Melinda, an online student of co-author Mary Karr’s, shares her experience being a college student an the mother of young children:
I feel privileged that you would ask for my input. I know very well how challenging it can be to try schooling with young children. First, I have to dismantle my computer system and put it away every time I use it to "protect" it from spills and little fingers, not to mention complications with cords. If a person had a study area that was behind closed doors so that it could stay up, well, that would be a plus right there.
Next, I plan all my meals, activities and travel time the day before so that I have no wasted time. I use note cards everyday to list, in order, the things I "have to do," then what I would "like to do." I will stay up as late as I need to get the "have to’s" done. This is my daily goal. I try to be realistic and kind to myself. If I can get something in early, I do. Whatever I don’t get done I roll over to the next day. One must have a sense of humor, Always. There will certainly be some late nights, midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m., but I have always made it through the next day pleased with my accomplishment. It is worth it to me.
I will enlist the help of my older three children 12, 10, and 8 to help set out breakfast while I nurse, and carry laundry from the machine, or empty the dishwasher. They will help dress the four year old and they love to hold the new baby for brief periods of time. These things always take time and it is very helpful to have extra hands to do these little jobs. For my four year old who is at home with me all day, I keep a supply of new story books, activity books, and little card games on hand so that I can present her with a page from her "school book" when the baby is asleep. This is especially helpful when I have a deadline to meet. She really enjoys her school time. It’s very "important" you see. She also has veggie tales, Barney, and school house rock videos that she can view. When the older children get home from school I will have them take turns reading at least three to four books each to the youngest child. Sometimes, I will pay them with coins or a treat to entertain her with a more involved activity, building something, baking etc. if I have a deadline. Both bribes work well with them but mostly they are happy to do their share.
I always arrange outside time, a little movie time and private time for homework or reading for each child, usually at the same time, so that none of them is asked to do too much for just me. They all play a musical instrument so they entertain us while we go about our tasks. When the work is done, they can relax and do as they please, which is a good time for me to get some school time in because they usually choose to do something all together.
I make it very clear to my children that they are my first priority. I believe we all have very important roles in the family. We all pitch in to do all the different jobs. "Many hands make for light work" is one of our mottoes.
I will involve my husband and children as often as I can. I will let them know I am writing about them, which excites them- I have brought home class activities that they feel are "cool." My daughter and I wrote a conflict resolution book for children, I wrote and she did the illustrations. I paid her for each approved illustration and we worked together on the ideas for the pictures. The book turned out very well, and the children’s grade school has used it (I only have the one homemade copy) to teach from in their class. We hope to have a publisher look at it and see if we have a chance at getting it published.
I used to be afraid of little bits of time thinking that I would not get anything done. Untrue. I often print out assignments so that I can read them while rocking the baby, or going through a sticker book with my younger child. I will read in bed, while I’m in the bathroom with my four year old in the tub, in the car waiting to pick up the kids up from school, on the porch supervising active play, in transit to and from ball games (while my husband drives) etc. Amazingly, it all adds up to getting something accomplished. I do carry a school bag or my books just about everywhere.
I think the biggest part of my having success is my husband. He is so great about asking what he can do to give me time. I always give him a day or two notice about my deadlines and ask for a block of time (one to two hours) when he gets home. It doesn’t always work out, but we both keep trying. Sometimes, it just won’t work and I’ll have to wait until about 10 p.m. to get started on classwork and work on through.
My husband also has a lot of experience with colleges that I find so helpful to have within the home. He can usually answer most of my questions about procedures, he reads my papers, clarifies many issues for me and is just plain wonderful at giving me encouragement. Even with as stubborn as I am, I don’t know if I could have done it without him, although he is the one who is partially responsible for all those children. Ha.
So, there you have it in a nut shell. Add ten years to it, and that is how I have managed to get so close to graduating.
Again, thanks for giving me the opportunity to share.