I am, unabashedly, a fall-lovin’ girl. Summer is full of sunshine and road trips and beach days, but there’s just something special about autumn. I love the colours, reds and oranges, soft golds and brilliant yellows. I adore filling the house with the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg again. I like sweater weather, and don’t even get me started on everything pumpkin. All the fake pumpkin spice crap is, well, crap. But let me at a pie pumpkin and I’ll work all kinds of magic.
Fall has always marked the start of the academic year for me as well. Some things don’t have to change when you take up alternative schooling. School is one of the things that I love about this season. No back-to-school dread here. New classes, that lovely brand new book smell, and the organization and cleanliness that lasts the first week or two. What’s not to love? It’s always been a positive experience.
So, on my walk home from school this afternoon, surrounded by fall and students, I was reflecting on all of the back-to-school days I’ve had so far. Each of them has been different in some way. High school was especially crazy. Usually I’d be in a different country than I had been the year before, and my current location would affect what I’d be reading about. Rarely did I start the year in a designated classroom. Sometimes my books would be stashed in a box underneath a camper van couch. Other times, they’d be carefully padded in the bottom of my backpack. When taking online classes through Oregon State University, I’d spend the first two weeks convincing my instructors to send me pdf versions of the textbooks to get me through until the snail-mail delivered them to the other side of the world.
I have fond memories of back-to-school before life on the road as well. Back when we lived in the forests of New Hampshire, our first day of school was an exciting, fun day. Mom, who used to teach as a public school teacher and wrote curriculum for a few years, had a few fun traditions. Back then, we had an entire room dedicated to school time, with a ten foot long history of the world poster lining one wall and a trampoline in the corner to take out our extra energy on. Back-to-school meant new erasers and pencils, and dressing up in our nicest clothes. It meant cool new projects and a whole new stash of pom-poms to create with.
Some of the little traditions stuck when we picked school back up while traveling, but a few things changed.
- My desk became a picnic table, or the kitchen table. Simpler, but just as effective.
- We started using more electronics. You don’t really understand how heavy and space-consuming books are until you have to start carrying them with you everywhere you go.
- Back to school photos would happen crowded around the camper table or on a beach in Thailand.
- I’d compare and contrast my first day at school with that of my friend in New Zealand, my co-op friend in Guatemala, my homeschooled friend in the States, and my private schooled friend in Thailand and we’d laugh at the differences.
Then, faster than I’d expected, my last year of high school was over. My first day of university saw me logging into a series of e-courses from my bedroom in Thailand, a complete wreck of anticipation. I slammed through two weeks of content that morning, kind of disappointed that it wasn’t harder. I got cocky, walked away, and nearly failed out of Algebra that semester. Ha.
Last year, I was the very picture of the somewhat naive and hopeful freshman. I had a few uni courses under my belt, so I figured I would handle it ok. And I guess I did, but it was nothing like what I had expected. I was expecting the Hollywood movie edition. I was hoping for a Ms. Frizzle as an instructor. I was looking forward to having a few girlfriends to hang out with regularly. Instead, I learned that profs here are actually a clan of brilliant people with goofy hair who wear old rocker shirts when they aren’t in lecture hall, and that “my people” aren’t the crowd I thought they were.
This year, my back-to-school has been different again. This year, I think I’ve found my people. I don’t have new school supplies, but I have a fresh attitude on my life. I’m excited about my classes for the year. I’ve learned a thing or two about being unashamedly myself, even when I’m semi-permanently surrounded by a culture that’s not into my groove. And hey, guess what? That’s how you find your people.
Happy back-to-school, friends! I hope you’re enjoying these first days of autumn.
Ps. I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t even here for the first day of school. I played hookey on the very first day and went to Syracuse to shop and get my phone fixed. I’m such a rebel. Watch out, world.