A Personal Investment

By Deborah Simon.

You know those professional driver courses…the ones where you can slalom and drive on two wheels and generally do things that require a helmet and harness? Raise your hand if you wanted to take one. Go ahead, raise the hand, no one’s looking but me, and my arm is waving wildly already, so you’re in good company.

Now, WHY do we want to take that course? Pleasure? YES! Taking your life into your own hands has a bit of an adrenaline rush, doesn’t it? Especially when they make you sign away just about every right you have before you can touch the steering wheel. Honestly, I’ve seen mortgage paperwork whose stack was thinner.

Mastery? YES! It’s not like we NEED a refresher course in operating a motor vehicle, regardless of what the nice officer who pulls us over suggests. But there is something to be said about knowing something beyond just the basics (can you see the nice officer nodding vigorously in agreement?). Learning WHY you turn into a spin makes it a whole lot more likely that you’ll do it when the time comes.

Status? YES! It would be a whole lot easier to teach our kids how to drive if we feel more confident in what we know and can show them that we really ARE qualified. You know teenagers, always questioning authority’s right to be authority. Well, mine started doing that when they were five, so maybe it’s not just teenagers.

Next question is, when’s the last time you did something JUST FOR YOU? Something you ENJOYED? Something that invested in YOU? Yes, besides the candlelit, aromatherapy bubble bath that you snuck in between the kids’ night terrors last night.

I know how hard it is. I’ve used all the excuses. We have some tough kids to raise! Lots of smart people out there have been telling parents to stop ignoring themselves and, essentially, get a life. Thing is, those smart people don’t really tend to be in the trenches, do they? Don’t really understand the mental power it takes to just survive and raise these kids every day. It’s been said that to really understand someone you have to walk in their shoes. While my shoes are not quite yours (size 7W here, what about you?), I can say that I’ve experienced a lot of the same issues, and there really is something to the whole get-a-life thing.

So I asked myself one day, what would I do for pleasure, mastery, and status? Me, an insanely busy, teacher-turned-homeschooler-of-totally-draining-highly-gifted/2e-kids with two other full-time jobs to take up my time? And then I admitted it to myself — school.

Pleasure, check! No, really. I like school (yes, I’m a little weird, always have been, so just expect it).

Mastery, check! I know how to teach. Did it for years in just about every grade. Taught in schools with guards and bars on the windows (okay, maybe not BARS, but there was a locked gate), “open” classrooms (remember those?), and AP classrooms. But teacher-training was much more hands-on, in-the-trenches stuff than understandable theory, at least mine was. Not to mention the fact that, as a gifted adult, I’d sure like to know some of the behind-the-scenes information to prove to my therapist that I’m really NOT crazy.

Status, check! I’ve never been one of those people who needed letters after my name for the letters’ sake, and I’m still not, but sometimes I just want to show that I really DO know something about education to all those raised eyebrows when homeschooling comes up, you know? And I still do some advocating for parents in the local districts, so the letters can be a foot in the door in that case.

If you ended up at the same conclusion I did, you’re not alone. I can’t tell you how many homeschooling parents with gifted kids have wondered aloud about the same pastime. The buts were way too loud, though, for many to actually go any further with that particular investment in themselves. School costs money, time, energy, resources….and excesses of those valuable things don’t just float around.

I’m here to tell you, though, that you CAN do it. And it’s not really all that hard. Here’s the play-by-play:

1. The Decision

See the paragraph above about “If you ended up at the same conclusion I did….” This is probably the most time-consuming step (which is why I spent the first half of this article talking about it…and because I like to hear myself talk).

2. The Choice

First, know your options. In-person or online? Are you the kind of student who simply must have peers around or see your professor face-to-face? Are you that midnight hermit sitting in front of a computer screen? Personally, I don’t live in a place where commuting to and from a brick-and-mortar university is feasible. I didn’t really have much of a choice. So, online it was!

Second, what program? This one is a little more involved and the variables are limited by the answer to option #1. There are only so many programs offered at the local university. But, since I chose online, there were more things to choose from. That made it harder. Yes, harder. I’m not a university provost. How do I know what I want to study? Don’t they just hand out catalogues with all that listed?