Next time I feel stressed out, sweating over my laptop, I’m going to think about Jennifer Deater. Nothing inspires me as much as a woman who sacrifices her time to not only take care of her kids, but to improve herself as well. Not just mani/pedis, people. She does it through education.

Jennifer credits online education as one of the reasons she can “do it all.” And she’s doing it because she and her husband want a better quality of life – something more relaxing and fulfilling – when they retire. So they are planning ahead and working toward a better life through advanced degrees. Pretty cool, huh?

Jennifer has three children, a crazy work schedule and a husband with an up-and-coming career. And four of the five members of the family are all in college or about to attend college as I type this! Her son is a freshman at Penn State, where he is on the ice-hockey team. The three others – Jennifer, her husband and her daughter – all attend American Public University System, an accredited online university.

Online schools are gaining in popularity with a busy workforce, people out of work and personnel departments. According to a recent survey by Human Resource Management, most HR Professionals view online degrees more favorably than they did even five years ago, viewing online courses as equally credible to courses taken at traditional universities. Find your online degree using our degree finder tool.

A little about Jennifer’s school: American Public has great faculty, high-end technology and more than 72 degree programs to choose from (that’s why Jennifer chose it in the first place). Its educational style is flexible, which is another reason why people such as Jennifer and her family can manage it in addition to everything else.

Jennifer said she tried going back to school when her first two children were infants (the third, now grown, is a freshman in high school). But it never worked. Her husband, a state trooper, often had shift changes that affected when Jennifer could take classes or study. She had family around to help, but the university she was trying to attend scheduled most of the classes she needed during the day.

“It was becoming a feat even to attempt going to school,” Jennifer said.

So she began looking at online schools a few years ago when the kids were older and more settled. In fact, it was Jennifer’s husband who found American Public University System – he liked the technology of it all and how user-friendly the school was. Now, they are both there. She started in public health but recently switched to hospitality management.

Here’s how easy it is: On one recent weekend, Jennifer traveled to watch her son play hockey. She checked out his skating practice, then retreated to the hotel room for some rest. While there, she took one of her finals via the computer and wi-fi in her hotel room.

“It was peaceful and quiet. I locked myself in the hotel room and ordered room service. It was great,” Jennifer said.

So could the rest of us do it? Yup and yup. But you have to be disciplined, Jennifer said. You need good time management. You have to be willing to ask questions, email professors, get involved in the online chats. It takes commitment. It also takes a willing family; she and her husband cover each other so they can study in uninterrupted blocks of time when necessary.

On the other hand, online schools give you the time to get it done slowly if needed. She can work full time and still go to school full time because she takes it easy when needed. And she can take the summer off to see her kids, enjoy the beach, hang out with people.

Jennifer will graduate next August. Her end goal? To open a houseboat on the water that takes couples out to tour the Chesapeake Bay. Not too shabby.

“I went back to school for me. It wasn’t necessarily for a career. It was for me to do something for me. I’m learning a lot,” Jennifer said. “I’ve even taken a wine class. It was great fun. You have to make it fun to keep you going and stay interested.”

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