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Student Mamas - Tips to stay on track...

651 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Drummer's Wife
This semester is my first back to school since I don't know 2003? Now I have 2 little boys 5 & 3 and am a SAHM. I am taking 4 classes all online and am having a difficult time staying organized, not to mention feeling like I am neglecting my family and my home. This is the second weekend in a row I am working at the computer all day trying to get all of my assignments finished at the last minute. Not to mention I made an assumption that all of my assignments/exams were due on Sunday but later found out my math exam and discussions were due Thursday and I missed them.

Does anyone have any suggestions for staying organized and scheduling the time to fit in the schoolwork, have time with the boys and be able to take care of the home?

Any advice?


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Do you have any backup childcare? Four classes is a lot to be taking if you're also watching two kids full-time.
A couple of my neighbors offered to help but I haven't taken them up on their offers. Dh works a crazy schedule, basically 12+hr shifts 3 on 3 off, 4 on 4 off. At times the schedule feels like a hindrance but on his days off it is extremely helpful because I can get some work in any time of the day.
I have 5 kids and am pregnant with our 6th, and take classes online too.
4 classes made me feel absolutely insane, but I really need to go fulltime. So what I did was divide the 4 classes into 2 portions of 2 classes that are accelerated 8 week courses. It is harder in some ways, but less to keep track of as far as different courses. This works better for me. Also, I write down deadlines, class has a requirement of all initial discussion board posts no later than wednesday, with the follow up and remaining work due Sunday. It isn't a perfect arrangement, but we do what we can. I try to study during the day but it is difficult...after kids go to bed seems to be more productive as far as that goes...but I have had quite a few all day Sunday sessions too. Hang in there!
I have been printing out my syllabus for each class. Every week, I write in my planner all the assignments for the week, when they are due and when I am going to work on them. I try to keep up on my reading in each chapter by reading for short amounts of time. Even bringing your book to appointments and reading in the waiting room gives you the opportunity to get assignments done. You have to learn to use your time very wisely to be able to fit it all in. I think in your situation, it would be best to allocate a certain time to do your school work. It could be during nap time, in the evening, or when the kids go to bed. If you have those times set aside, you won't feel like you are thinking about school work all day long. It really just takes some planning to make it all work. You can do it. I am working full time, have an 8 year old and go to school full time. It is not easy, but it can be done. Best of luck to you! And congrats on making the decision to go back to school!
4 classes and 2 young children is a lot to manage without childcare. I would definitely take up your neighbors on their offers. I end up doing a lot of school work after DS goes to bed or before he wakes up. The lack of sleep is not fun, but I can get the work done much faster when he is asleep. Writing down the deadlines for all assignments at the beginning of the semester can really help with time management. It's nice to be able to see upcoming schoolwork at a glance.

Originally Posted by notneb View Post
4 classes and 2 young children is a lot to manage without childcare.
Yes. This.

I am taking 17 credits, 13 of which are lab sciences, 4 of which are calculus. Last semester, I took half the load, one humanities class, the other pre-calc. Before that, I did one class at a time (humanities). I have learned a few things:

Plan and schedule.

Do not do schoolwork at home.

Do not do schoolwork at home.

I'll be honest. I, personally, do not do online courses because the classroom interaction is important to me. Physically going to school puts me into the "I'm at school" mode. If I am at home, I am either in kid mode (frequent) or relax mode (infrequent). A couple of things happen:

1) If I am at home, my DH expects my full participation in kid-related tasks (changing diapers, wiping noses, fetching snacks, finding Thomas the Tank Engine in the couch cushions). He fully admits that even if he knows that I am trying to get something school-related done, it is difficult to make that connection if I am doing it on the couch or at the kitchen table,

2) If the kids are napping, I want to relax. It can be hard to go from all the work that taking care of kids involves to working on schoolwork without a break. But break too long, and the baby is awake. So naptimes are never a sure bet when it comes to schoolwork. Never make meeting a deadline rest on naptime. Because naptime does not always happen when you need it to.

3) If the kids are asleep for the night, I want to spend some time with my husband, or if he has been absent all day, finally relax.

Getting any sort of work done at home is nearly impossible. I can do light studying (reading chapters for the first time, coloring my anatomy coloring book), but anything where I need concentration (true studying, writing papers, math problems) means I need to be at the library or the coffee shop. Away from interruptions.

We had to schedule this time. Our weekly schedule has me away from the house often, but it is the only way that I can guarantee uninterrupted study time. My study time is as locked-in as my class time (where I am expected to be physically present). I use a planner religiously. And google calendar. Everything is scheduled, remindered, etc. Assignments, quizzes, and tests are highlighted in my planner. I have to-do lists and to-study lists.

I have an ideal set-up at the moment. DH lost his job, so he is the SAHD (Except when he is working one of his various cobbled-together part-time jobs. But those are scheduled around my study time). Last semester, when he was working, we tag-team parented. Before he lost his main job, we planned on utilizing daycare for my full-time semester.

When I was SAHMing, I took night classes and tag-teamed with DH. I was gone a lot of nights. If I had things due, I woke up really early (4:00 AM) to finish them. Some people can do school late night. I do better with super-early mornings.

If I was forced to do only online classes and was still SAHMing during the day, I would do as follows:

*Purchase a laptop computer (skip this if you already have one). This has been hands-down the best decision we made. I did it for a while without one, but last semester, we forked over about $500 for a netbook. Really, it is all you need - mine has internet access and the student version of Office. Granted, if you are taking online classes at a university with a nearby brick-and-mortar location, most likely, there is a computer lab that your tuition is paying for that you could use A laptop offers more flexibility, however. If you are attending the University of Phoenix, I would carefully research the field you are going into to make sure that all of your hard work will actually benefit you in the long run (just don't want you to throw away your money).

*If I had an online class discussion time, I would try my hardest to be out of the house at that time. Use said laptop/netbook to participate in the online classes in a coffee shop or a library.

*If you must do work at home, make a designated, separate place for your work. We have a 2 bedroom apartment and three kids. If I were forced to work at home on my netbook, I would probably convert a closet (ours are tiny the one I am thinking of is 3 ft x 2 ft) or teach the baby to nap in the kids' room (he naps in the swing) and put a desk in my bedroom.

If I was forced to use the family desktop, I would put it in the corner and partition off our living room with our giant IKEA Expedit bookshelf so that it seemed like a separate space. Something to send the "this is mommy's office" space.

That's all I have. The juggling act is hard and has a learning curve.

ETA. Guess that wasn't all

Those days that your DH has off are yours. Yours. A full load of classes is equal to a full-time job. The math is as follows: For every hour in class, expect to study for 2-3 hours. The average on-campus class is 3-4 hours/week. Expect to study 32-48 hours/week for the course load that you have. Granted, if you are very intelligent and your courses are easy, you can shave some hours off of that. But if you are of average college-attendee intelligence and your classes are of average difficulty, this is what you should be doing. And that is not even counting the time that you would be in class if you were physically attending.

Take those neighbors up on their offers. Those hours could be invaluable.
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Yes, definitely take the childcare offers.

I have five online classes and am a solo parent of three children. I do not have any sort of childcare or support of any sort from family. I do feel a little crazy and seem to always be in survival mode, but I have no choice but to go full-time right now.

Organization is truly important. Things that help me are always writing my assignments in a planner. I also keep a running list of all of my classes and the next assignments due in them in a word document on my desktop. This allows me to see quickly how to prioritize my assignments and I can keep tabs on what is due and when at a glance. Another important thing is to figure out when you work best and stick with it. By the time the kids go to bed I am a zombie, so I try to get in a few hours each day during the morning or afternoon, otherwise I do very poor work. Often this isn't possible so I try to do the easiest work at night.

Many online courses have a required discussion element of some sort. I try to take care of these while I'm nursing and stuck sitting down anyway...

But definitely accept the help with the children. This way you can truly maximize the amount of work you can do in a shorter period of time while someone else is interacting with the children. You'll be amazed at how much faster you get assignments done when there isn't some sweet person begging for your attention...
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i work full time and go to school online (2 courses at a time) plus i have a 6 month old. and 3 furbabies to take care of

school work usually gets done when I put him down for naps (1 hour at the most) or when he goes down for the night. Sundays are the last day of the week i can turn in work so it really helps that dh does not work on sundays.

at the start of every class i print out the syllabus and wrote down all the due dates for each assignment that way at least i know that something is coming up or that i missed something yesterday.

its really hard to keep up with everything and my house is the only thing besides my sanity that is taking a hit. i dont really have time to vacuum as much as i would like and laundry creates mountains before it gets washed, dishes pile up and the like. dh is doing the best he can to help me out because he fully supports my decision to go back to school. its still pretty stressful though.
I am only taking 2 classes (also online) b/c I know any more than that and I will be swamped and overwhelmed. Going to school full-time, even non-campus courses, is similar to a full-time job! taking care of small children at the same time, just makes it that much harder.

I have four children, and what helps is two are in school full-time; one part-time. In the fall I plan to take four classes, on campus, and I really think that will help my time management b/c I will be forced to attend class at specific times, and I will have time to study in the library or at home while my kids are in school themselves.

I would say my biggest advice would be to not procrastinate (says the queen of procrastination!
). Pretty much every Sun night last semester I was up late starting on and completing an essay for my English class. I don't recommend that, even though in the end I did well in the course. I've already started a similar pattern with my Microsoft class, thinking it's going to be easy enough to not worry about until the day assignments are due. This means my DH has to watch the kids while I stress and cram a weeks worth of work in a few hours, and that's not really conducive to actually learning the material, yk?

Best of luck!
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