A small hand shot up to the sky at the back of the classroom. Inwardly I groaned, because I worried that something was about to happen that I had no control over.
“You mentioned,” began a small quiet voice, “that one building was made out of metal. Why was that important?”
My son, in one of his many trips to college with me, had just asked the one question I was not prepared to answer regarding my speech about the San Francisco earthquake. I could comment on how my child paid more attention than the students in class, but I won’t more than I just did. I am commenting on something that all parents going back to college will have to deal with at some point.
We did not have any family nearby. Having access to family is the easiest way to deal with children who are not in school, have a cold, snow day, or any of the other reasons why a child would be at home when you need to go to class. Not having family nearby or a babysitter left us with some difficult choices:
- Will one of us skip class to take care of the children while the other goes to class? If so, which one of us is going?
- Will we take the child or children to class?
- Will both of us skip class?
Of the three, number three never happened (that I recall). Number one and two were most frequent. Barb’s graduate degree was priority number one, thus she ALWAYS went to class. This was important to us and meant that if a conflict arose regarding class and children, I would be the one who skipped class or took the child (ren) to class, especially the first year. Later, Barb did take a child with her, but that often had other unintended consequences-a smart child sits through a lecture on disease, the next thing you know disease is everywhere and everyone is washing everything all of the time.
If you are faced with the same choices we were faced with here is some advice.
- Talk to your professors about the fact that you may (will) miss classes due to a child. Many professors have children, not only will they understand your dilemma, they may work with you to ease the hassle of missing a class. Have this talk with the professor BEFORE the first instance.
- Ask your professor if it is permissible to bring your child to class. There are some who are happy to have a kid in class and others who are not. If you can bring your child to class here is what I did:
- I always packed lots for my child (ren) to do. No toys, but electronic devices, paper, pens, crayons, snacks, and the like. Keep them occupied. If you bring electronic devices, such as games, bring headsets to allow them to play quietly and…okay, here is one of the funnier stories–I took our boy with me to Nature Studies for the volcano lecture, something he was very excited about, however before the lecture was a lot of downtime. I gave him my Nintendo DS with Super Mario Bros and headphones. My boy blurts out, “FUCK!” when Mario fails yet another jump. With the headphones on, he did not realize how loud he was, nor the excellent acoustics of the lecture room. The students and professor laughed, my boy continued on with Mario.
- Be prepared to be distracted by your children who will most likely be bored. They will want your attention, a lot. However, take advantage of having your children with you in class-have them ask you questions about what they hear, have them get you items out of your backpack, and so on. Try to show them what an adult learning looks like, it will pay off when your children emulate your studently (is that a word) behavior at their school and with their school work.
- If they got out of control, which did happen, I took them and left class. There was no going back. It was time to go home. Do not let child know that this is an option, they will try to use that to get out of class early.
- Let your child know in advance if they can take part in the class, such as asking questions. You may be surprised by the questions your child asks. I know I was. 🙂
- Get bathroom breaks out of the way and be prepared for them to happen during class. This will be reason number one to sit closer to the door if you don’t already.
Going back to college is challenge enough, adding children into the mix ups the challenges, but and I will be the first to stress this, there are many benefits to taking your children to class with you and it can be fun.