Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean that you can’t go back to school to gain an education. Getting qualifications can have many benefits for both you and your kids – it can allow you access to better job opportunities which could in turn provide a better income for your family, plus it can inspire your kids to value education.
Of course, juggling the two roles of being a parent and a student isn’t easy. Here are some tips for achieving your goals of getting an education whilst raising children.
Time it right
You can pursue an education no matter what age your kids are, however you may want to be a little wary about studying whilst expecting a new baby. If you’re planning on having more kids, try to time getting your education before or after the birth of your new child. Studying with infant may also be difficult to structure study time around, although it is possible.
Traditional courses may start in September, however there are modern courses with more flexible start dates.
Consider an online course
Web based courses such as these online GIS courses are a great option for parents. Rather than having to study on campus and attend lectures and seminars, you can study remotely from home in your own time. There may be certain assignments with deadlines or exams that need to completed on campus on certain dates, but for the most part you arrange your own study time around parenthood and other commitments such as work. Another advantage could be that you don’t have to sit in a room full of younger students (although nowadays the number of mature students has grown, and you’ll often find lots of older people taking courses alongside younger students).
If you feel that you learn better by interacting with people face-to-face, it’s possible to still take an online course but to also hire a tutor. This provides you with someone to guide you through your problems in person. You may also be able to arrange video calls with tutors at the college.
Consider accelerated options
There are also accelerated courses out there such as this one year online MBA. These can allow you to cram your studies into a year, which could allow you to get an education more quickly without having to spread it out over three years. The downside of such courses is that they’re very intense and with the added responsibility of kids, some people may find them a little too full-on. However, it could be an option if your kids are in school and you’re able to take a year off work with the help of partner to still provide income.
Schedule study time
Having a study schedule will ensure that you get in the hours of studying that you need. Plan this study time around your kids. With young kids you may be able to get up early or study after they’ve gone to bed (but not both!). Alternatively, there may be a time when someone else can look after the kids for an hour or two. With older kids it might easier to leave them to their own devices for an hour whilst you study – just make sure to tell them not to disturb you unless it really is urgent. Many people find that they’re able to more easily get into the zone by having an allotted time each week rather than taking time as it comes.
Create a study space
On top of having a study routine, you may want to set up a special study space so that you’re not distracted. Ideally you don’t want to studying in the living room whilst your kids are playing you’re your partner is watching TV as there will be too much going on to concentrate. Instead, create a designated study room which no-one can enter whilst you study.
Another option could be to get out of the house to focus on your studies. You could head down to you local library – many people find that this is the perfect environment for studying due to how quiet it is and due to the resources on hand. Alternatively, you could try going to your local coffee bar to study – many coffee bars have wifi and plug points for using a laptop, whilst providing a fairly calm atmosphere. Try to ensure that you’re not visiting these places during peak times when you may not get somewhere to sit.
Find ways to occupy your kids
Keeping the kids occupied can help you to concentrate on your studies without them coming to pester you with questions or problems. They may be able entertain themselves with games or a film. Alternatively, you could them to do their own studying whilst you study – your kids are likely to have homework and by all using this as study time you’re all more likely to be understand of one another.
If your kids are a little older, you may be able to keep them occupied whilst you study by setting chores for them. Not only could this stop them from disturbing you, but it could also help to make your life easier by reducing the amount of household tasks that need doing. These could be basic tasks such as hoovering or washing up. Such cores could help to build a work ethic and teach your kids the importance of doing their part.
Get someone to look after the kids
If you’re not able to study around your kids, you may want to consider getting someone to look after them whilst you study. This could be a partner or a friend or family member. If you’re not able to find someone to provide the hours you need for free, you could always consider hiring a babysitter. This could allow you to concentrate purely on your studies without worrying what your kids are up to, whilst also preventing them from interrupting you.
Talk to other studying moms
There are sites in which you can connect with fellow mums that are also studying. These sites could be useful for sharing advice and discussing issues that you have. Having support from other people also going through the same challenges can help to provide motivation by not making you feel so alone. If you’re studying on campus, there are likely to be other mature students at the university with kids – there may even be groups for meeting these students.
Don’t sacrifice all of your free time
It’s important that you still have time to spend with your family and that you still have time to spend on yourself. As a parent, you may already have very little free time and it’s all too easy to fill this entirely with your studies. However, this could have a serious negative impact. Firstly, you need to spend time with your family, otherwise they will resent you for studying, plus you’ll start to feel cut off. Secondly, you need time just to chill – studying may be something that you want to do voluntarily, but it uses up a lot of brainpower and you may feel you need that time to destress afterwards by doing something that isn’t brain intensive, whether it’s watching TV or taking a long hot bath.
If you’re also working, you may want to consider temporarily cutting down your hours so that you have this extra time. This could involve making cutbacks if you’re not making the same income – which is something you’ll want to weigh up. There is financial support out there for mature students, which could help you to reduce your hours and still afford day to day necessities.