Except sometimes you do.
Back in January, when I was considering whether or not to undertake field school this summer, one of my main concerns was the amount of time lost with the kids. All three are in school full-time now, which means my time with them is limited to evenings, Monday through Friday, and the weekends (when they are not at their grandfather’s, or out with friends, or I am not out doing something I didn’t have time to do during the week). Therefore, summers are very important to me because we get to spend a lot more time together. It’s especially important in light of the fact that we only have six more summers left until Madalyn goes away to college. It may sound like a lot, to the uninitiated, but fellow parents will understand how quickly that amount of time will pass. We’re talking blink of an eye, here.
Anyway, so I gave a lot of thought to whether I was ready to sacrifice nearly my entire summer with my kids in order to do this. (There was also the secondary question of whether I was willing, yet, to give up our long summer California trip.) The solution I came up with was a compromise, of sorts: I decided I would go to field school and then try to get all my fall classes online. This will enable me to be at home every day for the rest of the year, after I get back. I will still have a lot of work to do, as I will be taking enough classes to maintain full-time status. But it’s work that can be done on my own schedule, and that can be put on hold, temporarily, while I attend a school function, or go to lunch with one of my kids, and what have you. It also has the added bonus of freeing me up to do a little of the traveling I would normally have done over the summer, because I can just take my schoolwork along with me and work from the road. I’m hoping to take a run out to California by myself later in the fall to do some of the things I won’t have time for on our abbreviated summer trip. (We will be going to California, it will just be for two weeks instead of six or seven.)
I did, however, run into one snarl. I am just about done with gen ed and so I’m supposed to begin focusing on all the prescribed anth classes I need for my degree. The way OU recommends you do it is you get through most of the required anth courses right away, then spend the majority of your junior year and all of your senior year doing electives. They give you a “suggested” schedule of exactly which classes to do, by semester, start to finish. Unfortunately, only one class I’m recommended to take in the fall is available online.
This obviously was not going to work for me. If I were a 19- or 20-year-old kid with nothing else to do besides go to school, it would be different. Alas, I am neither 19, nor 20, and I have a LOT of things to do besides just going to school. It’s not that school isn’t a priority. It is. It’s just, my kids are a higher priority. That’s how it works when you do the marriage-and-kids thing when you’re young and then go after the education when you’re old. When I talked to an academic advisor, he advised I not pursue my plan, and, instead, take some of the anth courses which are suggested for sophomore year. I was very nearly swayed, until I remembered: I’m in charge, here. I’m a grownup, I make my own decisions, and this is the way things are going to be because it’s what is best for my family. Traditional students can do things by the book. Non-traditional students have to get creative sometimes.
And, so, this morning, I finished enrolling for my fall classes. They are all online, and they are all electives, save one. In the spring of 2014 I will get back on track. If it’s an option I may even do some intersession classes over Christmas, or over the summer, to catch up. But, mostly, I’m just stoked that my plan worked out. It’s almost like the best of both worlds. I get to go to school AND be available for my kids, for everything, like I used to be before I went back to school. I’ve always been really big on being the boss of my own schedule. I’m also going to be able to pick up and travel at one of my favorite times of year (fall). It may not be standard protocol that I’m following, but, you know what? Life’s a journey, not a destination. That applies to school, too. My journey may not be following the map, but I’m going to wind up in the place I’m meant to be, eventually. And I’m going to have a good time on the way.
Plus, you’ve got to admit, being able to “go to school” without getting out of bed or dressed is going to be pretty sweet.