1. Freedom in Education
For me, education isn't a chore that must be completed before 3pm before I can have any free time. Learning is a lifestyle.
I was never forced to write essays or create models, so I didn't dread compiling books on equine psychology or drawing maps of the migration paths of Australian parrots—entirely on my own terms. I didn't waste time answering every question in the curriculum when I thoroughly understood the material—in fact, I never took an English course. Once I got the basics down, my history lessons came from whatever books and websites and field trips I could get my hands on, allowing me to corroborate the facts from various sources rather than taking one viewpoint's word for it. I adored science and supplemented my usual curriculum with the latest in the journals.
Plato said, "All learning which is acquired under compulsion has no hold upon the mind." Because I wasn't taught under compulsion, the knowledge I've gained has taken firm root and my mind blossoms with passion for learning.
2. Lessons in Self-Discipline and Time Management
Did I ever take advantage of my freedom and shrink away to less constructive pastimes when I should have been doing something educational? Yes. I learned my lesson, and it's a much better lesson to learn at this stage in life than later on, when it really matters.
I had the opportunity to learn essential life lessons like self-discipline and managing time and putting priorities in order the hard way before failing a college class or getting fired from my day-job. My experiences will give me discretion in the years ahead, when I won't have my parents around to ensure I complete assignments on time.
3. Free Time
Unless I put a time-consuming task upon myself there's really nothing to hinder me from pursuits that don't fall under core classes, like classical piano and drama and sewing and horse training and novel- and screenwriting. I can take an hour or two to practice that Bach piece or rehearse lines for a play, or spend the afternoon teaching my horse to play fetch, or dedicate the month of November to the National Novel Writing Month. Or just read. Or write this very post.
Each of these things could potentially lead to a career (well, maybe not writing this post), so they're important skills to develop.
4. Making Friends
Some people find it mind-boggling that homeschoolers actually make friends. (Really, if most kids don't make friends outside of school, what kind of sad lives do they lead?) But one of the great advantages to homeschooling is that we get to meet people with similar interests, be it at band practice, soccer games, robotics competitions—you name it. And among homeschool groups, we're likely to meet people who share our values, adding an extra level of intimacy to our friendships.
The main issue that spurred this blog was how lonely we homeschooled girls often feel surrounded by the worldly people around us, but at least, as homeschoolers, we do have more opportunities to seek out people like us. Just last week I was able to attend a Christian writers' conference (thanks to not having a rigid school schedule holding me back). It was my third time going, and each year I've made friendships I believe will last a lifetime.
I might not get to see my friends every day (which is mostly because I live a weird life and my friends live far away--they see their other friends regularly), but I do have a number of wonderful, true friendships that run far deeper than those portrayed by the media.
And if we are blessed enough to have friends nearby, as I once did, we can spend time with them while our school-going peers are in class or doing homework. I cherish the many daytime hours I got to spend with my friends before I moved away.
5. Spending Time with Family
I have been asked, "Don't you hate being around your parents all day?" If this is the mindset, something is wrong. That's not to say I don't long at times to stretch my wings, but living at home has cultivated healthy relationships with my parents and a stronger bond than would probably have formed if I only saw my mother in the evenings and weekends. (Which is probably why I'm not as close with my father.) It can be hard at times to be at home so much, but I endeavor to be nothing but loving. If I can't do that with my own family, I can't do that with anyone else.
I was an only child before my brother was born year before last, so I'm thankful I'm able to spend as much time experiencing sisterhood as possible before I go away.
Homeschooling has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. I thank God daily for the opportunity to have such an education and for an unquenchable love of learning.
What great opportunities did you have through homeschooling that you couldn't have had otherwise?
Photo courtesy mikebaird on Flickr