But this is not about school for my kids, because they're not kids anymore. All three of them are taking college classes, one in the army, one as a transfer student taking a community college degree to a four-year college for his bachelor's, and one starting out at community college to begin his degree.
This, of course, does not mean that I am completely free when it comes to their educations. That kid who is just starting out? (oops - I did it again) I mean, That young man who is just starting out? It has suddenly hit him that I too will be in school, and he asked me straight out (because that's how he asks everything), "I'm a little worried. Who's got my back?"
I could assure him. I do. I have his back. It might be true that when he was little he didn't get quite as many read-alouds just for him as his siblings got when they were little, but he can sure have at least the same amount of availability for support in his academic work as his mom's friends from as far back as the fourth grade, his mom's brothers, his dad, his uncle, the parish curate, the friends of the library, his sister, and his brother all did. I can at least decipher syllabi and course descriptions, and I know I can help schedule a life that contains both work and school, and I can teach outlining, proofreading, and paper formatting. That, at least, I could promise him. He'll be okay. I have his back.
But I don't have to teach any of the subjects for anyone else at all this year. Now, it's my turn! Now, the mama's headed to school.
Well ... not to school. I don't have to go anywhere. I thought that this next PLA (Prior Learning Assessment) class would be a good chance for me to try out the online option. A lot of courses could be taken this way, so I might as well figure out how it would work, right? A whole bunch of things have to be figured out right now, and online class-taking is certainly one of them. (Another one is dinner making and laundry doing whilst proof-reading for the young giant and writing for my own credits.)
So. Let's review. I took that first inquiry class. I was on campus, once a week, for that one this summer. Then, I thought that I would not be able to afford to take more than three credits this fall, but things changed, and the available financial aid pays for six credits. Okay ... is that two classes?
Well, no, not if I take LRN 305 next. Here's how it works.
If I take the next Prior Learning class, I pay for the six credits of instruction in order to learn to write for Prior Learning Assessment. In the PLA program, the student does these things:
1. Identifies the stuff learned through life's experience that is the same stuff taught to younger, less experienced people in classrooms. In other words, you find out what you know, and then you figure out the name college courses give to that knowledge.
2. Figure out where that knowledge fits into the degree you want. Is it knowledge from your Liberal Arts Core class requirements? Is it in your major? Is it an elective?
(Those two things were in that first inquiry class this summer.)
3. If you want to go on, the next class is LRN 305. For this class, you choose four courses (three and a spare, in case one of the three doesn't work out) worth at least three credits each for which you could prove your learning, and they teach you how to write for the credits.
That means that I pay for the six credits of LRN 305, but I write for nine credits worth of classes. See what happens? I end up with fifteen credits! Each of my three 20-25 page papers is like a final exam for the class. Each one of those papers has to prove that I know what the students in that class are supposed to know at the end of it, and each one has to prove that I know what I know because I have had personal experience to teach it to me. I have to prove both experience and knowledge in these papers, and I have to prove it in collegiate level writing, properly formatted. Three 20-25 page papers in one quarter.
I'm so excited I can hardly sit still! This is so exciting for me!
Another thing I can hardly do, though, is choose. A lot of people come into the PLA program wanting to finish degrees they started years ago. Since those earliest days, they've done professional certifications in things. Or they have been doing things like personnel interviews or hiring, or supervised quality control, or conducted or attended seminars. They know what they're setting out to do through PLA because they're already doing what they want to do, and they already have credits in that direction.
But not me. I am starting from scratch, and the whole thing is wide open, and pretty much any course in the lower division of a general degree is a course I could either write for or test out of. So ... how to choose? In just what direction am I supposed to go first? Where do I start?
Here is where the amazing instructors at Marylhurst come in. These people are incredible. For the last few days, sitting here in my highly unfashionable Recovery From Major Surgery Apparel (a terribly attractive lump of bathrobe and slippers, moving from easy chair to computer chair and back again), I have been in contact through email with the instructors. How am I supposed to choose? I asked. Is there a criteria for figuring this out? I have all kinds of courses to write for. I intend to write for the full forty-five credits allowed. But where to start? Upper division? Lower division? Do I have to do one or the other? Help!
And they did. They helped. All through this whole adventure so far, I have been thinking about the academic learning I already possess but I forgot the whole main point of the entire program! I just might have learned a few things outside of school, you know? Besides all the academic stuff, what else have I been doing? Working at the library!! (clang!)
And so, ladies and gentlemen, if you are still reading, this far down into this somewhat tedious post, here is what I will be writing for this fall, as I take LRN 305.
1. CCM 323, Effective Listening: From Comprehension to Critical Evaluation
It turns out that most adults who have raised families and been in the working world have learned a few things about Effective Listening (she said, dryly, with one eyebrow raised). A lot of people write for this course because it fills a requirement from the communications department, in the same category of learning as a Speech class.
2. CCM 325, Communication of Self Esteem
This is from the course description:
"Judging and rejecting parts of the self cause enormous pain. In the same way that one would protect a physical wound, we tend to avoid anything that might aggravate the pain of self-rejection—for example, by taking fewer social, academic, or career risks. This makes it more difficult to meet people, interview for a job, or venture beyond comfort levels. To avoid additional judgments brought on by our ineffective coping mechanisms, we create defenses—misdirecting blame and anger, perfectionistic work, avoiding accountability through excuses, or other self-destructive life-style choices."Yeah, I can write for those credits.
3. ED 109 Library Procedures
or 4. ED 114 Reference Materials
Oh, strike up the band! I can write for those too! I know that stuff! Way back in the dark ages, when I was a fifth grader and Miss Monroe was the librarian, I learned to shelve, self-read, outline, work with Mr. Dewey's Decimal System, use the catalog, and love the library. We didn't have the computers to use for data storage or retrieval, of course. (No one did back in the dark ages.) But it's still the same setup, and I've been using it for all these years. I know this stuff! I can write for those credits! Accredited degree, here I come!
Addendum: I have sent my email declaring my intentions for this next class. I'll be writing for the following three-credit classes:
1. From Marylhurst: CCM 325, Communication of Self Esteem
2. From PCC: ED 109, Library Procedures
3. From PCC: ED 114, Reference Materials
and a spare,
4. From Marylhurst: CCM 324 Nonverbal Communication