Are you curious about homeschooling as an introverted parent? Wondering how to meet your child’s social needs without sacrificing yours? Then this post is for you!
What This Post Is Not
This post isn’t going to answer the “what about socialization?” question that I’ve been asked at least a dozen times. That question is mostly about “How do you make sure your kid isn’t weird?” That’s not what I’m talking about today, but perhaps another day!
Social Needs in Homeschool Kids
I’m going to bring Adlerian psychology in to this conversation and say that children need belonging and significance, at all ages. Now, when you look deeper at the needs of children, in Montessori circles we call these “Planes of Development” we see their ways of having this need met change over time.
First Plane Children, ages 0-6, do not have the same social needs as they will when they are 6-12 years (Second Plane). So in the first plane while they do engage with other children it’s different when they are younger. Toddlers typically parallel play/work. Preschoolers expand a bit into collaboration. Their social needs though are generally met through family. Their belonging is to the family, as far as they are concerned anyhow. So playgrounds, hikes are perfect. These provide children with the opportunity for some conflict, learning conflict resolution, learning empathy skills and some basic grace and courtesy.
Second Plane Children have the foundation of their place in the family and now are seeking to find their place in the world. Where do I fit in? So their social needs are much deeper than those of younger children. When you pay attention you really can see this so easily. They long for friends, clubs, common purpose.
A True Story of an Introverted Mom
Hey, I’m Stefanie. I’m an introvert. Now, when I tell you that I want to clarify what my introverted nature looks like. I love my friends fiercely and deeply. I love long deep conversations. I enjoy traveling with my girlfriends (thought I basically neglected this for most of my motherhood and then at the end of 2019 I told my friends ”I’m ready to commit to traveling again” Ha!) I enjoy coffee dates. I have a handful of long and close friendships some starting in 1987, some in 1999 most of these relationships have been long distance.
Due to being a bit of a homebody, a splash of anxiety and a general lack of skill at small talk, I haven’t build many newer friendships. So after a week of work, homeschooling, meal planning, errands, cleaning and not quite enough sleep group outings or coops have not been a priority for me.
In 2018, I was ready to start my first Montessori Coop, and I did. It was so far from perfect but in those few months of gathering my two oldest children found their first “best” friends. The coop didn’t last long, because I stopped when I had a miscarriage and just never got the courage to restart.
However, after a long time of social distancing, I realized I couldn’t keep my children’s needs unmet (especially after moving 2,500 miles away) just because it was hard for me.
I couldn’t stand to see them suffer anymore.
Here is EXACTLY how I solved this problem.
1. I joined a homeschool group online before we settled in our new area.
Now, at first I tried to schedule a few play dates, but things like that can be hard and nothing panned out.
2. I attended one hike, and it was incredibly hard for all of us and I considred giving up. I didn’t.
I mean we did quit the trail once we were out of water, but we did not quit the group.
3. I hired a coach.
This one might feel unrelated to you, but it’s so related. So much of my self-talk is about how ”I can’t XYZ because I’m an introvert, because I experience anxiety, because I have five kids, because I’m afraid of driving a 12 passenger van on windy and mountainous roads” Hiring a coach has made a world of difference in shifting these limiting beliefs and build my resilience in hard situations. Remember, for me small talk and being in a crowd is a hard situation, lol.
If you think more than once a day, “I can’t” I highly commend coaching.
4. I committed to participating in the group at least once a month.
Our group coordinator is really generous and actually opened up for more people to plan events so it wasn’t all on her. This has allowed a variety of events be scheduled which has made it so much easier for me to ensure we do one event a month.
5. I read, Adventuring Together by Greta Eskridge.
This was arranged by our group coordinator, and she even arranged for Greta to join us on Zoom to discuss the book! I could write an entire post on this book and what I learned. However, I’ll be narrow it down to two main points.
1. If I want my children to be resilient and try new things, I need to go first and model that for them.
2. Doing this in community is what makes all the anxiety so much easier.
I discussed this point in depth that night with other moms and anxiwty is a part of my experience and the desire to “look just so” had to be abandoned for me to be honest about the support I need.
Here is a practical application of this. Today, at the river I didn’t have eyes on all five of my children. My 9 year old got swept in a current —I didn‘t even know! Another mom jumped in an rescued her. If I hadn’t been willing to trust that others would support me, we would have missed out on SO MUCH today and I’d have been humiliated that I lost track of her. Instead I was simply GRATEFUL (with not self-loathing, again see point #3)
6. I re-committed by changing my schedule to be more available to events.
Instead of working mornings, I am working afternoons. It is not my favorite, but it’s fine. My kids missing out on relationship building while learning because I don’t want to be flexible is a thing of the past.
7. I used the skills I’ve gained from coaching to shift my mindset.
Every time I felt “I can’t” or “This is too hard” or “I am so stressed” rising in my thoughts, I reframed it. I also started out my day with 20 minutes of meditation.
8. I committed to taking my kids out of the house once a week, even if it’s just the library.
Not all of our adventures have to be in big groups, and I want to have memories with the kids out in the world, not just our home. This is a simple way to make this happen. Some days it will be the zoo, a botanical garden, a museum. Some days it will be just goofing around the library and picking up yet another Big Nate book.
9. I make no other plans for schooling on activity days.
If we go to the library, then the kids get to read all afternoon while I work. If we go on a nature adventure, they get to veg a little and even have some *gasp* screen time while I work on a project that’s introverted in nature (as in I’m not going to teach a class, or coach after an outing).
10. I lowered the bar in other areas:
Simple Meals The Day we ”Extrovert”
Less Cleaning the day we extrovert
Lowered my expectations for my kids behavior, because heaven knows it‘s hard for me to keep my cool in a crowd.
11.I prepare as simply as I can the day before the adventure.
I lead my kids to help with any prep that has to happen right before we leave (like ice packs and cold food). This way I don’t feel as frazzled before we leave.
What about you? What do you do to honor your introverted nature and simultaneously your child’s friendship needs?
If you can related to the anxiety, the introversion, the wear and tear of being responsible for your child’s outside-the-family social needs, then I’d love to be your coach.
In The Relaxed Montessori Homeschooler I offer weekly group coaching to other parents just like you who long to do this homeschooling thing well and face some obstacles. In addition to this, you‘ll get a vault full of resources including links or videos for lessons from ages 3-12.
I love group coaching (and have been in 4 cohorts this year) because everyone gets their questions answered and supported and we always learn from another person dealing with similar concerns.
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