Mandy dropped out of college her freshman year of college when she found she was pregnant. She and her boyfriend quickly married and just as quickly divorced. Since then, she has been single parenting and waitressing to make ends meet. It's been hard. Sometimes it's been very hard. But waitressing gave her flexible hours that made it possible to be with her son during the day and she made enough to get by. Her mom was happy to help with childcare at night so they managed. Now that her little boy is starting school, she's thinking about what to do to be more satisfied with her work life and to be more marketable.
If you are like Mandy, maybe now is the time to think about going back to school. Whether for a GED to finish out high school or to finally get that college degree, more education can only open up more options for your future. Here are some things to consider:
Part-time may be more realistic than taking on a full course load. Yes, part-time will take longer but often it's a better fit with a job and parenting responsibilities..
= There's no perfect time to get started so why not now? Here's the reality: Maybe it will take four years of part-time school to do a two year Associates degree. But if you don't go to school, those same four years are going to go by and you won't have a degree to show for it. Get started.
Look into your local community college. Many have GED programs. If you are ready for college level work, community colleges tend to be less expensive than four year colleges. Many have special programs for "nontraditional" students (students who are older than 18-22). Many have remedial classes to help adults who have been out of school for awhile get back into the swing of taking classes.
Start small. If it's been years since you cracked a textbook, you are probably out of practice. Doing school, like doing anything else, is a skill. It requires the self-discipline to block out study time, to do the reading, and to complete assignments -- on time. Don't overwhelm yourself. It may be easier to reorganize your life if you add only one class for now. See how you do for a semester. You can always increase the number of classes next semester.
Don't worry about being older than other students. People who join right it and have a sense of humor about the age gap are quickly accepted by the younger students.
Make education a family project. You and the children will all have homework. Set up a time when you all sit down together to do your reading or projects. (Younger kids can color or do a puzzle.) By doing your school work regularly and seriously, you'll be a great role model for your kids.
Most important: Enjoy it! There's something to love about every class, even the ones you don't instantly love. You are investing in yourself and making a better life for your family. With a go-to attitude, you'll find ways to manage it.
Follow Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MHartwellWalker