Student: Shelley Lawson
?One of the things that appealed to me about Athabasca . . . is that it supports my long-term education plans while allowing me to maintain a rich, full life,? says first-year AU student Shelley Lawson.
And a full life it is. The Anthropology/Women’s Studies major is a single mom to an eight-year-old girl, runs her own alternative healing studio, works part-time at an organic farm, partially home-schools her daughter, and volunteers at her daughter’s school. Moreover, her work with alternative healing methods?dealing with body-mind-spirit connections?is an entirely different world from her cultural studies with AU.
In this interview, she explains how she keeps from getting overwhelmed, and why immersing herself in such different fields is actually helpful. She also describes her daughter’s non-traditional public school, comparing developments in alternative children’s education to the alternative adult education pioneered by AU.
Shelley, who lives in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, has been running her own healing studio for several years. She uses alternative healing methods like vibrational healing, reiki, reflexology, acupressure, massage, readings, and Shamanic healing. ?I see everyone from chronic back complaints who mostly like massage to childhood abuse sufferers who are looking for a complete approach to healing,? she says. ?Sometimes . . . I just listen while people talk.?
Although some might quickly dismiss the concept of body-mind-spirit connections, Shelley disagrees. She points out how much science has increased our knowledge in the past few hundred years, turning age-old theories of flat earth and a geocentric universe on their heads. ?With quantum physics we are learning about the probability of not just other senses . . . but other dimensions of thought and reality,? she says. ?There is so much we don’t know.?
Her interest in learning even more about the world led her to Athabasca University in 2007. ?With the healing studio well underway and Hannah embarking on public school, it seemed . . . time to start using my brain,? she says. ?I hadn’t done much [learning]?formal learning, anyway!?since high school.?
But although she finds alternative healing ?fascinating,? She’s taken her AU studies to a completely different field: cultural studies. The big leap doesn’t faze her; in fact, She’s excited about linking the two. ?I am loving the correlations between the two worlds,? she says. ?On one hand there is this whole other realm which most of us won’t acknowledge, this whole arena of body-mind-spirit connections . . . and then there is this whole undiscovered past that we are only just learning about.?
She’s constantly amazed by how far we’ve come, and how far we have left to go. ?There is so much we don’t know, and so much we refuse to see,? she says.
Not only is Shelley enthusiastic about her studies, She’s also glad for the flexibility that allows her to earn her degree one course at a time. ?I’m on the 10-year plan!? she jokes. With her busy life, scheduling is key to keeping it all together. ?Use your AUSU Planner,? she advises. ?It’s the best!?
Studying happens in the evenings, when She’s often joined by her daughter. ?We have a four-day school week here, and Hannah is partially home-schooled,? Shelley says. ?We study together a lot.? Doing homework alongside her daughter has been a good experience. While She’s modelling lifelong learning to Hannah, Shelley’s also bringing a little competition into the mix. ?She was having a hard time with reading . . . [but] when I brought home two A-pluses . . . that upped the ante for her!? she says.
AU’s alternative delivery goes hand-in-hand with her daughter’s education?It’s a public school, but based on an alternative model. ?[It] is parent-directed,? Shelley says, and like AU, ?incorporates many of those life-long learning principles.?
At the beginning of the year, parents and teachers work together on an Individualized Learning Plan for each student, supplementing throughout the year with student-led conferences. There are also no report cards. ?It’s very innovative learning, much like AU,? Shelley says. ?We can travel and still be working on her curriculum . . . having that plan laid out at the beginning of the year makes it easy to bring it with us.?
The flexibility of both her and Hannah’s studies means that extended travel is a possibility. In fact, Shelley is planning to move to Edmonton for six months next year to focus on her BA studies. She hopes to take up to four classes at once, giving her the opportunity for some ?classroom time and peer support,? she says. ?Even if we are gone for six months, [Hannah] can still be registered [at her school].?
?There is lots of talk right now about what we need to do to prepare young people for the reality of the world they live in,? Shelley adds. She thinks that, just as adult education has changed, the old childhood education model needs revision to keep up with the ever-changing modern world. ?[Kids] take in more information in one day than our great-grandparents did in a lifetime,? she says. ?That is going to require a different approach than the Industrial Revolution form of public school.?
In the meantime, She’s focusing on raising her daughter, studying the world, and enjoying her busy life. ?I love everything I am doing,? she says. ?I find it easy . . . okay, maybe not ?easy?, [but] rewarding.? It’s that attitude which keeps her motivated. ?These are all components of a life I love,? she says. ?To allow that to be stressful feels counterintuitive!?