Parents who have social anxiety may see the value in homeschooling as an outlet to not have to meet and chit-chat total strangers, while at the same time we are very conscious of the fact that homeschooling doesn’t work if we don’t have a social framework for our kids.
Our kids need friends and need to be around other kids on a regular basis but because we are shy introverts doesn’t mean that we are antisocial -we need friends and a support network too. But we have to make adjustments and establish some rules to meet our needs… A survival guide for shy homeschool parents.
I have always been very shy. For me the invention of email made it possible to find a job and function in the work-place because I avoided calling someone on the phone. While introducing myself in a group I felt my heart beating hard in my throat and my face turning hot. I am not antisocial…just the third in a family of four children where I got away with my sister talking for me, my brother standing up for me and just generally socializing within my own family. Going to public and private schools my whole life was painful and didn’t make me less shy, only I felt more inadequate. As I got older I learned to cover up my shyness, because in reality, shy people want to be social and specially we want to not be shy.
We may be a little socially inadequate but there is no reason to pass that on to our kids. The second you decide to not put your kids into the school system, you have chosen to get out, chit-chat, and meet new people! School is perfect for the introvert parent because you are not obligated to interact with any other parent, kids, families in order for your child to be around other kids, make friends, etc. But Homeschooling has zero tolerance for fading into the background, because you would be taking your family into the background with you.
Once we cross the social threshold, we are OK…We may feel a little insecure when talking to a group of moms, we might give TMI, we might worry that we are not adequate. Just be proud that you are out here, with your kid, setting a good example, and rejoice in the inadequacies that make you unique.
My survival guide to homeschooling if you are a shy parent:
Join a Homeschool Group
- Join a homeschool group and attend park days. You don’t have to be a social butterfly. There are many shy parents that belong to these groups and they understand if you are polite and cordial for a little while and then go to a more quiet space to sit on your own and read.
In time, just like your kids, you will find your favorite people, you will get to know them and you will not feel so shy anymore.
2. Get to know other parents -slowly
- Sign up for co-op classes and volunteer for small jobs.
- Sign your kids up for special interest classes and spend a couple of minutes exchanging small talk with other parents at drop off and pick up. You may say, but why small talk? I can just pick up my child and go home! Well, these families are part of your kid’s social network now. To foster their friendship beyond the classroom you will have to open up to the opportunity to schedule some time outside of the class.
3. Have a Strategy for Handling Over-stimulation
Knowing what is best for our kids we just do it, even if it puts so much strain on us physically and mentally that we feel drained.
Park Days with our homeschool group for me used to be a guaranteed migraine. Not because we had a hard time, the opposite, my daughter and I had a great time! But the first few months, every time we got home from park day, it felt as if I had gone to a party that lasted 5 hours, and I was chatting with everyone, having long conversations about homeschooling. For an introvert, socializing at a party for 5 hours is somewhat doable, but this was not small talk about the weather or shoes. Education is a big, intense subject. I felt SPENT. These were the strategies that worked for me:
- First: I started to keep my conversations to light subjects with an easy out. I understood people would only talk to me at length if I wanted to, but they were all very polite and sensitive of others’ time and social disposition. Probably most of them introverts.
- Second: When I got home I did my Qi Gong energy-moving routine. If you practice slow and long breaths with your lower abdomen, and move your arms up over your head with one breath-in and down to your sides with the exhale, even just for a few times, it helps ground you and redistribute the energy more evenly. It is like True Jedi magic.
- Third: I take the evening off. I never have energy to cook dinner when I feel drained, so either my husband cooks or our daughter asks him to go out for dinner. I snack at home and pet the cats. When they come back I am more predisposed to sweetness and with a better disposition for BED TIME.
- Fourth: And most importantly, you have to get organized to balance your own needs. Introverts need time for ourselves otherwise those closest to us will not feel our happiness, they will feel our irritability, lack of patience, and tiredness. 10 Tips to Focus on your needs and homeschool.
Don’t host all the play dates
This is a tricky one because while I have noticed that kids can get so immersed in the play-zone that they don’t need my attention, thus giving me some much needed space, it is also tiring if you are always hosting the play dates.
I hosted parties, I made up activities, I had kids playing in my house two or three times per week. Not just one kid, sometimes I had three or five kids and the moms too. At one point I was exhausted -not only because I cleaned and tidied up the house before the kids got there, then cleaned up and put away all the stuff after they left. I was exhausted because I seemed to be the only mom hosting the play dates, and for me being engaged with kids and moms was great but it would be nice if we took turns.
Establish “quiet time”
For us quiet time was sometime in the afternoon when I had been playing with our daughter in the morning, got her giggles out at the park, made lunch together, and around 2pm I needed to decompress, have a cup of coffee, recharge, and keep it quiet. It wasn’t too much to ask since my daughter had lot’s of mommy time, and stimulation, but it was difficult for her to understand, because she was 3 or 4 years old, it felt like punishment.
For me it was a necessity, if I didn’t get a quiet break, I would turn into a witch after 4pm.
I explained that I was going to sit and read quietly, and she could play during that time, with one of the numerous toys she had. It would be helpful if she too saw me read and enjoy reading. So I would make a point to read a book, not on my iPad. And I secretly hopped that if she saw me read she would want to read too, but she saw right trough me. It was hard, but it paid off in the long run because now I sit and do this (build TrueJedis) and she respects this quiet time.
Enforce the rules and in turn make the extra effort
It is a wonder that our Homeschooling lives spin on a social axis, so to speak.
It all came down to following the motions. I also have an only child, so I REALLY had no choice. It was more excruciating to see her have no one to play with than to make myself vulnerable and make the extra effort. The effort that would take on my part to support our homeschool life was worth it, but I had to learn to establish, with the help of my husband, some rules that would help me stay sane and not wear myself off.
Once again, to emphasize an important part of the True Jedis philosophy: instead of finding rigor to complete school work, focus on being rigorous about the things that are going to hold your family together through the homeschool adventure.