It took me a long time to figure out that I am an introvert. Only about 15-20% people are introverts so much of our society is built in such a way to benefit the majority, the extroverts. Most people assume that everyone is an extrovert and if a person begins to show signs of being an introvert then they are assumed to be damaged or flawed in someway. Very few people are comfortable with or accepting of a personality which is so different from their own.
You see, extroverts rely on human interaction. They thrive in an environment where they can work as a team and build something together. Introverts however do their best work solitary. Too much social interaction can actually drain us.
I discovered a couple years ago that I could walk 10 miles alone and at the end feel energized and ready to take on the world. But if I called a taxi-cab and spent that same 10 miles making a few minutes of pleasant chit-chat, I got out of the cab feeling tired and weary.
That is not to say that an introvert can’t or shouldn’t work with a group sometimes, nor is it to say that an extrovert can’t or shouldn’t work independently sometimes. There is a balance to be struck in any situation. However for the most part, if you are an introvert, you aren’t going to be performing at your best unless you get that quiet time to reflect and think separately from the group.
It does not take a genius to realize that my son is an extrovert. While he is capable of working alone and happily builds intricate LEGO structures by himself, for the most part he preforms his best around others. At the playground, he frequently rallies the other children to all play one game together instead of having a half dozen games going on all over the place. His charisma draws others towards him, both children and adults.
And I love-hate it very much. I love having a child who is so outspoken and opinionated and stubborn and strong. I look at him and I see the makings of a great man. He could confidently lead in many aspects of life: a business, a family, an athletic team, a platoon. There will always be a need for great leaders and someday my son will be one of those whom other people look to for guidance. Knowing this brings me pride and makes me determined to give him the social interaction he *needs* to thrive. At the same time, I sometimes hate dealing with the people who are drawn towards him. As wonderful and well-meaning as they may be. I sometimes hate that something as simple as taking a quiet walk around the neighborhood becomes something I dread because I know he’ll charm one of our neighbors into stopping for a chat.
I am trying though. I recently started organizing a nature study group for the local homeschooling families and I am actually excited and looking forward to it. Nature study is something I feel very strongly about and enjoy teaching to my own children. I talked to my very supportive husband beforehand and he agreed to let me have some quiet time to recharge my batteries before each meeting, that way I’ll be at my best and able to happily interact with the group.
I have a notebook full of ideas and have started gathering necessary materials in a box in my shed. LittleMan keeps asking how many more days until the group starts meeting, he can’t wait for it to start.
But I have noticed that some of the other moms seem confused as to why I insist on doing all the planning myself. I don’t mean any offense and I appreciate their offers to help. I don’t turn them down because I’m trying to be a control freak or a supermom or anything like that. The deep dark truth is that I turn away help with the prepping of class materials because I thrive when I work alone. It is part of being an introvert. It is just the way I am wired.
So to the extroverted homeschooling moms, please don’t take it personally if you offer to brainstorm or bounce ideas around with me and I decline. I don’t mean to shut you out. I value your friendship and I am grateful to have your support. If I need help then I promise I will let you know.
If you have something that you want to contribute, please feel free to let me know. I am not unreasonable and I am open to suggestions.
If you are an introverted homeschooling parent, here are my top tips for you:
1- Network with other homeschooling families. This might feel counter-intuitive but even introverts need community. If you don’t make friends with at least one or two other local homeschooling families, you’ll regret it. So join a group or just hang out informally with a few homeschooling families. Either way- network.
2- Make time for you. We attend a social gathering every Friday for LittleMan. This means that Thursday nights, my husband and I make sure that I have at least a few quiet hours to myself so that I can happily interact with the group the next day. Introverts need time to themselves, don’t fight it. Carve out space in your schedule just for you.
This might mean saying no to some social events. Everyone’s threshold is different, I personally can handle and happily attend one or two social gathering per week. I have tried to attend more and it was a disaster. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to everything you are invited to. Remember sometimes that less is more.
3- Respect your child’s emotional needs. If you are an introvert raising an extrovert, do not disregard your child’s social needs. They will only thrive if they have their needs met, and you want them to thrive. (The same could be said of extroverts raising introverts- don’t push them into too much social interaction, respect their need for alone time.)
4- Teach your children to respect your emotional needs. Yes, your children’s needs are important. Yes, you should make sure that they are getting enough social interaction to feel fulfilled and secure. But your needs matter too! There is nothing wrong with telling your child, “I love you, I need quiet time.” In fact it will make you a better parent in the long run if you recharge your batteries.
If your children are still very young, consider setting up a time of day when you can all sit in the same room and listen to an audio book or some music while engaging in separate quiet activities like blocks and coloring.
5- Things will never be perfect, don’t fret too much about this. Balancing your needs as an introvert with your child’s needs as an extrovert is going to be a life-long act. It will get easier as they get older and more independent from you, however there will always be a need for mutual respect and understanding. When you have something like this that is such a delicate balance, there are going to be times when life is off-kilter. There are going to be mistakes. And you are going to feel exhausted. Just do your best. If you hit a bump in the road, acknowledge it and then move on to try again.
If you, like me, are an introvert trying to homeschool an extrovert, what have been your greatest struggles? What are your top tips for not just surviving but thriving? I’d love to hear from you.