I can credit homeschooling — unschooling in particular — with developing many of the traits that support me being a successful adult, and I see the same things in other grown-up homeschoolers I know. Here are eight foundations for success that homeschooling fosters:
1. Homeschooling develops self-motivation and self-discipline.
“I could never homeschool! I don’t have enough self-discipline.” People told me that over and over again when I was homeschooling. However, it’s easy to spend time investigating things you are interested in — much easier than doing homework. And all that investigating becomes a habit. You learn to take initiative in your own life and learning. After all, you can’t just sit there while someone else teaches you. Your education is in your own hands (with some adult helpers, certainly), just as your life and career will be as an adult. Also, learning for learning’s sake instead of for grades or outside approval develops internal motivation. I’ve applied these skills towards writing novels, starting businesses, and succeeding in competitive academic environments.
2. Homeschooling rewards proactivity.
We are all responsible for making our own happiness, success, and meaning. Not that this happens in a vacuum, but that it takes proactive initiative on our parts. Because of its open-endedness, homeschooling teaches this early. There is no tide of other students to sweep you along. You either come up with interesting things to do, or you sit around alone being bored. So you learn how to make interesting things happen, which leads to an interesting, proactive life.
3. Homeschooling helps people stay connected to their passions.
Homeschoolers tend to know themselves. They are connected to their passions and are less ashamed of their geekiness and excitement than your average kid. I see this over and over again with the homeschoolers in my class. They come into class rocking crazy clothes. They speak with spastic excitement (and incredible knowledge) about mycology, welding, Latin, explosives — wherever their passions lie. They are confident in their own beliefs, whether they believe in a religion or in fairies or in the infallibility of science or all three. They love things and they aren’t afraid to show it. In other words, homeschooling fosters geekiness. And we all know geeks win in the end.
4. Homeschooling honors people’s inner truth.
What is right for one person is not right for another, and the individualized nature of homeschooling allows kids practical experience in knowing what is true for them. This is a life-skill with endless applications.
5. Homeschooling allows students the immersive focus to develop their strengths.
I’m all for well-roundedness, especially because things don’t stay in the tidy boxes academia makes for them. However, true happiness and success comes from knowing your strengths and playing to them — while not being afraid to challenge yourself. Because of the time and freedom homeschooling allows, it fosters children’s gifts.
6. Homeschooling lets kids fail.
Making mistakes is a critical part of learning — as one friend of mine says “sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.” However, in a grade or peer-pressure based learning environment there isn’t room to fail without being labeled a failure. When a child is messing around with something on their own time and own terms, mistakes can become interesting puzzles and happy accidents. They can feel through the frustration of repeated failure, and keep trying, because the stakes for their sense of self are low. Behind most great successes are a whole string of disastrous failures, and it is only through experiencing failure and learning that it isn’t the end of the world that kids can learn how to take the risks that will let them succeed.
7. Homeschooling encourages natural body rhythms and removes stressors.
In a culture where sleep-deprivation and chronic stress is a norm, following natural body rhythms is radical. Sleeping well, eating well, spending enough time moving and being outside — all of these things are much easier to do as homeschoolers, and establishing these habits as children is a great foundation for health and happiness.
8. Homeschooling teaches people to connect deeply.
Homeschooling is often seen as isolating or even isolationist, and it certainly can be. However, homeschooling encourages deep connections and it can also develop an ability to reach out across differences. I see this in my students’ kindness towards each other and their understanding of each other’s weirdnesses and unique gifts. I see it in the tendency for homeschoolers to be close to people of all ages. I see it in the depth of family bonds of so many homeschooling families. I see it in friendships based on true common ground instead of superficialities, and on the understanding that everyone is weird in their own way, which hopefully develops into an ability to reach past differences towards our common humanity.