Be PROACTIVE, The hat of Mother/Student what they won’t tell you…..

As mothers we like to be prepared, well, most mothers do anyways. When our children are little we like to make sure that there are ALWAYS plenty of diapers and sippy cups in the diaper bag, and of course an extra change of clothing for your preschooler in case he has an accident. You know that on the days you ultimately forget to put in extra’s, is the days you need them. Never any other time when you are prepared, always just that ONE day you spaced it. It’s some sort of “cosmic” rule, if you are prepared you wont need it, but if you try and cut corners to save time, or effort you will ultimately need it.

Makes sense that this is the same philosophy that a mommy who is also a College student will use. To always be prepared and proactive about things. After all, we are already busy being mothers, and wives, now we are adding the responsibility of college in the mix. How do you “balance” it all is a harsh reality for some. Some decide to give up, while others wait until their children are in school themselves.

I didn’t want to wait that long, one reason is because I want to be completely done with MY education once my children are school age, that way I can be the “involved” PTA, Football, Band, etc Mommy that I have always pictured myself being. I want to have my career set in motion when they start school so I can get off work in time to pick them up from school, and HELP them succeed in their education, and extra circulars. For me the only way to do this is, to finish my education while they are still little’s. This leads to MANY sleep deprived nights, but hey, I’m going to be up breast feeding an infant, and checking on my potty training toddler, and making sure my potty trained preschooler got up to go potty anyways, why not do something productive during that time, say like read a chapter or two from my homework?

The BIGGEST complaint I hear often from women who wear the multiple hats of wife, mother, and student is, they can’t fit in the time. I’ll agree, it’s hard when you have split priorities. Don’t let anyone fool you, it is a split on priorities. At times it does feel like I’m in the middle of the fight of two best friends from my favorite drama tv show, Grey’s Anatomy. To be completely honest, I whole hardheartedly agree with both Dr. Christina Yang, and Dr. Meredith Grey; although they oppose each others point of views. How do you balance it? How do you get to have your cake and eat it too? I guess this is where I tend to side with Dr Grey more on the issue. Sure, I may wear the hat of mommy, but that doesn’t mean I’m ANY less qualified for my dreams, or making said dreams come to reality. In fact, my children MAKE me that much more determined to get those dreams in hand. Slowly, yes slowly, but surely, these dreams are coming to be more tangible day by day. I’ve already accomplished two this past year alone! Finish my degree at the CC, and get into my first SOLO show! This is the momentum that is lighting my way!

So, HOW do I do it? Simple really, on the first day of classes, I take every class syllabus along with my student day planner and I plug and chug in due dates for assignments, tests, quizes, and projects. Then I determine WHAT DAY I will be devoted to that class for course work and homework. Much like what I do with my housework. Below is an example:

Monday’s: Clean the Kitchen, Global Sociology Class Coursework/Homework.

Tuesday’s: Clean the bathrooms, Media Psychology Coursework/Homework.

Wednesday’s: Clean Living room, Journalism Coursework/Homework.

Thursday’s: Clean bedrooms upstairs, Spanish Coursework/Homework.

Friday’s: Laundry (if it’s already done I do towels, blankets, sheets, linen, etc.) History Coursework/Homework.

Saturday’s: Special projects, catchup or get ahead in any class. (Monthly deep cleaning chores, once a month).

Sunday’s: Church, Back yard/front yard, catchup or get ahead in any class.

I started the Queen of Clean’s daily cleaning routine, and it has cut down on the amount of housework I have to do, the only things I do daily is clean the dishes as I go as I’m still cooking and immediately after we eat, and take the garbage out. The kids help with their chores like picking up their rooms, make their beds, and clean up their play area before nap/bed time every day. I only spend a total of 30 mins cleaning a day! Which means MORE time with the kiddios and doing coursework/homework. I figured out that this SAME sort of routine HELPS me stay on top of my college coursework/homework.

Now I just don’t “plug” and “chug” just any class on any day. After I have put in my student planner assignment/quiz/test/project due dates, I look to see what class typically has the same due date for things. For example, my Soc class this semester typically has things due on Monday nights at midnight. So it makes sense to do my coursework/homework a WEEK PRIOR to it’s due date, that way IF I need to finish or catchup I have ample time to do so. I can either finish on days that my other classes have no work to be done, or on my two catchup/get ahead days (Which are before the due dates.) This method has worked for me since starting back at school in 2010. For bigger projects I make sure to give myself two-three weeks of working time.

As you can see, schedules and lists work for this family, work for me. My children even have a schedule and it keeps them happy.

Monday’s: Park time

Tuesday’s: Special outing OR music day if we don’t go out.

Wednesday’s: Library reading time with the Librarian

Thursday’s: Arts and Crafts day

Friday’s: Hang out with friends day (my best friend and her kids typically come over Friday nights when they are out of school/off work.)

Saturday’s: They get a say in what we do, most often it’s our dedicated family day to do fun things like festivals, fairs, etc. It’s their day to spend lots of time with daddy.

Sunday’s: Church and again they often get a say in what we do this day after nap. Sometimes we play games that day.

This works for us, because we get to all do what we want to do. Schedules are a HUGE way of life here in this house hold. We knew once we brought our oldest home from the hospital that it would be our way of life. WE have not deviated from our schedules and routines and this has made life easier with our boys. They know when dinner is, and often get hungry when dinner is ready to be served, they know that bath time is at 7pm nightly, they know that we read a devotional with them at 730pm, and bed time is at 8pm nightly. There are some times, special times, that we deviate slightly, but mostly this is the daily schedule, and they live by it, it works for them, and for us; for the entire family.

I say that, because for some families out there, and some mommies, this may or may not work for you. Lists and schedules may be hard for you to follow through with, and that could potentially set you up to fail; I wouldn’t want that. Take my schedules and lists as a MERE suggestion. Adapt it, modify it to FIT your family needs. This is simply ground work for you to work with, if you chose to.

I give you all of this info, to come back to the preparedness part that we as mommies like to be. Now I will get to the “meat” so to speak of my post. I’ve learned some things during my journey last semester and this semester leaving my comfortable Phoenix Community College behind me and entering into Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School, that NO one, and I do mean NO ONE will tell you until it’s TIME to jump through that hoop. Below is a list of things I would have done differently IF someone HAD told me about these issues, and quirks beforehand.

1) When applying for your entry into a University, I would just automatically go back to my high school and send my transcripts to admissions and my immunizations records straight to the universities health department. (Most, if not all Universities have a health department that require and deal with the immunizations records, and you may need to call them to get info about where and how to send that information. They put a “Immunizations” hold on you which makes it impossible to do anything else you need to, like aid, scholarships, enrollment, etc if there is that hold on it. All universities require this at some point, so save yourself the headache and do it when you apply.) Admissions NEVER told me to NOT send it to them when I sent my HS transcripts, they said I HAD to send them, however they just wont tell you it may have to go to the special health department, because they don’t forward that record to them.

2) Just PAY your app fee the second you submit your application. Don’t wait, just pay it. It’s another “hold” that prevents and delay’s you from being able to do anything until it is lifted.

3) When applying, just send your current official transcript from you CC (if you are a transfer student). Yes it’s $5, and yes you will have to pay another $5 to send in a final transcript once your final grades have posted, however, the time, and headache it will save is worth that extra $5. SOMETIMES you can get “lucky” and your CC will have days/times that they run a special where they will send your official transcripts as is of that moment to your potential university for free. I suggest doing it. Even if it’s mid semester and seems odd. The why to do this reason? Simple, it takes TIME for your university to accept you, then accept you into your program/school, and takes a little longer to transcribe your transfer credits into the program, and remove holds that prevent you from taking your upper division classes, that things like ENG101/102 or MAT may be a pre-req for. Then you are stuck WAITING for them to upload it into their equivalent of ASU’s “DARS System.” If you send your transcripts as if when applying they can get that done ahead of time, and then you will have less issues enrolling into classes, such as Philosophy, etc (which is requirement in nearly every program.) TRUST ME, this will save you massive amounts of headaches, and prevents you from entering into the “late registration” period where you are charged for registering late because of this hold.

4) Get in touch with your Academic Adviser, and set up a meet and greet. (I actually did this, and it has worked to my benefit!) If you have this meet and greet and get to know one another, then they are able to help better/faster because of said relationship established, if you wait until after your program starts, then you are stuck waiting out until their schedule is free to schedule you in for a visit. Make sure to grab their email to email questions, concerns, and issues. MOST issues they can take care of via email. Yes, you will have to contact your program/school to figure out who your Academic Adviser will be. MOST Schools within the University have their own Academic Adviser’s and typically go by last name. To clarify I go to Arizona State University, and attend Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. My Academic Adviser is not ASU’s, he is from WCJMC. Cronkite (WCJMC) is my program/school INSIDE ASU itself. So if you are in the Nursing program, go through that school within the university to get your Academic Adviser, and likewise if you are in the Teaching program/school.

5) START 6 months out! (Seriously it can take that long to process your transfer, aid/scholarship reports, transfer credit reports, admittance, remove holds, etc. If you can’t start 6 months out, at the very least start 3 months out, and be proactive daily. Don’t be afraid to CALL Admissions, advising, Aid dept every other day for updates, or to help “push” things along. Don’t just SIT there and hope they will get it done before it needs to be done. I say this because it helps facilitate getting into the classes you need promptly before they fill up, and to avoid paying a late registration fee.

6) ONCE you have been admitted into the University, you need to actually go down there for three major things. The first thing is to get your Student ID, because MOST universities use this ID for access into your classrooms, technology lab, library (in person or online), it has your student ID number which you will have to memorize, and they ask for it every single time you are down there taking care of business. Second thing is, if you are getting aid, or scholarships go to their financial aid office, and see how they handle your aid, do they send you a card, check, or do you need to set up direct deposit with your bank? Do they offer a bank for their students with benefits your current bank does not? You’ll need to look into this. I have found that CC’s go through Citi Bank to pay out scholarships/aid, while universities use their own bank (which is a nationally accredited bank, for example, ASU uses MidFirst bank.) Thirdly you will need to find and locate the book store, admissions/registrar office, and the layout of your campus. Luckily for me I do not attend ASU’s Main campus, I attend the Downtown/Online and West campus. Most larger State Universities will have multiple campuses, especially in larger metro areas. Your smaller state campuses, or private Universities don’t typically have multiple campuses. Either case, you will want to know how to navigate through the campuses you will be attending. Once you have your schedule, in hand, you will need to visit the cashiers office to find out your parking options. Your days of free parking at the CC are over! =/ UNLESS they have shuttles, etc. Luckily for me, my CC allows alumni to still use their parking lots with special stickers and take the University shuttle from the CC to the University. Parking permits for the University are NOT CHEAP. I would first suggest decide how far you are actually willing to walk. The further away the parking lot/space, the cheaper your parking permit will be. My parking permit for the best parking lot at the Downtown Campus is $450/semester. Thats $900/year. The Worst case scenario parking lot is four blocks away (almost two miles) and is $150/semester. (That’s the downtown campus, so yes it’s more expensive, I don’t know about prices for the other campuses.) My classes at ASU West are online this semester and so I do not need a parking permit for ASU west at this time. HOWEVER, I was told that ASU west parking permits were cheaper and had a shuttle from ASU west to ASU Downtown. So that’s another option to consider. Point is, you will be paying for parking, no matter what. Our CC’s spoiled us with free parking!

7) Start familiarizing yourself with you student portal. It’s almost always different than what you are used to, and they tend to call things by different names. For example PC called it our Academic Advising Transcript, meanwhile the SAME thing is called the “DARS” report at ASU. It’s essentially the same thing, slightly different view and name, but ultimately they both tell us what classes we have taken towards our degree, what classes we still need to take, and what classes we are currently in. It’s your progress report. Also many universities have a “profile” page, in which Students, Staff and Faculty can look you up on. Make sure you fill this out completely, because SOME instructors do use this to check to see what their students are like. It’s there whether you want it to be or not, so just get it filled out. You don’t want to look lazy.

8) SET your minor as soon as you know what it is (this should go without saying for your major as well, if you haven’t already done so.) That way that college/school can admit you and cut the red tape before you need to enroll into those classes. For example, my Major is Journalism/Mass Com. which is at WCJMC at ASU downtown, meanwhile my minors are Psy and Soc which is at ASU Letters and Arts at ASU West. I had to be admitted into BOTH schools after I was admitted into ASU itself. They each had to pull my “DARS” report and cut the red tape for me to freely enroll into my classes. Your Academic Adviser will have to set your minor in most cases.

9) FIND the honors college if you intend to be an honors student once admitted and start that application, and pay. They have certain class requirements and you’ll want to get on top of that immediately.

10) GET INVOLVED! I know, we are busy moms, and we can’t even think of spending more time on school, however, CHOSE ONE thing and get involved with it. Start with a small role, and gradually add to it, but just get involved. This provides networking, where you can trade books with friends, peers, etc. I only have to buy ONE book this semester, because of this. I have traded a few books with my peers, even some with my husband, who is also in college and vise versa. No body wants to spend money on books, and many are willing to make changes. GREAT money saving opportunity by simply getting involved.

11) If you come across words you have to look up or do not know, I highly suggest keeping a log of these words and finding a way to use them in your daily life. Building that vocabulary is essential. =) I still do it, although I have a pretty extensive vocabulary. I suggest doing this for your Foreign language classes as well.

12) Nearly everything you will need to do can be done online. Universities are HUGE with self motivation. The key to your success is learning how to navigate online on your universities page. School officials, school offices, instructors will all point you to find it online, and encourage that prior to calling/asking them. Might as well get used to it in this tech savvy age. I swear they should be giving us tech degrees in conjunction with our degrees when we are done. This has been especially difficult for myself, because I’m not as tech savvy as my peers. I did not grow up with cell phones, or the internet. Those things were very basic and came much later in life for me. I’m starting to catch up, via crash course!

13) Finally, just take your placement exams as soon as they will allow you to do so. This also prevents enrollment issues. Such exams will be languages (ENG if you have not completed those, COM, social sciences, and Foreign languages), MAT, and specialized areas of interest, which you will need to ask your adviser about.

This is just a small list of “hoops” you will have to jump through, and get on top of, and I hope it helps. As I go through my program I will further add to this I’m sure, because it always seems like as soon as I jump through 5 hoops there are 10 more waiting for me on the other side. Even though this is my second semester at ASU, it’s my first full time schedule at ASU, because I was finishing up at PC last semester. SO, I’m still learning.

BE PROACTIVE is all I can say, I’ve given you some things that the universities wont tell you about until the hold is on your student account, but ultimately it’s up to you.

I hope this helps! Let me know if I can clarify anything for you!

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Straw, Sticks, or Bricks?

Nearly the moment shock wore off that we were expecting our first child, my instant thought was to education. What could I do now, and in the future until school age to not only prepare my child, and future children for education, but give them the best education we can.

I know, odd right? Not too many parents actually think about that the moment the two lines appear on the stick. I did, and I still do. Most start to plan for a baby, getting baby items, checking things off of their needs and wants list. Don’t get me wrong, I had my pregnant hormonal times of I NEED to get these things to get them checked off of our needs/wants list! Every mother goes through it, it’s sort of like a right of passage, so to speak.

Education is big with me. I fully believe that a child’s best chance at life is education. Let me back that up a bit though. Everything starts at home with the parents first and foremost. The parents set the ground work, and the structure. They set the expectations and rules. They start to teach their child at an early age, don’t do this, you can do that, don’t touch this, this is why, etc. We teach our children without even realize we are teaching them! Just wait until they start picking up words and become these little sponges and regurgitate EVERY little thing yous say! Don’t believe me, well you would have LOVED to see my face, when my son lovingly told my in laws that “Mommies and daddies play time is at night after we go night night.” Yep….. Hubby was teasing me about giving him some loving that night, and you betcha, my son heard it, and repeated it, not to mention, he thought it was cute, and appropriate to start saying, “give me some loving.” Yes, innocent, and cute, but if it weren’t for him being so young, could TOTALLY be taken the wrong way.

The ground work you set at home, is the structure they take to school with them. The school you send to them, is what completes the structure. Which piggy are you going to be like? The one that builds the rest of the structure from Hay, Straw or Brick? I don’t know about you, but Hay and Straw fall down, and crumble. Sure they can be re-built, and maybe even chose to use different materials the second, third, fourth, etc time around. However, why¬† not start them off strong to begin with? Why NOT start with brick? Will it cost more? Um, yes, yes it will. Will it be harder to assemble? Most certainly it will. Will it take more time, absolutely! There lies the problem! Some parents, don’t want to, or say they can’t/don’t have the time to set them up with brick from the beginning. A lifestyle is more important for some.

I agonized over that very thing when we found out we were expecting our oldest son. I cried many times, had many sleepless nights. I hated myself for doing and not doing. I was miserable. Why? I wanted to set them up with brick, but brick takes money (mostly), and yet it doesn’t. I was faced with a decision, to work outside of the home, and let others care for them, while I made enough money to cover day care costs and maybe have some extra? (Certainly not enough for a better education or a private one for that matter.) Or do I stay home, and build that foundation, until they were school aged and I could work at least part time to help pay for that better education, that brick?

Sounds like my decision should have been easy, right? Nope, it wasn’t. I factored in what was best for my child and future children, but I didn’t factor in what was best for ME yet. I’m a highly motivated person, a go getter, I have a great college education, yet thanks to the economy tank in 2008, I’ll never be able to use that degree, I could if I wanted to now, however, I don’t want to put my life in harms way, possibly taking the mother away from my children. I had a great career, and was going somewhere fast, climbing up that ladder. I’m a very independent women! I love my independence, I love my freedom, and I love providing! So for me, leaving the working field, made me feel as if I would be losing a part of me, losing my independence, and losing my say on how to spend money. This was something I did not want to give up. I had a VERY difficult time giving this up, and making my decision final.

Eventually it became clear to me, that for now, I’d leave the work field to build that foundation with my children, and trust God, and ultimately trust my husband, another person to provide for me; when I have been providing for myself since I was 15 years old. It has been a VERY difficult road for me. During which time I have used to go back to school to get into a career I love, and can do while being an involved mommy once my children are school aged.

Leaving the work field was temporarily, not permanent, it was a gateway to something bigger and better, an is enabling me to be that mommy I want to be, the involved mommy, the one that attends PTA meetings, helps with school carnivals, attends meet the teacher nights, brings baked goods to school on their birthdays, attends football games and band performances, etc.

So once I was “okay” with that, and getting more and more content with it, I have been able to refocus my attention on the type of education to provide for my children. There is no doubt about it, and there is no way around it, schools are under performing these days due to budget cut backs, and the lack of funding, in relation to under paid and under qualified/educated teachers.

I start the foundation at home, and schools/teachers they continue the work I do. I want my children to go to a school that shares the same values, the same hard work, the same amount of dedication. That will tell me when one of my boys is being a fool at school, or failing. I don’t agree with this “no child left behind” shenanigans. If my child is failing to get a concept, or subject, I WANT, no, I NEED to know this so I can take appropriate measures to rectify it. In addition to that, a school MUST have the extra circulars like sports, PE, Art, Music, special interest clubs, because that is what makes children well rounded. They are JUST as important in the social and real world as math, reading, writing, history, etc.

Budget cuts, and funding cuts have forced schools to dissolve these programs. They no longer exist in many schools, and the schools that do offer them, they are poorly funded, and poorly guided. We have math teachers who have no interest in swing club basically baby sitting the club for a mere few more cents on their check. When I was in school, we had teachers who had HIGH interest in the clubs, and made every effort to make the clubs shine and be productive, and they were handsomely rewarded. They are not today. Sad, but true. Public schools don’t have the funding. Sadly this is why I will be going back to work once my children are all school aged. I will have to pay a privately funded school to send them to to get all of this. Where they are rigorously encouraged to be better, do better, and accomplish. Where they will have the opportunities and chances to perform in after school activities/programs such as the above mentioned. Where school officials will contact me, to let me know of issues that we can rectify together.

Yes, I’m laying brick for their foundation and their structure, because it wont topple over as easily, the big bad wolf can’t blow it down. Is it going to cost me? Yes, it will likely cost me a fortune in money to send them there, and cost me a great deal of time, to help them during their studies, and activities, however, in the end, worth every drop of time and money when I get to look on three little boys who grew up to be three great independent, well mannered, well rounded respectful men.

I’m not trying to put down public schools, or those who send their children to public schools. I’m not putting down public school teachers. I’m simply stating that in this day and age, due to budget and funding cutbacks, I simply want more of my children’s educations than what they have to offer right now. Until the public school system can fix these issues, I will pay out the nose and do what ever it takes for a better education.

So, straw, sticks, or brick? How is your child’s education stacking up?