Life often has a way of presenting us with major changes just when we get settled into a routine. The modern-day divorce rate has resulted in extreme amounts of mothers struggling to survive in the world on a meager income. While attempting to support children alone, single mothers begin to think about how to bring in a greater income source. The return to college for further education is a popular choice. This endeavor can be challenging with children of any age at home. There are some ways, however, to make it through your degree plan with your sanity intact.
Assess Your Living Arrangement
Your home is going to be the largest expense outside of tuition costs. While you may think the more spacious home is important at first, you may change your mind halfway into a sleep-deprived semester. You must allow for study time. If you are working two jobs just to pay rent or a mortgage, it may be time to reconsider your options.
Ask for help from friends or relatives. If you can work out a joint living arrangement, you may be able to avoid the pitfalls of sheer exhaustion. Your kids will also benefit from having more people around to care for them. Many college campuses also offer a family housing option. If you don’t mind living on or near campus, financial aid can also be used to help with living expenses.
Take the Guesswork out of Financial Aid
Meet with a financial aid counselor early on to make the most of every option. There is usually federal aid available for difficult income situations. While some of this will be in the form of loans, grants are often available in many cases. Do not accept any money until you are clear which type of aid you are being offered. If you must take out loans, use only what you need to survive and do not overspend. Loans can help immensely if you are unable to work enough hours to cover your living expenses.
Scholarships can take some work to find. The department of your major will often have specific financing or scholarships to be given on a case-by-case basis. There are also various national and local scholarship contests you can participate in. Visit a designated scholarship website to see lists of these opportunities. You can also speak with your school advisor to learn of many scholarship possibilities. Some are specifically for single moms. Take time to apply for many scholarships.
What about the Kids?
Depending on the age of your kids, the options for childcare will vary. The dilemma that often presents itself at this point is the need for childcare twice as long each day. On your own, working all day and attending night classes or vice versa would be hard enough. Now you must also figure out what to do with children after daycare and school hours are over. If you have school-age children, your days are covered. Older kids may even be able to stay home for short periods of time alone. Remember that you will probably not have classes every day.
Professors often do not mind an older child in a class with you; as long as your child is quiet with a book or snack, you should be fine. Always ask prior to showing up with your child, however. A toddler or baby cannot be depended upon to stay quiet during a class. Other options must be made for the younger age group. This is the time when you will need to evaluate your expenses some more. A sitter in your home or a family member is going to be necessary. If your classes do not run late, you may be able to simply sign your children up for an after-school activity that will keep them on school premises an extra hour or two. Sports and clubs are great options.
Trade babysitting with another mom to save monetary resources. University campuses are full of financially challenged young students. If you trust someone at your school, think about compensating them to hang out in the library or at a park on campus with your kids while you attend class. With some help and creative scheduling, you can make sure the kids are well cared for while you increase earning potential in a college program.
Online classes should also be taken advantage of when they are available. With today’s technology, these are incredibly easy to navigate. Many core classes are available online in various formats, even at four-year universities. Be sure to check your course catalog. Online classes will allow for a more flexible schedule.
Studying with Kids
This is a challenge no matter what age your kids are. Even teenagers seem to have a secret radar that alerts them to when you are busy with something other than them. As soon as you sit down for a quiet study session, you most likely will be bombarded with attention-seeking young humans. Preparation is key here.
Young kids need a special box with toys or a favorite movie then only comes out when you are hitting the books. These are everyone’s “special” study items. Keep the box exciting by adding new toys or snacks from time to time. Older children and teenagers can use this time to help with dinner or complete other chores. You can even have them sit with you and do their homework too. When everyone’s work is done, celebrate with some family time, even if it is only a few minutes that you sneak in before bedtime.
Another way to sneak in some time is to get up earlier in the morning. You may think you cannot possibly drag yourself out of bed any earlier than necessary, but it can help. Sometimes you can work faster and more efficiently when the kids are sleeping and the house is quiet. A fresh start after a good night’s sleep is beneficial as well.
College classes can be worked into the single mom’s schedule. It will be challenging, and you may have times when you want to give up, but you must persevere for the betterment of your family. Find creative ways to save money and accept help when it is offered. Become knowledgeable about financial aid, housing, and childcare options. Keep your kids involved in your various endeavors by taking them to visit the university and talking about your studies. Your kids will benefit greatly from all your efforts to better yourself.