When my two youngest were preschoolers, I decided to start taking one class at a time at the community college. I wasn’t sure how I was going to juggle family and education, but I felt it was important for me to do this, so I started in and decided I’d figure out how I’d make it work as I went along.
The first step was to figure out when to study. I found it easiest to study during my oldest daughter’s homeschooling time. (This would be homework time if you don’t homeschool.) The younger children knew they had to work quietly on their own “schoolwork” during that time, so it was already established as a quiet time in our house. I also read textbooks during our silent reading times, when everyone had to go to their beds to either read or nap. I was already in the habit of getting up at four in the morning to write for two hours, so this time was also available if I needed it.
To find your own study hours, look through your routine and figure out when things are normally quiet. If you haven’t established times for your children to play quietly and independently, do so before your class begins. Children should know how to entertain themselves without television, computers, or other events that require supervision, and they shouldn’t need a parent’s attention all the time unless they’re babies. If you have babies, naptime is your best hope for studying. Set down the rules each day before you begin to study: This is your time to play quietly and alone. What will you do? Where will you do it? You may not bother me unless there is an emergency. What is an emergency? (If your children are old enough, an emergency can be defined as involving blood or imminent death.)
Turn off the ring on the phones. Turn off your instant messengers. Put a sign on your door that says, “Learning in progress. Please do not disturb.” Remove every distraction and settle your children prior to starting. If you’re unmotivated, select in advance a reward for completing your work. Put a glass of water at your desk and go to work.
Whenever possible, involve your children in your studies. If you homeschool, teach them a scaled version of the material you’re learning, so they’re interested in your work. If you have to do rote memorizing, let your children help you. My first class involved learning about paintings. Since I’m not good at memorizing, I made flash cards. I put a picture of the painting on one side. On the back, I put the name of the painting, the artist and the year. My oldest daughter held the flashcards and checked my answer. The preschoolers joined us on the bed and cheered, sighed, and encouraged. One day I was unable to remember the artist of a particular painting. My preschooler said in exasperation, “Oh, Mom, anyone can see that’s a Rembrandt!” Since she was correct, I quickly realized my education was proving very educational for the entire family and that made me feel less guilty about the time the class took from my family duties.
Your dedication to learning and the work you put into your class sets a powerful example to your own children. Don’t do all your work when they’re not around, because they need to see how important learning is to you. They need to see you practicing good study habits. They are likely to follow your example in their own studies.
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