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Let me tell you about doing a PhD with older kids...

When I did my first Masters I was, at first, pregnant and then within six months I had a new born, and then I was pregnant and then I had another baby. It was bloody hard work and I had no one to talk to about it, really. I was on an email list thingy (yes, this was back in the dark ages when email lists ruled), but most of the talk was about how to negotiate breastfeeding in public, co-sleeping under the disapproving gaze of one's mother and mother-in-law, and which baby sling was the best... No other mothers on the list were doing a masters.

When I did my second masters, I had three children aged 9, 7, and 3, and was pregnant for the first two months and then had a newborn as well.

I did that degree between the hour of 1am and 4am. It was hard yakka. I had plenty of people to whinge to, and lots of people gave me kudos for the 'incredible feat' I had undertaken. It was great to have that support and so it felt a lot easier than my first masters even though I was busier, older, and more tired than the previous time.

So, now I'm doing a PhD and my kids are 15.5, 13..5, 9.5 and 6.3... They're all at school. I never get woken overnight. I'm not on breastfeeding duty any more, and the only dirty nappies that get changed at my house these days is on the rare occasion some one else visits with a baby - and then I don't have to change them.

Life's pretty good, like that.

But actually, I have to say, as I sit here feeling quite strung out, that studying with kids - whatever their age - is NEVER easy. I'm sorry to all my childless friends, but it's true that even school aged kids complicate their parents studies.

You see, right now I have two in high school and in this connected world we live in, I have a constant stream of information about their progress at school in my inbox. Every 4 weeks I receive their grade point average score. This doesn't reflect their subject knowledge per se, but rather their level of engagement with the class. Their preparedness, their participation in class, their ability to work independently, and their efforts in extending their knowledge base.

As an engaged parent, I see a score that is not up to par, and I talk to my kid and ask what is going on. I then usually get a mumbled 'I don't know' accompanied by a slack shrug of the shoulders. So, I get more specific, 'Are you preparing your work for class? Are you joining in discussions about the topic? Are you getting on with the work you're assigned in class? Are you revising the topic after the lesson and reading more about it?'

The answers to these questions vary from, 'We don't have to do that.' to 'Yes..?'

So, then I have to escalate my investigation by emailing the teacher and asking for specifics about how my child might improve their GPA.

Then starts the process of coaching my child in study practices.

Which ends up feeling a lot like I'm having to manage my study and their's as well...

Luckily my two younger kids are in primary school so whatever homework they have is relatively light on and well outlined for parents.

But my eldest is doing three VCE subjects this year, so that's pretty full on.

And both the high school boys had a somewhat academically crap year last year. So, I'm kidding myself that if I can just get them onto good study management early on, then I won't have to deal with end of semester stresses that they haven't done enough work to pass... That's the dream.

But believe me, older kids aren't easier. In many ways, they're more complex and much more of a delicate balance between helping and 'doing for' them has to be struck.

Also, I'm older and a PhD is a hell of a lot more work than either of my masters were. So. Much. More. Work.

Today I'm tired and wish my kids somehow magically just did what was expected of them at school... It's only high school work for crying out loud!


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