Many nontrads have a family as well as a desire to get/complete their education. I would be remiss if I did not include family preparation on my "To Do" list before returning to school in two weeks. The amount of family prep one has to do before classes start depends on several key issues:
1. How many children are there in the family and how old are the children?
2. Is your spouse willing to cooperate and help with household chores, meals, etc.?
3. What kind of support do you have from family, friends and neighbors?
If your children are older (high school and beyond), if you have a spouse who is willing to be a "single parent" for a couple of semesters, and if you have the support of your family, friends and neighbors, then you're waaay ahead of the game. What if your life isn't so ideal?
Here are some practical tips to help get your family prepared for you to go back to school:
1. Children: a) If possible, schedule your classes around their school day. You should be in school while they are in school. b) Ask a couple other Moms if they'd fill in for you in the event you cannot pick your child up from school on time. You will most likely need to list these ladies on your child's "Approved Pickup List" at school. Make sure you communicate with your backup, your child's school and your child in plenty of time when you know you are going to be late. c) Children love games. Make "Mommy/Daddy is going back to school" a game with your children - do things like, "How big is your backpack?" "How many books are in your backpack?" "What's the most unusual thing in your backpack?", "What are you having for lunch today?", etc. That will give them a little better understanding that you are in school, too. d) Take your children on a field trip to your school. Show them all the "cool" places you go, like the library, the student center, etc. Tell them they have their school and Mommy/Daddy has her/his school. Do something fun while you are on campus - check out a children's book from the library, get an ice cream from the student center, etc. e) Let your children's teachers know you are a student, too. They'll cut you some slack with Parent-Teacher Conferences, etc. f) Don't forget to spend some quality time with your children. Take a Saturday to just go to the park and enjoy the swings!
2. Spouse: a) Communication: make sure to talk about expectations - what you need from each other during your time in school. Do you need your spouse to take the reigns at home and be "Mr. Mom"? Do you need him to do a load of laundry every other day? Vacuum? Spell it out. b) If your spouse is not willing to or cannot cooperate (he travels a lot for his job), you'll need to learn time management. God invented the crockpot for working and student moms. Take advantage of it. Do a load of laundry while you're eating dinner. Enlist the children to help dust, vacuum, etc. on a weekly basis. Plan menus a week in advance so your older children can help with dinner, too. General clutter pickup will make your house look more organized. c) If your spouse is helping and not complaining too much about it, make sure you take him out to dinner as a way to say "Thanks for your support. I really appreciate you!"
3. Animals: a) You will obviously get no cooperation from the canine or feline children. However, someone does need to take care of them, too. Designate a child to care for the animals on a weekly basis - this will help to teach them responsibility. b) Taking the dogs for a walk is a good way to work off the stress that comes with having to study for a major exam, write a 30-page term paper, etc. Take advantage of the down time and the exercise! c) Nothing says "I Love You!" like the purr of a cat. Take advantage of this built in love-meter. d) Don't forget to water your plants before you leave in the morning.
Do you have any practical tips on family preparation for your return to school? Feel free to share them! Above all, our families need to feel that they have not been abandoned to various colleges texts, but that we still love them. Take the time to tell your family you love them and appreciate them. Stay tuned . . .