We've been discussing the topic of homeschooling an only child this week. We've talked about the advantages, challenges, and why we need to be intentional with socialization. We're going to continue discussing the need for social time - especially as it relates to introverts and extraverts.
Introverts & Extraverts
As you can imagine homeschooling an introvert will look quite different from homeschooling an extravert. I'm homeschooling an only child who is an introvert so my experience is not the same as a mom homeschooling an extravert. They both have different needs and experiences when it comes to social situations.
Homeschooling an Introvert
Homeschooling an introvert can be deceptively easy, in regards to social desires. They are usually easygoing, so you have to be more intentional about providing that social experience. It's easy for them to focus on a few good friendships but have trouble meeting new friends in new social situations or they may want to avoid new experiences where they will have to meet new people. It takes a bit of intentional time and effort on your part to meet those social needs.
There are a few ways to help an introverted only child. When they are young, you'll have to teach them how to introduce themselves to new people - it's very easy for introverts to hide behind mama. They often hear the remark, 'oh, they're just shy' - which isn't necessarily true. They just need time to adjust to the situation.
As your only child gets older, the coaching changes a bit. Before a new social situation, tell them about the event and maybe offer a few conversation starter ideas or even practice 'small talk' (something I have a hard time with!). If they can feel a bit more confident about the experience they'll be more relaxed. Be prepared to step in at the event if they look a little lost.
My daughter is a homebody, though she does have a few good friends that she would visit all the time if she could. But whenever we encounter a new social situation she gets a bit anxious. When that happens I try to make sure she knows all about the event and who will be there. I'm an introvert too so I'm honest with her about my own feelings, and I think that helps her understand that it's okay to be a little hesitant about new situations.
Homeschooling an Extravert
Now, I don't have an extraverted child but I grew up in a large family (six kids), I've watched my friends with their extraverted children, and I've read my share of books on the subject. If you are homeschooling an only child that is extraverted, please tell me about your experience!
Extraverts definitely have different social desires and needs than introverts. They are more likely to jump right into social events and new situations. They will probably want more opportunities for social time - fun, games, sports, and any activities that offer opportunities to be with others.
When it comes to new social situations, coaching an extraverted child may look a little different. You may need to teach them that just because it popped into their head does not mean it should come out of their mouth. Sometimes it's easy for them to speak before thinking about the appropriate way to say something. But you must also give them plenty of opportunities to talk. They NEED to talk and get their words out so it's important to be there for them and listen.
Homeschooling an extraverted child has it's own challenges. It's more difficult to teach them to entertain themselves. They would much prefer to be with other people, and that usually means you, since you are available to them all day long. This can be especially difficult for introverted parents who need some time alone. It's important to teach them that everyone has different needs and begin a daily quiet time - they'll benefit from it too.
If you are an extravert, homeschooling an extraverted child, another situation you may encounter is that you over-schedule your day. With the fun-loving, social child, it's easy to jump into new activities, but soon you may find yourself with no time to actually stay home and homeschool. So you'll need to find a balance between homeschooling & activities that works for you and your child.
Is your only child an introvert or an extravert?
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While it's definitely important to provide social opportunities for our kids, we need to remember that family should still be the center of their world - not their friendships or peers. For more on why I believe that's important, read Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld.
Another book that has helped me understand my daughter (and myself) is The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle. It's one of my favorite parenting books.