Suzanne Hadley Gosselin: Coronavirus homeschooling is hard — here's what's helping me get through it

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A little over a month ago, my three school-aged children got a new teacher: me. Much like the one-room schoolhouse — but with Wi-Fi — our kitchen table became classroom to a kindergartener, second-grader and third-grader. (Plus their 3-year-old brother.)

All of a sudden, my life got a lot more chaotic. At first, I thought the whole thing might just blow over, but after a few weeks we found out school would be canceled for the rest of the year.

I didn’t fully anticipate the angst this would create. I grew up being homeschooled and I loved the experience.

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My mom was a trailblazer in the movement who submitted her lesson plans to the school district and skillfully taught the four grade levels in our home.

Essentially, many of us didn’t plan on educating our children at home but were thrust into it because of a crisis. We’re undertaking a large task we are underprepared for while being over-stressed and in survival mode.

You’d think I’d have a homecourt advantage or something. But a few weeks in, I felt totally out of my depth. My children’s teachers were amazing, offering enrichment packets, online resources and weekly video check-ins.

I would start the day with good intentions to get through every subject and “make learning fun” (as my 7-year-old requested), but feel like a total failure by day’s end for not accomplishing my goals.

As I talked with other parents, many were feeling the same way. That’s when I heard about what one mom called “crisis schooling.”

Essentially, many of us didn’t plan on educating our children at home but were thrust into it because of a crisis. We’re undertaking a large task we are underprepared for while being over-stressed and in survival mode.

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It’s no wonder that many of us feel inadequate. But there’s good news. While a three-month (or more) hiatus from school naturally causes parents some anxiety, there are actually factors more important to our students’ success than structured classroom learning. Here are a few.

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Stress management. Research has shown that when parents model healthy ways of dealing with stress, they contribute to their child’s mental health. Having our kids at home is a great opportunity to work through stress together by taking walks, cooking, praying, having meaningful conversations and using technology to connect with extended family.

Emotional intelligence. I have loved seeing my children’s empathy develop during this time. They are more in tune with their own feelings and the emotions of their siblings. They talk about how the crisis is impacting their friends and extended family members. (They’ve even observed when Mom is having a hard day.) Heightened self-awareness and social awareness are linked to graduating, avoiding high-risk behaviors and achieving overall success in life.

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Adaptability and resilience. Research shows that these two characteristics predict success in life more than good grades or high test scores. These skills are forged in times of adversity. A global crisis is a perfect time to show your kids what it means to push through obstacles, bounce back from disappointments and cope with the demands of life.

The other night, we were taking a walk through the neighborhood after a rough school day. At first, my mind was filled with the failures of the day. But as I listened to my children’s happy chatter and watched them lean over to admire wild violets, I smiled. I may not be doing everything right, but there are some lessons you can’t learn at school.

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