Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Homeschool and the Extrovert (or Introverted) Child

If you've been around the homeschool block before you have undoubtedly heard the notion from naysayers and concerned parents that homeschooling is most likely not ideal for the extroverted child. While at first glance this seems quite logical I'd like to unpack that assumption and dissect it a bit...

~ Is the school at home detrimental or less than ideal for the extroverted "social" child?

~ Are traditional model schools generally better learning environments for extroverted children because of the social opportunities?

~ And... what about the introverted or "quiet" child... what is the best learning environment for them?

First and foremost, I believe extro/introversion should have very little consideration on the method of schooling provided for a child. Crazy, I know.

Well ... either an environment is fit for learning or it isn't.
A method of education either produces the opportunity to learn, grow and mature for a child as a whole person.. or it does not.

That said, I feel both traditional schools and homeschool have equal, but not same, abilities to give an extroverted or introverted child a well-rounded education, both socially and academically.

If you don't "buy" this thought you can probably stop reading now... from here on out we'll unpack the unique aspects of educating both extroverted and introverted children and their unique needs and how to make the school at home a beneficial environment for both learning types.

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In our school at home we have a wide variety of learners. One of our children is an extreme introvert (and very analytical), 1 is a solid extrovert, 2 are moderate and have a mix of both extro/introversion tendencies and the last is too young to make a call on, but my hunch is that she will be fairly extroverted.

Yet despite their various and differing temperaments ALL of them learn, grow and are nurtured in our school. Similarly, in my traditional school classrooms children of all types learned and grew, whether they were introverted or extroverted. Learning and growing isn't dependent upon extroversion or introversion... extroverts aren't better equipped to enter the world than introverts are, nor do they have special or particular needs for socialization that introverts don't. Many false assumptions or myths are made about the two personality types and a more full understanding will help us best educate our kids.

Understanding Personality Types

It is important to understand there is no exactly "extroverted" or "introverted" person. This is even more true in children, who are growing and developing and changing. Most people are nearer the middle than the extremes and often people will revert to one side or the other given the circumstances they find themselves in or in times of trauma or stress swing far to an opposite tendency.

It is also important to remember that extro/introversion is about how people feel most energized and the forum in how they are best able to process thought and produce creativity. This makes extro/introversion an essential aspect or consideration in education method and environment. Does a person feel most mentally stimulated with others around them, with thoughts and information being talked about, exchanged and dealt with collaboratively?  Or do they feel most stimulated while in solitude, with quiet and room for their minds to process and deal with information more analytically, free from outside influences?

This is why extro/introversion is such an important aspect of the dynamics of our education method!

That said, personality types need each other... introverts NEED to be pushed to come out of the solitude of their thoughts to share collaboratively for the bettering of themselves and others. Similarly, extroverts need to be encouraged that there is value to reviewing what they learn in group settings to process the information on their own in the peace of their mind to weed out and discard the unworthy or faulty ideas of others.

Lastly, I think we need to understand our current traditional school (and work) environments overly value and place undue emphasis on an extroverted style of collaborative learning and personality type, while ignoring the needs and value of a more introverted style of learning and dealing with information. This is one thing I have had to "unlearn" as a former traditional school teacher. While this greatly varies in how it is emphasized from teacher to teacher and classroom to classroom it is worth noting to help our more introverted students feel valued and that their natural tendencies are valuable, worthy and a productive way of processing information and functioning in the world around them.

It is unfortunate to overly value either mode because when we focus mainly on one style and seldom on the other we fail to glean the value and refined thought that typically comes from a more introverted style of dealing with information. Both styles of learners suffer because one isn't forced to grow in their weaknesses and the other isn't allowed to learn in the forum that comes most natural to them!

Making the Home School a Benefit to All

We can't change the nature of traditional schools but we can make our school at home a more well-rounded place for all learners... and this is how I am attempting to do it!

1. Recognize your child's true bent...
Sometimes this is hard, because some learners are very outgoing, but still learn best in a quiet manner, with solitude and in an analytical way. This is especially true of children who are more moderate or in the middle of the extro/introversion scope. One way I see what my children are most comfortable with is by what they do in their free time or play. Another idea is to give them a task and give them a choice, "Would you rather do this with a partner and work together or would you rather go to a quiet place and do it yourself?" You might see something surprising with the choices they make! Then take time together to evaluate which was more effective for them at completing the task. Take notes and seek out learning who they are and how they function best.

2. Recognize how your child needs to be challenged...
If your child always learns best with noise, collaboration and with lots of commotion around help them also develop the other side of their brain. In our school at home we endeavor to make "whole people"... who will have to function in both environments with equal success and effectiveness. One day they may have a very introverted college roommate who needs silence to study. Allow them their collaboration, but encourage the discipline of solitude to review and organize the things they have learned... and then come back to you to discuss or present their further discoveries during their time of focus.

3. Make your school a balanced school environment...
If you have more than one child you have the opportunity to learn collaboratively at least part of your day. Build in times of corporate learning, presentations, brain storming, idea swapping, information sharing and teamwork. Have one child tell the other what they learned that day, have them group learn or teach each other or younger siblings. On the other side enforce times of quiet, learning in solitude, silent reading, journaling or free-writing. Give adequate time for the benefits of both modes to be discovered by your learners. Value both equally and don't glorify one above the other.

4. Make socialization true to "real life"...
I've done some thinking and soul searching about what our approach will be to "socialization" and our children. One of the things I've taken from my time of evaluating this topic is that it is my role to help facilitate my children in developing "real life" relationships... no need to manufacture them.

Instead, we spend time with kids in our family's community, with our extended independent school group members and other children my children personally feel most chemistry with. We only seek out the people our children feel a chemistry with to develop a deeper relationship with. To us this is "real life" socialization.

From our perspective all our children have normal, healthy and true-to-real-life social interactions and relationships given their ages and personalities with people of all ages. They feel comfortable being "friends" with our college age staff (at our camp), with our campers of various ages and backgrounds, with each other and other children in our community and church. They enter most social settings with a lot of confidence and while they don't always act as "smooth" as I'd like, I am also encouraged to let them be original and that "fitting in" isn't always the highest social goal to have!

5. Define goals you have for your child...
If you haven't already taken time to make a mission statement and a list of goals or objectives of what you want your child's education to look like, it might be a worth while practice.

What do you think a complete and well-rounded education looks like?
How can you make that happen in your home for each of your children given their unique personality and learning types?
What do you feel inadequate at providing for them?
And where can you find supplementing for that?
What social goals do you have for them? What does healthy "socialization" mean to you?
What do you want your child to leave with when they leave your home?
In what ways does your homeschool need to be more extroverted and collaborative focused?
In what ways does your homeschool need to be more introverted and individually focused?

But really? Isn't Traditional School Still the Better Option for the Extroverted and Social Child?

I think it depends on what your goals are for your child and whether or not homeschooling is something you personally value. What you value should drive what you do... Circumstances shouldn't generally drive you to do something outside of what you value.

As a teacher I saw a lot of interesting and fun stuff... one of which is that if your child is a stereotypical "social" child one of the least productive places for them is the traditional classroom... that is, if your goal is to educate them. If your goals are for them to become an effective people manager, or to learn how to influence people or any number of other skills, it might be exactly where they ought to be... but for their own personal knowledge and education a more quiet and focused environment is really what a "social butterfly" type child needs. They already have shown to have an intrinsic knack for being social and having a charismatic personality... no more learning is needed for them in this area.


If you put about 20 children in a classroom, clump their desks in "pods" of 4 and then set out to teach them and impart information to them... teachers will always end up spending WAY more of the day "managing" the group socially and inter-personally than helping them learn and retain information.

While growing socially is part of any well-rounded school... sometimes it is the social interaction that is exactly what detracts from real productive learning in traditional classrooms. That said, there are many days this is very much the reality of the school in my home!

In short, homeschooling parents... Take Heart! Your extroverted child isn't being given "the short end of the stick" by keeping them at home, quite the contrary, you might be offering them something traditional schools typically can't... well-roundedness.

As for an introverted child? Try seeking out social learning styles and environments to give them what they might naturally lack in a homeschool setting. Coops, group activities, cooperative learning and shared schooling might be some options to helping provide them the well-roundedness they will naturally need.

Either way, know that all students can and do learn and grow in varying forms of school ... Just stick with what you value and make it work with in the context you student needs it to be. Remember we are making whole people... and we have great abilities in the context of our homes to make adjustments to fit each and every one of our learners! It is the greatest benefit homeschools have!


Resources that sparked my interest in the unique learning needs of personality types...

The 5 Love Languages of Children - Gary Chapman
While this doesn't specifically address extro/introversion, it does have a chapter about learning and how to help your child learn best based upon their love language needs... it was good.

Quiet - Sarah Cain
I haven't read this yet (just some excerpts), but sat down with two people who had and heard some really amazing things about how our education system and work environments are set up to emphasize extroverts... and how that fails us all.

The Power of Introverts - TED Talk by Sarah Cain
A must watch! I really enjoyed hearing her thoughts... while some seem to feel slighted by her emphasis of introverts (and good-natured poking of extroverts) I really think she makes some good points.

How Schools Kill Creativity - TED Talk by Ken Robinson
Not specifically on extro/introversion, but it addresses several issues about how people learn, creativity and process of thought.

Homeschooler Shares His Perfect School Environment - TED Talks for Kids by Logan LaPlante
What I found thrilling about this talk was that this is most likely a highly social and extroverted student, who is thriving in a homeschool environment... he is not only learning, but being allowed to make the most of his extroverted tendencies! He shares a lot of amazing ideas about what school at home can look like.


Jodie said...

Great thoughts! Thanks for your helpful comments on introvert vs. extrovert. Some great food for thought for our family to chew over. (Also, I think you have a "weather" in there where you meant "whether" ;-) )

Marci said...

Thanks Jodie... I blame muscle memory for my grammar mistakes... but then again I am gaining a lot of great education during our grammar time right along side our children too! :-)