Tag Archives: school

You can’t always get what you want

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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.

A Real, Live Sooner

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It is done. I AM AN OU STUDENT. I have a schedule and a fancy binder.

Following my advisement today, I enrolled in two classes. What I got…well, it’s not optimal. I had wanted two online classes, to go with the two on-campus classes I’m enrolled in at my current school. Since Robert is still working on getting back home more, I didn’t feel like having to drive to OU numerous times a week was a wise idea.

Well, I was able to get one online class, but the other that I needed is full. I don’t really have the option of not taking this class, as it’s a prerequisite for, oh, all the other Anthropology classes. So, for now, I am enrolled in an on-campus class, M-W-F. While I’m there on Mondays I will also attend the lab for my online Geology course.

At the suggestion of my advisor, I did contact the instructor of the online class to see if he’d make an exception and let me in. I don’t know if that’s at all within the realm of possibility. There may be a waiting list and I have no grounds to assume he’ll allow this. I really hope he does, though, because, if so, I will only have to drive to OU once a week…and my two local classes are going to be easy, so I’ll have plenty of time to maintain my sparkling 4.0. Or just pass. I’m good with just passing.

In either event, I am on my way.

How about you tell me how this post has broadened YOUR academic experience?

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I thoroughly dislike professors asking throwaway questions in the requirements for writing assignments. Sometimes I think they are typing just to have something to put on the paper and not because it’s actually relevant or even entirely tenable. For example, I am currently sketching a framework for my review of an ethnography (Monique and the Mango Rains) for my Cultural Anthropology class. The professor has given us a long list of points we should address in our paper and the last one is “Discuss how this volume has broadened your academic experience.”

What even does that mean? I can’t stand vagaries of that sort. That’s not a legitimate, directional request, that’s lobbing a fancy-sounding phrase at us, then ducking and covering while it goes kaboom. It’s “Well, this sounds scholarly, so I’ll tack it on there and let them scramble to eke out something that could be loosely interpreted as fitting that description.” How has it “broadened [my] academic experience?” It hasn’t. It was a good book. I’m glad I read it. I found it very interesting. But, let’s be realistic, here. It is but one of many, many books I will read over the course of my college career. It has not changed my life, nor has it been a seminal point in my education. It was a mildly engrossing, occasionally thought-provoking story…that I still would have been completely academically fulfilled without reading. I am not going to go out tomorrow and join the Peace Corps, become a midwife, or alter the course of my education because of this book. It hasn’t “broadened [my] academic experience” except as a singular cog in the giant wheel of my overall college literary intake.

Because of the ambiguity of that imperative, I am going to be forced to make something up. This is not a problem, in and of itself. If there’s one area in which I possess superior skills, it is bullshitting. I can make up the most ridiculous twaddle and write it so it reads like a dissertation. I hate to do that, though. I hate being disingenuous and claiming something changed my life when it didn’t. I hate having to string together a bunch of academic buzzwords to fit a paper’s requirements, instead of just writing what’s in my heart and mind. I can play academia’s games and jump through their hoops like a good circus dog…but I don’t have to like it.

So, do they give you the fedora and bullwhip at graduation, or…???

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You wouldn’t believe how many people ask what I’m going to school for, hear my answer, and, after a pregnant pause, inquire, “So what are you going do with that degree?” At some point I’m going to start replying, “Brain surgery” and then changing the subject like it’s no big deal. Until that time, for any Doubting Thomases (Thomasi?) out there who wonder what possible use my intended degree could be, I have compiled some facts from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.

Anthropologists and Archaeologists

  • 2010 Median Pay $54,230 per year
  • Job Outlook, 2010-20 +21% (Faster than average)
  • Employment Change, 2010-20 +1,300

Source

No, I will never become rich digging things out of the ground and analyzing them. However, this would be a $54,230 pay increase over what I currently make in a given year, which would qualify it (in my book), as “nothing to sneeze at.” Also please note that the field is actually growing at a rate above national average, and that there will be 1300 new positions having been created by the time this decade is over (i.e. by the time I graduate).

So there you have it, folks. With my archaeology degree I plan to…be an archaeologist. I also plan to make a respectable amount of money doing something I love. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about me.

A Day (or three) in the Life

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I never knew what busy was until I started school full time.

I thought taking care of the kids was a full time job. And it is…when they are actually home full time. After they’ve all started school and are gone most of the day, five days a week? I’m going to go out on a limb here and risk alienating my stay-at-home mommy friends by saying no. No, it’s no longer a full-time job. If you are not working and your kids are gone from 8:30 until 3:00 every day? You have time to get stuff done. Lots of stuff. I mean no disrespect; I was one of those moms. I had long stretches of time – years – when my children were gone all day at least a few days a week and I stayed home. There’s no shame in it and my purpose is not to invalidate. I’m merely pointing out, for contrast, that there is a huge difference between being on your own schedule and having entire days free to do what you want or what you need to do, and being at the mercy of a school (or work) schedule and having a narrow window of time in which to accomplish tasks.

Being in school and taking care of the kids would be a lot in a normal situation, but, as you know, I only have a husband/second pair of hands two days a week (occasionally three). This means I’m not only trying to do all these things, I’m handling them alone. I’m not trying to do everything because I’m a control freak or because I feel invaluable if I don’t. I simply have no choice. Not only that, but my going back to school seems to have coincided with the kids starting to do more in the way of activities…or, rather, staring to do more involved activities. We’ve tried to keep it simple. One activity per kid. That’s not too much, right? We have no interest in overscheduled children. However, when I’m doing all the drop-offs and pickups myself, and Madalyn has track practice ending when Eliza’s dance class begins, I have to be in class right after that and I’m trying to figure out how to feed us all in the one free 30-minute window I have — it’s a lot. Forget the kids. They aren’t overscheduled. Mom is overscheduled.

Anyway, my point is I never understood people who, for example, used to be online a lot and then disappeared for a while, claiming they were so busy they couldn’t even pop in for ten minutes to say hi. I didn’t get how someone could not have five minutes to return a phone call, or why they couldn’t manage to drop by a post office to mail something they said they were sending me. I didn’t understand…until now. I don’t call people. Of course, I didn’t before, but that’s because I didn’t want to. Now it’s because that takes time and attention I don’t have. Non-essential errands are way down on the priority list. And sometimes I don’t get online for the first time until the kids have gone to bed. I, who used to be online every couple of hours, all day long! Half the time I truly don’t have the time to do it. The other half of the time I could snatch 20 minutes here and there…but there’s a list as long as my leg of other stuff that also needs to be done, and I have to prioritize. Sometimes I have no choice but to go the responsible route because I know that, if I don’t, I’ll regret it later. If it’s not going to cause me a problem later, well, then, heck yes, I’ll let it slide and check in with my friends. But it’s basically a triage situation, here. Whatever is most urgent goes to the head of the list and the other stuff falls in line behind.

Now, let me clarify: I don’t mean this to complain. This is not a self-pitying post. I feel I must specify this because there is a faction of people online who, apparently, persist in believing I am miserably unhappy with my life. (I’m still trying to figure out what gives them that idea. Yes, I have my mood swings and the tone of my posts in various forums can be affected by that. But I’m pretty sure for every mad/sad/crappy thing I post, I post an equal or greater number of funny or silly or even-tempered things. So, WTF?) To be clear: not whining. I’m stating fact. This is my reality. I chose it, and I’m happy I did. I like school. I like my family. I like people who mind their own damned business. Er, thank you for your concern.

That said, I would like, for no other reason than my own amusement, to type out my schedule for the next three days. It is rather making my head spin…or would be, if I’d let myself think about it as a whole. I’m not, though. The way I deal with it is this: head down, full speed ahead, one task at a time. Tunnel vision. It helps, really. A year ago, if I’d had three days in a row like this, I’d likely have had a nervous breakdown.

Tuesday – Eliza’s Birthday

7:00 – Wake up, get Mad in the shower, fix breakfast, pack lunches. Mad out of shower, I go in. Let Eliza open one birthday present to take to school as show and tell. Take some pictures. Try not to feel badly about not making a bigger deal out of the day for her.

7:55 – Take Madalyn to school

8:15 – Take Johnny and Eliza to school

8:35 – Back home. Fix hair, get dressed.

9:30 – First class

11:00 – Second class

11:15-11:20 (we hope) – Second class wraps up early. Drive across town to pick up cupcakes. Drive back across town to preschool, deliver cupcakes, take some pictures, and beat it back to university

12:30-1:45 – Third class

1:45-2:50 – Free time. Enjoy it. Will be the last for the rest of the day. Intend to take a power nap or get online, but will probably actually end up doing laundry or something I feel I “should” be doing.

2:50-3:00 – Pick up Eliza + leftover cupcakes. Go straight to Johnny’s school to wait in line because thirty minutes isn’t enough time to bother going home.

3:30 – Get Johnny. Drive home. Spend next hour supervising homework, shooing Eliza away from her birthday presents, and nagging people to pick stuff up.

4:30 – Pick Madalyn up early from track practice so we can go to Eliza’s birthday dinner.

5:30-5:45 (hopefully) – Return from birthday dinner. Eliza opens presents. Pictures! More nagging people to clean up things.

6:30 – Back to school, 4th class

7:45 – Return home just in time to shuttle the younger kids off to bed. If they are on top of things they will have showered while I was gone. Otherwise, spend several minutes shrieking at them to “hurry up and get in there.”

8:00(ish) – Younger kids to bed

8:30 – Madalyn to bed. Maybe I can sit down here.

Next!

Wednesday – Alleged “day off”

Wednesday is parent-teacher conference day in our district. Thus, my public school kids have the day off. Preschool child does not. I was looking forward to this, as I thought Mad, Johnny and I could hang out, maybe watch a movie, etc. However. I have a dermatologist’s appointment at 10:30. Also, Johnny’s teacher has scheduled me for a conference at 10:15, which I will have to move (can’t really move the derm., as it takes a month or more to get in there). So at some point I will go to Johnny’s school for his conference. After that I will go to Madalyn’s school for her conferences. It is “first come, first served” for her grade, so I could, potentially, have a bit of a wait if there are people ahead of me. Additionally, she has a different teacher for every hour so I have a lot of people to see. Then I will pick up Eliza at 3:00, come home and likely immediately start on dinner, which takes most of the evening. Day off? Not so much.

Thursday – Is it Friday yet?

7:00 – Wake up. All the same bullshit as Tuesday at 7:00, except for the part about presents. Thank God.

Take kids to school.

9:30-10:45 – First class.

11:00-11:20 or so – Second class (God bless indolent professors).

11:20-12:30 – Ding ding ding! Free time! Go take a nap, dummy!

12:30-1:45 – Third class.

1:50-2:50 – Meet my friend to work out.

2:50-3:30 – Picking up younger kids. Go home, immediately begin preparing to leave again.

4:50 – Drop Johnny off at guitar.

5:00 – Drop Eliza off at dance. Madalyn also gets out of track practice right now. May have to send her uncle to pick her up.

5:30 – Pick Johnny up from guitar.

5:45 – Pick Eliza up from dance.

5:50 – Home, and I guess this is when everyone finally gets to eat, but I’m sure as hell not cooking, because…

6:30-7:45 – Fourth class.

7:50 – Return home, and thank my lucky stars that it’s now my weekend.

Right now the only thing I have scheduled for Friday is taking Eliza out somewhere to spend her birthday money. I’m sure she will wheedle lunch out of me, too. That’s the kind of activity level I can handle.

If nothing else, all this will make me truly and deeply appreciate summer break!

Breathe.

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Today was my longest day of school out of the four days a week I go. I had three classes (one in a room where the air conditioner worked scarcely, if at all), I did quite a bit of schoolwork, and the last class involved me trekking down a huge hill to the basketball arena and then back up said hill and across campus to my car – in 100-degree heat. After I left school I drove across town to pick up Eliza, came home, got changed, started some laundry, got the baking potatoes ready to put in the oven tonight and got a snack for Eliza.

Would someone please tell me that, after all that, it’s okay that I don’t feel like immediately getting started on my homework or working on any tidying projects around the house? Because I totally have this nagging feeling right now that I should be working. Y’all, none of my homework is even due tomorrow. I have something that has to be turned in online by Friday at 11am (and which is basically already finished), and my other assignment (about half a page’s worth) isn’t due until next Wednesday. I feel I should start on my “cheat sheet” I’m allowed for my first algebra assessment. In September. I’m not exactly up against a deadline here on any of this. And yet here I am with a persistent, pernicious voice in my head saying, “Come on, gotta stay ahead, get it done now and you have no homework this weekend.” Which is an appealing prospect, I will agree – but it’s only Wednesday. Heck, it’s only Wednesday afternoon. Surely an hour or so of work later tonight when the kids are in bed would be more than sufficient, and then another block of time tomorrow evening could finish it off.

I really do wish I could silence this….whatever it is. It’s a need to do everything perfectly. The instructor gives us an assignment that’s due Friday? No, if I leave it till Thursday night that means I’m not “on top of it” – better do as soon as I get home. Professor asks for a two page essay? Better make it four, just to prove how smart I am or how committed I am. I’m afraid if I maintain this frenetic pace I’m going to get burned out. I have got to get over my distaste for having things “hanging over my head” and give myself permission to sometimes, not always, but sometimes do the minimum needed to get by. I’m becoming exhausted from listening to my own internal monologue.

God bless the University of Oklahoma

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I’ve had to….I won’t say “fight hard” to get into school because, compared to some people’s trials, my experience wasn’t that difficult. I did have to jump through some hoops, though, and there was a time or two when it would’ve been easier to say, “Forget about it, I don’t need the hassle” and walk away.

Because of this you might think that my main emotion upon being accepted into school would be jubilation. That isn’t entirely accurate. I’ve been excited, sure. But it’s been tempered by a feeling of trepidation. Part of this, I am sure, has its roots in “Can I do this?” in the sense of the actual work/homework.

The other part, I now realize, stemmed from a different kind of  “Can I do this?” You see, I was led to believe that the University of Oklahoma (where I plan to get my degree in Anthropology) did not have an archaeology program.

We don't want your kind 'round here! Also, get off our lawn!

This left me with quite a dilemma; namely, that the closest university with an archaeology program is in Austin, TX. Now, whether I’d be able to even get in there or not (they are notoriously biased against non-Texas residents), the bottom line was the same: I was looking at leaving home to get my Masters and being away from my family for months at a time. The uncertainty as to how I was going to manage this cast a definite pall over the whole school situation.

So imagine my absolute and utter delight today when I started researching schools and found that I was completely, 100% wrong. Not only can I get a Masters in archaeology at dear old OU, I can get my PhD if I am so inclined. All I need, it seems, is to get some field school work before beginning the program – which I’d intended to do anyway.

You may laugh at my pants but you and I are going to be seeing a LOT of each other. Where you stayin' at, girl?

I have always wanted to go to OU, anyway, and the glaringly obvious practicality makes it that much more attractive. I freaking LOVE the University of Oklahoma now. I would gay marry the University of Oklahoma if I could (but we’d have to move to New York first). I am filled with so much school spirit already.

Okay, maybe not quite that much.

Now, OU is an hour+ away from where I live, so there will likely be some separation anyway. Husband and I have discussed my actually getting a place up there and staying M-Th or M-F. This way I could take a full load and actually get finished in a normal amount of time rather than dragging it out for a decade or more. I could come home for the whole weekend and even be readily available if one of the kids has a school function. If my schedule worked out so that there was a day where my classes ended early and the next day’s classes started later it’s even close enough where I could run home just for the night and be there to help get the kids off to school in the morning. That, compared to my actual moving away and only coming home on school breaks? Is positively heavenly.

Cue the jubilation.

After I graduate I'm going to dress like this every. single. day. You've been warned.