Thursday, March 03, 2011


This is just a thought post. I'm working things out.

But before I get into the meandering of my mind, let's pause and think about the absurdity of the fact that if I wanted to get Margaret into a nice preschool this next year, I should have started applying last fall because applications were due in January? She turns 3 this month!

But onto other thoughts. When I went to the Women's Lives, Women's Voices Conference, I spent a lot of the day eavesdropping into other peoples' discussions of their studies and asked a lot of people what they were studying. Now that we are going to stay here in the Bay Area, I'm looking into graduate work. There are lots of schools around and lots of things I could study.

First, I do not want to do math. I did that. I'm done. Sometimes I think doing research with teenage moms and breastfeeding would be fascinating. Reading The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk last fall made me wonder about the research available on supply issues that might be specific to teen moms.

But then another part of me loves history How much fun it would be to study history! I love issues and history is full of issues! I love stories and history is full of stories! It'd be a party, I tell you.

Then there's a part of me who wants to spend this next year exploring the limits of my knitting abilities. Perhaps I could go to school for textile arts?

As I have been considering re-entering academia, another thought came to me: unschooling. Could I write and research and send papers to academic journals and conferences without having to be associated with a school? Is it really necessary to pay thousands of dollars for tuition in order to do what I want to do?

There are benefits to being enrolled in school: access to resources, access to people interested in your subject, having a mentor. Could you get those on your own?

So those of you in graduate school: what do you like about it? What don't you like about it? Those of you not in school: do you do research and write on your own? Have you tried entering papers into conferences?


  1. I wouldn't have thought to call in unschooling, but I guess you are right...

    I have been writing academic research for the last couple of years without being affiliated with an organization. BUT there is a huge barrier that I haven't worked out yet, though I know somewhat how to go about doing it. Are you familiar with Human Subjects and IRBs?

    For an independent researcher, that is the biggest barrier. You have to have your research proposals reviewed by an IRB to verify that your methods are ethical and reduce risk to the participants. Your work cannot be accepted to a scholarly journal if you do not have IRB approval for your studies using human subjects (same goes for animal research but I don't think that's something you are considering). Historians do not have that same challenge so if you like history, you have a way around that. J. Stapley and Kristine Wright are good examples of this in the Mormon History community. And I personally feel that we need some researchers to counter their you could go there.

    That all said, I have been in graduate school and I really loved it. I'm looking forward to going back to school for a PhD at some point. The biggest drawback I observe from my husband's PhD program is that there are so many little and unimportant things that he has to do to maintain his funding and permissions to conduct research that they interfere with actually doing his research. There is a great deal of busy work and red tape, it appears. I didn't find that in my master's program and I really loved how I could spin any writing assignment into an area that was of interest to me. Most of my coursework in some way tied into my thesis work and helped prepare me to write it. Of course, now I need to convert my thesis into a publication that can be submitted, over two years after the fact. I've just found more interesting projects!

    Don't be surprised if you get a call from me later with an idea to share with you...

  2. This is totally how I feel about graduate school. My sister has always talked about going to graduate school--but she doesn't know what subject. It seems like she just wants a degree to prove to others that she's educated.

    I have a bachelor's degree and it was great to do gen-eds and then study one thing for 2 straight years. But now I get to study whatever I want. Sometimes that's about raising chickens, sometimes it's about gardening, sometimes it's listening to NPR, sometimes it's reading the classics, sometimes it's architecture, sometimes it's seasonal cooking, sometimes it's entrepreneurship. Whatever interests me I get to study I don't need anyone's approval to start or stop on any subject.

    As for writing--That's why I love my blog (although I don't always.) I write a lot about my analysis of life and of things I study based on my own interests. Though I see the draw of wanting to "be published." We all like to feel validated once in a while.

  3. For me, graduate school was an excellent opportunity to network--both with people and with ideas. I had an interest in microcredit when I started, but that interest was sharpened and focused through my classes and interactions with others. I came away with specific areas in microcredit I wanted to work on.

    I think you need to be very passionate about an individual subject to get into it as deeply as you would be able to in a classroom/university setting.

    Or maybe it simply depends on the parameters of the situation: your own interest, the way the subject is approached at a certain university, your time situation, your financial situation, your current and future goals, etc.,.

  4. I love your idea of unschooling yourself! That is great. I've been thinking a lot about graduate school too lately, but every time I look into it seriously I feel frustrated by the thought of all the red tape and busy work that it requires. I think that sometimes higher education and degrees are way over rated. People can become just as educated and contribute in just as meaningful ways without having initials after their names.

    I was just listening to a podcast about Ruth May Fox, one of the early LDS women leaders, and about how she had no formal education. Yet she and some of her friends created "the women's press club" where they got together to read books, write papers, critique eachother's work, hold formal debates and publish journals and newspapers. Through their efforts they educated each other and Ruth May Fox was considered one of the leading minds. It would be wonderful if women could do something similar today.

    I've also been thinking a lot about how the Lord often calls the "unlearned" and "meek" to do his most powerful work. I think that God looks on our hearts and gives us the opportunities to grow and influence the world in many different ways... and they don't always take the formal routes the world advocates for or provides. You don't need a degree to be an incredible instrument in God's hands.

    Okay, that was a long comment. I guess I've just been thinking about this a lot too. :)

    Have you read the Thomas Jefferson Education books? I really have loved them and they talk a lot about how to find mentors and find your "Mission Phase" in life. This is one of the philosophies of homeschooling that has really appealed to me. I think the college they founded also does a lot of online and distance programs. It might be something to look into. Here is the link to the college

    Best wishes. I'm sure your make the best choice for you and your family. Sometimes having so many choices and so many things to be passionate about is the hardest trial :) At least for me.

  5. That is so cool! I love your idea of doing the research yourself and submitting articles.

    Not to dis graduate degrees, but I have a Master's in Education and it was BORING. Basically, I learned that teachers should give students homework. Really, I'm spending three hours this evening in a classroom to learn that? Some things you learn from doing and no amount of degrees will make you a good teacher if you don't have the ability.
    If I were to do it again, I'd choose a completely different topic. I joke to my family that I want an MBA (business school) or a PhD in clinical psychology.
    Anyway, I look forward to hearing about your studies! I think it's great that you have such diverse interests - makes you a very interesting person.

  6. I plan on doing some research without going to school. If I wanted to go to graduate school, I'd have to finish my bachelor's first. That's a lot of busywork to get to what I actually want to do. But I am considering specific classes to help make me more expert at the field I am looking at. I guess it just depends on what the school can offer you. If it offers what you want, take it. If it doesn't offer what you want, find your own way.

    There is one tiny little thing about having a degree that really bugs me but it's sort of just the way it is: People will take you more seriously. So if that's important in what you want to pursue, it's something to consider.


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