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Homeschooling: The Good Stuff #7 -- Self-Regulation

What are your kids doing this summer? If you haven't signed up for summer camp yet, not to worry. According to this article in The Atlantic, rest, relaxation, and plenty of unstructured playtime will serve your kids better than high-priced camps, workshops, or lessons.

Researchers are figuring out what many homeschooling parents have known all along. Play, play, and more play helps children learn self-regulation better than anything else.

Self-regulation includes impulse control, thinking before acting, and the ability to organize and plan. People who can self-regulate enjoy better retention and have an easier time paying attention, among other benefits.

In a competitive world where education is increasingly driven by specialized curricula and high-stakes testing, it may be hard for parents to get their brains around the idea that just letting kids play is the way to go. Go ahead, give it a try, and pay attention to what happens.

Observing kids at play is fascinating, entertaining, and ultimately grounding. While doing things like playing house, making mud pies, sorting seashells, building fairy houses, drawing pictures, or reading books of their own choosing, kids are thoughtfully and sincerely exploring what it means to be a person. Watching without trying to interfere or control can be enlightening, moving, and on some days, profound. Through imaginary play, I've watched my own kids process what they see in the world around them, taking control, solving problems, and figuring things out for themselves.

Now that they're older, they carry that spirit of play, along with the benefits gleaned from it, into all their endeavors. Whether it's performing an improvised musical solo, running a rehearsal for "Much Ado About Nothing," answering phones for Samaritans, helping plan a prom for the queer-straight alliance, writing papers for classes, going to a Model United Nations conference, or studying for the SAT, they can be spontaneous, creative, composed, and organized all at the same time. After all, what does thinking on one's feet involve? A mind that can focus clearly on the present moment while filtering ideas and assessing their potential impact.

So let your kids play. The confidence, competence, and organizational skills they'll gain are lifelong assets.