Over the last few years it feels like it’s become more socially acceptable to be an introvert, so after a life-time of trying not to be, I’m now embracing the reality of who I am – what feeds me, what drains me – and am trying to live a life more in tune with that. One which is calmer, and easier to sustain than in previous years, because let’s face it, I’m not really any use to my kids if I’m not keeping balanced.
I adore having the kids home all the time, I love watching them grow and learn, explore the world and see their passions and interests ignite, but it can be exhausting. The constant noise, three different interests going at one time, three sets of requests – and they are all still at ages where they need my help with just about everything. Sometimes my brain does not cope well and I’ve had to come up with some tactics for making the most of our life, but also staying sane 😉
So here are 5 tips for the introverted homeschooler.
1) Find a way to take breaks, all alone. It’s lovely to have settled the kids into bed and be able to hang out with my spouse, but sometimes I just need to be truly alone. I’m lucky because my mother has volunteered to have the kids for 3 hours every other week – this gives me time to defrag and enjoy some solitude. Whether I’m studying, writing, reading, playing games, cleaning, it’s ALL a win because I get to do what I want, without thinking about anyone else for a bit. Prior to this I took a study night once a week which gave me some much needed down time. It makes all the difference to my mood in general and those few hours of peace and solitude can carry me through a lot of noise.
2) Pick and choose your activities. Last term I signed up for a lot of activities with the big home schooling group in our town. We did trips to the museum, and to the Life Education bus among other things, which was all well and good but the kids didn’t really have the time and space to make legitimate connections, weren’t overly interested in the talks, and I felt very taxed by it, taking days to recover. This term we’ve been spending more time with smaller groups, and as a result the kids friendships are thriving and I am as well. Don’t feel like you *have* to do everything, make the best decisions for your family.
3) Pick and choose who you spend time with. Following on from the above, we’ve found some families who are similar in their approach both to home schooling and to family life, and spending time with them is really inspiring and nourishing. As an example, one week we spent most of a day with one family, then had Brownies that night (which is tiring! lol 21 girls all talking to me), and then the next day we drove for an hour, spent 5 hours with my brothers family, and then stopped in to visit a new family for a bit before heading home. Come Friday, I felt like I could easily have hung out with another set of friends had the opportunity arisen. This has been a really interesting learning curve for me, and opened a lot of doors because it means we can be social a lot, as long we’re hanging out with smaller crowds and people who are awesome.
4) Find time for your own passions. I know sometimes people can feel like they need to spend the whole day doing stuff with or for the kids, but, it’s actually good for them to learn to do things on their own. It’s even better for them to see that you take the time to do the things you love. I think it’s awesome that I can role-model following passions – the kids often see me writing and ask what I am working on (though this never stops them from wanting my attention 😉 lol). Now that we’ve been doing this for a while, I know that if I spot an activity that really excites me, I should totally allow myself to set about it – if the kids want to give it a go too, then the more the merrier, and if they don’t, then that’s not a failure on my part because I’m still feeding myself. They need to be free to follow their passions too, and those passions don’t have to be the same as mine.
5) Talk to your kids about it. I used to just struggle along, not expecting them to understand my introversion, but the more open I have been about it, the more aware they have become of my needs without me even needing to specifically tell them. I was really surprised a couple of weeks ago when after a day of Brownies stuff with Ivy, she said on the way home ‘you’ll probably want to lie down in bed and read when we get home’ – she wasn’t upset or annoyed, just making an observation. She was spot on, in an ideal world that is exactly what I’d do! More and more they can see when I need some down time and will let me have ten minutes here or there to reset myself. They know it’s good for me, and that if they give me a little space I’ll then have more energy to dive enthusiastically into whatever it is that they want to do. It’s pretty awesome 🙂
And, if all that fails, remind yourself that your kids will be older one day, will crave increasing levels of independence which will mean that you can look forward to more quiet time in the future 😉