. I got boned big-time by the middle-class squeeze.

    Back in April of my senior year, I was a little disappointed with the whole situation, but I’m happy where I am. I’m generally of the opinion your college experience is mostly what you choose to make of it, so as far as I’m concerned, name recognition is really the only major distinguishing factor. And if you’re going to grad school, name brand becomes significantly less important.

    People get too worked up over the college search. What really matters is that you get that undergrad degree. Where and in what are decidedly secondary.

  49. @MRAL

    My undergrad alma mater (University of Southern California) chose me by being the only place willing to give me a full academic scholarship. Ironically, even though it had the highest tuition rate of any school I got into, it was the only one I could afford to attend given my lower-middle-class background. This bummed me out as I had had my heart set on Caltech. It was at USC that I made the acquaintance of two people who would ask me to co-found a company with them. It’s because of the unexpected success of that venture that I’m now able to pursue my PhD full time at the school of my choice without worry where my next meal is coming from. My advice: take opportunities where you find them.

  50. My oldest daughter starts ninth grade today too. (They have uniforms, so no Superman T-shirt for her.) Congratulations to both of them!

  51. I’m 39 and all the people who are just a few years older than me with kids in high school make me feel old. Then again as I get older, I get more in favor of school uniforms. This is from someone who didn’t even tuck my shirt in when I was a kid. I think this officially makes me an old fuddy duddy.

  52. I’m all in favor of uniforms, too. The point of them, though, isn’t to make everyone uniform in appearance, but to remove the social aspects of “rich kid/poor kid.” When everyone is dressed the same, it is much easier to make judgments about people based on character, because that is what is left as a means of expression.

    My wife grew up in Ireland, where everyone wears school uniforms. Being cool meant doing something cool, rather than wearing something cool, which is always a better way, I think.

  53. No kids to schlep off to school, although I am watching the inevitable progression of kids I’ve watched grow up leave for college. I remember many when they were toddlers, and now they’re heading out of state. The one young man we fostered for a while has announced his intention to move from NYC to LA, to further his own screenwriting career.

    Good luck with high school, Athena, not like you’ll need it!

  54. @Jerome O’Neil

    When everyone is dressed the same, it is much easier to make judgments about people based on character, because that is what is left as a means of expression.

    Foisting your half-baked social theories on children who have a hard enough time being themselves as it is does not help. Stuffing every kid into uniforms in your misguided attempt to repress classism will create more problems, not solve the one you think it will. Prep schools almost all have uniforms or strict dress codes. Their only purpose is conformity. Kids are not stupid; uniforms don’t magically conceal from them who is rich and poor, white collar and blue collar, or any other of the countless hierarchies along which pecking orders are established.

    Here’s how you address that problem: teach children why classism is wrong and unfair. I know that’s a lot more hard work than mandating prison jumpsuits uniforms, and you can’t just take a PTA vote and pat yourself on the back for making superficial changes predicated on lab mice students being simpletons who’ll run your utopian maze, but at least you won’t try in vain to level the playing field by taking away one of the few ways children have to display their dissent with the world around them.

    You talk about character, but what you really mean is compliance with adult neuroses and expectations. Any kid that colors outside the lines is already a mini-criminal in the fearful eyes of the panic-stricken public education debacle that reacts to statistics instead of engaging with children as actual people. For the sake of our future, please don’t add to that burden.

  55. I made my appeal. I’ve said all I have to say on the topic. I have no intention of belaboring the point. indeed, one my recent self-improvement projects is to not get into circular arguments after I’ve made my point.

    Unrelatedly, I don’t normally have anything to say about family photos on the internet, but that picture is full of awesome.

  56. My daughter started high school last year. AND I was one of her teachers. Double-weird experience. Good luck.

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