Archive for September, 2010

College Students vs. Time Management

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It is Friday night and after an extremely busy week taking care of my children, working and attending college full-time I begin to panic.  I sign into my online class and I realize that I forgot to do one of my assignments, an essay which requires reading a chapter and posting by midnight looms before me.  My eight-year old needs me to help her with her homework and my sixteen year old is whining about dinner. I glance at the time, my heart is pounding.  Life becomes a time squeeze, running from one obligation to the next.

Most college students struggle with responsibilities and it is often due to lack of time management.   College students must attempt to achieve their goals whilst struggling with life responsibilities, children, punctuality, distractions and procrastination. With these pressures, balancing our time to truly meet our needs and reducing the inevitable stress that follows is a juggling act indeed.

Many students, burdened with responsibilities, fight to beat the clock. Stacyann Brower, a mother of two and a grad student at LIU said, “My children do not allow me to get my work done and if I wait until they are asleep I am too tired to tackle it.”  Stacyann also spends a lot of time assisting her children with their schoolwork and shuttling them around to activities. Organizing classes around our lifestyles in a realistic way may help reduce the stress we feel and help us to succeed with our present situation.  For example if your child is having trouble at school, it would be helpful to reduce the number of classes you take or find a tutor.

Mia Baker, a more traditional college student at a college in Vermont, works at the dining hall once a week in addition to making time for friends.  Mia said, “I personally try and get all my work done and I do not have to stress about it.” Many college students face a variety of outside responsibilities that demand their attention, full-time and part-time jobs, long commutes, social obligations and families.  Often time management is the only means of balancing their lives.

Keeping track of homework, reading assignments and test dates in a planner can be a crucial step in staying organized.  Prioritizing schoolwork and focusing on ultimate goals are important tools when implementing a routine.  Choosing to focus on school, work and children leave little time to do much else, it is important to understand this when committing to classes. Verity Baker said, “I have a calendar for work and school, as well as one for homework.”

Study habits and setting aside time for assignments can be difficult as the semester moves along.  Mia found this strategy useful, “Sometimes I feel overwhelmed but I just take everything one step at a time and calmly go through the things that need to get done.  Once they are done though, it feels like there is a weight off my shoulders.”

Some students felt that the assignments professors gave were fair; however they often found conflicts with the time they needed to devote to other activities.  Multi-tasking may be a technique that can help some to catch up, such as reading on the subway while commuting to work.

When asked if they were often late or unprepared at school, many students felt they couldn’t keep themselves on track with their assignments.  Stacyann remembers when she was an undergraduate, “…I did my homework in the car just before class or at down-time during work.” Finding a quiet area and keeping books in one place can assist students in keeping track of workload and handing assignments in on time.  Careful preparation, planning and avoiding procrastination can help to alleviate tardiness.

Stacyann feels that although she is never late she works very hard to meet deadlines in her grad classes, “I feel like I am always doing it at the eleventh hour because there is just not enough time with two kids, a house to run, a husband, etc.”   Prioritizing schoolwork, leaving time to handle unexpected obstacles, and keeping track of due dates is an important part of being a successful college student.

“I’m just going to check Facebook for a minute.”  Texts messages, emails and tweets flow to and fro.  A friend comes over and tells you about a wicked party going on down the hall.  Before we know it, hours have passed and the work we planned to do isn’t done.  Distractions, they are everywhere, if you can name all the people on Jersey Shore but not the digestive system for your biology class, then you need to reevaluate how you spend your time.  Verity said, “Facebook is definitely a culprit…but I also like to compulsively clean my room in order to procrastinate.”

Daniel also said, “Yes Facebook, friends, texting and the internet easily take up my attention and eats all my time.”  Monitoring your time when distracted is an important tool when focusing on what needs to be accomplished.  Using a timer may be helpful in order to maintain focus.

Perhaps the most important question of all is how time affects student performance and quality of lifestyle.  Often we will put aside something or give up early on, without pushing through.  We often become frustrated when our plans haven’t turned out as we wanted.  Do you feel that because of time management issues you are unable to achieve what you set out to do?

Verity said, “Definitely! Unfortunately I have been a poor time manager since middle school so I don’t know if there’s much hope for me…”

“Yep, I feel that I won’t be able to achieve my goals since I don’t have any sort of time management in place.” worried Daniel.

Stacyann commented, “Not really.  Luckily I work well under pressure.”

Mia answered, “All the time, it’s really bad.  I need to learn some time management skills ASAP!”

It is apparent that many college students are not sure how to organize their time set up and follow a routine, and or where to seek help.  Many colleges have onsite counseling which help students with personal issues.  There are also clubs and workshops available that allow students to focus on their goals and alleviate stress by being socially involved.  Self-help books, internet resources and chats with friends can be useful.  In addition, it is important to discuss concerns with your family or friends and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Finally, be mindful of the task at hand rather than always multi-tasking will help with focus issues.  Remember to take time to relax, it will help to reenergize mind and spirit, whether it’s yoga, a night out or even a ferocious game of monopoly against a competitive eight year old!

A Poem: Woman

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

By: Jemile Bata

A mother, sister, lover, friend

Joyful times and sadness fills her

Times in memory

Times in the now

Holding hands

Small ones

Strong ones

A head on my shoulder

On my lap

Her ears yearn to listen

Her heart longs to help

To love

To just be

A love of life

Of experiences

Her heart beats hard and strong

Little miss curious

Mind always racing

Cherishing the small

Cradling the old

Joyous reflection in the back of my mind

Hectic, stressed

Calm, relaxed, bored

Sometimes

A “mommy” rings in her ears

Loud and warm

“I love you” dances upon her soul

Venturing out into the world

Wind that carries her

Water, that which she can ride

Who is she?

She wonders

How can I find me?

Confusion like sobs

Racking her chest

She feels weak

She is determined

Honesty, she seeks

She appreciates

Holds on to

She is petrified

Of what might come to be

She worries

She understands

Perhaps too much

So used to the pain

Occasional emptiness

A burden heavy and long

Her life is uncontrollable

Yet in the dense thick fog

She searches

And within her heart

Underneath her pain

The drama

Happiness flutters inside her

Like an orange butterfly

Optimism claws deep within her

Hope renewed and lifted

The vast life she leads

Friendships, so good, delightful

Her soul is free

Love for all

Sweetness in the people she cares for

In the world she lives

To be with child

To leave an imprint

To savor a moment

Just beginning

Exploring

Explaining

For the core of this thing called

Woman

Soft and beautiful…

101 Fall Activities With Your Kids

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

We all have busy, stressed and chaotic lives.  Perhaps this list can inspire some families, to slow down a little and enjoy the simpler things in life.  Children want you and your attention and time.  More than the newest toy, afterschool activity, video game or TV shows.  Be creative and you will see with a little time and effort, and very little money…you can give your children a slice of you and a time we fondly remember of our own childhoods!

  1. Collect fall leaves/make a leave collage
  2. Bake homemade pumpkin pie
  3. Go apple picking
  4. Taco night! – invite family or friends over- this is always a fun night at my house
  5. Watch an old movie
  6. Make s’mores- (graham crackers, 1 piece of Hershey’s chocolate and then nuke the marshmallow for 10-15 seconds, top with another graham cracker) Yum!
  7. Create a masterpiece together on a blank canvas
  8. Watch a documentary on public television, History channel or Discovery channel
  9. Play records or old cd’s- dance around the room
  10. Make fondue
  11. Make an autumn wreath- with pinecones
  12. Read a book together- like the Narnia, Harry Potter, or any other exciting book series
  13. Play video games
  14. Give each other manicure/pedicures
  15. Make a huge pot of steaming, cozy stew together
  16. Watch the Thanksgiving parade on television
  17. Take an after dinner walk
  18. Make macaroni necklaces
  19. Build an entire town out of all your kids toys with them (Get creative, use construction paper for streets, make milk carton buildings, go crazy)
  20. Play in the rain, jump in those puddles, get cozy on the couch on a stormy day
  21. Brush your pet cat or dog
  22. Massage each other’s feet
  23. Have an Indian night (try a recipe, listen to music on YouTube, try henna, light incense)
  24. Play Monopoly
  25. Play dominoes
  26. Make blueberry pancakes
  27. Go to a flea market or yard sale
  28. Go to an Oktoberfest
  29. Have a race
  30. Fly a kite
  31. Go bowling
  32. Take a hike
  33. Go on a local tour
  34. Have a picnic
  35. Make homemade Christmas gifts in advance
  36. Start a scrapbook
  37. Visit a farm
  38. Go to a museum
  39. Play Frisbee
  40. Blow bubbles
  41. Have a sleepover
  42. Visit a pet store
  43. Have breakfast for dinner
  44. Jump Rope
  45. Go to a Farmer’s market
  46. Drink apple cider
  47. Bake an apple pie
  48. Go rollerblading, biking or skateboarding
  49. Have a BBQ
  50. Play soccer
  51. Make spaghetti tacos- ala iCarly
  52. Go to the movies
  53. Go to the playground
  54. Go to the zoo
  55. “Getting bored is not allowed!”- Eloise, age 6
  56. Spend some time going over those math problems or spelling words they just haven’t mastered
  57. Go to a cornfield maze
  58. Roast chestnuts
  59. Play hopscotch
  60. Ride a carousel -parents too!
  61. Look up magic tricks and try some
  62. Have a Japanese or Chinese night
  63. Play a board game-better yet have a regular family game night
  64. Write a story
  65. Do a jigsaw puzzle
  66. Play Scrabble
  67. Bake cupcakes for no reason at all
  68. Color
  69. Do nothing all day
  70. Look at baby pictures
  71. Make frozen yogurt pops
  72. Play with Clay
  73. Teach them how to play chess
  74. Have a pretend campout indoors
  75. Let them help cook dinner- from groceries to clean up
  76. Play charades
  77. Talk about what if…… you had your dream house? What if you can be anything you want? ….
  78. Have a staring contest
  79. Have a thumb war
  80. Sing the oldest song you can remember, teach them how to sing it
  81. Eat corn on the cob smothered in butter
  82. Make tie dye t-shirts
  83. Have an Italian night or any other international night you wish
  84. Jump in a pile of fall leaves
  85. Write a letter to someone
  86. Make a giant fruit salad
  87. Rock, paper, scissors
  88. Make Monkey Bread-http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/grands174-monkey-bread-recipe/index.html
  89. Make homemade pizza
  90. Learn an instrument or make pretend instruments
  91. Volunteer in your community
  92. Laugh-tell silly jokes
  93. Have a pillow fight
  94. Have a tickle fight
  95. Tell them childhood stories or your parents stories
  96. Make a big pot of chili and corn bread
  97. Go to a Halloween event in your area
  98. Make a Jack o Lantern
  99. Read about the Pilgrims, Native Americans, write down why you are all grateful in your lives
  100. Have a family meeting
  101. Enjoy the fall and all of its glory!

Boy Scouting

Monday, September 27th, 2010

My son, Alex, is in the Boy Scouts of America.  I understand that some people are not fans and that is just fine. However, the Scouts have been an important part of our lives.  My son, almost seventeen, has been with them since he is six.  He was able to do and learn so many things, like camping, cooking, CPR, first aid, leadership, community service, rock climbing, and a slew of other things.  He has been able to go to Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Boston and Virginia, among many other places.  Places we could not afford or have access to otherwise.

He has been part of a group of peers that support and encourage him.  His father doesn’t have the most active role in his life; the leaders of his troop have been wonderful male role models to Alex.  As a single mother, it has been a relief to have these fathers that have taken such an interest in my son’s prosperity.  I am eternally grateful for all that they do, from making sure he is doing the right thing to understanding our financial difficulties.

When he was a Cub Scout I went on the annual summer camping trips in Jersey.  We were able to do things that we couldn’t in the city.  Archery, astronomy, run around a giant wooden pirate ship and sat around the campfire talking.  The soot clinging to us as we slept in platform tents, trying to ignore the daddy long leg spiders and raccoons mulling around outside the pitch black forest.  The most enjoyable part was the community of scouts from all over the tri-state area, singing during meals in the dining hall, watching skits at the camp-wide campfire, and working together on scavenger hunts and sport activities.  The huge refreshing pool time didn’t hurt, except for the “Polar Bear” swim at six a.m.  These and all of his camping trips hold treasured memories I am sure he will look back on with fondness.

Throughout the eleven years Alex has been part of his troop, he has learned how to commit himself to achievable goals and succeed.  He has been named Scout of the Year once.  This year, if all goes well, he will finally achieve the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.   I believe that scouting has made Alex the person he is, has dulled his natural teenage laziness and procrastination and has made him understand the value of community, citizenship and leadership.  Troop 23 is one of the oldest troops in America and they are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.  I am proud that my son has been part of something so adventurous, educational and fun since he was a boy.  Good times.

The Quest for Balance

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I have become obsessed with trying to find balance between being a single mom, taking four college courses, job searching and trying to check off my ever-growing to-do list.  Add to that the desire to have a social life and an organized home and life, it has become apparent that I am obsessed about one thing: finding balance in life.  Sometimes I think everyone around me has it and I am left out, constantly spinning the wheels of my mind in order to catch up to those who hold this secret calmness and success.  Other times I think that I worry about it all far too often and I my standards are too high and demanding.

Most of the time I feel like I have no time, money, resources or patience enough to achieve the goals I have set out and just live life every day.  How does apply to colleges or start a blog when there is homework and dishes to wash now?  This becomes the conflict, focusing on everyday struggles and chores prevent me from doing the work needed to make our dreams come true.  Being a single mom does not help the situation.  Perhaps this is why total fatigue has seeped into my consciousness at an alarming rate.

The oddest part of this is I keep trying and dreaming.  I continue to squeeze tiny spurts of effort and energy into what I believe will improve our lives.  I try to enjoy Taco Tuesdays and the thought of my son and I starting a four-year college next Fall.  I tell myself that happiness is not what we do but how we see ourselves overall.  When time moves too fast and I panic, I try to stop and relish the present.  Does any of this bring balance to my life?  Not really.  Do I wake up some mornings and feel like it is a monumental task to face the upcoming busy day? Hell yes.  Do I wish that I didn’t have to spend twenty minutes looking for misplaced keys or my favorite blue top?  Of course.  I guess I am beginning to realize that I am measuring myself against all of these imaginary people that have it all together, all the time.  When people tell me I am organized I laugh inside, perhaps I need to reverse that scenario.  Perhaps people appear to be more balanced and organized than they really are and I should stop putting so much pressure on myself.

Overall, things get done, the kids have what they need and usually what they want, and I have a limited yet satisfying social life full of people I respect and adore.  Independence and ambition certainly have a price.  I am coming to the realization it is one I am not only willing to pay, but one that also makes me feel happy and lucky.  It is this very obsessed quest for balance that is hindering my goal of feeling balanced.  How very ironic.  I have decided to be obsessed about something new: enjoying my life for all of its bumps and adventures.