Going back to college or taking a diploma online can be difficult enough for the average person, but for a parent, it can be even more daunting. One common question we get asked is how to study with a baby at home?
While it may seem challenging it can certainly be done, and many parents have successfully mastered studying with a baby and young children at home. In this post, we will look at ways to set yourself up for success and get that qualification you desire.
How to study with a baby at home
Work with the baby’s schedule
It may be tempting to set your own schedule, in fact, this is what we would have told you to do under normal circumstances. But when you have a baby at home this is just not doable. You will drive yourself mad. Constantly getting distracted and frustrated because you fail to stick to your study schedule.
Instead, let your baby decide the schedule. This can take some getting use to at first. But what other parents have found very useful is to use nap times and times when your baby doesn’t need you to do some course work.
So instead of scheduling study time first thing in the morning monitor how your baby is throughout the day and see what times are most feasible to get some work done.
Use all time available
It may not be practical, or possible in fact, for you to allocate large chunks of time to study. This is totally fine. Instead, take every opportunity available to get some coursework done.
Even if this is only 10 minutes here at there, it all adds up. And in fact, sometimes doing shorter study periods with regular breaks leads to better retention. Use these shorter periods to memorize some notes or revising a topic. Use longer periods for more difficult tasks that require more attention and the ability to solve difficult problems. It is recommended that we take a break after every 50 minutes of study.
Get help from family and friends
When your tackling parenthood and college at the same time don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family are more often than not willing to help and love spending time with a newborn baby.
Use this opportunity to your advantage, and tackle some of that coursework that needs to be done. If you can make this a regular thing, even better because then you can make a schedule around it and decide what is best to study during this particular free time.
Take advantage of local childcare facilities. If this is an option for you and is feasible, it can be of real benefit. Having someone look after your baby for a few hours each day creates a real opportunity for you to get some coursework done.
Remember to use this time wisely. Tackle those subjects or assignments that require your full attention and focus. Leave things that you can do while still minding and tending to your baby until later.
Divide coursework into manageable chunks
When preparing a plan for what you are going to study in your free time it is important to set reasonable goals. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself by setting goals that are unattainable and unrealistic.
Be kind to yourself. Obviously, we need to get the work done and set goals so that help us achieve our target of successfully obtaining the qualification. But we also need to be realistic and honest with how much is possible in the given period of time.
As a parent, life is already stressful. We definitely do not need additional pressure and stress in our life. Studying and obtaining a qualification can have its stresses but it’s also more than achievable. It’s a fantastic opportunity, a life-changing event that can really change the direction of your life for the better.
It’s important to remember that strategic and effective study is what will get you there rather than long stressful hours and burnout. To find out more about how to achieve effective study check out our post on “how to study effectively at home.“
Be realistic with your time
Starting a course can be motivating, lifechanging but sometimes we can set our expectations quite high. Too high in fact. This is why it’s important to be realistic with ourselves and what we can actually do.
The last thing we need to do, especially with a newborn baby, is put additional pressure and stress on ourselves. Therefore, take it easy, do what you can, when you can.
If you feel like the course and its workload is just too much that’s ok. Speak with your course leader and see if there’s an option to do fewer subjects per semester. Majority of courses will have this option. It may just take a semester or two longer to obtain your qualification, but at the end of the day time flys and you still have the exact same qualification at the end of it.
Get your reading done
Most courses have a substantial amount of reading material and case studies. It’s easy to put this off, I mean who wants to spend hours and hours reading material that can put us to sleep at the best of times let alone after a busy day minding and caring for a baby.
However, I highly recommended getting this over and done with early in the course. Keep plugging away at it every opportunity you get. This is not something I would recommend leaving until exam time.
Use those available periods you have throughout the day to get a few pages of this ticked off. Breaking the reading material up in manageable sections will make it a lot easier to get through. It’ll also be easier to digest and understand.
Plus it allows you the opportunity to go back over sections that you found difficult to understand and leads to reduced stress and anxiety come exam time.
Don’t put things off
Don’t put off things that can be done today till tomorrow. Although it can be, and certainly will be, tempting at points to forgo studying and your coursework to do other things. This is understandable.
When you have a baby, family life is hectic. There will be times when you just want to unwind. That’s important too. There’ll be days when you don’t want to leave your baby’s side. You don’t want to leave them at playgroup. You want to be there with them.
So it’s important to take every opportunity that is available to you to get some coursework done. Don’t procrastinate, because there will inevitably be days where you will need to leave off the study. Or you just can’t get as much as you had planned to done.
With you have children no two days are the same. There will be a night here and there when you spend the majority of it up with your child, or your baby will be sick. These days your very likely to get any study done. And this is ok. It’s to be expected.
Therefore, to help with this use every available opportunity to study when you can so that when these little hiccups happen it won’t set you back too far and will be less likely to cause additional and unnecessary stress.
Part-time versus full-time
This is quite similar to the point I had above about choosing how many modules you want to do per semester. It’s also possible to approach your learning part-time rather than full-time.
The benefits of this are that the part-time is gonna require less time commitment on your part. Leaving more time for you and your baby. This is an important thing for yu to consider when you’re looking to obtain a degree or qualification.
Many courses today have a part-time option available. Yes, it may take a longer to get the degree you want but it gives you the opportunity to give it your best effort and go at a pace that suits you. In many cases, it may only take an extra year to get the same qualification.
Online versus traditional education
Online education is booming today and is something I would definitely recommend for parents looking to future their education. It has so many benefits and can suit many parents that struggle to make that commit to going back to college.
The major advantage of obtaining a qualification online for a parent is that you can work at your own paced. You can access the information when and where you want. Now, this is quite important when you have a newborn baby whos schedule is quite demanding.
If you are nervous doing it completely online, there is also a lot of course providers who do blended learning. Which reduces the time investment but still gives you that social aspect since it’s usually 1 or 2 days per week with some classes and coursework online. Check out our post on “is studying online a good idea?” to see if this might be of interest to you.
Focus on the now
Starting a college course while caring for a baby can be daunting, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. However, one way to tackle this feeling is to focus on the now. What can you get done in this free period of time? What can you get done today? What can assignment can you put your efforts into this week?
Simply breaking it down like this can really help decrease any anxiety and stress. It will help you stay focused and concentrate more easily on what needs to be done. Most of all, it will help you stay productive which in turn will feed into your positivity and motivation to keep going.
This point not only relates to your coursework but we’ll start with that. When you begin your course write down a list of all the assignments, essays or group projects that need to be done as well as the due date for them. Then stick these dates into your calendar and set reminders on your phone so that you won’t forget.
You can also use a journal to keep track of things and jot down anything that you need to do on a particular day. Amazon has loads of amazing journals to choose from so you can find one that suits your individual needs and helps get you set up for a successful year ahead.
Likewise, do the same for the other areas of your life. Be it collecting the kids from playgroup or soccer training. Whatever it is make a note of it and set a reminder. These things might sound simple, but when you’re caring for a baby and trying to study it’s super easy to forget things.
Forgetting a thing or two is normal. We all do it. However, having reminders there help you stay on top of things and feel like your in control. Which in turn helps us to stay feeling good and productive.
Create a routine for the baby
Babies and children thrive with a routine, and in turn, this will help you create a routine in which you can build a study schedule around. Routines provide babies and toddlers with a sense of security and stability.
Once your child becomes familiar with and used to their routine you can then use this as a stepping stone to creating a more predictable and reliable study schedule for yourself. For example, babies and young children sleep a lot. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, babies up to 4 months need around 14 to 16 hours sleep per day and 1 to 2-year-olds require approximately 11 to 14 hours sleep per day.
Use this sleep time to your advantage. Any time your child sleep take out the books and tackle some coursework. As your babies routine becomes more regular you will likely know when and how long they are going to be asleep for so you can better plan what you can study in that time and whats best to tackle at that point.
Be a resourceful parent
As parents one thing is for sure, it doesn’t take you long to become resourceful and find better ways to do things. Finding solutions and solving problems becomes a daily event that you master rather quickly.
One thing that many parents who have successfully completed degrees while bringing up kids or raising a newborn recommended were to use a baby wrap. Babies love being close to their parents. Sometimes that’s all they need and want.
Using a baby wrap is a practical way to spend time with your baby and yet get some study done. Your baby is happy since it’s close to you but yet your hands are free so you can still read some course notes and get some study done.
Make use of audio lectures
In today’s world, information is everywhere and on a whole diverse range of platforms. Use these to your advantage. If your course is online there’s very likely to be video lectures. You can listen to these as you care for your baby.
Download files and pdf and have them on your tablet so that you can read while waiting for your baby to fall to sleep. Download lectures and convert them to mp3 so that you can listen to them in your car or where ever suits.
If you have some books that you are required to read as part of your course check and see can you get them in audio format. Check out the likes of Audible to see can you get it there and listen to it. All these can be useful and super helpful and their ways of tackling studying by changing things up.
If your doing a course that requires you to attend college a few times per week then make this time count. When your there why not schedule an extra hour or so in the college library so you can get some additional study or assignments done. When you’re actually on-campus you have the space free of distractions, well most of them, to get some effective study done.
While at college, it’s also beneficial to make a list of any questions you might have regarding your course, subjects or assignments so that you can ask your course leader when you are there. you can also collaborate with other students during this time on topics or subjects that you may be having difficultly with. Plus, working with others can also give you the motivation you need to keep on-track and study when the going gets tough.
Make each class effective
As parents, time is valuable so when it comes to attending a class or even sitting down for one at home, it’s important that we make the most of this time. To do this is vital that we show up prepared, with a fresh mind and ready to give our undivided attention and focus.
To do this, make sure you have everything you need for that class. Use your journal beforehand to check if there was any important assignments or reading material that needed to be done for the class.
When in class, pay attention, listen and take notes. Taking notes can be difficult, especially if you’ve been out of the study loop for awhile. Therefore, it might be wise to read our post on “how to take notes in college” to get some useful tips that will allow you take notes quickly and effectively so that you don’t miss out on what is actually been said in class or fall behind.
being a student and a parent has its challenges, and life in itself never produces 2 days that are the same so what you may have planned to do each day may not always get done.
So what we recommend is having a list of things or goals that you’d like to get done each day. Then prioritise these according to the importance at which they need to be done. So on days when things are a little tough and hectic, you can look at this list and just do those things that are vital for the day.
Don’t feel bad
Becoming a parent is life-changing but it shouldn’t impact your decision to better your education. Your not just doing this for you, you’re doing this both for yourself and your family. To give them a better life. So never feel guilty about studying or spending time away from your family.
As a parent, it’s easy to feel guilt when we think that we are not devoting all our time to minding our kids or we are spending a couple of nights a week in college away from our family. But you can still be a brilliant and devoted parent while also getting a great qualification or degree.
Also bear in mind the example that you are setting for your kids going back to college and furthering your education while raising kids. This demonstrates hard work, discipline and dedication. All good traits for your kids to follow in the future.
Don’t forget you
This is perhaps one of the most important points on the list. With so much going on, all the commitments between college, studying, and family life it’s crucial to schedule some much needed YOU time.
Downtime is just as important as that study time. You can’t care for your kids properly or study effectively if you’re burnt out. To avoid this it’s very important to take some time to relax.
Spend some quality time with your family and friends. Watch movies together. Take nice long hot baths and enjoy a glass of wine. Meditate or do some yoga. Whatever you enjoy doing that completely relaxes you. This is just as important as the rest of the points so be sure to schedule some you time into your journal.