“Kitchen-Table College,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 66–67
Though there are many ways to continue one’s education, independent study offers advantages to the young mother at home.
The first advantage is time. Since you, the student, are not confined to a semester or quarter system, you may take up to a year to complete courses. Many colleges also offer three- to six-month extensions for a small fee. This amount of time allows you to work on lessons at your leisure (or at baby’s naptime) and schedule tests at convenient times and locations close to home.
There is also a financial advantage because you are paying only for tuition and books. You can take one class at a time, which costs less than taking a full load of courses. Since you do not attend classes, you don’t have to worry about paying a babysitter.
If you move around a lot because of your husband’s career—no problem. Lessons can be mailed from anywhere in the world. I’ve mailed mine from three states and am mailing them from Germany this year.
There are other advantages to independent study as well. You feel a sense of accomplishment from completing a worthwhile goal. Seeing you study teaches your children that education is important. And you will also be better able to teach your children, especially when it’s time to help them with their homework.
If you decide that independent study may be for you, here is how to get started.
First, evaluate your educational needs. How close are you to completing your degree? What courses do you need? Are you just starting? Realistically evaluate your commitments. Will you have time to study? Will you be motivated to study?
Second, locate a good independent study program. The one offered by Brigham Young University is well worth reviewing, but there are others available. Visit your local library. Check the card catalog for books on degrees awarded by independent study or correspondence. These are usually located in the reference section. The best U.S. guide that I have found is Peterson’s Independent Study Catalog, which discusses degrees by correspondence then lists alphabetically the colleges that have independent study programs and the courses they offer, along with their addresses and phone numbers. Courses are indexed by subject at the back of the book.
Peterson’s publishes many other informational books on two-year, four-year, and regional colleges. Books on unconventional degree programs, such as Peterson’s Who Offers Part-time Degree Programs, may be helpful for those who work or wish to receive life-experience credit. (Yes, you can get credit for past volunteer work, job experience, or being a mom!)
Next, send for catalogs. These usually do not cost anything, and they will describe courses and give you the information you need to register.
NOTE: If you are finishing a degree, be sure to check with your degree-granting institution before you send for a course to make sure the transfer credits will be accepted and that the course you wish to take fulfills the degree requirements. You should also check your school’s policies for students who do not finish independent study courses. Some colleges record a failing grade; others do not recognize that you enrolled in the class.
Once you have chosen and sent for a course, set up a study schedule. Studying regularly is much easier than trying to cram at the last minute. Allow for vacations, holidays, and moves.
Independent study has helped me gain knowledge and overcome obstacles in obtaining my college degree. It can help you, too.—Patricia A. Gardner, Spangdahlem AB, West Germany