This September marks an ending for me and a beginning for my son. This week he starts pre-school and, for me, I start my final semester in my graduate program studying English literature. I appreciate the symmetry and cyclical shape that these two education experiences form at this point in our family’s lives. School, in all its phases, has a distinct way of creating milestones. I am at once thrilled for my son to begin school, but, like most parents, am also quite sad and apprehensive. How can it be that my little boy is now entering school? Where did those years go? Those were mostly a blur of sleepless nights, constant worries – is he breathing? – and locating the beloved stuffed animal before bed, a consequence of the early years of parenting. It just moves, well, so quickly. The other night, instead of completing the required school forms, I pulled out his baby book and marveled at how we used to measure his life in weeks, then months, now it is years. Now we will use the school year to measure and weigh our time and experience. (How can this heart get so full and yet be so breakable?)
For me, I am nearing the culmination of a goal I set when I was still in high school. I’ve long wanted to further my education with a Master’s degree and that path between higher education hasn’t always been linear. It is, nonetheless, happening. I was fortunate to discover that Northern Arizona University offered a distance learning Masters in English Literature program. I’m at the point in my life where I must keep my day job and love living in Kalispell so leaving to attend graduate school isn’t an option. Enter the online program, which I was nervous at first about, but in my two years, it has become one of the most incredible educational experiences of my life. Sure, I miss attending “class” in person and I know that certain members of my family and friends would rather not be bothered with my lectures on literary theory or having to read through messy rough drafts at deadline, but what I am able to achieve with an internet connection is quite remarkable. My peers often have similar stories to mine: They work other jobs while attending school, juggling the demands of family against the stacks of novels assigned each week. Thanks to how education has developed and expanded in recent years, those of us who desire to continue their education can do so, without having to uproot families or put a career on hold. Through my program, I have access to scores of academic journals and databases and can perform research in ways that I had never dreamed or thought I could do from home. This, I recently thought, is what the internet was intended for.
Our house is filled with the back-to-school excitement. My son thinks it is cool that both he and Mom are in school. Maybe soon he’ll be able to help me with my homework?
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.