Earning a degree while raising kids is not for the faint of heart.
Keeping your kids fed and at least somewhat clean can seem like a tough task on its own some days, but when coupled with the demands of college level coursework your daily responsibilities can seem daunting.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve compiled the advice of students with children and have come up with some tips to help improve your study skills and make your life a little easier.
Study Skills Tip #1: Enlist your kid as a personal brain trainer
One way to keep up on your school work without skimping on your parental duties is to find ways to have your child help out when you’re studying. Your child, if old enough, can help you create flash cards and other review material to help you prepare for exams. Kids love the role-reversal that comes with quizzing you for answers, and it certainly can’t hurt to expose them to higher level words and concepts.
Rasmussen College graduate Patrick Joyce did what he could to keep his daughter involved – including the aforementioned flash cards.
“There is a balance to be found but if you can find ways like that to overlap both school and family life you can still get done what needs to be done,” Joyce says.
Study Skills Tip #2: Plan ahead
It seems obvious, but look at your syllabus and identify days or weeks where you think you’re going to have a lot of school work. If you’ll need a quiet night, see if you can arrange a babysitter or make plans to get your kid out of the house. If you’ve got trusted friends or family members who’ve ever talked about how cute your kid is, now’s your chance to get them on board for a movie night with your little darling.
Planning ahead gives you much more flexibility in finding a babysitter, and also allows you to work ahead of schedule in order to make the night before three tests a little easier.
Rasmussen College nursing graduate Melinda Odegaard says, as a single parent, she learned out of necessity to better organize her time after enrolling in school.
“I look ahead, organize, and plan now,” Odegaard says. “I didn’t really do that as much before but nursing school has taught me to plan and prioritize my time a lot more.”
Study Skills Tip #3: Communicate with your instructors
OK, so this one isn’t directly related to studying, but it’s still important.
We’re going to let you in on a little secret—your instructors are, in fact, human and the odds are pretty good that they’ve got children as well. Make sure they know your situation and what responsibilities you’ve got on your plate. That way when the day comes where you miss a test because your child is ill and you have no choice but to stay home and focus on their recovery, your instructor won’t be surprised and may be willing to cut you some slack.
Otherwise they’ll probably assume you’re just at home cowering under a blanket in fear of the amazing test they’ve written. This also ties into tip number two—if you know there’s a test or busy week coming up, do your best to keep your kid’s schedule clear so you don’t have to spend time dealing with travel arrangements or other distractions.
Study Skills Tip #4: Get competitive
If your kids are school-aged, challenge them to a GPA showdown of sorts. Your kids will do a great job of holding you academically accountable, and it also gives you leverage when stressing the importance of keeping up with their own homework.
A friendly wager could be used to raise the stakes –maybe the winner gets a break from chores or if you lose you’ll take them out to eat wherever they want. Of course, ground rules should be set as you don’t want your kid deliberately sabotaging your study time in an attempt to secure a pizza party (or the other way around, if you’re a take-no-prisoners type of parent).
Study Skills Tip #5: Schedule ‘study hall’ for you and your kids
Another tip for parents of school-aged children is to set aside a ‘study hall’ time during the week where both you and your children can focus on school work. This keeps both you and your kids on top of your work and lets you still spend quality time together.
Occasionally taking a break from your studying to help your child can be a nice change of pace, but you need to remember to set ground rules so your study hall time doesn’t turn into an hour or two of doing your kids’ homework.
Rasmussen College criminal justice graduate Don Greene was a subscriber to this method.
“On the weekend we’d all just sit down together as a family and do homework,” Greene says. “It’s absolutely a strange feeling doing homework with my kids but they’ve been extremely supportive.”
It is only natural to want what’s best for your kids, but earning a degree doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be too busy for one or the other. By planning ahead and getting a little creative you can find ways to both improve your grades and your relationship with your kids. If you have other tips or suggestions for how to study or manage your time as a parent, feel free to leave a comment below.