Tips to help online degree-seekers balance family, fun and education during the holidays

(BPT) – The holidays are typically everyone’s favorite time of the year. They’re filled with family, festivities, good cheer and good food. But for anyone juggling parental duties, work and online learning, relaxing and enjoying the holidays can be a challenge.

Kimberly, Idaho resident Desiree Carr, a mother of three with a full-time job, knows pursuing a college degree and balancing holiday demands is no easy task.

“Carving out time to study on top of my kids’ schedules, a 40-hour work week and setting time aside to spend with my husband can be daunting at times,” Carr says. “For me, a healthy balance and support from my family is the key to making everything work. And honestly, some weeks are tougher than others – especially during the holidays when there are so many distractions.”

Carr’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science to move ahead in her career, which helps keep her focused, even in the most trying times. She plans to complete her degree at Arizona State University Online, and then continue on to law school. Having these goals constantly top of mind helps her remain motivated during the holidays despite the mistletoe and cheesecake.

For working parents pursing an online education, constant motivation is a great first step in achieving your career goals. Here are some other best practices to keep in mind that will allow you to balance schoolwork, family and holiday preparations while still enjoying the most festive time of the year:

Set up a support system in advance. Let your friends and family know in advance that you’ll need their support preparing for the holidays. Share your educational goals and how you are planning to accomplish them, and let your family know how important it is to have their support. Instead of doing all the cooking for holiday gatherings, ask your friends and family to each bring a dish. This will save you several hours and give you more time to study. If you have school-age children, study with them to keep their minds active over the holidays. It’s a great bonding experience and will show your kids just how important learning is for both of you.

Create a study environment that helps you excel. Chances are your house will be full of loud voices, laughter and commotion during the holidays. A quiet workplace without interruption from your family is necessary for continued success in your online courses.

“I recommend going to a local coffee shop for a couple hours every morning,” Carr says. “If you stay home to study over the holidays, there’s a good chance you’ll be interrupted and tempted to catch up with your family instead of studying.” ASU Online offers discussion boards, library resources, tutoring and career advisors that are available online 24/7, so all you need is a laptop and a cup of coffee to get started on your assignments every morning.

Frequently communicate with your classmates. Your classes may be online, but you should still connect with your classmates on a regular basis over the holidays via the online discussion boards.

“I often found that other students in my classes were facing similar challenges on assignments so we helped guide each other in the right direction with the support of our professors,” Carr says. If students from your classes live near you, form a study group to interact in person as well as online.

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, but the added responsibility of online studies doesn’t have to add to the stress if you plan ahead. Enjoy the holidays and make this special time with your family a priority, but don’t let your studies fall to the wayside. Trying to catch up and get back on track after the holidays can lead to unnecessary pressure. Remain focused on your end goal of completing your degree and the gift that this accomplishment will bring to you and your family.

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