Studying when you have kids is far from simple.
It’s a logistical nightmare.
You have to squeeze readings, lectures and tutorials, assignments and weekly work in amongst nappy changes, washing, school drop off, nap times, play group, pulling your kids down from whichever new height they’ve managed to climb and conquer.
And it’s important that you understand what you’re studying as you are studying it, because cramming for the exam is not an option.
Partly because getting more than 30 minutes to yourself uninterrupted is a pipe dream, but also because in the days leading up to the exam Murphy’s Law dictates that one or all of your children will get sick and/or injured.
Rendering all thoughts not pertaining to vomit and snot useless.
So, how do you parent and study at the same time without going mad, killing your kids with negligence or failing dismally?
Here are my top 5 tips for studying from home with kids:
1. Have a dedicated safe study space.
Something like this is obviously ideal, but failing that find somewhere the kids either can’t or won’t get into. Security gates are your friends.
I am still working on this one in my house, but I find I get much more study done if I am set up at the kitchen table with my kids on the other side of the security gates.
I can still attend to their needs, watch them at play, hear everything they’re up to (as usual, silence means trouble), but also can concentrate on what I’m reading in between all of that.
2. Find the perfect time.
My kids are still pretty small, and their routines still pretty regular, so this one is easy for me.
My twins usually have a sleep in the morning and a sleep in the afternoon, so I know that I can study in the morning as long as I find something for Roo to do (see point 3), and in the afternoon when ALL the kids go down for a rest.
Even if it’s only 20 minutes after other jobs are done (see point 4) it’s still better than nothing.
If your kids don’t sleep during the day, or are older, maybe over a few days figure out when they are at their most quiet and make that YOUR time. Go to your safe study space and get as much as you can done – remember that 15 minutes is still better than nothing.
I get most of my study done after 8:30pm. Pal is more than happy to watch all the TV that I hate having to sit through, I stick my headphones in and study until my eyes boggle.
You’ll be amazed how much time you’ll have up your sleeve if you stop watching TV at night. If you don’t want to miss out on your shows, then either record them download them, borrow them or buy them on DVD. That way you don’t miss any episodes, you can watch at your own pace and after that hellish assignment is handed in!
3. Get your kids to “work” while you do your own.
This is obviously for small/preschool aged children.
When the Two are in bed in the morning, but I still have Roo to contend with, I find it best to make sure she is occupied rather than drifting from toys to TV and back again.
I manage to avoid the constant requests for food, toilet breaks and cuddles in bids for attention, whilst getting my own work done, and often getting some washing done in between as well.
I let her into my safe study space (which is my kitchen) and set her up with an activity that she doesn’t get to do while the Two are awake.
Painting, stamping, drawing with textas, iPad Apps, play-dough – you name it, I let her do it. She usually asks for an activity when it’s “work time” and it feels good to be able to give her dedicated activity time which she usually gets refused due to the destructo duo.
I know my washing machine takes 44 minutes on it’s usual cold cycle. I also know that my dishwasher takes 2.5 hours, that the dryer takes 30 minutes to air and that my lectures are 1.5hrs long, but split into files of no more than 15 mins each.
I also know it takes me about an hour to do my readings for the week, and two hours to do my tutorial work. The tutorial runs for 1.5 hours as well.
The kids usually sleep for 1-2 hours in the afternoon.
So, I know that if I can get a load of washing on first thing in the morning, as soon as the Two go for their morning sleep I can whip out and hang it on the line or throw it in the dryer. I can throw another load in the machine straight away, get Roo set up with her activity and by the time I’m sitting down I’ve got half an hour until the next load in the machine is ready, and still another 45 minutes until the Two are likely to wake.
So, I can watch two parts of the lecture, read half my readings, or do the first few questions of the tutorial exercises.
I have accepted that I will NEVER get any work done in large blocks of time unless I want to pull a wee-hours-of-the-morning study session.
At the end of the day, the chores are my last priority. Family comes first, study second and everything else after that. Dishes will wait. It’s that simple.
5. Rewards and Blocking Time
I find it hard to stay motivated when my home is my only study environment, so I reward myself.
In the evening I give myself 30-40 minutes to get as much study done as I can. After that my brain starts to boggle and needs a break, so I let it have one.
I give myself half the time I’ve studied (so if I’ve gotten 20 mins in, I give myself 10) of “free time”. That could be the internet (hello blogging), TV, crochet, baking, reading a book, playing Tap Tap Revenge or whatever.
I actually set my alarm on my phone for blocks of time.
It keeps me motivated (if I keep going for ten more minutes, I’ll get 20 minutes instead of 15 to do whatever I want), and interested. More often than not 10 minutes of free time is all I need before I want to get stuck back in and finish whatever I’ve been working on.
My only other advice is support network, support network, support network.
Pal is fabulous about giving me time on his days off to get more study done than I usually would. Whether it’s putting on a DVD, taking them for a walk or drive, or even just distracting them while I grab my books and laptop and run and hide in my bedroom, he does everything he can to help me.
Partly because he is a very understanding person, partly because I will complain if he doesn’t.
If your husband works long hours or away, I hope you have family and friends nearby who are willing to lend a hand.
One hour of interrupted silence is so much more valuable than an entire week of interruptions, scrag fights and constant requests for food.
Do you study? What are your tips for studying from home with kids?