Matthew is a student at New Horizons Adult Education Centre in Sherbrooke. His learning path is unique because this is his first time in school. Matthew and his sister were schooled at home in New Brunswick. When the family moved to the Gaspe, 13 year old Matthew decided to stop the home school approach to learning and begin helping out fulltime at his parent’s antique store. After a few years the family moved the business to Stanstead, Quebec. Matthew was then 16 years old and had never attended public or private school. He found volunteer work at the Haskell Library for two years until he turned 18 years old when he then took a job making trusses and flooring at Structure Laferte in Ayers Cliff.
At 20 years old, Matthew decided to get his high school diploma. Achieving this generally takes 5 years but for Matthew it will take less than 3 years. Matthew, 22 now, has been in the program at New Horizons for 1 ½ years. He intends to be studying computer programming at Cegep soon, possibly at Champlain College - Lennoxville.
From his unique perspective, Matthew shares his view on lifelong learning with us.
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Q – You have made your own education and life decisions from a young age. What made you decide to enroll in adult education when you were 20 years old?
A - Well, at that time I was working at Structure Laferte, and I decided I didn’t want to do that type of work for the rest of my life. I guess the real reason for starting on my education was the same as many others: it started out for the money, better education, better job, right? But the more I learned, the more it became, “If I do this now, I can take control of my future.” Instead of having to take any job that I might come to dislike in the future, with this education I can start into the profession of my choosing.
Q - You’re on a ‘fast track’ to get your high school diploma (DES). Please explain how it’s possible for you to complete in 3 years what usually takes 5 years.
A - To be accepted at New Horizons, or any Adult Education Center, you need to be over 16 years old, a citizen of Canada, and willing to learn. Since these schools are not regular high schools, it’s very easy-going with helpful teachers and students who learn at their own pace. The teachers give the materials needed to the students for learning, and the student then takes over, asking questions when the need arises. So the length of time you stay in the school is dependent upon yourself. Most students that attend here dropped out of regular high school because of personal reasons or because the school system wasn’t working for them. The programs at New Horizons can be modified for each person, so that if you work nights you can come in the morning, or if you work days you can take the home study course or attend Tuesday evening class.
As for financial assistance, there are numerous government programs that aid people who want to finish their high school education. As an example, I am on a program from Emploi Quebec where they give me a set amount of money every 2 weeks so that I can continue my education for a certain amount of time to finish the course that I chose.
Q - You have a wide set of skills learned from home schooling, volunteering, working, and helping with the family business. What skills are you developing now in a high school program?
A - During the course of my life, I have learned many different skills, but I am always interested in improving them. At school, I am learning the social aspects of life that I never learned previously, like the importance of communication, and teamwork. Due to my participation on the governing board, I am learning the way schools are managed. I guess I am developing many skills, but it’s hard for me to assess that. Mostly attending an adult education centre is just an experience that is a building block to my future, and each block will make it a bigger and brighter future.
Q - What does it mean to you to be a lifelong learner?
A - To continue with the building block analogy, I think of a little boy playing with a box of building blocks. Instead of building them the way the plan says, he will take the blocks, build what he wants, and then take it apart and do it again differently. With those few blocks, he will amuse himself for hours upon hours learning the different ways things can fit together. This child already has the urge to learn and to expand his mind.
To me everybody is potentially a lifelong learner because we never stop learning, but to truly be one, is to have an urge to learn and better ourselves and our lives.
For me the thirst for learning pushes me to expand my limits of understanding, I try to learn more about anything and everything from math to different cultures. There is no useless information in the world, only knowledge to be gained.
Q - Is there anything you would like to add?
A - There is an old saying I heard somewhere that went something like this “A wise man knows that he is a fool.”
That quote is dead-on. There is no way to learn everything, but the more you learn the more you understand how little in life we truly know. Some people think they should drink and party to experience life, but to really experience it, try learning. With an education, regardless how thorough, you can always learn more about yourself and how the world works.
The world is getting more and more connected every year. Take advantage of it. Go and research about getting back into school. Whether you attend a high school, cegep, university, vocational ed, or opt for distance ed courses, any education that you get will benefit your future. With all of the aid programs around, it has become easy and possible to get into these education programs.
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Thank you Matthew for your participation in our Lifelong Learner Interviews. We expect your views on learning will create a ripple on the world wide web!