Tips for moms who study

Some people take a longer time than most when it comes to deciding what to study after finishing high school. Some simply can't afford to pursue their education beyond the secondary level.

Others decide to take a "gap year" before they go off to university and find out, two kids and several house payments later, that one year can become eight or nine or ten years before you know it.  Whatever their reasons, more and more people find themselves looking into obtaining their tertiary qualifications well into adult life. Here's a little look into the ins and outs of being a mom as well as a "mature student".

Household vs. time management

More often than not, quitting your job in order to study full time is not an option, so you scout around and find an institution that offers a part-time study option. After all, what are weekends for, right?

Right. So you've chosen the course you want to do, picked the subjects you think will give you the best grounding in your chosen field and paid the registration fees.  You've tracked down and purchased all your prescribed textbooks and study guides. You're all set:  It's time to engage in academic life full force - just as soon as you've written your weekly sales report, fed the kids, washed the dog and unpacked the dishwasher...

Taking on the challenges of student life on top of your day to day responsibilities can be quite daunting, especially if you're living far away from family and friends and have to make do without the support base you had back home. Hectic work schedules, children's extracurricular activities and unplanned trips to the vet when Brutus eats the neighbours' garbage the day before your final semester assignment is due, can leave you wondering whether you're a sandwich or two short of a picnic!

Practical tips for studying parents

With good organisation and by laying down a few rules, however, these frustrations need not become insurmountable obstacles.  Here are a few practical solutions:

•  Get up an hour earlier in the morning

It only takes a few days to adapt to the slightly earlier morning and will create an opportunity for you to work through your study materials at a comfortable pace and, more importantly, without distractions.

•  Lay down the law

Whether you're studying in the mornings, evenings or on weekends, make it clear to family and friends that while you're happy to accommodate them outside of your allocated study time, you expect not to be disturbed while you’re hitting the books.

•  Draw up a timetable and stick to it

Try to complete assignments well before their deadlines.  If you're studying off-campus (online or through the mail), this will ensure that technical glitches or postal delays don't cause problems for you when you submit assignments.  It will also give lecturers plenty of time to respond to your submissions with useful feedback, which you can then incorporate into your exam preparation.

•  Don't take on more than you can cope with

Most part-time study programmes allow you to complete your degree over a longer period than you would if you were studying full-time. You'll still need to make sure you get enough sleep and have some time to relax and socialise. Depriving yourself of sleep and relaxation is detrimental to your health in the long term, and can cause you to become sloppy in your work as well as your studies.

•  Speak to your employer

Find out whether you're entitled to study leave or whether your employer would be prepared to allow you to work out a more flexible schedule so that you can take the necessary time off from work to complete big assignments and write your exams.

Finally, remember that your education is meant to do more than just land you a job.  It is supposed to be an intellectually and creatively stimulating process through which to enrich your self as well as to enhance your career possibilities. Happy learning!

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