Top Tips for Homeschooling Introverts
As an introverted mom of two introverted sons, I have learned many lessons over the past fourteen years of homeschooling. Several of these lessons were learned the hard way with disappointment, tears, and regret. If you have an introverted child, here are my top tips for homeschooling introverts.
If your introverted child is the only one refusing to engage in a large group activity, you may be tempted to compare him with the other children present. You may get frustrated or feel embarrassed. You may secretly wish that he could just be like everyone else.
When my boys were young, there were many times that they were the odd ones out in a large group activity. Instead of recognizing that the situation was not right for them, I got upset by their behavior. It took me far too long to realize that I was dealing with a personal pride issue. I was comparing them with other children and worrying that their behavior reflected badly on me as their mother.
Some children excel in a large group setting. Conversely, introverts usually prefer working alone or with a small familiar group. Comparing your child with others is futile. You can’t expect your introverted child to adapt seamlessly to a situation that is best suited for extroverts. Look for opportunities that will optimize how your child learns best. Don’t be concerned about what other families are choosing to do. Make choices based on your family’s needs.
Introverts often become overstimulated in social situations and need quiet time to recharge. Homeschooling can provide plenty of time for recharging, if we allow it. Sometimes we overschedule our days. Providing opportunities for socialization is important, but too much stimulation for an introverted child will lead to a meltdown. You may need to limit the number of outside activities.
When your introverted child attends an activity, stay alert for warning signs of overstimulation. Crankiness, tiredness, or withdrawal can all be clues that it’s time for a break. There is no shame in leaving early. There have been times in the past when we’ve only spent a few minutes at group outings. In these instances, I recognized immediately that the situation was not a good fit for us. Be proactive and don’t be afraid to abandon your plans.
I learned early on that I couldn’t just sign my kids up for things and expect them to flourish. Likewise, a highly structured curriculum did not work for us either. Instead, I got creative. I planned short playdates and outings with one other family at a time. For our homeschool curriculum, we followed a unit study approach that allowed for plenty of flexibility and downtime. I also joined a small friendly co-op that met for a brief time period once a week.
It will take some trial and error to find out what works best for your family, especially if you are a mix of introverts and extroverts. Keep trying until you find something that suits you.
Encourage and Communicate
As an introvert myself, I know all too well that staying home all the time in my comfortable home is very tempting but not healthy. We need fellowship with others. Children need this too, and they need to learn how to adapt to multiple situations. There were times when I encouraged my children to stretch their comfort level. Sometimes this turned out to be a blessing, and other times it was a complete disaster. It is difficult to predict how a child will respond.
Communication is important. Encourage your introverted child to try new things but also discuss what to do when fear or discomfort arises. Discuss how it feels to spend time in a large group. Let your child know everyone is unique. Even young children can recognize differences in behavior. When situations arise and behaviors change, talk about it with your child. Help them to learn their own triggers, and suggest ways to deal with them. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes alone in a quiet space to recharge.
Homeschooling an introverted child doesn’t have to be challenging. Follow the tips I’ve suggested for homeschooling introverts, and experiment to learn what works best for your family. I wish you many happy homeschooling days ahead.
Heidi Kinney is a freelance writer from Massachusetts. She has been homeschooling her children since 2007. You can learn more about Heidi and her recently published book, Looking Back and Running Forward: Discovering what it means to be broken, at heidikinney.com.