Many parents decide to continue or even begin, studying alongside raising a family. There can be many reasons for this. Some have had their families when they were young and never had the chance to complete or further their education. Some have gone on gap years and did not return to school. Some needed to go out to work for money. For some, it is merely a case of them not being ready to continue studying or did not know what to do. Whatever the reason behind their decision, it is more than possible to return to education while raising a family at the same time. We are not going to lie - it will be more challenging that it would have been if you did not have little people depending entirely on you, but remember, you are going out there, improving your job prospects for the future and providing an excellent role model to your children.
To help you maintain a balance between being a parent and a student and to make life a little bit more straightforward while you are studying, we have shared a few tips
- Consider online or distance learning
One of the most challenging things about studying as a parent can be physically getting out of the house and going to a school or university campus. If you have children that are not yet of school age, you have the problem of needing reliable and decent daycare, which can cost a lot of money. This is particularly inhibitive if you are not working and stops many parents from even thinking about returning to education. If you are lucky enough to have childcare sorted, you have the hassle of getting everyone ready and out of the door on time in the morning, which, let's face it, is never an easy task when you have young children. When you are attending a physical course, lessons, seminars and deadlines are fixed and very rarely have any room for flexibility. The beauty of an online or distance course, such as online Christian degrees, is that they are not as rigid and can usually be done at your own pace from the comfort of your own home. If you want to work in your pyjamas at 10 pm, that is fine. If you want to work from a coffee shop for a bit of peace and quiet, that is also fine. It also allows you the flexibility to attend the events at your children's school and be able to take them and pick them up from school, and look after them at home if they are unwell, without the worry of it affecting your attendance and grades. If you do have to go to a physical site, make sure your tutor or course leader knows about your responsibilities at home. It may lead to them giving extensions to deadlines in emergencies, or cutting you a bit of slack if you turn up late up for the occasional session.
2) Plan your time
As a parent, you probably have limited time as it is, so when you are studying, your time will be even more valuable. It is important to plan and use that time very carefully and not waste a moment of it. At the very beginning of the semester, and then on a monthly and weekly basis from after that, look at the deadlines you have and any important dates. It is a good idea to have a family calendar, such as the one available on Google, or even a paper one on the kitchen fridge and add these in, as well as any other appointments or things that you need to remember. Add in other essential household tasks like going grocery shopping. Once you have an idea of the time that you have available, you can plan it accordingly. for example, if you have a really busy week ahead of you, spend the weekend batch cooking and freezing food so you do not have to worry about it later on. If you know your child has a show or performance or parent-teacher meeting that week, can you move something else that is not essential to the next week? Planning and preparation will be vital - and will be useful even when you have finished studying.
3) Delegate and outsource tasks
As parents, we can be shy about accepting help from others, taking shortcuts and delegating tasks to other people in the household. When you are a studying parent, you cannot afford to be. There is nothing wrong with resorting to the occasional takeout or ready meal when you have a deadline to meet. If your budget allows it, hire a cleaner once a week or pay someone to do your laundry. If your family or friends offer to look after the kids for a few hours, take them up on it. Make sure that everyone else who lives in the house does their fair share of household tasks to take the pressure off you while you study.
4) Be ready to study anywhere, anytime
The one thing that you are likely to struggle with when you are studying and trying to raise a family is time. As parents, we tend to spend an awful lot of time sitting in the car, waiting for dance recitals and soccer coaching to end. That time can be so valuable when you are studying, if you are ready and have planned for it. Keep a bag to hand with your course books, printouts, flashcards, a notebook and some stationery in, as well as a fully charged mobile device. In those pockets of time that you are sitting around, pull them out and do a quick bit of reading, revision or research. You will be surprised to see just how much you can get done in those little snippets of time if they are used wisely.
5) Involve the kids
Make studying into a family activity, whatever the age of your children. Can they test you with flashcards, or help you come up with rhymes, mnemonics etc. for learning and remembering new concepts? Children have a brilliant imagination - use that to your advantage! You will also teach them some good study habits and methods and spend some valuable time with them at the same time.
6) Have a dedicated space to study
Sometimes, you will be left with little choice but to work in a family space such as the kitchen table or on the couch, but it is pretty important to have a dedicated space for you to study and store your things, ideally away from the hustle and bustle of family life.
Make sure you have enough space to spread out your papers and don't forget to shut or lock the door when you're not using it, so little fingers can't mess with them!
6) Look after yourself mentally and physically
This is one of, if not the most, important thing. You simply will not be able to study and perform at your very best if you are not taking care of your physical and mental health. When all of your time is tied up with school, children, home life and perhaps even a job on top, it can be very easy to let it slide, but it should be one of your priorities - even if it is just for a few minutes each day. It may take the form of regular massages or meditation, yoga, a quick workout at the gym or a run around the block. The smallest of things can also make a huge difference such as a long hot bath with candles and a book. Make sure you are eating well and not surviving on coffee and junk food to get you through busy days and long nights. Cram your diet with the excellent brain foods - plenty of oily fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel) and leafy greens (spinach, kale, and broccoli) and drink eight glasses of water a day to keep yourself hydrated.
7) Don't feel guilty
Last, but not least, get rid of that guilt. Yes, I know you are feeling it, but stop! There will be times when you need to ask your children to leave you alone and play by themselves. There will be times when you need to shut yourself away in your room to revise or hit a deadline. There will be times when you have to miss a recital or a game. There may even be times when you are tired, cranky and have next to no patience. No, it's not ideal, but rest assured that you are not the first or the last parent to do it, and ultimately, you are doing this to benefit your family. Let go of the guilt and give yourself a break. You have got this!
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