Many parents decide to continue or even start, studying alongside raising a family. There may be many reasons for this. Perhaps they had their children when they were young and never got to complete their education. Maybe they went on a gap year and never went back to school. Perhaps they needed to go out and get a job. Perhaps they just didn’t feel ready or know what they wanted to do. Whatever the reason behind it, it is entirely possible to return to education and raise a family at the same time. It might be a little trickier than it was before you had small people depending on you, but you are also out there, improving your future job prospects and being a really good role model for your children.
In this article, we look at a few hints and tips that will help you maintain a balance between a parent and a student and make life just that little bit more simple while you study.
1. Consider online or distance learning
Sometimes, physically getting out to a school or university campus can be the most challenging thing about studying. If your children are not yet at school, you need to look for decent and reliable daycare, which can also cost a lot of money. You also have the hassle of getting everyone ready and out of the door on time in the mornings, which is never the easiest thing to do when you have young children. Lessons, lectures, and deadlines are set and have no room for flexibility. Online and distance courses, are not as rigid, and can often be done at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home – in your pajamas if you like! It also gives you the flexibility to attend events at your children’s school and be at home for them when they are unwell without the worry of it affecting your grades. For further information about the sort of courses offered at Kettering University Online: click here. If you do have to go to a physical place, make sure your tutor knows about your responsibilities at home. It may lead to them giving extensions in emergencies, or cutting you a bit of a slack if you turn up late.
2) Plan your time
Your time is more valuable than usual when you are studying alongside parenting, so plan it and use it carefully. At the beginning of the semester, and then again on a weekly basis, look at all of your deadlines and important dates. If you have a family calendar (Google is a good one that you can share access to), add these in and any other appointments or things that you need to remember. Don’t forget to add in any essential household tasks like going grocery shopping. Once you know what time is free, you can plan ahead. For example, if you have a particularly busy week coming up, you can spend some time on the weekend batch cooking and freezing food so you don’t have to think about it later on. If you know your child has a show or performance that week, can you move something else to the following week? Planning and preparation are critical – and will be useful even when you are no longer studying.
3) Delegate and outsource tasks
Now is not the time to be shy about accepting help, taking shortcuts and delegating tasks to other members of the household. If you have to occasionally resort to takeout or convenience food when you have a deadline, then so be it. If you can afford to, hire a cleaner or someone to do your laundry once a week. If your parents or friends offer to take the kids out for a few hours, let them! Make sure everyone who lives in the house takes on their fair share of duties to take the pressure off you while you study.
4) Be ready to study anywhere
When you’re studying and raising a family, the one thing you are most likely to struggle is time, and particularly the time you feel like you waste. As parents, we seem to spend an awful lot of time sitting in the car, waiting for children to finish school, waiting for dance recitals or soccer coaching to end. That time can be incredibly valuable when you are studying – if you are ready and have planned for it. Have a bag to hand with your course books, flashcards, printouts, a notebook, stationery, and a fully charged mobile device. When you are sitting around waiting for your kids, pull them out. Can you do some quick research or revision? Use those pockets of time wisely, and you will be surprised at just how much you can get done!
5) Get the kids involved
Make it a family activity. Can they test you with flashcards? Can they help you devise rhymes, mnemonics, etc for learning new concepts? Children have a fantastic imagination – capitalize on that and use it to help you on your way. You will also teach them some good study habits and methods and spend valuable time with them at the same time.
6) Have a dedicated study space
Sometimes, you will have no choice but to work in a family space, such as on the couch or at the kitchen table, but having a dedicated space just for you and your things is pretty important. Ideally, this will be away from the hustle and bustle. 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 physically and mentally
This is one of, if not the most, important thing. You will not be able to study and perform at your best if you are neglecting your physical or 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 easy to let it slide, but it should be one of your priorities – even if it is just for a few minutes each day. Regular massages or meditation, yoga, a quick workout at the gym or a run around the block can make the world of difference or just 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 optimum 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 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!