- Heading back to school is the season of meeting teachers and buying new backpacks and learning to read—or maybe learning calculus. An excitement comes with the start of a new school year. We send our kids off to a classroom for the very first time or watch them catch the bus and do homework—easing back into old habits.
- I always loved school—especially college. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1997 with degrees in Government and Russian Studies. A couple of years later, I returned for my Masters in Secondary Education. Always making Dean’s List, I graduated with honors. I loved pouring over textbooks, writing term papers, using my highlighters, and studying for finals. Of course, I also enjoyed staying up all hours with friends in the dorm and getting milkshakes and nachos any hour of the day from the dining hall and basketball games and sleeping half of the morning away on days I didn’t have classes.
But I did all of this from age eighteen through twenty-four. I was single with no kids. I had very few responsibilities (and a much faster metabolism). How would college fit into my life now, as a forty-something single mom with full custody of two kids and a full-time job? This summer, I found out. I returned to school for a seven-course program to earn my paralegal certificate. And while the experience is so much different than the first time around, I have to tell you . . . I still love it! Let me share with you a few of many reasons why.
Setting an Example for My Kids
My eight-year-old son told me he thinks it’s “awesome” that I’m going back to school. (He also offered the reminder, “Mom, don’t forget that most of the men you see walking around campus are too young for you. And, you need to focus on this opportunity you have been given to grow and learn.”) I have overheard him tell friends how smart I am and how well I am doing in my classes. Recently, at the dinner table, my eleven-year-old daughter asked me what I was learning in class that week and what I thought of my professor. And she actually listened to my answer! I love that they are invested in my education almost as much as I am and that they are proud of me.
I set up my books and notes at the kitchen table and study in front of my children. Now that they are back in school as well (and my girl has started middle school!), they sometimes join me with their homework, and we study as a family. I love those moments. I want my children to know that education does not occur over a finite period of time. Whether it comes from returning to school in a formal program, checking out all the books on a subject, or traveling to new places, learning should be a priority throughout their entire lives.
When I say I’m more organized now that I’m back in school, I must begin by admitting that the bar from which I was starting was not particularly high. Laundry piles often go unfolded, I sometimes forget appointments, and my house can look pretty chaotic by the end of a long work and school week. I can feel like a hamster running on a wheel. But now that I have deadlines for assignments and need to carve out time to study and write in order to be successful? I find that I use my time (somewhat) more wisely. I make lists of what needs to get done every day and try to take care of tasks for my home and children ahead of time—instead of allowing them to pile up and create undue stress.
Each week begins with looking at ball games and church activities and piano lessons and any other events with set times on our family’s calendar. Then, I review the reading and the assignments that I have to complete over the next several days and write down exactly what I will complete each day of the week. And, for the most part? I stick to that. I’ve become more resolute in assigning daily tasks for the kids—from packing their own lunches to washing and folding clothes to cleaning their bathroom. It is important for my kids to realize that they must be contributing members of our household, and I’m glad that going back to school compelled me to emphasize this overdue lesson.
It’s Something for Me
The most important role in my life right now is that of Mom. And it’s my favorite job. I also love the work that I do at my office. I have a career that I find challenging and fun, and I work with a group of people I consider family. My boss and co-workers have been so supportive of my decision to go back to school and patiently listen every day as I go on and on about what I’m studying. I know how fortunate I am to have the family and the 9-to-5 work that I do.
But, there is something special about that walk I take across campus to my classroom and then the time I have sitting with my pen and legal pad while listening to a lecture. (Yes, I still use paper instead of a laptop to take notes . . . it worked for me the first time around!) During those few hours, I’m not breaking up fights over whose leg is taking up more room in the back seat of the car or trying yet again to track down clients who won’t return my phone calls. I’m Sarah Moore—the college student. And I’m spending time immersed in material that fascinates me. I still have at least a year before I finish this current program, but who knows what awaits me next? I do know that this experience has reignited my love for school, and I don’t want it to end.