Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Do the shuffle... Do do do do do duh-doo do do...

I wanted to go mountain biking this weekend. I can’t. I wanted to go on holiday in October. I can’t. My other half and I were talking of starting a family this year. We had to change our minds. All of this is the result of my studies. Should it be? Life can only accommodate so many things and there are only so many hours in a day and sadly that will never change so certain things have to be kept at the top of the pile and some things inevitably get shuffled further and further down, don’t they?

I love baking, and I love knitting, and I love dressmaking, and I love reading, and I LOVE mountain biking, and I love walking, and I love making presents for people. I love doing far too many things I just don’t get time to do at the minute. This sort of infuriates me though, you only get a finite amount of time in which to live your life so is it actually worth sacrificing fun things you really enjoy so that you have more time for studying (which might not be construed as fun by some...)? What if you end up running out of time to do those fun things? It could be argued that people who study with the Open Uni are a different breed; they’re studying because they WANT to be, they’re volunteering up their spare time for the purpose of studying anyway so they’ve got no right to grumble about having to make sacrifices have they?

People keep telling me that I’m making this journey for the greater good. I’m striving to ‘better myself’. But what if I’m aiming for the wrong kind of bettering? What if the kind of bettering I’m striving for makes me miserable and the kind I should be aiming for is the kind which makes my life richer by way of the fun and enjoyable experiences I have? Ooh well this is a minefield, what’s classed as fun? What’s classed as enjoyable? What’s classed as NOT fun and NOT enjoyable?... I suspect I’m of the boring variety of person because I actually do find it enjoyable going to committee meetings and lectures and visualising myself on my final graduation day in my floppy cap and ridiculously big gown. That’s not for everyone though and of course I appreciate that. I had a conversation with someone yesterday who came out with the old gem “how do you find the time, I just couldn’t motivate myself to do it”. Well matey, if it was something you really wanted to do/achieve then motivation comes hand-in-hand and you just make the time to do it. I still find time to go to gigs/theatre/cinema/restaurants etc, it’s just a case of prioritising different things at appropriate times.

Am I so sure I’m doing the right thing with the sacrifices I’m making though? Putting off starting a family until I finish my journey, when I’m currently 30 and my other half is almost 40 would be considered by many people as careless or selfish. I mean by the time I get to the end of my journey then according to some folks my 37 year old eggs will be all shrivelled up and my biological clock will only be capable of telling the right time twice a day. On the plus side though if we do start a family late we’ll be able to utilise some time-saving routines. For example my other half can collect his pension on his way to pick the kid(s) up from school. Voila – kill two birds with one stone etc. I doubt it will be quite that bad, and apologies to my better half for mocking his age, he’s still far fitter and healthier than I am and he’s only 9.5 years older than me. Neither of us has a burning desire to have a family beyond furry four-legged friends anyway so who knows, we might just skip that bit altogether.

And on reflection the sacrifices I’ve had to make so far won’t exactly damage my life irreparably anyway; so what if I can’t go mountain biking this weekend; once I’ve finished my TMA and before I start work towards the next one I’ll go mountain biking then, and have TWICE as much fun because I’ll have earned the time to ride and won’t feel guilty that I should be studying. And so what if I can’t go on holiday in October, we’ve talked about it and decided to start saving now towards a SUPER-DUPER-NO-EXPENSE-SPARED holiday to Iceland NEXT October by which point I’ll have completed my first degree and we can use the holiday as a celebration of my having completed stage one of my (immensely long!) journey. So the sacrifices I appear to be making aren’t really sacrifices at all. They’re just logical shuffles to allow me to fit in everything I want to do in a sensible order.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dad - have I earned my macaroni cheese yet?

I often listen to BBC Radio 4 in the car at work. Mostly for the fact that I can’t abide listening to the same rubbish chart music repeated hour after hour on other musicy radio stations (what a snob eh). Well this morning one of the articles on Woman’s Hour was about the recent increase in the utilisation of home tutors by parents of school-aged children and the debate as to whether it’s educationally helpful or socially divisive.

Home tutors? Is that like when your parents help you with your homework?

Apparently not. It would seem that increasing numbers of parents are resorting to the services of hire-by-the-hour tutors to help children from primary school age right through to a-level and are paying anything up to £50 per hour for the privilege. Is it just me or does that sound crackers? When I was at school there was no way on God’s green earth my parents could have afforded extra tutoring, the nearest I got was bribery to get my homework done on time (by means of the promise of macaroni cheese for tea) and a kick up the backside in the general direction of the library when assignments loomed, and after discussing this with t’other half he confessed that he didn’t so much get encouragement to DO his homework, but got threatened with a punishment if he DIDN’T do it (“you can’t go out and play until you’ve finished your homework”). What the heck has changed? Why are parents so competitive now? It’s perfectly understandable for parents to want the best for their children and if they’re struggling in a particular area then extra tutoring could be an excellent way of helping that kid keep up in class, but to get extra tutoring to get AHEAD in class? Doesn’t that just make a mockery of the National Curriculum; the Government mandated education scheme put in place to standardise the content taught in class to enable ongoing, regular educational progression?  It runs the risk of kids being segregated within their schools or even bullied for being swots (do they still have swots at school, it's a long time since I was there...). The competition for school and university placements is intensifying so greatly it seems parents will do anything they can to try and give their children a leg up (coincidentally enough I’m writing this whilst watching a documentary about parents who either move house or claim they’ve moved house in order to get their children into their preferred choice of school).

One point which was raised during the radio programme struck a chord with me though. For parents on tighter budgets, if they can’t afford the (upwards of) £5000 a year to send their children to a private school then what’s the next best option - £500 a year worth of home tutoring to ‘top-up’ the ‘free’ state education? It’s a valid point, it’s a far more accessible way to give your children a slightly more tailored learning experience and in some ways is excellent for maybe indulging particular interests a kid might develop, but as a means to try and push your children beyond the set expectations of their current level of education then why not just throw a big cream pie in the face of the head teacher instead and say “stuff you, you’re not good enough” and save yourself the £500?!

It did get me thinking though... "£50 an hour?? I wonder if there’s anything I could tutor kids on...".  Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Breathe out... and *relax*

... and I quote "Submitted On 02 September 2010 at 20:26:07 (UK Time)".  That's the detail for my latest TMA.

Done.  Submitted.  Finito.  *Phew*

There's an incredible relief which washes over me each and every time I click "submit" on my Student Homepage.  Aah.  And it's the same relief every time, regardless of how I think I might've done.  Take this TMA for example; I understood the subject and grasped the main concepts well enough when I was reading the material, but when it came time to write the TMA I had an awful feeling that I've completely misunderstood the two main objections I have to expound so in my head I've already resigned myself to the thought that I might've done pretty badly on this one (my better half tried to remind me that this happens every time I write a TMA and I always seem to do really well, but I suspect this time will be the exception).  But you know what, there's nothing I can do about it now that it's submitted so I'm not going to waste my energy beating myself up about it and I'm not going to spend the next 2 weeks (or however long it is before my tutor gets the time to mark this batch) worrying myself silly about what mark I'm going to get.  The main thing for me is that I've done it.  I've read the necessary material and actually written the essay in plain English and submitted it ON TIME.

You see it's not just about getting the good results and getting as close to a First as I can.  For me it's as much about proving that I can stick to the commitment I signed up for.  I'm shamefully known for being prone to fads.  At some point in my life I've been interested in just about everything and then almost as quickly lost interest (or been distracted by some other new interest) so if I can succeed with each TMA and treat it as one bite-sized piece of a bigger pizza then before I know it I'll be tossing dough and calling myself Francesca.

I'm also known for vague references...