Is home learning right for you?

For many women, having children marks a watershed in their lives and they start to reconsider their priorities. They may even look to retrain and change career, but what is the best way of doing this and how can it be funded? Home Learning Courses offers some tips on the issues to consider.

There is an ongoing debate about which is best; being a "career mum" or a "stay-at-home mum", but many mums are quietly finding a "third way" and balancing work and home life to suit their own circumstances. Some mums are achieving this by negotiating homeworking or other flexible arrangements with their current employer or by becoming self-employed or part time in areas such as secretarial services, book keeping, telesales and customer service work. Other types of employment popular amongst people with children but not dependent on the internet are in the area of childcare – working as a child-minder, nursery nurse or even setting up a pre-school group.

Besides these employment opportunities, many "third way" mums are taking advantage of opportunities to retrain at home with a view to a change of career when their children are older, or in order to develop their existing careers further. With competition in the job market at an all-time high, more people than ever are considering retraining or further education as a means to furthering their careers. Potential employers like to see a commitment to personal development and any evidence of training undertaken whilst not formally employed is likely to be looked on favourably by them.

There are a wide range of vocational courses up to NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) level 2 that people without qualifications can do at their local Further Education or community colleges with fees and childcare costs paid by the state. This is not the only option, however. With many homes now equipped with personal computers, the opportunities for home education by means of the internet are very much wider than ever before. You can choose from IT and computing courses, accounting, business studies, childcare and social care courses requiring about 100-200 hours of home study in total which you can fit in around your commitments as you wish. Course fees vary, but the state may help if you are unemployed, either in the form of a non-repayable grant or a student loan repayable when you are earning a reasonable amount.

Self discipline
Both working and training at home require a certain amount of self discipline, with no sneaking off to watch daytime television or raid the fridge! The best way to approach it is to organise your day into a strict schedule with fixed break times and, aside from emergencies, stick to it. Allow yourself to relax in the evenings only, just as you would if you went out to work or college. If it`s some time since you were last in full-time education, it can be difficult to get used to studying, writing assignments and even doing exams again, particularly at home on your own. Look for home education providers offering a personal tutor to support you through the process and with virtual learning groups to supply the sort of peer group support you would normally experience in a real college environment.

Some stay-at home mums who are otherwise willing to work full time are put off going back to work because of childcare costs without realising that they may be eligible for help with this from the state. Others are clubbing together in an alternative to paid childcare in so called "mum swaps". This requires great confidence and trust in each other for it to work successfully and the numbers of children cared for by untrained adults must be limited to two or three at a time in order not to fall foul of the law. In addition, many mums retrain on childcare courses and take up child-minding as the perfect career to fit in with their own family commitments.

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