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Why going back to school pays rewards to the whole family

by Adam Partire

It's "Back to School" time again!

Your kids chatter about seeing old friends and meeting new teachers. You prepare them for that thrilling first day and pile your shopping cart with new notebooks, pencils and other school supplies.

Now that your kids are ready for their school year, it's your turn.

Share your excitement about registering for new classes, buying new books and learning new things. Believe it or not, but your own experience as an online student will teach your children valuable life lessons and develop your parenting skills.
Kids watching the clock.

Why? Because they'll see how to use time wisely.

Online learners know that distance education is NOT easier than traditional schooling and that the same time commitment must be given to an online degree as an on-campus program.

Time management is a crucial skill that successful online learners must possess. As such, online learners must be able to identify and, more importantly, eliminate time wasters.

  • When your children see you pass up your favorite TV show because you have homework to do, they'll be more willing to turn off the tube, too.
    When your children hear you tell your best friend that you'll have to call her back later because you're studying for a test, you show your children how to set (and stick to) priorities.

You'll also demonstrate how to focus and work effectively in the short blocks of time you carve out each day. Between the demands of work and family, you'll show your children how to wake up early, stay on task, and make time during the day to complete your assignments.

How? It shows how much you value education.

Being an online student demonstrates to your children that learning is a lifelong process. It models the importance of education, and it illustrates how more education leads to more choices.

  • Instead of watching you wish for a different job or position, your children will see you earn a certificate or gain new skills in an area that helps you achieve your career goals.
    Lesson learned: Education enables you to have dreams, set goals and work hard to attain them.
  • Instead of hearing you complain that technology changes too quickly, your children will see you taking the initiative to learn new software programs and use new tools.
    Lesson learned: Education enables you to meet the demands of a changing workplace and increasingly technical environment.
  • Instead of hearing you say, "Reading is important," your children will see you reading. When you make time to read, your kids will learn that reading is a valuable activity. Research shows that daily exposure to books and writing makes children better prepared to become readers and writers when they are kindergarten-age, and older children who read are more likely to become lifelong readers. Carve out some "family study time" each week and read together.
    Lesson learned: Education expands a reader's world, and reading leads to success in education.

You can tell your children to value education. But they'll really "get it" when they watch you putting this concept into action.
Why? It shows that it's OK to make mistakes.

Children often view their parents as flawless. Being an online student will surely reveal that you're a less-than-perfect individual…and that's good!

Parents need to be able to share their mistakes and show children how to learn from them.

Whether it's talking to your kids about a challenging class, or showing them the results of a particularly hard test, they will receive a powerful message: There will be bumps in the road academically. There will be challenges, and even failures.

But to succeed, a person must remain patient and persistent. Your children will learn that mistakes are opportunities for learning, not roadblocks.
Mom studies with son.

How? It reveals that the computer is a valuable learning tool.

Most children know that computers can be used to play video games or surf favorite Web sites. Your online learning will show your kids that computers are not just for games, but can be used for going to school, conducting research, and collaborating with fellow classmates.

Show your kids your online course materials. They can learn a lot by seeing you downloading course syllabi, participating in online chats and submitting homework assignments via e-mail.

You can also show them how you conduct research online. Go to a Web site, such as Discovery.com, and have your kids pick a topic of interest. Share your tips for locating information and encourage your kids to talk about what they have found.

Also, being cognizant of your children's familiarity with the Internet is important for their safety. Spending time with them early on allows you to keep track of the Web sites they visit and who they are talking to online.

Why? It promotes family teamwork.

Getting an online degree means more time hitting the books. This means more time for family members to pitch in and help with cleaning, shopping, and childcare duties.

  • Older children can help entertain younger ones while you study.
  • Elementary age children can grab a dust cloth or broom.
  • Children will benefit from helping Dad take charge of the weekly grocery shopping.

They will have fun scouring the pantry and fridge, creating a list, and coming home with a few surprising choices for dinner. Releasing some control over these tasks will grant you more time to devote to school.

With a little planning and lot of cooperation, each family member can play an important role in helping you finish your degree.

Feel Good About Your Decision to Go Back to School

Some people are hesitant about going back to school because they worry it will take too much time away from their families. They fail to realize that a parent's commitment to education and self-improvement provides a powerful model for children. Your online learning gives your kids the opportunity to contribute to the household and support you in a meaningful and direct way.

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