If there’s anything that I have regretted, it’s not writing more and journalling/documenting different parts of my learning journey, from homeschooling to study overseas. Blogging lends itself well to journalling, so I thought I’d continue the “Homeschooler in College” saga by talking about my current life as a masters student.
My current major is in “communications and media studies”, and there have been several significant stages of “being” so far.
The first significant thought was that, hey, postgraduate studies are set up very much like homeschooling. I attend only a few classes. Most of the learning is done independently, such as through assignments, group tasks, online video “lectures”, forum discussions and so forth. This form of “digital learning” is not unfamiliar. I find myself spending a long at time at the very same desk I used to study mathematics and history at as a child, with pretty much the same tools (a laptop instead of a desktop computer, though). For many of my friends, it’s impossible to study at home. Each of us has a different study style. For me, I’m most comfortable at home.
So, being a postgraduate student is in some ways very similar to being a homeschooler! Of course, it takes many more hours. Learning is in-depth and assignments require many hours (and late nights) of researching and writing.
Our formative years shape who we are as learners. We develop self-regulation in secondary school and later in college. We learn to manage our time and to not wait until the last minute to pull assignments together (hopefully).
When I was new and young and green, fresh out of homeschooling, college was to be a place where I had to prove myself. The one thing I regret is that I could have been less competitive myopic about grades and doing really well in college, and appreciated my friends more. Going overseas and making friends (and then saying good-bye to them, perhaps forever) taught me to appreciate human experiences more, especially now that postgraduate studies can feel isolating in comparison to the vibrant community life we had in An Sean Mhuileann, with our rooftop barbecues, parties at the Blasket and Downton Abbey sleepovers. I miss the long walks by idyllic green fields, the hikes to the Ballyseedy Woods and Torc Mountain. I miss being part of a “gang” and having friends that I get to see daily and share the journey with.
The second memorable feeling I have had is that of abject terror. I went into early childhood education having read books by Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason, having studied and found out a lot about what I was about to study. In contast, I was very unsure of myself going into a whole new, unrelated and unfamiliar field. What I’ve realised though, as time has passed, is that research skills are just advanced “learning how to learn” skills, and that doing an honours year in any subject and doing a dissertation is an immense help. The skills are very transferable. The subjects being discussed, while academically unfamiliar, are related to life in the 21st century (social media, culture, entertainment) and to one’s general knowledge. It isn’t alien, thankfully.
It’s interesting being both a learner and a teacher in higher education. Sitting in a class, participating and asking questions, observing the lecturers and picking up on their teaching techniques – these have been invaluable experiences. If I want to encourage active learning, there has to be “internal consistency” in that I should “be a learner that I would want to teach”.
Things have been going very well so far. It feels good to be on right track. This semester feels like a trek over three hurdles. First, there was a hill of medium difficulty. This went well. This week, it’s a smaller, shorter challenge. Next month comes with whopping big workload, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and it feels manageable, for now (things could change by next week!).