Lifelong Learning

When we start out we know nothing, and it’s great.
We just scream when we want stuff, even if we don’t know what it is we want. Anything not right, just yell, and They will fix it. I’d like to say I remember it fondly, but I can’t remember it, I’m just speculating based on my jealous fantasy of how good babies have got it. The point is, it doesn’t last long.

You’re not even a year on the planet, and the pressure’s on. It starts with the kids who can stride across entire rooms unassisted while the rest of us are still stamping on our Weetabix mush and putting our feet in our mouths. Some of us never stopped with that last bit. Mums know, even decades later, how old we were when we first managed to convict ourselves out of our own mouths, or write our names, sing a song all the way through… you have to know stuff, and when you’re little, you can learn anything you like as long as it’s SOMETHING.

Then school. There’s no point me detailing here what They do, there’s not enough room and I don’t honestly know what is is They do anyway, but They do it, and the whole thing’s not fun anymore, and even if it was it’s not up to you to enjoy it anyway. “You’re not here to mess around young lady, you’re here to learn”. Where did the big contrast come from? How come I can’t learn a language by messing around? It worked for English. Ok, ok, whatever. I’ll just… stare out of the window.

“Alex is a pleasant child who seems uninterested and daydreams a lot.” Hm. Really?

Then: the world. They want to know what I’ve learned, but nothing I know counts. I’m stuck. It’s not just me, I know. Okay, my Home Ed period isn’t standard procedure, but being seen as at the end of my educational road on the basis of lacking exam-based proof unfortunately is. So what are the options?

You can do an NVQ. Anybody can do an NVQ, by gathering witness evidence of the tasks they do in their job, to prove they can do those tasks. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. You get someone to witness you doing your job, the one you landed in because you didn’t have the right pieces of paper, to prove that you can do that job, and then you get a piece of paper for it. To prove you can do what you were doing before. It doesn’t take an NVQ in Stagnation Risk Calculation to figure out that the risks of sudden advancement and enlightening new awarenesses are limited.

You can take a year out (if you can afford it) to do an Access course which will then get you entry into university (if you can afford it). To be honest though, it’s easier to ask your parents to sink even further into debt to finance your plans when you’re still young enough to pull off the eyelash-batting thing. And that’s if your parents aren’t brassic.

So that’s how I ended up at the Open University: convinced that I’m not too stupid to do a degree, but too cash-strapped and committed to adult life to be able to go to university and prove it to the world. I’m still a long way off my degree, but that’s not really the point. I’m not shut out of learning anymore. I can learn anything I like. If I’m good, I’ll get pieces of paper for it. If not, I’ve learned as much as I can about it, and that’s still more than before.

OU Study isn’t something we do while we’re waiting for Grownup Life to come for us, a step on the way to where we want to be… well, mostly not. For me at least, it’s part of life, it’s fun, and it’s one of only three ways I can treat myself that are perfectly legal, moral and non-fattening. It’s so absorbing that I barely even notice grownup life passing me by, and the Weetabix mush returning under my feet, and the world opening up to me because I’ve discovered that I can learn anything I like. Mostly by messing around.


About alexandraengland

One response to “Lifelong Learning

  • Ruth Raymer

    I’m also very much engrossed in my ‘lifelong learning’ with OU Alex. It has widened my horizons and given me my life back in many respects. I’m now doing what my peers (did I ever have any of those I wonder?) did in their late teens and twenties but I have the benefit of a wealth of life experience behind me. Now in my third year, almost clear of that one and already set for the new term in September!!

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