When someone recommended a school to me that was billed as “catering to working adults,” I thought, “Why not?” So I requested information and began a journey of discovery about schools and how it all meshed with single parenting. Simultaneously, I was in transition and needed to find a school for my rising kindergartner. How it all came together is still a mystery, but with patience and making a lot of phone calls, we found our place in the academic world.
The public school zoned for our address didn’t have a great report card, so I started every inquiry and application I could afford. I consulted parochial schools about a work exchange. Many were looking for low-budget staff, and my goal was to cut back on the school expense to the point that I could pay the rest from my self-employment income. The drafted idea was accepted by several schools, but in the end, I still couldn’t afford them. I had already entered my son for every public education lottery option, and meeting those dates and deadlines nearly became a full-time job!
My son’s academics didn’t support a scholarship, but some students even at a young age have managed to secure school placement based on a special skill, academic score, or athletic ability. Knowing your child’s strengths is as important as knowing how to promote them.
Interviewing at schools takes a lot of practice, and it may offer to allow yourself to be wait-listed. My son’s lottery placement had him at place 56 in line six months before the start of a language immersion program. I thought there was little chance in a region as highly populated as ours that 55 children would back out. After all the other attempts fell through, I had resolved to be content with his base school placement. Then I got a call the week before school started to ask if we were still interested in the language immersion program. Of course we were, and we fast-tracked a change of school supply list to begin a new plan that later guaranteed his younger sister the same opportunity.
Once my children were squared away, I started focusing on my own academic needs. After 13 years out of school, I resumed my first-ever college degree on a special academic acceptance. When I had been accepted to a school more than a decade previous, I ran out of money only one class later. So the gap nearly negated any chance I had at the first school. The second school offered night classes, and at first, that seemed like a good idea. Only half a semester into packed dinner boxes and grade-school homework assistance while listening to lectures, I was exhausted. The school did cater to working adults, but mostly to working adults with someone with whom they left their children. I, on the other hand, did not continue in that program, because I needed my evenings to be family time.
I realized that the majority of schools that advertised online programs only offered very popular degrees, and that wasn’t an option for me. I wanted to continue academically where I had started, so it took some time to find a physical school that had a video call student program. That proved to be challenging as I had an actual schedule that wasn’t always best, but having the option to stay home made it possible for me to study. Many a night, I sat on the couch with my laptop in front of me and a child on either side, directing homework while attending class. When they were finished and had played a bit, I gave them a checklist of to-do’s such as shower, pack back for tomorrow, brush teeth, etc. Finishing the chart gave them screen time, which led to lights out. Only on class night did they get a bedtime snack and the option to fall asleep on the couch. This helped to lessen the negativity of Mommy being preoccupied.
In the end, the difficult season produced much-needed future opportunities for all of us. The possibility is easy to summarize but extended across many years and required many mistakes. Finding the right school may not happen right away, may not happen without a lot of trial and error, but this is a great teacher.
In the end, I had learned six crucial lessons from this journey, and I hope these will help you move forward, too.
- Be patient. Work hard. Don’t give up.
- Take “maybes” as possibilities.
- Apply to everything and get on every waitlist you can.
- Focus on your children first, and your needs will fall into place.
- Turn a potential negative into a privilege.
- Know that you are capable of more than you ever thought possible.
By Yaki Cahoon