When Mom Has Midterms

Two new books by Berklee Online CEO Debbie Cavalier help children adjust to family life when a parent goes back to school. 

April 21, 2020

In many ways, Bonny Baez’s day is not much different from that of thousands of college students: He works a part-time job, does several hours of school work, and then, in the evening, he cooks dinner with his wife and their 3-year-old son, enjoying some family time together before returning to his courses. 

If the family piece sounds surprising, consider this: More than one in five college students nationwide is a parent. Many of them enrolled in college after the birth of their child, with the goal of being able to provide a better life for their families, or of modeling a college-bound path for their children. For others, becoming a parent crystallized their priorities. 

"I think the story is more relevant than ever,” says Cavalier. "Historically, people turn to educational pursuits during economic downturns."

Baez, a freelance animator who’s enrolled in Berklee Online’s Electronic Music Production and Sound Design bachelor’s degree program, says his decision to go back to school had a great deal to do with the birth of his son, Wes: “After holding Wes for the first time, I couldn't help but want to focus on what’s important in my life: family, friends, and music.”

Baez began studying with Berklee Online the year Wes was born, but for other, older children, a parent’s return to school means that their family life will change. To help prepare kids for this transition, and to ease their worries, Berklee Online CEO Debbie Cavalier wrote two new children’s books: My Dad Is Going Back to School and My Mom Is Going Back to School, both illustrated by Dana Regan and published by BookBaby. 

In the stories, which will be published in August, an 8-year-old named Bryce hears that their parent is going back to school to finish their degree. Bryce, whose gender and ethnicity Cavalier purposefully made ambiguous, is excited to be in school with dad/mom and looks forward to studying together. But Bryce also understands the need to pitch in a little extra because dad/mom will be extra busy. 

The story, says Baez, “teaches kids that being in school is a team effort and families who support each other can succeed in achieving their goals." 

Cavalier wrote the books in 2019, but now, in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they take on additional significance. 

"I think the story is more relevant than ever,” says Cavalier. “Historically, people turn to educational pursuits during economic downturns. As the parents explain in the story, they want to learn new skills, earn a degree, and get a new job one day. I admire these adult learners very much. They are managing a heavy load while trying to make a better life for their loved ones. This story pays homage to them.”

All proceeds from the books’ sales will go toward Berklee Online’s scholarship fund for continuing students with financial need. The 24-page books will be available for $12.97 each through BookBaby’s store BookShop on August 4, and at major online book retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble on August 25. To receive more information regarding the books’ release, please sign up for updates.

Read more about Berklee Online degree programs in the upcoming issue of Berklee Today, available online May 18, 2020. 

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