More and more moms with kids at home are going back to school. They want to improve their education and careers in order to provide a good life for their kids. For many of these moms, online school is a great choice; they can work from home and set their own schedule around their work and family obligations.

But it isn’t always as easy as it might seem to make online school work. Even though online school is a good choice, it is still a big commitment. It’s going to take time and energy, and that’s something that moms have a hard time getting enough of. It’s not impossible, though. Here are 10 ways moms can make online school work for them.

1. Talk to your kids about it

There’s no getting around it; Mom going back to school is a family affair. Tell them what you’re doing, what you hope to achieve for your family, and what it will mean for the way your family spends time, energy, and money.

2. Make your kids part of it

You can emphasize that family feeling by sitting down and doing homework with your kids. They’ll be amused at seeing you sit down at the table and crack open your books at the same time they do.

3. Spread the work around

Even though everyone has good intentions, it won’t be more than a week or two before you’re back to doing all the housework again. Don’t let that happen! Do whatever it takes…chore charts, incentives, threats…to make sure that the responsibility gets spread around.

4. Set clear goals

This is another family activity, but it’s just as important for you, because it will keep you from stressing about all the things you’re not getting done. What do you want to accomplish by being in school? Be specific, and think in terms of school, career, and family. “To finish my business degree, get a job within 30 miles of home, and be present for the kids’ important events.” Now here’s the hard part—everything that doesn’t directly support one of those goals can go if it has to. Maybe this year you can’t coach soccer, or maybe for a while your house will be a mess. Let it go.

5. Get organized

This will mean military-style organization—you need to know where things are. It’s very easy to get your folders, notebooks, or textbooks confused with those of your kids. Get organized on the computer, too—make sure you know where your files, papers, handouts, and necessary websites are without having to search for them.

6. Take care of yourself

As tempting as it is to stay up studying after the kids have gone to bed, it might not be your best choice. You’re making new demands on your body and brain, and to meet those demands, you’ll need enough rest, as well as healthy brain-cell-friendly food. It’s not easy to make those healthy choices, but it will be worth it. Your thoughts will be clearer, your energy higher, and your grades better!

7. Plan out your financial aid

Online schools are less expensive than traditional schools, but they still cost a lot. Meet with your school’s financial aid counselor and see what your options are. If you’re an undergraduate, it might be possible to cover the bulk of your education through the Pell Grant, but chances are that at some point you’ll have to take out at least a minimal loan. Taking your courses online will help you keep those loans small, but don’t give in to the temptation to borrow more than you need.

8. Make sure your computer is up to speed

Most computer repair people will do a quick tune-up on your PC or laptop to make sure it can handle web browsing, attaching documents, and the memory you’ll need. You also want to make sure your computer is virus-free and that you have an active, regularly scheduled security program to keep malicious programs off your computer.

9. Learn your way around the software

Your school’s learning software is very much like the classroom where you’ll be going every day. Learn what all the tabs and links do, learn what to print and what to save, learn how to turn in papers and email your teacher with questions. It might seem intimidating at first, but just like with any school, you’ll find your way around.

10. Ask for help

You’re a mom, and you’re seriously thinking about going back to school. Clearly, you’re a woman who does almost everything through her own sheer strength of will. But there’s a limit to that. Don’t be afraid to let someone help you. Ask your husband to give the kids their baths so you can study. Ask an older child to take the younger ones to the park or on a walk, so you can get enough time to finish reading a chapter. Ask your mom to take them overnight if you have a big test coming up. It’s not weak, and it’s not a burden on anyone else. It might be what you have to do to meet your goals.

Many moms are going back to school, especially online schools, to try to make a better life for themselves and their families. It will take some thought, planning, discipline, and support, but moms can make online school work for them.

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