Whether you’re looking to enhance your skill set, secure a pay rise or simply enrich your personal life, continuing your education after years in the workforce is never easy, and when you have kids to care for it can be even more difficult to juggle your daily responsibilities with coursework.
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, though, and thanks to the many alternatives to the traditional university route that are available these days, it’s more realistic than ever for mums with young kids to keep their education going. So here are a few tips to help you plan ahead and multitask like a pro:
1. Look for flexible learning programs
The rise of online learning has made it possible for students to fit their studies around their lives, rather than modelling their lives around their studies. For working mums it’s especially advantageous, and according to one 2014 survey, 68% of online students are women, nearly 50% have children and the majority are working either full or part-time.
If you’re thinking of going back to school, it’s important to find a learning program that’s flexible but also provides plenty of support. Local universities are a good place to start, as some may offer fully or partially online degree programs. Shorter courses can also be beneficial to your career and there are a number of excellent online education providers in Australia that will allow you to learn at your own pace.
2. Use your prior learning and experience to your advantage
If you’re interested in going back to school, it’s a good idea to look into whether your work experience or prior education could help you achieve credit exemptions or even an accredited qualification.
The Australian government endorses recognition of prior learning or RPL, which enables you to convert what you’ve already learned through formal education, training courses, work and volunteer experience or even self-directed learning into an accredited qualification.
Not everyone will be eligible of course, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you think your previous experience has helped you develop demonstrable skills or competencies.
3. Find your most productive time of day
If you study at the right time of day you could accomplish more in half an hour than you’d be able to do in two hours at a time of day when you’re mentally or physically exhausted. When it comes to cognitive work, research suggests that we tend to be most productive in the late morning, and least productive in the afternoon from noon until around 4pm.
Everyone is different, of course, so it’s important to figure out what works best for you. This might mean waking up a bit earlier and getting some work done while the kids are still asleep, or fitting in some study time before you go to bed at night. If you’re not sure when you’re most productive, try keeping a daily journal for a week or two to understand your natural energy patterns.
4. Have a support system in place
Having a support system in place is especially important if you’re completing all or most of your course work at home. A responsive course instructor you can contact whenever you run into difficulties is a huge help, but even being part of a Facebook group or other online forum made up of fellow students or other studying mums can help you stay motivated.
Being part of an online community gives you a way to exchange tips and advice or celebrate milestones and accomplishments with others who are in the same boat.
5. Explain things to your kids and find ways to involve them
When you make the decision to start studying again, it will make things a lot easier if you can get your kids on your side. Sit them down and explain how important this is to you and why you’ll need to spend a bit more of your free time learning new things.
With school aged kids it can also be fun to find ways to involve them. For instance, you could have a special ‘family study hour,’ where you all sit at the dining table together. They could work on their homework or other educational projects like drawing or reading while you complete your coursework. If your kids are a bit older, you could also take them with you to library and let them read some fun comics or picture books while you do some studying.
Are you a working mum continuing your education? If so, what tips and tricks do you use to make time for your learning? Let us know in the comments.
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