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Homeschooling: The Good Stuff #8 -- Uniqueness

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

A couple of years ago Psychology Today published an article about the Presidential Scholars program, which recognizes high school students who excel academically and artistically. The story focused on a study in which award recipients from the 1960's offered advice for parents and educators.

Their suggestions included the following:

“I would encourage parents and teachers to treat children as genuinely unique individuals, to worry less about their meeting conventional standards and devote more attention to helping them develop their particular talents and interests.”

As mainstream education becomes increasingly standardized, home educators have the opportunity to take a different approach. Homeschooling is the ultimate in individualized education, as unique as each family, and each kid, who does it.

There are many advantages to letting kids exercise their individuality and pursue what they care most about. Developing a strong identity is one of them. Through exploring the world, trying out interests, and developing skills on their own terms, they come to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, what they love, what they don't love, and what makes them tick.

One of the great gifts of parenting, for me, has been the privilege of observing as that process unfolds. It's hard to relate to someone who hasn't experienced it the awe that comes from seeing kids discover the world unhindered by didacticism. This applies to basic skills as well as things that involve deep study and commitment.

Reading, for example. My kids learned to do it at their own pace. I saw the unique process each went through to master the skill, the particular way each of them decoded the words on the page. How fascinating it was to observe the different ways each child used phonics, letter and word recognition, pictures, and memory. The outcome for them wasn't simply the ability to read. It included pride, confidence, excitement, and joy.

Other unique pursuits followed. My daughter, when learning to write her name, recording it in a perfect mirror image. Knitting with pencils when no needles could be found. Using pattern blocks to make astonishingly asymmetrical creations. Sprouting lentils. Being the young pair of eyes on weekend trips with seasoned birders. Figuring out how to build a website. Falling in love with Ella Fitzgerald and soaking up every note she sang. Reading and re-reading and re-reading Shakespeare.

So many memories. So much uniqueness.

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