I got bored recently. It doesn’t happen very often but when I don’t feel like washing up after dinner and there’s nothing on Netflix that piques my interest and I’ve been writing for most of the day, I will sit on the couch and wonder what to do with myself. Sometimes I pick away at the guitar or play darts downstairs, but this past week I was wandering around the living room when I decided to look into the possibility of obtaining my masters degree. I toyed with the idea of pursuing a master’s degree in social anthropology a couple years ago, but this time I jumped on Google to search universities that offered a low residency creative writing program. On a whim, I searched out universities that offered writing residencies in Ireland. There were at least three.
As a Neo-Luddite who believes that the old ways are often the best ways, I had to admit it was nice to be able to shop for a program based on my needs and not geographical convenience. When I combed through the online application forms, I thought about how lucky I am to be able to take courses and to communicate with professors across the world with relative ease. Though there are numerous negatives to living in a social media-infused techno-reliant society, there are certainly many benefits as well.
I was waiting for my youngest son and his friend in the front lobby of the Creston and District Community Complex during the holiday break when a group of teenaged boys, their towel-dried hair smelling of chlorine, sat down with their wet trunks in plastic bags. Buzzing from a long afternoon at the pool, and devouring vending machine snacks, they told me that they were also looking at distance education as an option. With the second half of the year quickly approaching, many students in Creston will be (if they haven’t already) cross-enrolling with different online programs, either in or outside of the district.
Growing up in Victoria I thought it was only the children of lighthouse keepers on desolated islands that were homeschooled, but after moving to Creston I met a number of students that chose to either homeschool full-time or cross-enroll for a variety of reasons. “It’s about having options,” one boy told me. “I sign up for the courses I want and the teachers I connect with at the high school, and then I cross-enroll at Homelinks for another course, and then I look at either DESK or SIDES.”
School District 8’s online program DESK (Distance Education School of the Kootenays) has seen renewed interest after the closing of ‘alternative programming’ within Creston and the imminent move of Homelinks from the Creston Education Centre. SIDES (South Island Distance Education School), based out of Victoria, has also seen increased interest from families in Creston and across the province as students look for courses and electives that may not otherwise be offered in their hometown.
“NIDES [North Island Distance Education School] is another option I’m looking at,” said another boy, his mouth full of salt and vinegar chips. “They have a robotics course. I don’t know much about it, but that would be a cool way to get some credits. Either that or I may create my own course. You can do something called Independent Directed Studies. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth looking into. This guy I know created a course around being a drummer. He’s an awesome drummer, but still… you know… drumming. That’s pretty awesome.”
The third boy guzzled the last of his sports drink before piping in. “I’m not interested in taking French. I’d like to learn German. I want to travel there and I’ve got relatives there, but the high school doesn’t offer German. So I’m doing it online. I’ve heard it’s a lot of work through SIDES, and my mom’s not sure I can get it done during my spare, but I’m going to prove her wrong. It helps that I actually want to learn it. And I like proving people wrong – especially my mom.”
Navigating in a world where uncertainty is a constant, many of today’s teenagers are finding ways to pursue their education outside typical bricks-and-mortar schools. While some students look to programs like ACE IT (Accelerated Credit Enrolment in Industry Training) to receive high school credits while obtaining their first level of a trade, others are turning to several online options. This shows enormous initiative. While it is easy to peg teenagers as ruffians as they stroll around town with their pants hanging below their waistline, many are finding ingenious ways to pursue their interests in a continually underfunded and disorganized system.
Time: 4:03 p.m.
Place: Creston and District Community Complex