OPINION: The morning rush half-hour is not so busy any more.
There is less traffic around the main routes to schools than usual.
Even walking around the neighbourhood, it's noticeable that there are fewer people moving around.
Where are all the teenagers?
And then I turned into what is usually a peaceful street, fairly shaking to the beat of a stereo turned up loud to test the capacity of the speakers.
University exams are over, and the senior secondary school students are all on study leave.
It being morning, they are either asleep, or blasting loud music, or generally enjoying the freedom of having the family home to themselves.
Some of them will have been left with an optimistic note, hoping that they might keep an eye on the washing, empty the dishwasher, or clear the kitchen bench. They will ignore it because, of course, some of them are studying.
And they will need to take breaks, to consolidate their learning, when they can relax, not do chores.
I'm not being cynical. They are.
Most of them know exactly how much work they need to do, and how much extra would be a waste of effort.
For some, a pass is within reach, but not to be taken for granted, and there is some anxiety that could be harnessed into action on the revision front.
For many, they have enough credits in the bank to be able to skip exams altogether if all they want is a basic "achieved", or they could just choose to attempt a handful of topics to be sure, or just for fun.
Then there are a handful, like the one in my house, who know precisely how many merit credits are needed to get an NCEA endorsement.
They all have their individual goals.
For a few others, although mine already knows it's an impossible target for her, there remains the chance of an excellence endorsement.
Thank goodness, at least, for those recently-added incentives to a system that allowed half the year-group to do all they needed to do by the middle of the year, and then coast for the rest.
The worm seems to be turning back towards shaping qualifications that actually provide some insight into what students are good at, and how good they are at it.
One could be tempted to think back to "the good old days", when so much more depended on end-of-year exam results, and the need to plan a demanding timetable of personal "swot" was more compelling.
But, as much as the names of things change, so much remains the same.
I think back to my second-to-last year at high school, around this time.
We'd had our internal school exams already.
And then there was the big day of University Entrance accreditation.
We all lined up in the school hall, to be called out one-by-one to receive the little scrap of paper that simply announced, yes or no.
For those of us who had done enough, school was essentially over for the year.
We could sleep in, try turning the stereo up, or go to pick strawberries or something, knowing we could go to university the next year.
The others had to sit the exams, knowing only a minority would pass.
After a longer wait, we got sixth form certificate results.
This was in some ways more important, because it required a concentration of ones and twos on a scale of nine to be able to afford to go to university, with some sort of student bursary, allowance, or whatever the taxpayer support was called back then.
But already, the trend was towards spending five years enjoying the security of school before flying the nest.
It was encouraged, as a useful year for anyone less than a straight-A student to consolidate their learning and grow up a little more before tackling the world beyond the school gates.
Since then, it has become the norm.
We have actively encouraged our children to take longer to grow up than we did. Which might, in itself, tell us more about ourselves than our teenagers. Or at least, it applies memories of our own mischief-making sometime between the teenage and adult years to shape expectations of our own children's relative maturity.
And so, the last year of school for our little family approaches.
I entered mine with no idea about what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
By the end, I had a frighteningly accurate premonition that I was fit for little other than writing about other people's more interesting lives.
My daughter will enter her last year convinced that this year's subject choices were a mistake.
For a wordsmith, it was amazing for me to see a close relative embark on a course of pure sciences. I admired her courage.
Apparently next year, she is going to do a complete flip and study the arts and social science subjects I would have thought were a better fit for a creative, social personality.
The blessing is that she has that extra year's grace to readjust her compass.
- © Fairfax NZ News