Is Homeschooling Good or Bad for Introverts?

Introvert

Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage, Cape Florida Lighthouse (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2nd grade, I used to fantasize about having a wooden shed about the size of an outhouse around my school desk, with a window facing the teacher and walls all around me. I thought all the children should have their own little sheds – wouldn’t that be great? We could even have our own mini refrigerators and bookshelves and comfy seats, all tucked away in the privacy of our personal little classrooms. It never occurred to me that the other kids might not like this.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends or sat lonely on the sidelines during recess. It wasn’t that I had horrible classmates or any traumatic experiences. It’s just that I felt really comfortable being alone. I’m a classic introvert. Being alone recharges my batteries, while socializing gradually drains me. I like to hang out with friends and family, but after too long I feel exhausted and have to be alone again.

I worried about that when I made the decision to homeschool my kids. Was I overlaying my introverted preferences on to my kids? My oldest and youngest are most definitely extroverts like their father. They THRIVE on attention and socializing.  Was I going to cramp their style by keeping them at home?

I made a dedicated effort to get them out of the house, playing with other kids, but we also played together a lot as a family. I always gave them the choice to go to school if they wanted to, and they both tried it, but found that the social advantages didn’t make up for the boredom (although my youngest is now enjoying her charter high school for the arts). As teenagers, they found friends through sports and extracurricular activities.

I wonder how many homeschooling parents are introverts? I would have loved homeschooling as a child if there had been a choice. Maybe that is one of the reasons it appealed to me as a parent (but it’s certainly not the only reason).

I also wonder if it would have bad for me to have been homeschooled – maybe I wouldn’t have ever gotten used to be around a lot of people.  It’s hard to know for sure, because you can never go back and live it both ways. But introverts aren’t anti-social, they just prefer smaller groups of people and more alone time than extroverts do.

My middle son is somewhat introverted. He likes to be around people, but stays on the edges where he can watch and listen. He doesn’t need to be the center of attention. I remember bringing him to a preschool once for a visit when he was three. He had been used to a toddler playgroup, but this preschool class was crowded with boisterous kids running around having a great time. My son was horrified. I watched his eyes and knew exactly how he felt. So he has chosen to homeschool his whole life and has never once been in a regular classroom until Community College. He played with neighborhood kids and had regular sports and other activities, but he really prefers conversations with small groups or one-on-one. I don’t think homeschooling has hurt his social skills, but it made it harder to find people with similar interests. Not many kids (or adults for that matter) want to talk about economics, math or programming languages, so he had to stick to video game and media topics. He can hardly wait to go off to a four year college this Fall to meet more kindred spirits.

Maybe those folks who worry most about socialization are extroverts. To them, it must seem like torture to be at home all day instead of being surrounded by other children. Or maybe they are introverts who always wished they were extroverts like the popular kids at their schools. But as long as homeschooled kids are not isolated, and have opportunities to make close friendships and acquaintances, there’s a lot to be gained from the time and space to be themselves. Instead of worrying so much about fitting in or pleasing other people, kids can think their own thoughts and do their own thing.

Homeschooling offers introverts a better balance of alone time with together time, kind of like my imaginary little classroom shack. True extroverts will probably need a lot more social opportunities, not just with other kids, but adults too. It’s not hard to find homeschool groups these days to fill up your schedule with field trips, park days, special classes and other activities. If anything, it’s easy to over schedule our kids. We just need to pay attention to how their batteries are charged and keep things balanced out.

What do you think? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does that affect your thoughts about homeschooling?

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6 Responses

  1. I am an introvert, so is my husband but our son is an extrovert. Until he was 5 years old, my son was an introvert who was not interested in other children at all. He was happiest doing his own thing and being at home with us. All that changed when he turned 5. He then became interested in other children and enjoyed their company. I get involved in many more social activities now because of my son’s interest in other people. I don’t worry about socialisation at all.

    To me, homeschooling is really about giving my child the experiences that are most suited to his needs at any given moment, and me being the homeschooling parent have learned to be flexible enough to adapt to my child’s changing needs. Now that my son is an extrovert, we are out and about most of the time, doing things with different people. If and when he decides to be an introvert again, we’ll probably do most of our learning at home.

    • Jamie McMillin says:

      That’s interesting that your son became more extroverted as he grew older. I’m guessing we shouldn’t try too hard to label our kids with any preconceived personality types since everyone is always growing and changing.

  2. Laura says:

    Introvert!

    Your fantasy of a comfy shed sounds similar to mine. I wanted a bubble, one that let me float to school rather than walk in the cold, filled with pillows and library books. When school got too intrusive I simply imagined myself in that bubble. I could still use it some days!

    As you say, introverts are recharged by solitude (or at least time among family members) and depleted by too much time spent socializing while extroverts are the opposite. But homeschooling, even for my introverted kids, has presented SO many opportunities each day for field trips, enrichment programs, park days, clubs, arts involvement, and other get-togethers that we finally had to draw some reasonable boundaries to let us preserve what, to us, is the best part of homeschooling—peaceful days at home.

    Homeschooling gives us the time and space to understand ourselves. It gives us the clarity to know when to seek others out and when to enjoy solitude. We do that consciously. When we do socialize we’re likely to find it more engaging than sitting in rows of desks trying to sit still and pay attention. Thank goodness.

    • Jamie McMillin says:

      I like the bubble idea – especially as a form of travel! Although I would have made mine with a special coating that allowed me to see out, while no one else could see me 🙂

      Good point about consciously deciding when it’s time to seek others out and when it’s time to be alone. Homeschooling gives kids the chance to make that choice.

  3. Zane says:

    I searched for “homeschooling an introverted child” tonight after coming home from a conference with my daughter’s teacher. Your post came up. Thank you for writing about this topic!

    My daughter is in a Montessori primary classroom (ages 3-6), and I can tell that she is not thriving at school. She is 6, and I pick her up after a half day, knowing that she needs her time at home. And still, it is a struggle for her to go to school most mornings. When her teacher described some of her behavior as “introverted” (not in a labeling sort of way but in a helpful sort of way), I realized for the very first time that is exactly what she is. It was as if a light went off in my head: there is nothing wrong with this child, she just gets recharged when she is alone.

    I’ve known this for a long time, of course. But maybe I thought she would “grow out of it” by being in school? Maybe she would start to like school, I thought? Like I did? I think I’m an introvert who turned into an extrovert out of a desire to be friendly and social. On one hand, I can completely relate to my daughter. On the other hand, I find it hard to trust my intuition (homeschool her!) because I keep thinking she needs to learn to be around a lot of people.

    I have a lot of thinking to do. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    • Jamie McMillin says:

      I agree that it is a tough decision . . . You may want to investigate your local homeschool groups to see what kind of small-group activities are available. As I said, my introverted son felt overwhelmed in large groups, but he enjoyed playing and socializing with 1-2 friends at a time (in addition to siblings). It seemed to work best when those friends were naturally outgoing because they were able to “break the ice,” and never seemed to notice how quiet he was (think of young Carl and Ellie in Pixar’s movie “Up”).

      Also, consider if there are any other times or places that your daughter will need to be in large groups. Family reunions? Church/Community events? Museum visits? Dance/sports?

      Best of luck!