Momma Goes Back to School,  Motherhood

How to succeed at college when you’re a stay-at-home-mom

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College tips for busy moms!

I re-started my college education in the summer of 2016. It’s been a wonderful experience so far, but not without its ups and downs. By the end of this semester, I will have completed 34 credits and 12 classes, while maintaining a high GPA. I’d like to share some of the things I have done to ensure my educational success (without losing my mind).

How to succeed at college when you're a stay-at-home-mom | Tips for going back to school when you are a busy mom

Create a dedicated workspace in your home

I have to be honest with this one – while I HAVE an amazing home office area, I don’t use it nearly as much as I should. Because I’m a couch potato, and that’s really all there is to it!

Anyway, I encourage you to have a space that’s YOURS and ONLY yours. Let your kids know that this is Mommy’s space. Personalize your space with items you love. Make sure it’s comfortable (so you actually want to work there)! I selected my colors and decor for my office area based on this ONE print I fell in love with at Target, which not only inspired my decor for this entire room, but two other rooms in our new home!

Shop this look and similar items below!

Get Organized

Set a schedule. Create dedicated times in your daily routines to work – make your schedule work for you as well as your family. Buy a really great (pretty) planner that you love to keep track of all your due dates. Write down everything from your syllabi at the beginning of every semester.

Take your college classes online

If at all possible, take as many classes as you can online. Online classes give you the flexibility to respond to the needs of your kids (like changing diapers in the middle of taking a test!) Online education reduces your need for childcare, and allows you to set your own schedule that works with the schedules of your kids.

Plus, you can do your schoolwork in your pajamas, so there’s that!

Find reliable childcare

I will tell anyone that asks that I have NO IDEA how I would be able to manage as a full-time mom and part-time student without our YMCA membership! Your YMCA may offer financial aid and low-cost membership for families, so make sure to find out if you might qualify! Most YMCAs offer free childcare (for members) – ours offers 2 hours per day, which I utilize several times per week.

Our YMCA also offers comfortable seating, free WiFI, and unlimited complimentary coffee – which gives me a great environment to work in. Need to meet with your adviser? Put your kids in “Parents Morning Out” programs that the YMCA offers! You can also kill two birds with one stone, by read your textbooks while using the treadmill or elliptical!

Enlist the help of your friends and family

As you begin down your educational path, let your friends and family know that you need their love and support to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – reach out to your friends or family to take your kids for a short while for you to catch up on assignments if you fall behind. Ask your partner or family members to help with smaller tasks like dishes, laundry, or cooking so you can focus on your schoolwork. When you are a mom also trying to do schoolwork, it really will take a village to make sure you are still maintaining all of your other responsibilities.

Minimize distractions

While multitasking is a lot of times unavoidable when you are a mom, it’s better to avoid it – if you can. Easier said than done! (I’ve completed whole tests with a toddler on my lap, so ask me how I know!) Listen to instrumental music over headphones when you are working to help you focus. (This is the playlist I use when I’m working on schoolwork!)

Keep those social media tabs CLOSED so you can really get in the zone while you work. Utilize your children’s nap times, screen times, bedtimes, and even early morning hours (if you can stand to wake up before your kids) – to squeeze in precious quiet time.

Pace yourself

You’re a stay-at-home-mom, and that’s already a full-time job! No one can be great at everything at the same time. It’s probably going to take you longer than average to work through your degree program. That’s okay – slow and steady wins the race!

Summer can be a hard time when kids are out of preschool and day school. It’s okay for you to take the summer off too! I took six credits my first summer semester (2016). I tried to do the same this past summer (2017), but found it to be too overwhelming. I dropped both classes about a week into the semester. At first I felt like a failure, but once the reality set in that I didn’t have to do schoolwork, I felt so incredibly relieved! The break was just what I needed to reset for the fall semester.

Maybe you can’t carry a full college class load because of the needs of your kids. Three or six credits in a semester is better than none. Take it one semester at a time. Evaluate what you and your family can handle together. Don’t be afraid to drop a class if you have taken on too much or your family circumstances change.

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Include your kids when and where you can

Your kids will feel less “left out” or ignored if they can see what you are doing. Tell them what you are learning. When I was taking Spanish 1 and had to learn alphabet, numbers, days, months, and seasons – instead of pouring over my textbook like a normal adult, I created a YouTube playlist of videos designed to teach these things to kids. I laid down on the couch with my son and we watched them together!

Remember that those little eyes are watching you! You are setting a wonderful example of persistence, dedication, and work ethic – even when they are not happy you are working.

Use your kids and motherhood to inspire your college education

I love incorporating my everyday mom life into my college projects. I know what I do as a mom matters, but being able to get college credit while still writing about my kids (it’s not much different from blogging!) or researching baby products is a win-win in my book! Example, earlier this semester, I had to write a research paper for a computer class on a piece of “emergent technology.” I based my entire paper on the value of those high-tech baby monitor socks that I see advertised on Facebook all the time! For my English class last summer, I wrote my research paper on ADHD medication for preschoolers.

And before this blog post was a blog post, it was a PowerPoint presentation that I had to design for my computer class! 

Give yourself grace (and lots of coffee!)

It’s okay to use screen time for your kids to give yourself time and space to work. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to get bad grades along the way or flub up an assignment. It’s okay to order pizza because you got caught up working on a project and forgot to get dinner on in time. You are going to make a few mistakes and drop a few balls along the way. Forgive yourself.

One Comment

  • Roman

    Aprille, thank you for the detailed guide! A an not a woman – I am a man but I was always interested how girs could do this! Most of all I like this recipie: “Include your kids when and where you can”. Definetly, Learn something playing with kids is a good practice!

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