For adults trying to further their career, attending an online degree program can be a good way to enhance their professional credentials. But fitting in all the work that a degree requires during the little “free time” a student might eke out each day can be truly challenging, especially for those students work and also have children. That balancing act – being a good parent, providing quality education for students each day, and attending online graduate school – is a tough one. There are things a parent in an online program can do, however, to make life easier for everyone while working on that graduate school degree.
Earning a Degree One Minute at a Time
Parents who have one or more small children at home will likely experience some difficulty trying to find time to concentrate. It can be a challenge in general, much less when working on an online degree program! While not optimal to complete graduate school assignments in what amount to stolen minutes, there may be times when there is no other option. To stretch your stolen minutes into quarter hours or even half hours without relying each time on television, parents will need to be creative, and even over-communicate. We’ve asked some successful parent/students for ideas to help other parents attempting online graduate school. Here are some of the things that worked for them:
- Parents should explain to their kids what’s going on. Simply by explaining that mommy or daddy is going to graduate school, using the computer, and he or she has a lot of homework, parents may gain some cooperation. Kids understand the concept of school, although they may not fully understand online education.
- Families with children in elementary school can make homework time a group exercise. Everyone with homework, including the adult graduate school student, can gather around the table to work while enjoying a healthy snack. Although there may be frequent pauses for help and discussion, by making this a regular event, parents can foster a cooperative environment and teach their kids some independence so that everyone gets their work done.
- Networking with other parents can provide an evening free to study. Many people have second jobs, are trying to attend school while working, or have other commitments. By finding someone to trade evenings with, busy parents can provide kids with social outings while getting a few evenings free once a week or so for studies.
Graduate School: A Goal for the Entire Family
Parents who have children in middle or high school can enlist a little more help from their kids while working toward a degree. At this age, most children will be able to better understand the demands of homework and the time schooling demands, though they probably still won’t really understand the demands required to get that graduate school degree. Parents can explain that a graduate degree will benefit the entire family in terms of career and salary choices down the road. Getting older kids to buy-in as much as possible will mean a much needed attitude shift in the family. Still, compromise will often still be a major watchword in the household for parents attending an online graduate school program. Children in middle school and high school may be able to help out with cooking dinner – or at least food prep – on some nights so mom or dad can get in an hour of study time. Parents might make that part of their expected chores, or pay them some nominal fee for their time – how you approach it depends on your family rules and dynamics.
If you are attending a program online, expect to have your tests administered online, too. It’s imperative that as a student, you can concentrate during such times, in order to ensure your school success. High school-aged teens can take younger children to a movie during this time, or on an errand, or even just to play outside. In exchange, parents might offer to pay for a movie for the teen and one or two friends at a later date, or, if the babysitting is outside the normal schedule, pay the going rate.
Also look for a variety of extracurricular activities open to kids of all ages in your community. Sports, music, art, social clubs, and volunteer organizations all offer great opportunities for kids. If kids are already enrolled in such activities, parents should use that time for studying. Parents in school may want to offer kids a chance at these activities. They provide time for studies, but also provide enriching activities for children. And, while it’s easier to run errands, do grocery shopping, etc without your children in tow, it’s even harder to study or take a test with your child tugging on your sleeve. If you only have limited child-free time, use it where you need it most.
The true keys to school success for students with kids at home? Persistence and creativity. College, with or without other obligations, is challenging enough. Raising kids and working? Even more challenging. Mixing graduate school with a job and family can seem impossible, at times but take each day one minute at a time, keep prioritizing at the front of every day, recognize that this situation can be stressful to you and your children, and keep your sense of humor. Before you know it, you’ll be a graduate and on your way.