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Online Courses Not That Easy for Parents

parent-onlineBy most accounts, the advent of online college coursework has been a godsend for the American parent.

No more nights spent out of the house attending classes. More chances to be both parent and student. Sounds like a win/win if there ever was one. And if you read Carolyn Kepcher’s column in the New York Post this week, you’d be falling all over yourself to make it happen.

But here’s what the oversell doesn’t tell you – online courses are easier on parents, but they’re still not “easy.”

Of course, that’s not what they tell you. Take Kepcher’s comments: “But if you’re in that group and think a college degree is beyond the realm of possibility, think again. Online education has made it easier than ever to earn a degree while you hold a job. Most programs allow students to complete their work on their own schedule, via DVDs and online instruction.”

OK, let’s back up a moment.

With my husband enrolled at a state school, albeit completely online, I’ve quickly learned that “on your own schedule” is a tad misleading. He has traditional semesters, deadlines for assignments and a certain amount of work that must be completed per week. He’s making his own schedule in the sense that he can do it anytime that week, but still, there is a limited time frame.

Likewise, at a real school (face it, not all online colleges are created equal), that time devoted to the coursework means you need complete concentration. You are, after all, putting in work in exchange for a degree. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Or done while listening to your daughter read her social studies report off to you in one ear, your son watching Diego in the other.

Going to school online will allow you to shave off the time you would have spent on the road to and from college. It will allow you to do work in your home while your kids sleep without having to hire a sitter. But it will not reduce the amount of time you have to spend focusing on school work instead of your kids.

Online courses are a boon for parents, but like the job of the work-at-home parent which usually earns the response “oh, you’re so lucky, it must be so nice to stay home with your kids,” they carry with them a harsh reality. You aren’t just staying home with your kids. You are at home with your kids AND trying to accomplish something important, while parenting at the same time.

It takes a lot of support, and the ability to give yourself the separation you need between yourself and your kids even in the same house.

That’s not to say it can’t be done or indeed shouldn’t be done. Project Working Mom has a quiz to help you determine whether you’re cut out for this school at home business, and they’ve got an ongoing scholarship program for working parents.

Image: bombardier, flickr

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