Introversion, Large Families, and Homeschooling

by Cindy on May 31, 2012

How do introverts handle all that togetherness?

First, let’s define the word “introvert.” I’m not a psychologist, so I’ll just stick with what I know–which isn’t much, unfortunately. I do know myself, though, so I’ll start there.

When I say “introvert”, I do not mean shy, cold, detached, alienated, unfriendly, or socially inept. Those traits are really unrelated to the introvert/extrovert discussion, and seem to have more to do with mental development and spiritual health, in my completely unprofessional opinion.

Introversion means that small doses of interaction with other people, with plenty of time to digest said encounters in between, give me a very satisfied feeling of friendship and connection with my fellow man. Conversely, intense interactions with larger numbers of people make me feel more like I’ve been on a roller-coaster a few times too many. Roller coasters are fun! But I can ride only a few in one day, and only the teacup ride, please.

Introvert

This is about my speed, socially.

I think of the extrovert’s need for social interaction as more akin to those adventurous, adrenaline-seeking people who can ride as many high-speed coasters as they please, even with their tummies full of theme park chili-dogs, nachos, and pizza. Some people need more social interaction, some need less. Everybody needs some.

As I said before, the idea that homeschooling is the easiest lifestyle for an introverted person is kind of laughable to me. I’m not sure if anybody else noticed this, but when you’re teaching children all day, there’s a lot of social interaction. I love homeschooling, and I love mothering a large(ish) family! Being introverted has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I enjoy serving my family or not. But it does mean there are few hurdles to be cleared.

With all the reading, teaching, singing, playing, and disciplining that goes on around here, by the end of a typical day, I am sick of the sound of my own voice! Thankfully, I have found a few ways to conserve my emotional energy so that I can keep going all day without burning out.:

Have the more extroverted kids read and lead. This one is still purely theoretical for me. My oldest is only eight, and he is as quiet as a mouse. I’m hoping the more extroverted children will be happy to lead us in song and read aloud as they grow older. For now, though, this is just a pipe-dream of mine.

Rely on your more extroverted spouse to do some of the social stuff. Even if your spouse isn’t an extrovert, chances are he can help you in some way. My husband isn’t an extremely outgoing guy, but software development isn’t exactly a sociable job (most days), so he usually has some social energy to spare when he gets home. I often rely on him to take the kids out to the park, scouts, and shopping. He is also a very skilled actor (you should see him do Shakespeare), and uses that talent to entertain the kids beautifully. Eavesdropping on his read-aloud times and impromptu science lessons with the children are among my most treasured moments.

Watch your children for signs of social under/over-stimulation. It’s not just your personality you have to consider. Two of my children are obviously very extroverted, and two of them are introverted. That means I have to find a way to get them all the right amounts of both down-time and interaction. If my quiet ones are getting plenty of time to themselves, but my extroverts are lonely and in need of playmates, we have a problem!

Quiet time is sacred. Around here, quiet time starts at 2 or 2:30, and it’s not over until at least 4. Books, puzzles, day-dreaming, writing, drawing, and sleeping are the only permitted activities, preferably out of my line of sight, and for at least an hour. If a child can’t stay quiet, he must remove himself from the house in fine weather. In bad weather, I just suck it up and accept that our quiet time is going to be kind of noisy, but there will be at least an attempt at peace. 

Send those kids out! Send them to tutors or camps or whatever else you can think of that fits your family’s needs. I’m a dedicated homeschooler, but I’m also a firm believer in outsourcing those things that we can’t or don’t want to teach for ourselves. Music lessons, math tutors, and Scouts are fine and healthy ways of providing for your kids’ needs while getting a few moments of quiet time to recuperate from the duties of the day. (I don’t actually send my kids to that many things yet, but as they get older, I expect it to happen more.)

And finally, don’t think about the introvert/extrovert divide too much. Introversion and extroversion seem to me to be somewhat flexible, depending as much on habits and training as anything else. Introversion is not a mental health diagnosis to be overcome. It’s not even a very firm personality trait, as I’ve found out since becoming a mother. It’s just a bent. I’m an introvert, yes, but I’m much, much less introverted than I used to be. Raising kids changes things.

I guess you could say my kids helped socialize me!

 

{ 12 comments }

SleeplessinSummerville May 31, 2012 at 11:08 am

Well, I don’t have a bunch of kids and am not homeschooling, but I am an introvert and I can totally see where you are coming from. Having and enforcing quiet time daily is a great suggestion. Do you ever feel so talked-out from the kids that you don’t want to talk to adults? I have just noticed how it is that my kid (only one) is going a long way to meet my needs for talking to people. He’s definitely forcing me to become better-socialized, but I see now that he and his needs are sort of blinding me to the need for me to talk to people just for fun. I mean, I can stay home all day, call no one and still spend the day talking, you know? Or I can spend the day out visiting doctors and you have to talk so much to do that… but it shouldn’t stand in for talking to your friends and family and such. Relying on the outgoing spouse is great advice and remembering that your children’s needs may be very different from your own is good too. Hm. I have no idea whether my toddler is an introvert or an extrovert… Lots to think about here.

Cindy May 31, 2012 at 11:20 am

Oh, I am such a cranky-pants by the time my hubby comes home that it’s very hard to talk to him or any other grown-up sometimes! But I really do need the adult conversation. I’m fortunate that he’s ready to talk, talk, talk by the time he comes home, so I can just listen and not say much. Still, it’s a little over-stimulating. I’m learning to save some of my energy for the other people in my life, too. Can’t just give it all to the kids. It wouldn’t be good for them or me or anybody else!

Mrs A
Twitter: Proverbs31Jewel
May 31, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Oh Girl, this is a wonderful post!

Children come to us completely unique and any momma who has more then one can tell you that! I have one, and I am just like him myself.I do not need a lot of interaction with people. A touch her, a word there and I have my fill. But most of my family is NOT that way and they draw my son and myself out ;) It is a good thing and they have also learned boundaries :)

We are all created differently and it can be an exciting roller coaster :)

Cindy May 31, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Isn’t it wonderful how different we all are? Also, slightly nerve-wracking. But wonderful.

Craig
Twitter: CraigBelieves
May 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I was over at Rebecca’s place today (moms mustard seed – she knows and how much esteem I hold all of you amazing Christian mom homeschoolers in – how amazing I think it is the job that you do – that I think the one who can teach them best is the one who loves them best – and no one loves them more than their mama. When I first started blogging about a year ago I was amazed by what you do, Cindy, what so many moms do – and now a year later I’m still amazed. So I still continue to read Christian mom blogs, and I read about how you’re running your school – and your children – and your marriages – and nobody writes theology like a Christian mom – and here I am a never been married guy – seemingly so out of place – but everything I read resonates with me – because when I read of a mama’s love for her babies. I read about God’s love for me. When I read about how you design your programs for teaching your babies – I see how God designs his program for teaching me. like, for instance – the quiet time you spoke about today – I know how he uses that with me – and I know how important it is for me to have it – so you write about your schooling – and I appreciate that – and admire that – and then it takes the leap for me to a higher plane – and I am constantly inspired. Anyway, in case anybody asks – that’s why I blog in this community – that’s why the only blogs I read are the ones written by people in this community – and reading this today – it was perfect – I’m an introvert too – an extroverted introvert. Sorry for the long comment – I didn’t mean for it to be so long. God bless and keep you and each and every one of yours, Cindy.

Sabrina Justison June 1, 2012 at 7:30 am

Hooray for introverts! We do a lot better when we understand our God-designed wiring a bit. This book has been really popular with a lot of introverts I know and love. This is a review post by my nephew from last summer… http://7sistershomeschool.com/2011/08/05/review-the-introvert-advantage/

Diane Hurst June 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Cindy,
I can totally relate to everything you said here– I’m an introvert who’s homeschooled 9 kids; now I only am teaching one, the youngest. Quiet time was a great help for us when our kids were younger– and I noticed that the oldest child especially appreciated this– even though she’s an extrovert! But she got tired of always being the ringleader, and having her siblings follow her all day long. For our quiet time, we had the kids be in separate places (their beds when they were young kids, though they were expected to play quietly and usually didn’t nap) and not talk to each other.

My husband wasn’t usually available to help with schooling, but his willingness to take the kids to various classes and activities– gymnastics, ballet, soccer, etc.– and visit with the parents there– was a great addition to our kids’ education.

Dawn@OneFaithfulMom June 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I am an extrovert (ESFP) married to an extreme introvert. Something that helped me so much was Kevin Leman’s book “Have A New Husband By Friday!” The part I loved was where he talked about talking to your husband using fewer words than you would for your girlfriends. I have tried it, and oh my goodness…the man actually listens to me now!! LOL!!
Of course the whole book is about changing yourself, not your man, but I found the whole thing very very helpful.
Thankfully, my oldest son, who is 24, is an extrovert like me. We have long exciting conversations and it fills that need for me.

Amber June 6, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I understand the whole quiet time need. I am by definition an introvert, but I also need a lot of social interaction. I am enforcing a reading time this summer and I think it makes a world of different.

BTW- yeah for math tutors! We don’t get enough recognition.

Cindy June 7, 2012 at 6:11 am

I was thinking of you when I wrote that. I guess we might need you someday. ;-) Right now, the boy is doing fantastic, but you never know! I had you pegged as an extrovert, though. You’re always on the go, socially!

Rusheika (IslandMamasAdv)
Twitter: islandmamasadv
June 22, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I can so relate to this post. I never thought of myself as an introvert because I do enjoy social interaction…I have learned now that I like it in smaller doses! As much as I LOVE my kids and I do enjoy homeschooling them I do reach that point almost everyday when I begin to wonder why in the world I had 4 kids :) But it helps to know that I am normal!!! I too enforce afternoon quiet time… I NEED it! thanks for sharing!

KT September 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Thank you so much for this bit of sanity! I’m an INFJ, and I’ve gotta have my quiet time… which doesn’t happen as much now that I’m a mother of a kindergardener. Lots of questions! Lots of talking. And I think it’s great, but by the end of day, I’m just so done, it’s ridiculous. I’m glad to read your relatable tales of being an introverted, homeschooling mother, because everyone around me that homeschools is actually extroverted. I’m so happy to know that I’m not crazy! :)

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