Being a mum is a full-time job, and the question of whether you should try to continue your education while raising a family is a thorny one. On one hand, time is a precious thing during the years that your children are young. And it's hard to find even a bit of space and time for yourself with all the responsibilities of raising your kids, let alone take on the job of studying toward a degree. On the other hand, you could look at going back to school as a prime example of doing something positive for yourself and your family.
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In the long run, improving your skills and knowledge will be a boon for your family at the same time it expands your horizons. The logistics of finishing school or getting an advanced degree are easier than ever before because of the availability of distance learning. Online and part-time programs are set up to fit into your lifestyle, whether you're a full-time mum or a working parent. Here are some questions to consider if you're thinking about taking the plunge.
Do I really have the time?
A great help for people going back to school is the advent of online learning, or distance education. Instead of driving to campus and sitting through classes, you can take courses online and communicate with study groups and professors through email and message boards. There are programs leading to certificates, diplomas and even online postgraduate courses in Australia. Best of all, many course loads are designed to be taken on a part-time basis.
How will going back to school help me?
To answer that question, ask yourself why you're interested in getting a degree. Do you feel the need to be involved in something that means a great deal to you? Are you interested in expanding the limits of your world? There are personal reasons that mums decide to embark on a self-improvement course as well as professional ones. Planning to start or continue a career as your children get older is a prime reason that many mums go back to school.
How will it affect my children?
Children understand a lot more than we often give them credit for. Working hard to improve your knowledge, skills and earning potential is a worthy goal, and it makes you an inspiring role model, especially if you have daughters. For most of us, being a parent holds the potential that we'll get so caught up in caring for others that we forget to do what's best for ourselves. Your going back to school models a strong work ethic to your children and imparts the self-confidence that you want to instil in them as they grow up.
TOOLS FOR SUCCESS
If you've never been one for making a schedule, this will be the time to start. At the beginning of the semester, you'll get a syllabus for each class that outlines what to expect from the course. Get a planner, and mark all the relevant deadlines on your calendar. Use this for other family activities and appointments, too. It will be a great help to have everything in one place, so you can take it in at a glance.
Don't think that you have to do it all when you go back to school. Keep in mind that your classes are just as important as the extra-curricular activities you've set up for the little ones. If possible, arrange for transportation from other parents or enlist the help of your spouse or a good friend. You may need to get input from the kids on which activities are most important and which ones can be put on the back burner for now.
There are many opportunities to get help in paying for your schooling costs. Look into the scholarships that are available especially for parents, single mothers or any other demographic that you fit into. If you work, find out if your employer subsidises tuition, and don't forget to check out the possibility of tax breaks for students. The cost of textbooks can be a financial drain, so look into getting yours from used textbook sites to save money.
If you're on the fence about continuing your education, it helps to look at your plans from a long-range perspective. Even if you're only able to take one class at a time, why not? A few years from now, either you'll have a shiny new degree, or you won't. Is it worth taking time and putting forth effort on a long-term basis, in order to get that end reward? Many mums who have decided to go back to school would answer that question with a resounding yes.