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Homeschooling: The Good Stuff #1 -- Ownership

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The first in an occasional series about some of the under-recognized benefits of homeschooling.

It was tech week for "Romeo and Juliet," and the teen that was supposed to sit at the ticket table couldn't do it. Enter a mom to help out.

This mom, while stocking the refreshment table, overheard the following remark. Friar Laurence to Romeo: "We really need to get a kid to work the ticket table."

My gut reaction of hey-whaddaya-mean-we-grown-ups-count-too was as fleeting as the wink of an eye, and about as ironic. Wasn't this what all the homeschooling stuff was about, anyway? Confidence, independence, and things of that ilk?

On the website for Youthquake Theater, they claim the following: "We are proud to say that our productions are organized, acted, and directed entirely by children and teens." I've been around for all five of their productions, and can unreservedly say that's no exaggeration. Grown-up involvement is limited to transporting actors to rehearsals and shows, and selling tickets and refreshments.

We also get to watch, with great pleasure, the extraordinary process of kids taking ownership of their work. Although I've seen it in many forms over the many years I've been homeschooling, it never fails to elicit a kind of transcendent astonishment, a feeling of being surprised but not surprised, a feeling of excitement as you watch what you know to be true -- that kids are as brilliant and capable as any adult -- come true.

The ability to take ownership of one's work isn't limited to kids who are homeschooled, but they're in a better position to do it than kids who spend their days being told what work to do, how to do it, and if they are doing it well enough.

I've watched my own four kids, as teens, become competent songwriters, play in professional musical ensembles, sell art work at fairs and open studios, start a theater company specializing in the work of William Shakespeare, write professionally for a local website, get a professional editing job, tutor grade school kids in math, answer phones at a suicide hotline, build websites for their various undertakings, and pursue academic subjects of their choice with zeal. I've watched other homeschooled teens embrace their work with dedication, zeal, and competence, too. I think what I've had the privilege of observing in my life is reflective of what all teenagers, who we now know are in a period of intense, powerful brain development, can accomplish.

Lest anyone think a high-powered childhood led up to this high level of productivity and drive, let me burst that bubble right now. The first decade of my children's lives was spent, primarily, in play. They played when they wanted to, and how they wanted to. They had ownership of their play, just as they have ownership of the work they do now.

When kids grow up with ownership of their own work (and that includes play), they are less likely to feel trapped, hopeless, isolated, and lonely. They are more likely to be able to flow with change, see challenge as opportunity, and experience satisfaction from within, rather than seeking it from without. They are more likely to be blessed with, in the words of the late, great John Holt, “A life worth living, and work worth doing..."

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