Investing in your and your child’s education can pay off in greater income, more employment options, and job security.
Here are some of the topics discussed here.
- Education for mom
- Raising your child and being active in their education
- Your rights and legal protections
- How you can help
- What administrators and students can do
Moms in the Classroom
If you are both parent and student, affordable child care is essential to the completion of your educational goals. Gather your family and friends and determine who can help watch your children. There may also be church and community groups that can help or other parents of young children who will trade child care. Some GED programs and community colleges have on-campus child care.
In case you have to miss a class because of pregnancy issues or a sick child, have a designated buddy or two in each class to take notes for you. Get to know your professors as soon as classes start. Talk to them before or after class, or set up a meeting with the busy ones. Let them know about your situation and your intention to meet their expectations. You can even let them in on your buddy-system plans; it could help in those times when something goes awry at home.
Affordable Higher Education
If you do not have a high school diploma, earning one is the first step in meeting your educational goals. GED (General Educational Development) certification is an alternative to a high school diploma that allows you to work while preparing for and completing the certification exam. More information can be found at GED Testing Services (www.gedtestingservice.com), which has sample questions, study tools, and the latest information about the GED.
Community colleges are often a fraction of the cost of state universities and colleges, and you can complete your first two years of college there. Collegebound.net has a variety of information about choosing a college and helping you find a community college in your area. Check with any college or university you plan to attend after community college to find out what courses you need to transfer into your four-year program. Distance and/or online education has become a practical option for many who want to attend school while managing other family or work commitments. You can search for distance education programs at www.distance-education.org.
Accommodations for the Disabled
For persons with disabilities, check the resources that are available to you. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that all educational institutions provide the necessary accommodations for those with disabilities, ranging from interpreters and note-takers to extended time on assignments and tests. All colleges and universities have an office of disability and academic support. Contact these offices and inform them of your disability and the accommodations you need for success. The Association of Higher Education and Disability at www.ahead.org and disability.gov both offer information specific to higher education on their websites.
Financing Your Education
There are many types of scholarships and loans available to students. These can be found at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Singlemom.com also has a list of scholarships that are more specific to single mothers. Consider seeking employment that offers tuition assistance. Most colleges and universities offer payment options for students who work on campus to help finance tuition costs.
For the future security of your family, it is very important that you limit the amount in school loans that you accept. Loans can be a temptation when you realize how much you can receive, but all of this money must be paid back; student loans cannot be erased through bankruptcy. Only take on the minimum amount of debt necessary to pay tuition expenses.
There are a couple of ways to cut corners once you choose an affordable option for tuition expenses. Do not eat your meals on campus—pack a lunch. Each textbook has a hefty price tag averaging $90. Don’t purchase books until you go to the first class and ask the professor which books you will really need. Buy your textbooks used at half.com, chegg.com, or other online used bookstores. If a used textbook is unavailable and you must purchase a new one, treat it gently—no highlighting or otherwise marking the pages—to make it suitable for resale when you are finished with it.
Smartphones and computers are a huge expense but often required. Save some money and purchase gently used or refurbished phones and laptops directly from the manufacturer (such as Dell or Apple). Reputable sites such as Swappa.com, TigerDirect.com, and Newegg.com all sell used smartphones and computers and also offer warranty protections and guarantees. Another source to check out is government websites. GovDeals.com and PropertyRoom.com auction off seized and surplus items from various agencies.
Tips for Completing Your Degree
As you begin your studies, it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses and plan for any setbacks that may occur. Most educational institutions have programs for students who need further assistance, such as free tutoring services and study skills classes.
Student parents must learn to manage their time and compartmentalize their lives. You can do this by forming a schedule and sticking to it. If your child naps from 1 to 3 and you’re not taking a class at that time, then schedule study time. If you work best in the morning, get up an hour or two earlier than others in the house and study; alternatively, if you work better at night, plan to study when others have gone to bed. Have a dedicated workspace for these study hours. Create an environment free of distractions and suited to your work style. A great source for studying and note-taking tips is www.academictips.org. Anything can happen for those with determination, but we also have to do our part and prepare for success.
Supporting Your Child’s Education
As a parent it is crucial that you stay involved in your child’s education. Actively monitoring your child’s progress and participation in school as well as creating educational opportunities at home are important ways to support your child’s education. Listed are some ways you can ensure academic success for your child.
- Get to know your child’s school and faculty. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher and set up parent-teacher conferences throughout the school year to check in on how your child is performing in the classroom. Being familiar with the teachers and administrators at the school is a good way to develop a partnership with your child’s educators, so you can remain active in your child’s education and create an open and communicative relationship with his or her school.
- Apply for special services if needed. If your child has a learning disability or is struggling in the classroom, talk with their teacher and the school. Often, teachers can provide accommodations for your child in class. If the school is informed that your child has a learning disability, he or she can receive extra help at no cost. Be sure to take whatever measures necessary so your child has a fair shot at receiving the best possible education.
- Provide homework help and study plans. Emphasize to your child the importance of getting homework done on time and designate a couple of hours every day as homework or study time. If your child needs help in a particular subject, read up on tutoring tips at websites such as mytutorandme.com and help them. Create study plans and quiz your child before an upcoming test. This will not only be a wonderful time to bond, but also will teach your child that asking for help is never a bad thing, and that tutoring can be fun.
- Create your own educational opportunities. Monitor the amount of time your child is watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing video games. Limit “screen time” to a few hours a day, and spend the rest of your time playing outside, crafting, learning a musical instrument, taking trips to your local library, reading, etc. On the weekends, go to museums or parks instead of staying cooped up inside. Children need active learning, and by promoting educational opportunities such as these, you can encourage them to think creatively and help develop their ever-growing minds.
Do Not Give Up
It can be hard to balance a busy life of parenting with the demands of obtaining an education. However, education is an attainable reality for both you and your family as long as you stay organized, utilize school and community resources, and work hard.
Updated by Lauren Sumners. Original article by Beth Ackerman in the 2009/10 issue of The American Feminist, “Raising Kids on a Shoestring” published by Feminists for Life of America.
Pregnancy Discrimination in Education
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex—including pregnancy and parental status—in educational programs and activities.
All public and private schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any Federal funds (“schools”) must comply with Title IX.*
Here are some things you should know about your rights:
Classes and School Activities – your school MUST:
- Allow you to continue participating in classes and extracurricular activities even though you are pregnant. This means that you can still participate in advanced placement and honors classes, school clubs, sports, honor societies, student leadership opportunities, and other activities, like after-school programs operated at the school.
- Allow you to choose whether you want to participate in special instructional programs or classes for pregnant students. You can participate if you want to, but your school cannot pressure you to do so. The alternative program must provide the same types of academic, extracurricular and enrichment opportunities as your school’s regular program.
- Allow you to participate in classes and extracurricular activities even though you are pregnant and not require you to submit a doctor’s note unless your school requires a doctor’s note from all students who have a physical or emotional condition requiring treatment by a doctor. Your school also must not require a doctor’s note from you after you have been hospitalized for childbirth unless it requires a doctor’s note from all students who have been hospitalized for other conditions.
- Provide you with reasonable adjustments, like a larger desk, elevator access, or allowing you to make frequent trips to the restroom, when necessary because of your pregnancy.
Excused Absences and Medical Leave – your school MUST:
- Excuse absences due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as your doctor says it is necessary.
- Allow you to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before your medical leave began, which should include giving you the opportunity to make up any work missed while you were out.
- Ensure that teachers understand the Title IX requirements related to excused absences/medical leave. Your teacher may not refuse to allow you to submit work after a deadline you missed because of pregnancy or childbirth. If your teacher’s grading is based in part on class participation or attendance and you missed class because of pregnancy or childbirth, you should be allowed to make up the participation or attendance credits you didn’t have the chance to earn.
- Provide pregnant students with the same special services it provides to students with temporary medical conditions. This includes homebound instruction/at-home tutoring/independent study.
Harassment – your school MUST:
- Protect you from harassment based on sex, including harassment because of pregnancy or related conditions. Comments that could constitute prohibited harassment include making sexual comments or jokes about your pregnancy, calling you sexually charged names, spreading rumors about your sexual activity, and making sexual propositions or gestures, if the comments are sufficiently serious that it interferes with your ability to benefit from or participate in your school’s program.
Policies and Procedures – your school MUST:
- Have and distribute a policy against sex discrimination. It is recommended that the policy make clear that prohibited sex discrimination covers discrimination against pregnant and parenting students.
- Adopt and publish grievance procedures for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status.
- Identify at least one employee in the school or school district to carry out its responsibilities under Title IX (sometimes called a “Title IX Coordinator”) and notify all students and employees of the name, title, and contact information of its Title IX Coordinator. These responsibilities include overseeing complaints of discrimination against pregnant and parenting students.
Helpful Tips for Pregnant and Parenting Students:
- Ask your school for help—meet with your school’s Title IX Coordinator or counselor regarding what your school can do to support you in continuing your education.
- Keep notes about your pregnancy-related absences, any instances of harassment and your interactions with school officials about your pregnancy, and immediately report problems to your school’s Title IX Coordinator, counselor, or other staff.
- If you feel your school is discriminating against you because you are pregnant or parenting you may file a complaint:
- Using your school’s internal Title IX grievance procedures.
- With the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), even if you have not filed a complaint with your school. If you file with OCR, make sure you do so within 180 days of when the discrimination took place.
- In court, even if you have not filed a complaint with your school or with OCR.
- Contact OCR if you have any questions. We are here to help make sure all students, including pregnant and parenting students, have equal educational opportunities!
If you want to learn more about your rights, or if you believe that a school district, college, or university is violating Federal law, you may contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, at (800) 421-3481 or email@example.com. If you wish to fill out a complaint form online, you may do so at:http://www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html.
* A school that is controlled by a religious organization is exempt from Title IX when the law’s requirements would conflict with the organization’s religious tenets.
From US Department of Education
Academic Tips, www.academictips.org
The Association of Higher Education and Disability, www.ahead.org
Chegg Book Rentals, www.chegg.com
College Bound, www.collegebound.net
Distance Education, www.distance-education.org
Feminists for Life of America’s College Outreach Program http://www.feministsforlife.org/cop/
GED Testing Services, www.gedtestingservice.com
Gov Deals, www.govdeals.com
Half Book Rentals, www.half.com
Perception IS Reality: Feminists for Life’s nationwide study of student awareness of pregnancy and parenting resources on college campuses reveals that few students are aware that help is available on or off campus–or basic resources are yet to be developed. ›http://www.feministsforlife.org/perception-is-reality/
Pregnant on Campus http://pregnantoncampus.studentsforlife.org/state/
Property Room, www.propertyroom.com
Single Mom, www.singlemom.com
Tiger Direct, www.tigerdirect.com
For Student Parents and School Employees
- Know your school. Get to know what resources are available to you. If you are pregnant, you may be able to get a temporary handicapped parking spot and/or classroom furniture that accommodate you comfortably. In addition, breastfeeding mothers should find out if there are designated spots for breastfeeding or pumping, and a refrigerator.
What You Can Do
- Donate school supplies. Those extra packs of crayons and notebook paper you’re no longer using can be a big help to low-income families. Donate your extra school supplies to your school or organizations in your area around August when the new school year is starting back up and parents are school shopping.
- Tutor. If you have a background in education or a specialized field, offer tutoring as a service you can provide when bartering with other parents. For example, one parent can transport the kids to and from school while the other helps with homework and tutoring after school.
What Collegiate Groups and Administrators Can Do:
- Use Feminists for Life and Students for Life’s joint Pregnancy Resources Guide and Survey, which has evolved for two decades since FFL’s original Pregnancy Resources and SurveyTM, to evaluate your campus for pregnant and parenting resources. Take a moment and add to a national directory of school resources now housed and managed by Students for Life of America http://pregnantoncampus.studentsforlife.org/?s=Survey&submit=Go
- Host an FFL Pregnancy Resource Forum. Take the ultimate step in transforming your campus with FFL’s Pregnancy Resource Forum FFL moderators bring together key campus policymakers and stakeholders to identify and develop resources for pregnant and parenting students. This is a panel discussion that will identify resources on and off campus; prioritize the unmet needs of pregnant and parenting students and staff as well as birthmothers; and determine the next steps. Student groups should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Feminists for Life’s Tools for Schools include model policies, resources and support and communication strategies. http://www.feministsforlife.org/model-policies-and-handbook