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Teaching, Parenting, and Pursuing a Degree, You Can Do It!

The Art of Education University launched a 100% online master’s degree in January 2019. Since, hundreds of art teachers have enrolled in the program as they look to advance their career and grow professionally. Going back to school is a big undertaking for anyone. It may require you to re-prioritize and make some short-term sacrifices. You’ll have to manage your time differently. But it’s a sacrifice for the long-run, so you can advance your career, grow as an art teacher, or earn more money.

Some prospective students have told us they’re not sure if now is the right time. They have children and they’re teaching full-time. They want to earn their master’s degree, but how could they manage taking courses, too?

illustration of a parent

So, given that there are only so many hours in a day, how do they do it!?

We asked our students to give us the inside scoop. The majority of them are teaching full-time, raising a family, and earning their master’s degree at AOEU: How do you do it? While their individual responses varied, the overall message was loud and clear. Earning a master’s degree is worth the time, finances, and juggling of responsibilities. Here are some highlights from their answers:

What does life look like for you as you pursue your degree?

  • Average number of children: 2
  • Average age of children: 10-15 years old
  • Average credit hours taken at a time: 3-6 hours
  • Average anticipated graduation: 2 years

When do you make time to do your coursework?

Most students complete their homework on the weekends. Others find time at night when everyone is in bed or in the wee hours of the morning.

What is the most challenging part of parenting and obtaining your master’s degree?

Finding an area to work quietly and concentrate. – John Carey (Father of 2)

Balancing all of it. Teaching, parenting, etc. – Amanda Stuart (Mother of 2)

Family photo
Photo courtesy of Amanda Stuart

How to Create Space to Earn a Master’s Degree

Not being available for spontaneous activities on the weekends. – Kerri Shorack (Mother of 3)

Splitting time between my family, my full-time job, and my studies. Some weeks one or two of the three may require more from me. It’s all about balance and looking ahead at assignments. – Lisa Freedberg (Mother of 3)

Are you a parent and art teacher? Learn about the master’s degree. 

What would you say to a fellow art teacher and parent who is thinking about applying to AOEU?

You have to try it. There are so many relevant classes that will help you grow as a teacher. – John Carey (Father of 2)

Do it! It’s amazing and very supportive! – Amanda Stuart (Mother of 2)

Go for it! But develop boundaries with your time. Set aside schoolwork to hang out with the family. Enlist older children to cook dinner and even do grocery shopping or whatever will help lighten your load a bit. – Kerri Shorack (Mother of 3)

What Kind of Master’s Degree Should I Get?

Do it! I’m so glad I jumped into this program! You can work, be a mom, and have a family, take care of yourself, your job, and meet personal and/or professional goals. So much of what we learn is directly applied into our teaching practice. Start with one class—possibly even one elective. It’s how I’ve worked throughout the school year. Saving core classes for summer or early fall when my job has a lighter load. – Lisa Freedberg (Mother of 3)

I’ve loved the program…The growth I’ve had as a teacher would not have been possible getting this degree from anywhere else. – Chrissy Schmohl (Mother of 2)

What is your best “trick of the trade” when it comes to being a student and parenting simultaneously?

Having my own kids do art while I study and bribery helps. – John Carey (Father of 2)

Get as much done as you can when your kid naps or watches T.V.! – Cassie Bezenberg (Mother of 1)

Budget [your] time. Take days off and schedule when to work. I also made art for my studio classes as much as I could with them! – Chrissy Schmohl (Mother of 2)

How to Make the Most of Your Time when Completing a Master’s Degree

Carve out time whether you’re a night owl or an early riser. Find a few hours here or there daily to work. Also, look ahead at assignments to gauge your work week and prioritize. – Lisa Freedberg (Mother of 3)

Family photo
Photo courtesy of Lisa Freedberg

My kids are older, so they can help a lot with household chores and also self-manage. But still, setting aside time to be with the family is very important. Enlist their help with tasks you can relinquish or even just let things go for a while. – Kerri Shorack (Mother of 3)

What impact will the degree have on your family?

I want to show my family the importance of higher education and that they should never stop learning. – John Carey (Father of 2)

I will show my three children, especially my two daughters, that you can complete a goal you set for yourself in undergrad. It may take longer, but if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish hard things. My son sees my husband as a supportive spouse and his mom meeting a lifelong goal, too. Of course, financially it will help in the long run with their college. – Lisa Freedberg (Mother of 3)

How to Fund Your Master’s Degree Program

Increase in income. – Kerri Shorack (Mother of 3)

What do your children think about you obtaining your master’s degree?

They love my energy when I get excited and want to try new projects with them. – Amanda Stuart (Mother of 2)

My kids are so supportive and love that I’m doing this. They are very proud of me. – Kerri Shorack (Mother of 3)

They think it’s awesome, and they have loved the things I’ve learned because I test some things out on them as students. – John Carey (Father of 2)

Family photo
Photo courtesy of John Carey

They all three said they think it’s wonderful that I’m meeting a goal, they are proud of me and really not a big impact for them. (Two are in HS, and one is in college). A bit more independent than younger children! – Lisa Freedberg (Mother of 3)

Every parent knows what hard work looks like, but they also know how worthwhile parenting can be. Similarly, pursuing a master’s degree takes planning, hard work, and dedication—but will pay off in so many ways in the end. Thank you to the degree-seeking parents who took the time to share their responses with us. You’re setting an example for your children that hard work now pays dividends in the future!

Master’s Degree Mailbag (Ep. 193)

What questions do you have about balancing parenting and earning a master’s degree?
What is holding you back from pursuing a higher degree?

Megan Dehner is the Senior Editor of the Magazine and a FLEX Curriculum Content Lead at AOEU. With experience at all learning levels, she is passionate about the practice of creativity regardless of any talent or barrier.

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