Cooking breakfast, driving the kids to school, overseeing homework, washing dishes, doing laundry… still with me? It’s just a normal days work for a single parent. You also work a 40-hour week but have school on the mind. Acquiring that degree through an online education accommodates a working mom’s lifestyle, yet not without new challenges.
Online Social Spaces
You probably look forward to work if only for the interaction that you get from other adults, and a traditional classroom education would provide that as well. Fortunately, many online programs like Penn Foster or the University of Phoenix have thriving online communities for students to interact with peers and professors. Take time to get to know them and, if time permits, join a local professional group in your desired career field to get to know people and get in your recommended weekly requirement of adult interaction.
Organization is the glue that holds our lives together. The time spent sifting through a pile of papers for your son’s field trip permission slip or trying to remember the password for your library account adds up. For digital files, use Evernote on your desktop or smartphone and you can access all of your digital files at your fingertips. Twenty dollars and an hour spent setting up an organizational system–bills, mail, notes from school–will be well worth the small investment. Now you have everything and will be able to find it at a moments notice. It will take a bit of discipline if you’re not naturally organized, but it’s worth working on.
School + Family Scheduling
When you’re the only one providing for your family, and going to school simultaneously, you’ll need to be uber-organized in order to make sure you don’t miss that weekend shift. Parent-teacher conferences, assignments and play time are all crucial. Smartphone to the rescue! Use Google Calendar to keep your work, school and personal schedules organized. Also realize that this is going to be a hectic season of life, and don’t get frazzled if the house isn’t dusted every Saturday morning.
Even the most productive people face procrastination once in awhile, and when you have a choice between taking the kids out to play on a sunny day or work on an economics paper, most people will choose the former without a second thought. To avoid burning the midnight oil and working on that Econ 101 paper at 3 am the morning it’s due, create a realistic plan at the start of each semester. Once you get all your syllabi, list out all major projects on a paper calendar, next determine how far in advance you need to start, then schedule yourself to begin them a week before that because you can always use a little buffer.