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Spare Time – The Homeschooler’s Most Overlooked Advantage

May 31, 2010

Ask a homeschooling parents why they homeschool and you will likely receive a plethora of answers from academic rigor to moral values to family togetherness.  What you likely won’t hear is to “give my child more free time”.  However, homeschooled children DO tend to have more free time than their public schooled counterparts, and that may give them an advantage that is as good a reason as any to homeschool.

The reason it has been overlooked is because, for much of history, free time has been seen as unproductive time.  If you aren’t working, you aren’t building, farming or getting the common tasks necessary for ordered living done.  Even worse, once television became prevalent in society, free time became time you sat in front of a box mindlessly consuming electricity.  However, these views miss two very important points – one ages old and one fairly new.

The first point is that free time allows us to do things that provide personal satisfaction, grow personally and be independent.  This may not seem to be a big point unless you consider that, at least according to Daniel Pink, these types of internal motivations can move us more powerfully than external rewards and punishments.  This is often the motivation behind artists of the past, behind scientists, philosophers and philanthropists since the dawn of time.  More recently, it is the motive behind open source developers, bloggers ( 🙂 ) and Wikipedia contributors

This brings us to the second point – that today we have choices that allow us to do more with our free time than simply consume.  We PRODUCE!  This is the message Clay Shirky brings us – he points out that with free time, we are building up a “cognitive surplus” that, increasingly is being utilized for the benefit of others.  And that while currently only a small fraction of that surplus actually IS being utilized right now, that fraction is part of a HUGE pie – in terms potential time per person, approximately a TRILLION man hours per year.  So even a small fraction is significant.

And homeschoolers both have more of that time to invest, have more opportunity to utilize it in a manner that is productive and in general, live in a manner that is more conducive to productively utilizing it than their publicly schooled peers (many homeschoolers forgo tv entirely for the same reasons that they homeschool in the first place).  This suggests as this trend grows, homeschoolers will be riding on the crest of the wave.

(this article was inspired primarily by Wired Magazine’s Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare Time Revolution).

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