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Homeschooling: The Good Stuff #5 -- Self-Awareness

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

Last weekend my daughter, who is currently studying psychology, attended an all-day seminar on resiliency in children. Afterward, she noted self-awareness as a contributing quality.

Hmmm, I thought. That's been on my Good Stuff list for awhile. I hadn't considered it specifically in the context of resiliency, but it makes sense. Being self-aware helps us understand our strengths, work on our weaknesses, and relate to others more successfully. It helps us get through rough patches, and even avoid them sometimes.

Homeschooling can contribute to the development of self-awareness in significant ways. Play, something for which homeschoolers have ample time, is a vital tool for interpreting and understanding the world and oneself. My kids and their friends set up a whole world called Little People Land, complete with a mayor and other important community members. Much happened in the seemingly endless hours they spent there. In the context of that complex social structure, they learned a great deal about themselves and others.

Real-life social interaction plays an important role in the development of self-awareness, too. By watching and relating to others, we learn that not everyone is like us, and we discover things about ourselves. Homeschooling, with its opportunities for age-mixing, finding mentors, and spending time in the community, offers kids a diverse socialization palette.

Spending time alone, to process, unwind, think, and relax, is just as necessary. Fortunately, homeschooling allows plenty of room for solitude and self-reflection.

Children who grow up deciding for themselves how to spend much of their time are more likely to know themselves. They know what they enjoy, what's not so much fun for them, what comes easy, and what doesn't. I rarely heard my kids utter that infamous refrain, "I'm bored." Life is too full of cool things to do, and boredom, when it does occur, is just a signal to pursue a new direction.

In the absence of authorities judging and/or grading their work, homeschoolers enjoy freedom to experiment, taking risks and opening doors to experiences they might never have had the confidence or courage to try otherwise. They understand that they are in charge of their own lives, and with that privilege and responsibility, they become the foremost authorities on their own goals, conduct, and abilities.

Self-awareness also acts as a buffer to criticism, making it useful rather than discouraging. When young people are aware of their own abilities, they know when they need help, and how to seek it. They respond to criticism that contributes to positive growth, and don't take to heart negative judgments offering no path to improvement.

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