‘September is the Other January’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

… January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time … September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

I’m back from summer traveling and feel energized to start and finish some projects.  I look forward to getting back into a more structured routine.  How about you?

How much does your routine change when school starts?  Do you welcome the change?


138 thoughts on “‘September is the Other January’

  1. This is SO true for me. I’m sure part of it comes from the training we get through all those years of school — the joys of a blank notebook, when anything and everything is possible. But for me, it is also the relief from the oppressive summer heat; after days and weeks of wanting to do nothing more than huddle inside or lounge by a pool, the cool mornings re-energize me, and I want to run, hike, play golf, ride bikes, and just generally go out and DO again (which may explain why Labor Day ends up being the “work on the house/yard” holiday for us every year). I find it far easier to start any sort of new self-improvement plan (diet, exercise, etc.) in September than January (when I am back to wanting to hole up inside for months).

    Speaking of, one week into partially-modified Whole 30, going ok (“partially-modified” meaning that DH discovered a leaking ’63 Noval vintage that needed to be drunk immediately. :-) I figure I know alcohol is not my issue, so I’m not going to drink it regularly just because of the sugar content, but once or twice won’t hurt). Generally, I have fought the cravings and managed to comply, except for accidental cross-contamination stuff (e.g., when the restaurant forgot to take off the feta, so I just ate around it). I will say this diet is freaking impossible to eat out with — I had one overnight trip and basically ended up with hardboiled eggs at the Hampton Inn breakfast (because almost all sausages/bacons have sugar, and everything else was grain- or dairy-based); and then at dinner I had to become *that* person (does the dressing have sugar in it? is this cooked in butter or oil? is that breaded or plain? is that commercial balsamic with sugar? does the sauce have wine or butter? etc.etc.etc. ad infinitum). Then again, it does make you conscious of how much sugar we add where you wouldn’t expect it (plain deli turkey? vinegar? even the “all natural”/uncured/”no nitrates” bacon still had sugar!). I am looking forward to the “add back in” phase, where I can narrow down to specific types of foods that set me off and forget about the rest.

  2. Mid-July is when we have to start thinking about school – uniform purchases/resale, textbook ordering in order to do summer homework and get a used one before they are gone, school phyisicals in time for fall pre-season sports practice, etc. With a child participating in a fall sport, our schedule starts changing two weeks before school starts. This week is our 4th week of school, plus the DDs have decided what extracurriculars they are in, so we are almost in a routine. It also means the calendar is now full with known meetings, practices, competitions, major school academic deadlines, exam dates, holidays, etc.

    My employer’s fiscal year begins September 1, so it is often a new start for projects. With school falling into a routine, September is when it feels like it settles down and I can be more focused at work. I feel that it is easier to plan, because now I know the DD’s schedules and know what I need to work around.

  3. I do agree but I always feel off living down here because school started a month ago. We went away for the long weekend and now that it’s over and it’s a tiny bit cooler here (only in the 80s!) I do feel like I’m ready to get back to eating better, walking more and feel ready to get going on some home projects. I feel so blah in the summer, mostly because I spend it indoors because it is too oppressive outside.

    LfB – you go on the Whole 30! I really would like to start up again too but have too many things going on this month. Am going to try to stick strictly to paleo during the week as a first step back after too much wine and food over the weekend.

  4. Using “September” as shorthand for “back to school”, I’d say yeah. I opened my gym membership, which I actually have used 4x/week on average over the past 3+ years (not that you could actually tell from looking at me), in late August when my oldest started his first year in college and so when renewal comes around I think about what I want to achieve re fitness and other things in the upcoming 12 months.

    Since we’re still in the school-sports mode our routine changes and becomes hostage to that once practices start 2 weeks before classes. In some ways it’s good: I end up getting to work regularly 30 mins before everyone else, so I have that organization/planning time which I kind of do without when school isn’t in session.

  5. I’ve always felt like fall/start of the school year was a good time for making changes. Moreso than January. I cleaned out my closet this weekend, and it felt great.

  6. I, too, view Back to School time as a time to re-set. I feel sad that the summer has ended, but I’m very happy that the temperature has decreased a bit. We’re not at the point where we can garden outside, but we’re getting there.

    I am cleaning and organizing a bit, but that’s because DS has a birthday this month and my very clean and organized family is coming to visit for the weekend.

  7. I cleaned out my closet too, and dumped all the summer stuff that I never once put on all summer. Closet space for the win!

  8. Although I am a former HS science teacher I still feel I am sending my child to kid prison each and every fall.My child is very bright academically with rather high SATs but is otherwise a typical 5 th grader in terms of social skills. Much of the day is over structured ,and dull with too much sitting still. I haven’t seen many solutions that address our needs , so I just feel sad. My child is self directed , school has little tolerance self direction
    My child on the other is excited to go back because recess, a favorite subject , will happen this year , soccer practice will be immediately after school , the 30 minutes of reading time can be done independently on the kindle, a weekly book report or project can replace reading group stuff and best of all a best friend will be in the same classroom this fall.

    I look forward to getting my life organized as I go back to the fall routine of work with a newly clean uncluttered desk.

  9. Today’s high is 97, so still feels very much like summer. Though we are moving down to highs in the low 90s in the next week. It will likely be another month before it feels like fall. Our summer clothes purge usually happens over Thanksgiving.

    I forgot that I had started my concerted weight loss effort the end of August. So, I guess it is my new “school year” resolution. I put on more than a few pounds this summer dealing with both my dad’s passing and the, likely resulting, health issues my mom has had. If I don’t shed some pounds, I won’t be able to fit in my “winter” clothes.

  10. It is maybe 95 degrees here today. I am really looking forward to FALL. We went apple picking on Saturday when it was not quite as hot and now I feel like I can’t make any apple desserts because it is too hot. Sigh.

    You guys are reminding me that I also need to make phone calls about kid activities – I need to add in a martial art and/or swimming.

  11. Although I understand how southern summers can be oppressive, I usually become more energized by warm weather. September and October are fine, but the colder fall and winter months tend to stifle my productivity.

    I’m cleaning out closets and trying to declutter and organize my whole house. It’s easier to do that when our household is following more predictable routine.

  12. Actually, since I’m a creature of habit, I find most everything easier to do when our household is following a predictable routine. This probably indicates that in most ways I’m not a very spontaneous person.

  13. Rhett’s link about “the unconventional lifestyle of constant travel aboard a boat” sounds horrible to me. No thanks, I want a more stable and predictable lifestyle.

  14. I love a lot of our routines. I get a bit flummoxed at the start of the year as the new routine winds up, but once we get used to it, it’s great. We’re hitting 90s this week (with no air conditioning) so I’m wilting, but I’m in love with Fall when actual cool weather comes. It may just be conditioning, but it feels like a fresh start to me.

  15. I started this after we got back from vacation, so not really a September thing, but in the same flavor. I’ve been bringing my lunch to work every day, for about three weeks now. I’ve also been doing enough meal planning and preparation that we’ve hardly gone out to eat at all. The motivation was that I’m trying to set aside extra cash for a boat. It’s been a wake-up call to see how significantly this has reduced our credit card bill. I’m also shocked at how nobody misses the frequent dining out or takeout.

    I’ve done a lot of charcoal grilling, and grilling for leftovers. I’ve made pot roast and potatoes and carrots in the crock pot. Quesadillas. Nothing fancy.

  16. “My child is very bright academically with rather high SATs but is otherwise a typical 5 th grader in terms of social skills.”

    A lot of people though DS took his first SAT early, but he was already a soph. I’ve heard of kids taking SATs in 7th or 8th grade for some gifted programs, but I’ve never heard of kids taking them in the 5th grade.

    “Much of the day is over structured ,and dull with too much sitting still. I haven’t seen many solutions that address our needs , so I just feel sad.”

    I think one solution that a lot of the regulars here implemented when they were in school was to hide a book under the desk and read when class got boring.

  17. “Today’s high is 97”

    It’s been feeling like it’s been in the 90s the last several weeks here. Humidity, that is.

    It’s felt like we were in Guam or Singapore.

  18. Shout out to WCE’s home girl Angela Merkel for Germany’s generous response to the refugee crisis. Let’s hope the USA follows suit.

  19. Milo – how much do you think you’re saving per month and then how long til you have enough for your boat? Will you keep up this awesome work to generate funds for maintenance?

    On topic – This is the second September where I haven’t had the “beginning of the school year” sensation. Correction, it’s really the first September. This time last year I moved back into my home after the flood. That was a lot of newness. Anyway, it’s weird to not have to prep for classes (mine or those I’m teaching), deal with the influx of cars and wayward college students. It’s just another day… though my commuting time increases as more people head to work earlier.

    As for schedules – I’m working on a new one at work, and it seems to be going well for the family. I strive to get in at 7:30a and leave at 4p (today will be 7:45-4:15). I go to the gym for 5p on Mon and Wed, so we have dinner a bit later; on Tues and Thurs, I get home earlier so we have family time, early dinner, and I go to yoga or dance for 7/7:30p. It’s a lot, but it works. DH usually hits the gym the same time I do and leaves ~15 minutes before me so he can get home and get dinner prepped (he’s an excellent sous chef).

    Our night schedule may be changing. Since birth, DS has been required to eat over night (we had a regimented schedule until month 3-4). At his last well visit, my ped wanted us to get rid of his last overnight feeding (midnight). To do that, we stopped waking him and just put a bottle in his mouth at midnight – he ate/spit out what he wanted to and when he stopped sucking on the bottle, we removed it. We’ve done this for a month-ish now (between travel and my new schedule, I was hesitant to change things). Last night we allowed DS to just sleep through the night. He woke up at 7:30a (11.5 hours of sleep). He made noise 1-2x between 3-5a but never woke up. I’m a little freaked out that it could be this simple…

  20. Rhett I love the article you linked to. These kids are learning to take calculated risks, to think to dream and bring dreams into reality. I think its important to learn to take risks either Intellectual or Physical so that one does not end up living a dull heedless life playing video games, going to work , cleaning the bathroom etc while missing out all the beauty , community, creativity and adventures this life has to offer. We , our entire planet and our country , all countries need creative people and this is one path to make doers.

  21. Finn – I’ll even take feeling like 97. Our 97 today will likely “feel” over 100 when you factor in the humidity. Over the weekend, the temp was 100 with the humidity, the heat index was 107.

    I got an email about our area corn maze, which is what usually makes me think fall. My family really enjoys going, but its hard right now to think about it, even though the calendar says it opens in 4 weeks.

  22. Anon – to quote one of Milo’s favorite people (and mine, but he beats me to it all the time), “We live in a world where some are oysters and some are pearls” (Jimmy Buffett).

    “Oysters And Pearls”

    Lindbergh left Long Island in 1927
    Thumbed his nose at gravity
    And climbed into the heavens.
    When he returned to earth that night everything changed,
    For the pilot and the planet, everything was rearranged.

    We’re a pretty mixed up bunch
    Of crazy human beans
    It’s written on our rocket ships
    And in early cave wall scenes.

    How does it happen,
    How do we know,
    Who sits and watches
    Who does the show?

    Some people love to lead
    And some refuse to dance.
    Some play it safely, other take a chance.
    Still it’s all a mystery
    This place we call the world
    Where most live as oysters
    While some become pearls.

    Elvis was the only man from Northeast Mississippi
    Who could shake his hips and still be loved by rednecks, cops and hippies.
    It’s something more than DNA that tells us who we are
    It’s method and it’s magic, we are of the stars.


    Some never fade away, some crash and burn
    Some make the world go round, other watch it turn.
    Still it’s all a mystery
    This place we call the world.
    Most are fine as oysters
    While some become pearls.

  23. Rhode, It can be…DD#1 was quick to sleep through the night on her own with minimal waking without us doing anything, but then DD#2 didn’t make it consistently through the night until 18 months. I jokingly tell DD#2 if she had been first, she’d likely be an only.

  24. Rhode – I’m kind of afraid to jinx my own thing, and I haven’t done any careful analysis of the spending. It’s very recent, and we haven’t had any big purchases, no brake replacements or new sets of tires for a car. But this billing cycle is shaping up to be the cheapest bill I think I’ve seen in years, by over a grand). Cheap gasoline isn’t hurting, either.

  25. Rhode, I would just drop that night feeding at around four months (realize yours is probably a little later) and they always just slept right through. I always felt like the next night they’d wake up, but they never did, that was it. It’s so liberating!

    I visited my little sister this weekend to meet her two month old baby (her first). Little niece just started sleeping 8 hours a night so my sister is feeling better. What a cutie, but watching all of the working around the feeding and nap schedule )(plus getting spit up on several times) definitely solidified for us that we are not having any more.

    Milo – we’ve been eating lunch out maybe once a week for the past few months and have cut back on wine and clothes. We are really saving some cash now, it’s awesome. We were never big on eating out except for lunch but it added up.

  26. Rhode – not to burst your bubble, but all of mine dropped the night feeding at 10-12 months. 12 months was with #1 – and I had to wear earplugs for the first few nights so I wouldn’t hear her wake up.

    Milo – good for you on the saving! I need to get on the meal planning bandwagon.

  27. Atlanta – I hung out with a good friend who has full-term twins 5 days older than DS (so 8 months old)… I bow to her and my SIL with their twins. Dear Lord the amount of spit up, clothes, drool, needed 5 sets of eyeballs… I don’t think I could ever keep up.

    Milo – your talk of savings got me thinking about asking DH for a State of the Union… timely with the beginning of the fall (and now that most of our house/baby drama is behind us). I’m curious to see if DH’s claims about our cash status are true.

  28. Rhode, my youngest still has a night feeding (now a graham cracker sometime between 1 AM and 3 AM) and he’ll be 2 in a few weeks :) Maybe yours could show him how it’s done.

    Enjoy your baby while he sleeps :)

  29. My little one spends much of the day reading in class but it doesn’t increase popularity with the teachers when one does 100 double and triple long division to the third decimal place in About 15 minutes and then takes out a book. The kid’s accuracy is 99 to 100 percent. Last year this kid was accused of cheating by the the teacher and was advised by the vice principal to sit quietly until someone else was done and then get out the kindle. This kid is allowed to have a kindle because someone thought it might help pass the time with access to appropriate material for him . This child needs more math / language/ language arts with a group of other silly kids. The ability to teach one ‘s self high level stuff does not make one more emotionally , socially mature . School is not good for him in many ways , but not going would be worse. Early admissions At age 10 is a problem because the social isolation would be too great – the goal is a well healthy sane adult so off to school for now.

  30. Anonymous,
    I would get your kid tested for academic achievement. Our district uses the NWEA test. It keeps giving harder questions until the answers are the same as guess work. They have a data pool, so your child can be compared to all of the other kids that took the test. I am sure there are other standardized tests. If the test results are way high, I would take them to the school and see what their plans are for him. I would also take high test results to the closest gifted and talented school and see what their plans would be.

  31. I just don’t like being tied to a school calendar. The years between my finishing school and my kids starting in school were blissful. September is the ramp up month, May is the power down month. I wish it were all more even. I clear all the school related paperwork/books/things brought home at the end of the school year. That way I started summer feeling very light. This year even with the start of school, paperwork is less because a lot of it has transitioned online for kid #1.

  32. I just used the Google voice typing interface in Google Docs. Awesome. It is found under tools while Google Docs is open using the Chrome browser.

  33. I am melting right now because our schools don’t have A/c except in certain rooms. 95 outside right now according to weather channel. I had to help set up something and it was so hot.

    Our town pool stayed open for a few extra days so we’re going after school.

    I hate the Labor Day weekend because everything changes at one time…. Return to school, sports, extra curriculars, Jewish holidays, Hebrew school, Back to school nights etc.
    September is hard!!!

  34. “It’s been a wake-up call to see how significantly this has reduced our credit card bill. ”

    Until you actually get the boat, that is.

  35. Anon, at least someone else came up with the Kindle idea, which is similar to what many of us did as kids.

    If cheating is a concern, perhaps your kid could turn in the work when done, then take out the Kindle. If that’s too disruptive, then perhaps just put the work on the desk where it is obviously not being worked on. I’m wondering who the teacher thinks your kid is cheating from.

    Does your kid’s school not have a GT program? Is there no more appropriate school available?

  36. Speaking of Lindbergh, oysters and pearls, and “calculated” risks, it takes a special type of mindset to base your attempt of the first solo transatlantic flight on distances measured with a string on a globe.

    The Spirit of St. Louis was based on an existing model, the Ryan M-2, but many adjustments were necessary to make a plane suitable for an ocean flight. The inordinately heavy fuel load meant Hall had to redesign the wing, fuselage, landing gear, and ailerons, all major jobs. Of necessity, much of what the Ryan workers did was based on improvisation and guesswork—sometimes to a startling degree. Realizing they had no clear notion of how far it was from New York to Paris by the great circle route, they went to a public library and measured the distance on a globe with a piece of string. By such means was one of history’s greatest planes built.

  37. Anon – if there are no suitable classes for math at the current school, I would look into transportation to the closest HS/community college for those; I have heard that pull-outs for math are more successful than those for other classes.

  38. Realizing they had no clear notion of how far it was from New York to Paris by the great circle route,

    Life before Google.

  39. I would tutor my child in math or find a tutoring program before I’d put a 10 year old in high school/community college math. If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick community college math over high school, because adults are likely to not be mean to a 10 year old compared to high schoolers.

  40. RMS, I was also at Rocky Mountain National Park on Sunday, viewing exactly what shows up on your photos Horseshoe Park! One member of our party was suffering considerably from altitude sickness, so we were only able to drive up to about 10 or 11 thousand elevation, and no hiking. But frankly I doubt I could have hiked more than a mile at that elevation. We also hiked St. Mary’s Glacier, thanks to DD’s recommendation. Beautiful all around.

  41. “Until you actually get the boat, that is.”

    Perhaps. But we’d been using the kids and being busy as an excuse for too much dining out for a long time, so if saving for a splurge is the motivation to kick that habit, then it’s not so bad, and it’s not necessarily just temporary.

    I had debated internally whether it would just make more sense to borrow the money–and mathematically, it probably would, especially now with stocks around a correction–but borrowing and a modest monthly payment doesn’t force the actual cost cutting like this. So I think, based on behavioral realities, this works out better.

  42. Rhett – Pontoon. Triple-pontoons with lifting strakes, 22 feet, 150 hp, ski/tow bar.

    Suntracker is the big-volume, low price purveyor with no-haggle pricing.


    Others offer a somewhat fancier finish for a few grand more. It’s hard to tell if it’s worth the premium, but we’ll go to a couple boat shows this winter to hopefully get a side-by-side comparison.

  43. Rhode, it seems like it can be that easy (knock on wood because as you say, I’m worried I’ll jinx it by saying it out loud). We had been getting Baby June up to eat in the 10-11 range to ensure that she would sleep through until we had to get up for work. Recently, she seemed to need it less and wasn’t ever waking for it on her own, so we just stopped and she has slept through roughly 7-7 most nights for the last two-ish weeks. My boss calls her a trick baby, i.e., designed to trick us into having another, ha.

    I’m sorry to have missed so much around here lately–back to work and all that it entails has been going well, but the days are flying faster than ever.

  44. Wow, Rocky. Those pictures are beautiful!

    I certainly hope there was a bar on top of whatever mountain you were on!

  45. It’s felt like we were in Guam or Singapore.

    Yes. I am so ready to get our trade winds back. It looks like there’s not another hurricane heading for us yet after Jimena passes north of us this week — Kevin is gone already and Linda isn’t expected to make it to the Central Pacific — so maybe we’ll finally get a break from this pattern.

  46. Anon,

    I have no suggestions, only sympathy. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. If you don’t work full time, perhaps he could hang out with you some days instead of going to school.

    At what point does your district start to have leveled classes?

  47. Milo, that Pontoon Boat looks exactly like what I want my Lincoln Continental to look like.

  48. “that Pontoon Boat looks exactly like what I want my Lincoln Continental to look like”

    Like in a vague sense? Big, spread out, spacious, comfortable, plush?

    DW is hinting that, if we’re going to bite the bullet and do it, maybe we should go up to 24 feet and be able to take more people out.

  49. “Like in a vague sense? Big, spread out, spacious, comfortable, plush?”

    No, Milo. Exactly. If it had wheels, I could see myself driving that puppy to The Villages.

  50. Things that make you go hum….

    I bought a $500 item from staples.com and it was due to arrive last Thursday. I called today to ask when I should expect it. Oh, your order was canceled. Um… I’m looking at the order status page and it says processing. Oh, it will show that but it’s actually canceled. Why? We called with a question and left a v-mail that you didn’t return in 3 days so we just canceled it.

    So, you canceled it and didn’t update the order status page? Yes.
    You canceled it and didn’t email me that you canceled it? Yes.
    You did send me 25 spam e-mails in the mean time? Yes.
    You didn’t e-mail me that you had a question about the order? No

    And the customer service people could give two shits.

    Seriously, are you trying to go out of business?

  51. “I would tutor my child in math or find a tutoring program before I’d put a 10 year old in high school/community college math.”

    Would Khan be an option? Or perhaps some math lessons on the Kindle?

    “If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick community college math over high school, because adults are likely to not be mean to a 10 year old compared to high schoolers.”


  52. Math was always my best subject (I ended up majoring in it). In 6th grade, I started going to the high school for class. They arranged my schedule so that it was either the first class of the day or the last, so my mom would either drop me off or pick me up and I was bussed to/from the high school for the other leg. I liked it. The high school students were nice to me. I think they were a little amused by me. I think I would have hated going to a college for class – way too adult when I was 12.

  53. HM/Finn, We greatly missed your Trade Winds too. We were there for a quick week and left two days before the Waikiki spill. DS didn’t make it to the Hickam Skate Hangar, but he had a couple of private skate lessons instead. We went to our favorite restaurants and tried some new ones, like Sweet Home Cafe. DH & DS now prefer Taiwanese style Hot Pot vs. Japanese style Hot Pot at Shabu Shabu House. We all continue to prefer Gomaichi over Goma Tei, but we are concerned with Goma Tei’s better parking and bigger space at Ala Moana that Gomaichi’s days are numbered. We missed Dole Whip now that the International Marketplace is a giant crater, so we were glad to find it in two locations – at the Ala Moana Food Court and at the Walgreens on Kapiolani. Do any locals go to the Saturday KCC Farmer’s Market anymore? I see that they are now having one on Tuesdays from 4-7:00 – maybe the locals go to that one.

  54. I spent some time in Japan and love Japanese food. I am so jealous of the Hawaii folks! All the restaurant sound wonderful!

  55. SBJ, I’m sure someone goes, but it does seem like it’s mostly visitors now. I don’t know about the Tuesday evening KCC one, but the Wednesday evening one on the lawn in front of Blaisdell Concert Hall is still mostly a local affair.

  56. HM, The KCC vendors do seem to be geared more toward tourists. The number of farmers seems to drop every time we go, and the number of tourist buses appears to increase. We enjoy trying the different foods, but it is really becoming more of a food fair than a farmers’ market.

  57. I loved visiting Denver. The occasion was a family reunion, based in Lakewood where the host family recently moved. It was a pleasure being in a high, sunny part of the country, similar to where I grew up. The living seems relatively easy. I can imagine myself living in Lakewood, where the light rail system makes commuting to downtown relatively easy. And the surrounding mountains are just an uplifting (pun intended) sight that speaks to my soul.

    The family reunion part of the trip was a new experience for me. It was fantastic, but I also realized that trying to get groups of people to agree on a restaurant or activity often resulted in going to a place that offended the least amount of people and was nobody’s first choice. :)

  58. Another possible option for advanced students (or anyone seeking quality instruction) are online courses like those offered by The Well Trained Mind Academy.


    Notice they use the AOPS mentioned by WCE. I have some personal experience with WTM, (terrific writing courses) and if their online courses had been around back then I may have used them for homeschooling. They offer various times, including a delayed class option that allows flexibility for students who are attending a traditional school.

  59. CoC, the light rail station near my house will open next January. Light rail to the airport! Light rail straight downtown! I’m irrationally exuberant.

    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit!

  60. I’m nearly finished with “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” I’m surprised at how engaging I found it. I’d only selected it because I’ve seen it referenced so many times on the finance blogs as a modern classic.

    I wouldn’t have guessed that I could ever love a drunk as much as I loved Johnny Nolan.

  61. I’ve never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so I looked it up in Wikipedia. “The main metaphor of the book is the hardy Tree of Heaven, native to China and Taiwan, now considered invasive, and common in the vacant lots of New York City.” Now THAT’S a metaphor.

  62. The tree is mentioned briefly in the beginning, and if it re-appears thereafter, it will have to be on the second half of the 12th and final CD.

    I think you’d like the book, Rocky. There are a lot of Totebaggy themes, like frugality, deprivation, education, and family; all struggling against poverty, circumstance, and addiction.

  63. Yeah, I think I’ll stick with the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries for now.

  64. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was surprisingly one of my kids’ reading assignments in school. I can’t remember what year. I never read it but I did see the movie many years ago. Quite a tear jerker IIRC.

    This year marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Friday Night Lights. Back then Bissinger was banned from doing book signings in Odessa and Midland, but this week he’s being welcomed with open arms with appearances at both locations.

  65. I’m surprised you’ve never read Tree RMS.

    I read it (maybe last year?) for the first time.

  66. CoC, the light rail station near my house will open next January. Light rail to the airport! Light rail straight downtown! I’m irrationally exuberant.


  67. I loved “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. I will definitely have to recommend that to my kids in the future. OTOH, I will have to see if the school has taken my suggestion and is assigning less depressing books to the kids. It was too much analyzing depressing book after book.

  68. Yesterday’s Anonymous, the comment about kid prison really resonated with me. Last weekend I was thinking about my own school days in the 50s and 60s. Other than foreign language classes (which I had from kindergarten on) and my UK expat 9th grade English teacher who was appalled that we colonials did not know how to write a proper “theme”, I can honestly say that I don’t recall any academic learning that was not effectively self directed, and of course we did not have online resources or Khan Academy. The teacher was the adult in the room until 6th grade when I became aware that at least half of my teachers were misinformed, uninspired, burnouts, or worse. Obviously that changed in college, when difficulty level, fellow students and instructors were of an appropriate level, and my lack of preparation/stimulation/study habits/social skills eventually set limits to my total life success, so I don’t recommend that as a life plan. I didn’t mind going to school because I didn’t have much of a social life before high school, but it never occurred to me as a child or later as a parent that school was anything more than an experience to be endured.

  69. I also disliked the depressing books my kids had to read. The Giver, Z for Zachariah, etc. I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (and another book of hers called Joy In the Morning); I wish my kids had read that in school!

  70. I’m trying to remember if I read anything written in the 20th Century for English. I can’t think of a thing. Lots of Shakespeare, Chaucer, assorted Romantic poets, Thackerey, Austen, Hawthorne, Hardy, etc.

    Oh no! I remember! We had to read Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn for a class called Mythology and Fantasy. That book will put you off 20th Century writers for a solid month.

  71. RMS…Catcher in the Rye? Of Mice and Men (or other stuff by Steinbeck)? or maybe you’re referencing college English, in which case I’d probably agree.

  72. I’m trying to remember if I read anything written in the 20th Century for English. I can’t think of a thing.


    In no particular order: Native Son, Great Gatsby, Night, Hiroshima, Animal Farm, 1984, a bunch of the WWI poetry, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Jungle, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman…

    Middle school included The Outsiders, Roll of Thunder…, Island of the Blue Dolphins…

    I’d be harder pressed to think of things NOT from the 20th century. Macbeth, Othello, R+J, Hamlet. Two Cities. Seven Gables. Huck and Tom. A little bit of Canterbury Tales.

  73. I’m trying to remember if I read anything written in the 20th Century for English.

    Old Man and the Sea?

  74. No, I’m talking about high school. I read Cather in the Rye on my own. You’re right, we did read Grapes of Wrath. There must’ve been some other stuff, but I’m remembering Dickens, Victor Hugo, Melville, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Milton…maybe I’m just remembering the stuff I liked.

  75. RMS, light rail came to our neighborhood in the last expansion and we hardly ever take it. It’s still more convenient to drive downtown and pay the $10 to park. The exception is going to a Broncos game or anything else at Sports Authority field. But even for Rockies games, anything at the Pepsi center, or the performing arts center, driving is still much more convenient.

  76. I read that Catcher in the Rye and Grapes of Wrath were widely assigned by schools. When I read this, I sort of stopped wanting to read them. I am wondering whether to read them or just wait till my kids have them as assigned reading. At this point all the assigned books are Trophy Newbery books.

  77. No, I think it was just watered down a lot in the few years between our high school experiences.

  78. Denver Dad, you’re bursting my bubble. But you’re probably right. I want to take the train to the shopping centers, because the parking lots at places like Park Meadows are such Escher-esque nightmares.

  79. ” Native Son, Great Gatsby, Night, Hiroshima, Animal Farm, 1984, a bunch of the WWI poetry, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Jungle, The Crucible, Death of a Salesman…

    Middle school included The Outsiders, Roll of Thunder…, Island of the Blue Dolphins…”

    I didn’t read any of these for school

  80. Louise, Catcher and Grapes are both interesting novels. Many people find that Salinger makes them stabby. If you’re a smart, alienated teenage boy and you read Catcher in the Rye at exactly the right moment in your emotional development, you will love it. Others may wish to beat Salinger about the head and shoulders with a rolled-up newspaper.

    Grapes is interesting, but I mainly remember the dripping misogyny, which you’re apparently not supposed to care about. You’re just supposed to care about the greatness of it all. But watch how Steinbeck treats the pregnant Rose of Sharon (Rosasharn? I can’t remember how he spelled it.) There’s a lot of loathing of pregnant women in between the lines. It’s creepy.

  81. I read Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lord of the Flies, a Farewell to Arms, Beloved and one of the books by Henry James (but can’t remember which one) in high school. Other than that it’s fuzzy what I read in high school v. college. I remember reading Lolita and think it was high school but then I’m thinking did they really let us read that in high school?

  82. Greetings!

    I’m sorry to have missed this topic, and given the time, it’s likely about to switch to the next. Drat. I LOVE the start of the school year and YES! I *always* make school-year resolutions. On Sunday, I asked DH what his “school-year resolutions” are. I much prefer those to New Year’s ones.

    I used to love summers for the break in activities, but now that DD is driving (ack — my BABY is driving!), activities don’t affect me. Wahoo! She has always been my busiest kid, so having her get herself to/from school and the barn and the other million things she does means my school year isn’t busier than my summer, for the first time in almost 2 decades. Which is great, but also means I’m getting old. You can’t have it both ways, alas.

    DH is thrilled school has resumed because he works from home, and kids interrupt him all the time with really “urgent” matters like, “Have you seen the basement remote?” I think it’ll make a difference to me on at-home days but perhaps not as much, as I’ve learned to work through the inanity.

    (I also love school supplies, but I buy those all year long. I’ve broken up with Mead composition books recently, in favor of the really skinny Moleskin ones. Nothing beats buying a new one of those babies. And those pens made from recycled water bottles–love. Light blue ink, no smudging).

  83. “I wouldn’t have guessed that I could ever love a drunk as much as I loved Johnny Nolan.”

    Clearly, we’ve never met.

  84. I read (not for assigned reading) a lot of PG Wodehouse when in school. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

  85. Anon – Do you have something like this where you live?

    https://www.utexas.edu/cee/k12.shtml (sorry, I am not sure it inserted as a hyperlink)

    My DD#1 did 2 Algebra 1 and Geometry in the 8th Grade using this program. She went to the computer room during her math class and did it on her own online. I didn’t find it until mid-year in 7th Grade or I would have tried earlier.

  86. She went to the computer room during her math class and did it on her own online.

    How I wish this had been an option for me.

  87. Milo and I are approximately the same age (I think I a bit older). I read everything on Milo’s list in exciting high school classes such as American Novel, Modern Drama and, my least favorite, Brit Lit.

  88. That Texas option sounds good. Our local high school expressly prohibits students from earning credit from online courses, or at least that was the policy two years ago.

  89. Hi Risley!!

    @Rocky — I just remember the older British lit because that’s where my interests lie. But we had a whole year in HS on American lit, which included a LOT of 20th century stuff. My big paper was on modern dystopian fiction (1984, Walden 2, and The Left Hand of Darkness). Funny, come to think of it — they did a much better job teaching us modern lit than they did modern history — we read books from the ’50s on, and yet never studied the Korean or Vietnam wars, the Cold War, Watergate, etc.

    Of course, with an American Studies prof mom and English prof stepdad, I also got a lot at home — Richard Wright, Vonnegut, Salinger, Faulkner, Morrison, etc.

  90. “when I became aware that at least half of my teachers were misinformed, uninspired, burnouts, or worse”.

    This struck a chord. There were instances in my social studies class when, I wanted to say to the teacher, if you could just step aside I could do a better job teaching the class and they would at least be awake. I did not, otherwise I bet I would be expelled from school.

  91. CoC – My daughter’s private high school has a similar limitation about what must be taken on campus for graduation credit. The Texas option is, in part, due to the large number of rural HS with small numbers of students. If your graduating class is 25 or less, it can be hard to offer a range of class in any given subject to meet students needs.

  92. I was an above average, but not gifted, student, so I didn’t have much frustration in school. I remember the good teachers, but not the bad ones. Perhaps they weren’t bad enough to remember.

  93. I’m trying to remember if we read anything by any black authors. I don’t think so. It was the Great Dead White Guys for the most part. Odd, really, because even though it was the 70s it was leftist Palo Alto.

  94. We theoretically read book in my American literature class in high school, the Red Badge of Courage. Only about three of thirty people actually read it. For everything else we studied, we just watched the movie.

    And yes, that’s one of my arguments for tracking in schools.

  95. WCE, I think that’s an argument for not going to high school in small-town Iowa.

  96. We had some smart people. I just went through school when outcome based education was in vogue. It’s true that “all people can learn and we learn at different rates”. But it’s also true that some people will be dead before they get to Shakespeare or calculus.

  97. That didn’t come out right. But if there were only three people who read the book, were there enough kids to track to different classes?

  98. My sophomore high school English teacher decided I was advanced, so she replaced Pride and Prejudice as a book report requirement with something by John Updike (sp?) As RMS said, misogyny was unseen. I suppose I should be grateful that Austen remained an unspoiled treasure for me to discover in later life.

  99. I didn’t mean to be defensive. If we had put all the college prep kids in one section, as was done in two of the four high school grades but not American Lit, the class would have been pretty good. I had almost no college prep kids in my section because I was off a year in math, because of how the schedule worked.

  100. I went to high school in the 70s and we read Invisible Man and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
    DS reads almost all 20th century lit at school–he goes to an all boys school, where apparently it would kill them to read Austen or Bronte.

  101. “The world is awash in great poems. Any selection of the best ones will necessarily rely on extra-literary factors.”

    @Milo — holy freaking wow. Big logical leap here that I just flat-out don’t buy. I get the historic exclusion of minorities and women in this world, as in many others, and I am all for making sure doors are opened to all comers. But, damn, whether a book or poem is good or bad should stand on its own merits. The idea is to bring “Black Boy” to the party — not knock out “Emma” because Austen was the 18th c. version of a middle-class white lady.

    “Perhaps what Hudson’s feat demonstrates is that, without some kind of extradiegetic edge, his poems don’t quite cut it.” Or perhaps, what he demonstrates is that the poetry world is now run by people who value backstory over literary merit.

  102. Or perhaps, what he demonstrates is that the poetry world is now run by people who value backstory over literary merit.

    It was ever thus, though. There’s a reason why the Bronte sisters published under men’s names.

  103. I agree with you, LfB.

    And I don’t think he was even dishonest, because I thought he made it clear that it was a pen name (or whatever the term is). I didn’t realize that you could only choose a pen name that matched your ethnicity.

    Reminds me of “I thought I was getting advice from a Chinese woman! Not some girl from Long Island!”

  104. Lordy, that guy has a lot to say. And he contradicts himself constantly, and then he acknowledges the contradictions…

    I’ve never liked any poetry that doesn’t rhyme, so I’m no expert, but it seems to me that I could have solved his long-suffering internal debate–and saved him 5,000 words of explanation–by simply asking for all the submissions without the authors’ names attached.

  105. @Milo — I had the same thought exactly. Must have been married to an engineer too long. (Although then I wonder whether it would have been truly blind anyway, assuming that people have highly distinctive writing styles and he might subconsciously favor those he recognized . . . ).

    That said, I liked his article, because that’s basically how my brain works all the time, so I found it very relatable. :-) The decision made a lot more sense as he described it than as defended by the Slate piece.

  106. “Light rail to the airport! Light rail straight downtown! I’m irrationally exuberant. ”

    Rail is being constructed here. Massive traffic jams! Roads like pioneer trails! Noisy construction at all hours! Businesses shutting down for lack of business!

    I’m not exuberant.

  107. DD, has your light rail system reduced traffic to make driving more convenient?

    I think supporters of our rail fall into a few basic groups:

    -Drinkers of Kool-Aid.
    -Construction unions and their supporters.
    -People who hope a lot of other people will take the train so the roads will be less crowded for them.
    -Politicians who aspire(d) to higher office.

  108. “he goes to an all boys school, where apparently it would kill them to read Austen or Bronte.”

    Chick lit.

  109. “people who value backstory over literary merit.”

    Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz? Rhode will get that reference, but I’m curious who else will.

  110. DD, has your light rail system reduced traffic to make driving more convenient?

    The opening of the light rail line to my neighborhood coincided with the widening if the major highway that runs through the south side of Denver, so it’s hard to say how much of a reduction in traffic there was compared to the effect of the highway expansion.

  111. Shout out to Charlie Brooks, my high school English teacher 2x. He taught me to love literature. When he read the ultimate scenes from the crucible, I could see he would endure what the Crucible character did for the sake of his own daughter. Also, there was loads of time just wasted on dumb people, on going through the motions or testing or socks or whatever, but who really remembers any of that? My son is in middle school and nothing is better than rereading the books with him. Nothing.

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