My kid is really social and I’m not

It’s much easier to homeschool a kid who is like you than a kid who is different than you. But then, that’s true in all of parenting. We are best at guiding kids who want to go where we want to go. 

Homeschooling my son with autism is not so scary because I also have autism. I know he wants routine and quiet time. He wants someone to talk to but not too much talking. He wants huge amounts of reading time and control over what he reads. He doesn’t like groups.

I am the same. My best days are sitting on the sofa with his legs resting on mine, reading different books together.

My younger son is very social. You know how there’s a downside to every upside? The reason he’s so good at cello is because he’s not only great at the details of cello—many kids are—but he also adores performing. He could perform all day. Life, in fact, is just one big performance for him. Which means he needs an audience.

At first I thought this was just messed up. Because it’s so different from me. But then I studied personality types and I realized that he is just a classic ESFP. There are sixteen personality types and this one is the performer. It’s how he’s born.

So a difficult part of our homeschooling is how to meet the needs of a very social boy in a family of largely anti-social people. Here’s what I’ve done.

1. I talk with him. He wants me to listen to him and acknowledge what he’s doing. This is typical for kids. It’s just that he likes it more than most kids. So I give myself rules for how to best acknowledge him verbally and that helps me talk to him more than I would choose to, but still do it in a productive way.

2.  I set up lots of playdates. I have a few kids whose schedules I know well with moms I can email. This means that setting up playdates doesn’t require ten emails and five phone calls. It turns out that a social kid ends up teaching a parent to be more social. It’s predictable that I’d figure out a way to do it with the least amount of talking.

3. I try to understand him better. Being social looks so weird to me. The need to be in groups seems exhausting. Even though the kids and their parents bug me — I mean, I’d rather just be alone reading and writing. I tell myself that to my son, showing love is being social, and so that’s what I have to do with him.

And, by the way, this issue doesn’t change if you send your kid to school. School is not a place where kids get to talk and express themselves freely. And it’s not like the need to show love to an extraverted, social kid changes if you are not around. It just means you need to cram all that into the four hours when he is home from school, instead of having twelve hours a day to spread it out.

24 replies
  1. mh
    mh says:

    My kid is really social, and I look at him and just wonder.

    We are a family of introverts — heavy-duty introverts.

    And this child, this joy of a child, came to us in a burst of energy, smiles, and laughter. And singing. And talking, talking, talking.

    Every day, I thank God for the blessing of this child. He has made our family complete. And I make sure to tell him that a couple of times a week. How could all of us introverts ever learn how the extroverts think, if not for this joyful little guy?

    Sometimes, God sends you the kid that you need.

  2. mh
    mh says:

    I sometimes feel like the only introvert homeschool mom — all the rest are joining support groups and going to conventions. In ,y mind, the conventions are all white, all Christian, and all extroverts. I would be happy to be wrong about this, but I have only a few data points and they all back me up.

    Penelope, it is good to read a post like this, Even when I feel like I’m not a perfect “social” parent, it’s good to know I’m not alone.

    I got my super-social son involved in theater. He thrives, and the parents who are involved are great. And there’s room for introverts, too – sound booth/lights, stage management, scenery and props. And also, he participates in sports teams. Teams make all the difference — he can lead and shine and be challenged, without me saying much.

  3. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    I need people and all my kids are social–well, to an extent.

    Though I am social, I need to get work done, which means that play dates need to be drop offs.

    My friends and I devised a system wherein we exchange drop off days/houses. One day I may have both 11-year-old boys, but the next time I don’t. One day she may take my son and leave her 13-year-old daughter, so I have two teenage girls, but not two preteen boys. Sometimes she takes all of them or I take all of them. It’s whatever we can/want to do on that particular day. If we’ve no preference we leave it up to the kids.

    Anyway, for us play dates don’t require either one of us have to sit and be social when there are other things we need to accomplish at home. Often we’ll visit a while, but then we part and go our separate ways.

    I like it and it’s worked for several years now.

  4. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    My littlest, 3, appears to be an extrovert. She has an apparently inexhaustible appetite for spending time with other people. My contemplative little man not so much. Daddy not at all; I am quickly exhausted by social events. How to meet the social appetite of my little butterfly?

    I am not an absolutist about homeschooling. I started homeschooling because I listen to my children, and my son needed it. I would also stop homeschooling if that’s what my children said. My 3 year old asked clearly and repeatedly to go to preschool (aka day care). She goes two days a week now, and she is like a queen holding court. She loves it, and everybody there loves her. I believe it was the right choice for her.

    She’s with us for three days still, our most social days. As the years pass, I don’t know how to predict what she’ll want to do. Maybe when first grade rolls around she’ll want to go to school. Maybe she’ll want to stay with us every day (unfortunately, there will be no middle term compromise). I don’t know yet, and I will listen to what she wants and allow her to make her own mistakes.

    PT said in a previous entry that she won’t send her son to school no matter how he asks. This is not my position. One of the problems she raises – that being tied to a school schedule is a terrible burden – is indisputable. I would not like that; being tied to the conservatory schedule is bad enough. But I would bear worse burdens if it made my children happy. My daughter will likely need something more than sitting around on the couch reading books with me and her brother. Maybe it will be school; maybe something else will come along.

    I don’t believe in school very much. I had an awful time in school, my wife had a pretty bad time in school, and my son had a horrendous time in school. It remains possible, however, that my daughter could have a nice time in school. We are people with many options, and this affords us the opportunity to make risky choices (like sending a child to school) and change course later if we need to. People with fewer choices need to commit earlier.

    • Annie
      Annie says:

      I told myself this too — that as long as my extroverted son likes school, we should entertain the thought of sending him.

      But the cost is huge. 35 hours of schooling, plus travel time, plus the commitment to homework and everything else that goes with it.

      Turned out it was also just too much for him, we just pulled him out with lots of separation anxiety that he is still dealing with.

      Socializing is great. School is, I believe, not a healthy environment for most kids.

      And it’s damaging to family life. When y ou’re running around every morning, and then not seeing your child until 4pm every day, and then dealing with homework, it’s a decision that affects everyone.

      (I say most b/c my oldest and youngest are still in school for now for the therapies they receive. The oldest will likely come home soon; the youngest is in Pre-K so only a couple hours a few days a week.)

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        I agree with everything you’ve said, Annie. I didn’t like being in school, I didn’t like my son being in school, and neither did he.

        That said, I don’t believe that preventing my children from making mistakes would be the best parenting on my part. If my daughter wants to make the mistake of going to school, I will support her in both success and failure.

        I don’t live in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t have a limited range of choices. But one of the best things I can give to my children is the ability to make their own choices and handle the consequences.

        • Annie
          Annie says:

          I do understand allowing kids to learn from their mistakes – some mistake. Others you shield them from.

          I would just caution that this might be the type of mistake you help your child avoid because it can be difficult to leave school, emotionally. Like leaving a relationship, or a job even when you know it’s best. There are fun parts of school, and once you put her in school, extraction could be painful even if you decide it’s best – even if SHE decides it’s best.

          I just went thru this process, so that’s my bias. SO much unnecessary anxiety for my son, and heartache. He loves and misses his friends.

          And I don’t know really what the upside is. Except maybe that now he knows what school is, so he doesn’t wonder. But he paid a high price.

          Just a thought.

          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            Annie, that’s very good advice. I will take it into consideration. It was very easy for my son to leave school when it went wrong. It might not be so easy for an extrovert.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Commenter, there is another option for your daughter. Homeschool co-op and girl scouts! Homeschool co-ops near us offer dozens of classes on a semester basis and she could take classes that she wants and will still get that need to be around a lot of kids fulfilled, you should check it out. Seems like a good middle ground. Our local homeschool co-op even has a preschool program.

  5. Kirsten
    Kirsten says:

    I think about this all the time. I’m homeschooling an extreme introvert son, while my husband, daughter and I are all moderate extroverts.

    Not only do my son and I have different needs for interacting with the outside world, we have very different interests. His face is pointed to the stars while he thinks Big Thoughts about how fast the universe is expanding, and he loves Minecraft. I prefer art and the world I can see and touch. At least we share a love of the outdoors and hiking big hills. And I can always schedule “playdates” for myself with my own friends.

    It has been a slow process for me to learn how to read him and give him what he needs. He is cut from the same cloth as my dad so the personality seems somewhat familiar to me. The learning curve has come more slowly for my husband. Recently Susan Cain’s book Quiet has been helpful for us both.

      • Kirsten
        Kirsten says:

        Yep. He has a terrific sense of humor, but his inside jokes are SO inside, sometime he just laughs — literally chuckles out loud — to himself and says, “It’s too hard to explain.” But he takes a lot of pleasure in getting me to laugh.

        • mh
          mh says:

          Yep, that sounds about right. That’s the way to get him going — tap into what he finds funny. I had to learn all about Star Wars to relate to one of my kids, but it was worth it.

  6. Annie
    Annie says:

    The reason us extroverts (many of us anyway) like groups and don’t find them exhausting (again, usually) is that we’re good at navigating social situations.

    It’s our own puzzle to solve, influencing others, or charming others, or seeing ourselves in others eyes, or being different people depending on who we’re with… Depends on the extrovert. But anyway, it’s fun.

    Interestingly, working with your hands is supposed to be an extroverted activity as well. Makes sense, as it’s still extrernal. And I for sure feel this, and often prefer it to the company of people. Maybe something you can exploit/explore with your son, to expand his means to get recharged on energy. (I use this with my son – have him build things or draw things.)

    And I write this while simultaneously answering questions from my 5 year old extrovert (ENP, not sure on T or F)…

  7. CJ
    CJ says:

    I think the real, high energy, gobble life’s challenges up, little people suffer the very most in the walls of schools. Even many hs parents will suggest that their extrovert child could “handle” school, but the intellectually excited child/ren need the freedom of homeschooling. When I visualize my joy filled, boundless energy daughter strapped to an institutional desk I feel claustrophobic for her. I just believe hs ing is easier all the way around to meet everyone’s needs and joys in our family. Our motto: we don’t have time for school! Life’s way too awesome to give up five days a week to anybody else’s agenda.

  8. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Do you know if there is any data or studies on if any aspect of personality types are genetic? E vs I, N vs S, F vs T, J vs T. Can any part of a person’s type be attributed to genetics and possibly be predicted?

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      I am not aware of any studies on this issue, but I have long suspected that there is a genetic component to the Meyers-Briggs types. I am an INFP; my father was quite introverted (my guess is INTJ) and my mother is a sparkly extravert (my guess is ENFP). When my 13-year old daughter discovered the Meyers-Briggs system, she had her brother, her dad, and me take the test. My husband is an INFJ, and so is my daughter, I am an INFP, and my son, whom we had always referred to as Little Grandma, is an ENFP.

      Our way of dealing with this as a homeschooling family has been very similar to what PT describes. We have the additional advantage of living in a neighborhood with many retirees who have relocated to the sunny Southwest, and are now far from their grandchildren. Guess who appointed himself as the official foster grandchild of the neighborhood?

  9. Shari
    Shari says:

    As the mother of an extroverted daughter in second grade, public school, I want to offer something to those contemplating if school will fill your child’s needs. It is, in fact, one of the main reasons I’m considering pulling her out to homeschool … Extroverts need to talk to think. It is not just energy levels for them but also how they process info. And as Penelope stated, schools do not encourage this. So when our teachers consistently complain that my child is “calling out”, I’m like well yeah, bc she is engaged. If they successfully train her to keep quiet I think they will essentially be teaching her to just tune out. Not exactly what I want for my kid.

    • linda lou
      linda lou says:

      Schools are designed for introverts. Yet it’s only the extroverts who want to be in a room full of 30 people all day everyday. So it’s not really working for anyone.

      I pulled my son out at start of 3rd grade. The teacher was foul. I haven’t put him back in because even though he LOVED the social scene at school, the work had become entirely worksheets at the desk, thus very little opportunity for socializing or engaging with people. It was soul crushing for him.

  10. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I, too, have at least one extraverted child and I am a decided introvert. We had a talk the other day about whether school would solve his social needs (he’s 12). After carefully thinking through the pros and cons, he re-decided that no matter how much he wants lots of friend-interaction, he hates the idea of school and doesn’t believe it would be worth it in the end. He’s been in school before so he has some experience to draw from. In the meantime, we’re involved in a homeschool community and martial arts classes as well as church activities. He has siblings. It’s going to have to be enough.

Comments are closed.