When introverts homeschool

Frau in der Morgensonne (Friedrich)
Frau in der Morgensonne (Caspar David Friedrich)

Homeschooling is a challenge, without a doubt, and one that takes dedication, desire and diligence.  I don’t think I fully appreciated when I began the how much my own personality would dictate how I homeschool, how I respond to my children and our environment, and how important it is to look for ways to feed my own internal need-tank.

I recently finished the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  I cannot recommend the book enough.  It is heady, thoughtful, and intricate in its research and cohesion.  It has changed me, validated me, on a number of levels, but one of the ways I’ve benefited most is the realization of the conscious shift in how I see my homeschooling life.  Looking objectively at my homeschooling days, after reading this book, I can more fully understand and accept my actions and their underlying needs more than ever before.

I am an introvert.  No matter what kind of career path I chose before kids (classical singer, choral director), and the path my life has taken since then (still including performance-based and leadership activities), there is no denying my natural bent is toward the quiet and solitary.

How do we define introvert?

Susan Cain admits that there are many definitions, connotations, and misconceptions about the terms introvert and extrovert, but within the definition she uses for the book are the following characteristics and habits.

Characteristics of introverts:

  • feel comfortable with less stimulation– one-on-one chats instead of parties, quiet instead of loud radio, reading a book instead of something more active
  • have strong powers of concentration– they are thoughtful, less likely to enjoy multi-tasking, and slow and deliberate in their work
  • prefer to express themselves in writing
  • are not big risk-takers
  • are good listeners and deep thinkers
  • hate small talk and thrive on deep conversations
  • feel drained after being out and about, even if they’ve enjoyed themselves
  • often let calls go through to voicemail
  • enjoy solitude– they will go to a restaurant with nothing else but a good book, sit at home alone rather than go out to a party or event
  • prefer lectures to seminars and “group-think” sessions

There were more characteristics, but these are some highlights.  I found that I resonated with 90% of the assertions in the book about introverts, and though I already knew this about myself, I still was a bit surprised, and not a little relieved to see it in print.  How does this then play itself out in my daily life, homeschooling four children and trying to meet the social needs of us all while carting everyone to activities and planning out the schedule of a family of six?

The question then becomes: How can we introverts, who have been called to homeschool and don’t intend to stop, prevent burn-out and make sure our needs are met so we can better meet the needs of our families?

As an introverted homeschooler, I pledge to:

  • schedule “restorative niches” for myself- a restorative niche (don’t you love that term?) is a place and time set aside for recharging.  I don’t often enough plan for these.  Case in point: last weekend I attended a homeschool convention with my mom, an extrovert.  I loved being around other homeschoolers, attending sessions, shopping the exhibit hall, and connecting deeply with my mom.  This is itself would have been fine.  But I had scheduled myself to work the following week at our church’s VBS.  And it proved to be too much; I emotionally crashed midweek.  I would have been better served with a few days off and only working VBS at the end of the week.  Lesson learned.
  • Be careful about activities, get-togethers and playdates.  This even means my coveted girls’ nights out.  Thankfully I have wonderful friends who understand if I cancel for my own mental well-being.  And I have introverted friends who do the same.
  • Accept my need to not talk sometimes.  In Cain’s book, she puts her finger directly on our country’s love of extroversion, and I myself have experienced times of feeling guilty for not being outgoing enough.  My husband (also an introvert) and I don’t often socialize with the neighbors; I prefer not to chat a lot with the other moms at dance or tae kwon do.  I am friendly, and can be chatty, but it is not my default, and I am more energized if the topic turns to something I am passionate about instead of simply making small talk.  Since I am with my four children all day long, once the late afternoon hits, I simply don’t want to socialize.  And I purpose to be OK with that going forward.
  • Institute more regular “quiet hour” times in our school day.  We do this maybe once per week, but since no one in my house naps anymore, and I can tell when I haven’t had the “quiet time” myself, I intend to make use of this more often.

Of course, none of this means I don’t sometimes like to socialize!  I really enjoy being around people a good part of the time.  I have found that it’s not hard to get “social” time in, no matter what the homeschool stereotypes say, but quiet and solitude often elude us.  So I am determined to make healthy choices in this area of our lives, for the good of myself and the good of our family.

Are you an introvert or extrovert?  If you homeschool, how do you make sure to energize yourself with the level of stimulation you need?