Distance learning is hard. Studying from home takes enormous amounts of self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance—even more so for those of us who have children. As an AU graduate with two children, I discovered some tips and tricks along the way to manage the chaos of studying at home with kids.
This is probably the most important lesson I have learned during my time as an AU student. Having kids can be unpredictable, especially if you have babies who follow their own schedule, so plan for disaster! Don’t leave anything until the last minute. Acknowledge that your baby may be up all night crying the night before an exam, or your daughter may be home sick for a week while you’re working on your final research essay for a course.
When selecting your courses, consider your schedule. For instance, summer vacation may not be the best time to take on multiple challenging or time-consuming courses. Then review the suggested study schedule for your courses and make your own schedule, allowing yourself extra time to complete each section in case of emergency.
Designate Study Time
Schedule a time every day to study, ideally when the kids are sleeping or out of the home. Think about when you are most productive—and be realistic. I always fell into the trap of telling myself that I would study after I put the kids to bed. Of course, once they were asleep and I finally had some time to myself, exhausted from the day, I rarely actually studied. I eventually learned to schedule study-time for when my children were both at school in the mornings, or after dinner when they were usually content and playing quietly.
If you have no choice but to study when your children are in the home, set yourself up for success. Set your child up with a quiet, independent activity that will keep them busy for the hour or two you’ll be focused on your books. Utilize technology if you have to—there’s nothing wrong with allowing your kids to watch a movie or play on a tablet with headphones if that is what you need.
In Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham suggests scheduling ten minutes of special time with each of your children every day. Let them choose the activity, put your phone away, and put 100% of your focus on them. Doing this right before my designated study time made a huge difference for me and my kids. They felt good that Mom had given them some undivided attention and I was able to study without feeling guilty for “ignoring” my kids.
Use Your Support System
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you are lucky enough to have the support of a partner, make sure they understand the difficultly of juggling your education, parenthood, and whatever else you have on your plate. Divide household and parenting duties appropriately so you have time to focus on your studies. Enlist family and friends to watch your child while you study or take exams.
Unfortunately, I had very minimal support while I completed most of my degree. While this can definitely make everything much harder, I promise it’s not impossible. Look into community supports in your area, reach out to your church, or even hire help if you’re able to.
If you’re really struggling, reach out to your professors or Learner Support Services.
Give Yourself Grace
Remember that you are trying your best. You are not perfect; there will be times that your schoolwork suffers because you put your children first—and that’s okay! Know that you are setting a wonderful example for your children by pursuing your education. Know that you are working towards giving your children a better life. You can do it!