Generations learning lessons

September 17, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

CLEAR SPRING - Michele Burger and other parents pursuing advanced degrees often don't subject themselves to the same study rules that they endorse for their children.

"I give myself a lot more leniency than I give them because I believe I can discipline myself more," said Burger, 38, of Clear Spring. "Heck, I'm paying for my education. It makes a difference."

Time also is a factor, she and other parent-students said.

In addition to raising two children who are in middle school, Burger works part time cleaning homes and teaching as a substitute while pursuing a degree in health information technology at Hagerstown Business College. She's now immersed in her third semester of evening classes at the school her 19-year-old son, Trenton Almeda, also attends.


Burger said her 13-year-old daughter, Trista Monroe, double-checks her algebra homework. Burger's son, Traven Monroe, 11, has a more difficult time sympathizing with his mom's higher-education goals.

"He can't understand why I want to be back in school," Burger said.

She studies whenever she can find the time - usually during the day while the kids are at school and she isn't working. She expects the children, on the other hand, to follow a strict homework schedule.

"That's the first thing they have to do when they come in the house," Burger said. "Trista believes she should be able to watch TV while she does her homework. She's not allowed to do that."

The kids' recreational computer time also is strictly limited during the school year, Burger said.

Unlike her children, she prefers complete silence while she's studying.

"I don't like the TV on. It distracts me," Burger said. "Sometimes my husband comes in and turns the TV on, and I ask him to turn it off."

She likes to do her homework in the privacy of her bedroom. But that's not an option for Traven, who completes his homework under the watchful eyes of his mother at the kitchen table.

"His attention span can be very short-lived," Burger said. "That way I'm there to help while I'm getting dinner ready."

Like Burger, Susan Bonilla of Chambersburg, Pa., said she spends more time than her children studying - but in a less structured environment. She carves out study time when and where she can, usually in the living room after her three kids - Brandon, 17, Jonathon, 15, and Donna, 10 - have left for school in the morning.

"Usually after I get everybody else settled at school, I do my work," said Bonilla, 37, who is pursuing a degree in applied sciences for human services at Hagerstown Community College. Carpal tunnel syndrome ended her career as a hairstylist, so she's getting the education needed to become a social worker. "In the evenings, I still have to take care of everybody else. It's very hectic."

Bonilla allows herself study privileges that her kids don't enjoy - TV and couch rather than silence and dining room table. But she benefits from less leisure time than her children, whose recreational activities she limits - especially computer time - until all their schoolwork is completed.

"I find myself not having time to do anything," Bonilla said. "I spend a lot more time studying than my kids do. I hope it teaches my children to continue on with their education. It's challenging, but there's a reward at the end."

Homework usually lands last on Jason Patellis' list of priorities. Studying ranks much higher for sons Julius, 13, and Sebastian, 8.

"I have to make the time to do the schoolwork, and it usually ends up being last," said Patellis of New Market, Md. "I'm a procrastinator, but my boys don't have my bad habits. I think that my sons are both much better students than I was as a kid."

Julius and Sebastian stick to their right-after-school homework schedule, said Patellis, a middle-school school art teacher who's pursuing a master's degree in the humanities at Hood College in Frederick. He usually does homework late at night when the rest of his family is asleep, or during the weekend.

"Even then it's usually at night or I don't get to be involved with the family stuff during the day," he said.

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