Today is the first day of school. Adam and Beth got out the uniforms this morning for the first time in almost three months, and started a new chapter in their lives.

For Adam, it’s first grade. These days the jump from kindergarten to first grade isn’t much different from first to second. The era of standardized testing and school “accountability” has leached most of the fun from learning, as schools standardize curriculums, and reduce every moment between bells to drill English and math into childrens’ heads with the subtlety of a jack-hammer.

It’s why Adam is in private school, although his school isn’t immune to the pressure to kickstart the academics early. Private schools aren’t “accountable” the way public schools are. Florida’s ultra-conservative state government says it’s because private schools are held to an even higher standard: “the free market.” Oh the irony! Private schools lack the woeful standards of “accountability” of public schools, allowing them to devote more time to a rounded education. They can dabble in frivolous things like music, art, and the study of foreign languages and cultures – all the things I got from my public education in Florida before the “accountability movement” started.

Heaven fucking forbid.

Beth starts high school today, though she too will remain at the same, private school she attended last year. As you may recall, our hand was forced when it became clear “accountability” didn’t apply to kids with Aspergers.

I didn’t mean to begin this post with a rant about the school system. It just kind of happened. I guess I still have unresolved issues.

What I really wanted to say is I’m really proud of my kids.

Beth has her first interview today. She’s starting ninth grade, so we were a little leery of her working in her spare time. However, it’s not about money. Beth wants to volunteer at the YMCA, watching the little kids after school and working the front desk.

How could I say no to that? I’m a little worried. Social skills are not her strong point, but if this works out it could be a great experience for her.

Here’s what warmed my heart: she came up with this on her own. While we were there working out one day, she sought out the director, spoke to him, and came home with an application – without any prompting from us. Hell, we didn’t even know she could volunteer at her age.

Lots of kids have good hearts and take initiative to do good things. What surprises me is I’ve brought up one of those kids.

No, she isn’t working to solve the problem of world hunger, but she is willingly giving her time to do something she enjoys – helping other people.

Proud doesn’t begin to explain how I feel. Pretty damn lucky comes close.

Give the gift of words.