I have been thinking about change and came across this quote. It sums up for me one aspect of life with children: life is in a constant state of flux. There are the obvious big changes - a new baby, a child reaching school age, homeschooling, school-schooling, a child finishing school and leaving home. Then there are the continual little changes, as one or other child in the family grows into a new phase. Here, for example, Cherub is very noticeably more "four" than she was a month ago. Although technically she is not four until next week, she is suddenly doing things that are more four than three: she is doing a ton of drawing, she has started dressing herself, and has jumped on a notch in confidence. When we were homeschooling, I learned that whenever I thought I had it sorted, within a few months someone would move on a stage and things that were going well suddenly wouldn't work any more. Even without homeschooling or any major changes, our life now looks quite different to how it looked two years ago, just because we have a 15 year old, an 11 year old and an (almost) 4 year old, instead of a 13 year old, a 9 year old and a 2 year old.Everything flows, nothing stands still. (Heraclitus)
Now we are heading up to another of the major changes, with Cherub starting school. Initially it won't make much difference as she will only go for half days. At the moment she goes to playgroup for two and a half hours four mornings a week; in September she will be at school for three hours every weekday afternoon; after Christmas she will switch to mornings; then after Easter she will start staying at school for full days. And that will be a huge change - for me, more than for her. For the first time in sixteen years, I will not have one or more children home for most of the day. Which means ... what? Work? Leisure? Volunteering?
I have been tentatively exploring a few ideas, and it seems as though doors are opening in one particular direction. I tried applying for tutoring work with the Open University that I could do from home. That got nowhere. I considered training as primary school teacher. That looked practical - I could do most of the training in local schools, and school holidays would make it easy to fit alongside our family life - but certain aspects worried me and there was something indefinable that didn't feel right. Then I started thinking about archive work, and within a week I had voluntary work experience arranged with a local record office. To train as an archivist in the UK you have to have prior work experience, either paid or as a volunteer. It is feasible to volunteer for two half days a week while Cherub is at part time school, and it will mean I can apply to study for the diploma of the Society of Archivists (the professional qualification here).
Last week I did a bit of digging around on the internet, looking in more detail than I had before at the various archives and record management courses. Three universities provide courses by distance learning. For one paid employment in an archive is a prerequisite; another has inflexible starting dates, takes a minimum of two and a half years, and sounds uninspiring. The third is provided by a Scottish university and sounds ideal. The course has three entry points a year, in January, May and September, is taught online, and can (at least in theory) be completed in less than two years to diploma level, with the option of adding a dissertation to gain a masters degree. Thinking it through, I realised I could start this course next January once I have some work experience under my belt, and with time to study while Cherub is at school, would have a realistic chance of being a qualified archivist by the autumn of 2012. I emailed the course administrator, who confirmed that one day a week of voluntary work before and during the course would meet their experience criteria and encouraged me to apply. I would have to go to Scotland for two short study courses in January and October, but that would be manageable.
Tevye and I had a long discussion about the idea, and the more we talked about the pros and cons, the more positive we felt about the pros and the less worried by the cons. The ease with which doors are opening looks distinctly providential to us. The more I look into it, the more enthusiastic I feel about the actual work, and Tevye is convinced I would enjoy it a great deal. Archivists' jobs are thin on the ground at the moment, but this is at least partly due to funding being diverted into the 2012 Olympics (sports and culture both get a lot of funding from the National Lottery) which means that from 2012 the number of jobs should increase again. Also, although even part time work would mean working at least some of the time during school holidays, we could see ways in which it could work surprisingly well for our family, with a number of possibilities opening up as we talked it through. A couple of months ago the idea hadn't even entered my head, yet now it seems very much the right direction to head in. Where this road will take me I have no idea - there could be u-turns and crossroads ahead - but at least I now know where my new journey is going to start.