It can be a challenge, to say the least, for a family when one of the parents is working full time while also pursuing a university degree.
For Kosta and Marta Tsoukalas, a husband and wife who both convocated from Athabasca University this year, the word challenge might be an understatement when reflecting on their time as full-time workers, students, and parent of three young children.
“It’s been hard, and it’s been busy,” Kosta said.
Marta said she had heard good things about the program after speaking with many of her colleagues. And in her experience, the reputation is well-earned as all her instructors had concrete practical experience in the specific courses they were teaching.
“I really liked that it wasn’t a generalist teaching at a brick-and-mortar university, who’s really there for the research and has to teach a course on the side,” she said. “These were actually instructor that are current in the topics that they’re teaching.”
For Kosta, it was “strictly about the flexibility.”
“I could go to work, and I could come home and do my studies when I needed to without having strict timelines placed on me as with a brick-and-mortar university, which I couldn’t have afforded because of my work schedule,” he said.
Not that it wasn’t without its challenges, evidenced by a piece of advice Marta offers to anyone who might find themselves in the same situation.
“I did want to quit as Kosta’s editor,” she said. “There’s a recommendation: tell your spouse to find a different editor when you’re in school!”
But for better or worse, the benefits of the experience have made it all worthwhile, especially in terms of the way they have been able to model lifelong learning for their family.
Marta recalled how her children would watch her and her husband doing their homework in the evenings and picked up on the importance of the hard work from an early age. They also may be the only students in their elementary school who put together comprehensive reference lists for their presentations.
“One of them did a presentation in Grade 4, and even the teacher said that was a really thorough bibliography at the end,” she said.
Kosta said he’s proud that when his children now speak about their futures, they speak in terms of “what” they will learn in school, rather than “if” they will learn in school.
“Continuing education is extremely important to us and we want to instill that in our kids and family,” he said.
Now the family has more time to slow down and enjoy having a bit more free time to spend with their family, whether it’s doing small things like baking on the weekend, or large things like taking a one-month family vacation to Europe.
And while they haven’t ruled out the possibility of going back to school—Marta for her PhD and Kosta for graduate studies—but while their kids are still young they plan to take a well-deserved break.