5 Tips for Balancing Home Life and Online Education
Juggling cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, kids’ schedules and everything else is a tough job. Add in online college classes, and family life goes to a whole new level of busy. But making time to pursue your dream of earning a degree doesn’t mean you’re stuck living in chaos. You just need a plan — a really good plan. If you’re asking yourself “how can a mom go to college?” then these tips are for you.
Keep a Master Calendar
Choose a paper or online calendar system to help you stay organized. A couple of free options are Google’s calendar and Cozi.com, or iCal and Calendar for Mac users. They are all flexible enough to track everyone in your family and work on smartphones for access just about anywhere. Enter everything into your calendar, including medical appointments, sports schedules, field trips, holiday celebrations and church events.
Schedule Your time
Don’t stop at a simple calendar. To keep your family running smoothly, you need to build a schedule. Set aside specific chunks of time to review class sessions, run errands, do homework and study for tests. Once you have your class schedule, transfer important dates and deadlines to your calendar and mark off time to work on larger projects. If you’re using an electronic calendar, set up alerts a week or two ahead of the due dates for big projects to help you stay on track.
Create a Work Area
You need to make the most of your available time and minimize distractions that cut into your productivity. Carve out a workspace for your computer and school supplies. If you keep everything in one place, you won’t have to hunt all over the house for your MP3 player, textbook or flash drive.
Follow a Meal Plan
You’re on a roll with your school work and you suddenly realize it’s 7 p.m. and no one’s had dinner. Yikes. Takeout is fine as a fallback, but your budget — and waistline — can’t handle it every night. You need a plan. Take a few minutes on the weekend to write down a list of meals for the next week or two. Make sure the cupboard and frig are stocked with everything you need so that you don’t have to run to the store at the last minute. Dust off your slow cooker and scour cooking websites for recipes your kids might actually eat. When you make a favorite dish, like enchiladas or lasagna, double the recipe. Put the extra pan in the freezer for a no-prep meal later.
Enlist Your Family’s Help
The final piece of the puzzle is your family. Without their support, you’re fighting an uphill battle to get everything done. Divvy up the chore list. Even toddlers can help pick up toys and clear the table. Maximize cooperation by making it fun. For example, declare a 10-minute cleaning bout to see who can clear the most mess. If you have a spouse or partner in the house, ask him to take over the bedtime routine or take the kids to the park when you need some quiet time.
Since you can’t add more hours to your day, and you do need to sleep a little, something on your to-do list is probably going to be left undone. It’s all about finding the balance that works for your family and setting priorities. You can’t afford to skimp on your study time, but it probably won’t hurt anything if you let the dusting slide. You can rest assured that your investment in yourself will pay off soon. When you’re enjoying your new career and larger paycheck, you’ll be so glad that you pushed through and finished your online education. You can make this work.