It’s the beginning of a new academic year and the first years are arriving on campuses across the UK ready to continue their academic journey – and hopefully have a bit of fun, make some new friends and be inspired and challenged. There’s always one group of students my heart goes out to; those who are having to juggle academic work with having a family. Every year without fail several of these students will ask me anxiously ‘Do you think I will be able to both commit to my studies and meet the demands of my family’. From my long experience of observing these students, and I have to admit to being in the same situation myself, I always tell them that they will be fine, that they will have well-honed time management skills and that often students who are parents can be our highest achievers because they have an incredible sense of focus due to their time limitations. I also remind them how studying is not a selfish thing as it will impact positively on outcomes for their children. I am encouraged this week to see further reinforcement of this latter message in the most recent SEEDreport to be published which states clearly that when looking at the HLE (Home Learning Environment), the mother’s educational level impacted positively on outcomes for children. This report focused on 4,000 children (aged two, three and four) as part of a longitudinal study. One of the areas it examined was links between the HLE and quality ECEC provision. It asserted that the impact of both were independent of each other, so that even children in a very enabling home environment could still have enhanced benefit from a quality ECEC setting. At the same time, it drew attention to the impact that a mother’s education can have stating: ‘
‘The level of maternal education and the home learning environment were among the largest influences on children’s cognitive outcomes at age four…These associations suggest that child cognitive development may be supported by having a more highly educated mother, as well as experiencing a richer home learning environment ‘(p. 93).
Of course, I am aware that not all of our student parents are mothers but since we have already recently dedicated one post to the important contribution fathers make, let’s big up the mums here.
So, to all the mums who are going back to study ‘Well done!’ This isn’t about outcomes for you but what you are doing for your children. Those of you who now have a bit of experience at the balancing act between being a full-time student and a full-time parent have you any top tips to share? Or any encouraging stories about how being a student has enabled you to become a better parent? We would love to hear your thoughts; please do comment below.