Ox Cart Days is pretty much summer vacation's last hurrah.

The unofficial last hurrah of summer, Ox Cart Days, has come and gone, signaling those with school-aged kids that Crookston schools start in a couple of weeks, so we need to get cracking on those back-to-school preparations, like shopping. At least we don't start this week, like most of North Dakota and lots of colleges do. Sure, the kids are getting a bit restless, it just seems too early to get cracking on the books, especially when daytime temps are hovering around the 80s. Why waste that little trickle left of summer inside all day?

Even with all the excitement and activities of late, school matters had been at the back of my mind and are now front and center. Hoping to get a jump on scholarships and college preparations in general, my senior and I will be delving into all that starting this week. It helps knowing her college of choice this early and that with her ACT score and other qualifications, she would be accepted to most any school in the country.

Thank goodness she chose not to go too far or pricey. While it is by no means a short jaunt back and forth, the U of M, Duluth is only a few hours' drive from here. She could easily make it home for an occasional weekend and during breaks. We'll have a good excuse to take a periodic excursion to this great tourist area and may even be able to hit all the attractions and sites over the course of four years.

I can feel my nerves are already starting to frizzle from being the parent of a senior once again. The expense of it all – keeping her even more fashionably dressed than before, senior photos, graduation announcements, graduation reception, extra special reward gifts for her activities – combined with keeping all the schedules and deadlines straight, sadness with all the lasts and banquets to commemorate these is enough to drive a mom batty. But from experience, I know to treasure each of these moments because they only come once in a lifetime for these girls, so it's important to make them memorable.

Sigh, it's fun but bittersweet to see your little ones grow up. With my baby now a sophomore and soon to be a licensed driver (eek!), it seems like forever since our whole family was able to dine out with change from a $50 bill, thanks to kids' meal prices. Long gone are the days of having only one or two teachers to speak with during parent/teacher conferences and having the girls check in with us every 15 minutes they're away from home. I also miss the days when they thought all boys were just plain icky. Some still are, mind you, but those who aren't... Do I need to worry just a little?

Speaking of the number of teachers a kid has, as a sixth grader, I have Mr. Miller teaching me science and math in the morning, and Mrs. Melby filling me in on English and social studies in the afternoon. This worked out very well, as our teachers focused on the subjects they knew best rather than each trying to teach us everything. While I can't speak for the other sixth-grade teachers at the time, mine were top-notch and really knew their stuff. Consequently, I was able to retain a lot of what I learned from them and ended up better prepared for the junior high level.

Now, if those same teachers had been forced to have the same one classroom of students all day, all year long and teach them all of the academic subjects, even if their skills were a little sketchy on a couple, I don't know if the outcome would've been nearly as positive. For one thing, the transition from one to multiple teachers was more gradual and thus, easier to accept once I hit seventh-grade. While I already felt more grown up being in middle school from grade school – different from today's elementary configuration at Highland – having two different teachers really made me feel as though I'd progressed.

There was some talk in the school district about going back to a similar system, but in the end it was decided to keep each sixth-grade classroom separate, with one teacher for all subjects like it has been for a few years. I hope for the sake of future sixth graders they'll revisit this in the near future.

It's funny how I remember some of my first days of school like they were yesterday, particularly my first day of sixth grade and ninth grades, probably because they were big moves to the bigger schools. The leap to Highland was more exciting, but scary at the same time. By the time high school rolled around, I was well seasoned into the room-changing thing. My biggest fear then was not being able to race to classes from the first to third floor on time.

Three short years from now, I'll be preparing to send my youngest off to college, possibly experiencing a little empty nest syndrome. In the meantime, Lord help me.