The non-traditional learner |

The non-traditional learner

Helen Ginandes Weiss & Martin S. Weiss

She’s a housewife who stayed at home to raise three kids, then took a part time job to fill the hours after the kids were in school. Now her life has changed. She’s not on call 24 hours a day. She’s thinking about the cost of sending those kids to college and fulfilling her life-long dream to teach. She needs to think about the future when those kids are gone and she can put her own life in order.She jokes about attending school “on the 12 year plan,” a formal education interrupted for the benefit of “kinder and Kuchen.” Worst of all she feels she has to work now, with her husband asking for a divorce “to live his ownlife.””When does a person with only mom on her resume get to live her life as well,” she asks when she comes to our office for what she calls an “educational checkup.”Shelly is a dynamic, attractive 40-year-old with a lot of experience and love to give to children.”How can I find a way to support three children, help them get to college and motivate them to go on to a good education when I gave up on my own,” she asks.That is the question we hear repeatedly from single parents who are considering a return to school as non-traditional learners. Her story is common as more and more people return to college or begin college late in life. In many schools non-traditional students make up a majority of the student body and schools are responding to their needs. They offer a variety of programs that require two or four years and even combine a graduate or professional training program in a five-year sequence.Community colleges offer a returning student an inexpensive alternative to get back into the swing of study.The two-year associate degree in arts or science is a great limbering up exercise for the rusty brain. As college professors, we found that our non-traditional students were often the most motivated students despite their need to meet their family obligations and hold a part- or full-time job. Programs allow you to take a full- or part-time load of courses, a Saturday Program toward a professional degree and to be housed on or off campus.Kids seem to gain as much as their parents when Mom or Dad return to school. There is no better motivator or role model to learning than a parent who is a student. Sharing the precious experience of education leads to greater confidence for parent and child. As a returning student, going on for graduate education as our five sons grew, the experience opened my eyes to other worlds and opened my mind to a totally different profession. When I would try a new child-raising strategy on them our kids often asked “OK, Mom which child psychology book are you reading now?”In our house there was homework time for all, mutual help as well as self-help. We realized that the mentoring of students is a two way street. How many parents need the help of their children to make it through a computer course, advanced math or other requirements.”I want to go to college like Mom!” is the common cry.For further information contact: Helen Ginandes Weiss M.A & Martin S. Weiss M.A., Learning Consultants, at, P.O. Box 38, Twin Lakes, CO, 81251, or 1-719-486-5800.

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