Donna M. just celebrated her 2-year anniversary as a foster parent with The Up Center. She prefers parenting teens, because there are no diaper changes, bottles or late night feedings. Teens are also experts when it comes to assisting with technology and offering fashion tips. The main reason; however, is due to the fact that teens in foster care need families, too!
How does a 43-year old single, foster mother of five decide to return to school and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher?
To be honest, I never really thought I would be able to do it when I first started thinking about it 8 years ago. I had no college education, so I would be starting from scratch. Did I really think I was going to be able to work full-time, raise my children on my own, go to class, study and complete homework? My family lived out of state so they would not be able to help. The answer was YES. I was determined to get my college degree.
My first four years were spent at a local community college. This was a smart choice. The classes were only half the price of a four year college. Not only that, but the class sizes smaller. The best thing about it though was that almost all the classes were online which could be completed on my own time. You do have to be dedicated enough to make yourself set time aside for the work. There were times when assignments were due at midnight, and I would press the submit button at 11:59 p.m. Nevertheless, it was still on time.
When I started taking online classes, I was not very computer literate. Let’s say I hardly knew how to turn one on. There were so many times I had to call one of the children over to assist. Of course I would get the “Oh mom” comments from them. Soon, I was able to navigate the class site as well as the computer.
Because of my family and work commitments, I only took two classes each semester. I could almost always be seen with my textbooks close by. Whenever I had a chance I would be completing homework.
I would always study on my 30-minute lunch break at work. I did a lot of my reading during this time, because it was too difficult to write a paper and eat at the same time. My co-workers knew what I was trying to accomplish, so they not only left me to my reading but also provided lots of encouragement.
My kids were all involved in sports. As every parent knows, this involves not only games but practice times as well. That’s a lot of time spent at the ball field. So what would I do? I could always be seen with textbook, pen, and paper at the practices. This was a great time to do some written assignments. It was ok not to watch the children every second, they were just practicing. If my child was doing something important, my homework took a backseat. Now when it came to the games, I was all eyes on the kids. My textbooks were usually in the car. I would grab them between games if I had a minute. Otherwise, my attention was on my kids--cheering them on as they played.
After earning my Associates Degree, I transferred to a 4-year-university. Classes were now a bit harder to attend, because they were not offered online. I was fortunate that my children were a bit older now and could help me out by watching the younger ones while I attended classes on campus. I also had a neighbor who would help me out with the children in foster care if necessary. In turn I would help her out when she needed care for her children. The classrooms were also full of younger students which was initially a bit awkward; however, I was easily accepted as a classmate.
After eight long years, I finally earned what I had started out to achieve--my Bachelor’s Degree in Education. This goal I set for myself was now complete. Along the way, I obtained the knowledge needed to get the degree, as well as many life lessons. My birth children and children in foster care learned many of these lessons with me. They all helped me as much as they could.
We would sit down at the table and do homework together. Each semester, my children made sure I posted my schedule of assignments and due dates where all could see. That way they could “check-up” on mom to be sure her homework was done (just as I would do for them). They learned hard work was the key to getting something you want. They also now say they will attend college immediately after high school while they’re young with no “real” responsibilities, because it’s much easier.
The main thing I learned from my educational experience was that if you really want to do something, put your mind to it, and stick it out, you can accomplish it. The road ahead maybe difficult at times, and you might think you will never see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, the pride you have in yourself and the feeling of accomplishment is a most wonderful thing. Don’t ever be afraid to take that leap for fear that you won’t be able to achieve your dreams. You may have to make some sacrifices, but these are only temporary.
Take advantage of the few minutes you have here and there during the day. Fit in tasks like homework and projects in your schedule every chance you get. Include your children in your education. This gives them a special feeling of staying connected. Believe it or not, it’s nice to sit down together as a family—even if it’s homework. In our busy lives, we seldom get a chance to do that anymore.
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