I love homeschooling, but as an introvert, being around people 24/7 often leaves me feeling drained. Ironically, my biggest joy is also my biggest struggle.
It’s been almost a year since we started homeschooling, and I’m still so thankful for this opportunity.
In a previous blog post, I addressed heart attitude and what it means to have rest as a mum in those moments where you need a break. In this blog post I want to talk specifically about the challenges of managing homeschooling as an introvert.
Even though I’m still relatively a newbie to homeschooling, this has been a major area of sanctification for me (read: a refining fire), so I hope that sharing my journey can help others in the same boat.
Let’s start with the biggest kick-in-the-pants realisation homeschooling has been to my introverted self…
It’s not about me
Homeschooling teaches me again and again that my life is not about me. Actually, it feels very similar to early parenthood, in this sense.
My days are not mine to curate into perfectly balanced little chunks so I can achieve all I set out to do, and still have time to put my feet up. My hands, my body, my time are all instruments in the hands of a good God to achieve his purposes.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
Sometimes I have needs that clash with my kids’ needs. For example, I might need to get some peace and quiet right when one child needs to be comforted and another disciplined.
In that moment, I have some choices…
I can choose to put my own needs first and ignore the needs of my children.
I can choose to meet their needs, but grumble in my heart about how unfair it is and outwardly show frustration.
Or I can joyfully lay aside my own needs and embrace the opportunity to be there for my kids in that moment, looking to God for the strength to do it.
The last choice is the path to blessing.
“Being introverted” is not a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to doing the work God has put before me. Homeschooling has taught me to lay aside my idolatry of self, and instead let myself be spent in worship of God.
And the reality is this laying down of the self is the calling of every Christian. It’s just that homeschooling is the particular means of my sanctification at this time (among other things). We are all called to lay aside our needs for those of others; to consider others more important than ourselves.
This realisation frees me to see my personality traits as simply part of who I am (all of which is for God’s glory), rather than something to order my life around.
Managing Introvert Overwhelm as a Homeschooler
With that in mind, there are several things I’ve discovered which help me to manage being an introvert in this season of life that has me spending lots of time around people.
- Waking early
- Getting out in nature
- Focusing on deep friendships
1. Waking early
This year I’ve got back into the habit of waking up before the kids to have a cup of tea, pray and read my Bible. This time in the morning has been such a blessing to me!
And I think it makes a difference for the kids, too. When I’m up before the kids, I feel more prepared to greet them with a smile, less rushed and generally more peaceful.
You can read the Bible and pray at any time of day, of course, (and in certain seasons, waking up early might not work) but in this season with older kids, it’s great.
Last year when we started homeschooling, I enjoyed the lack of a morning rush so much that I fell into a habit of sleeping in every day. And while I loved the extra sleep, it meant there were people around from the moment I opened my eyes. People who wanted me to make food and told me things like “Oscar vomited on the carpet and I walked in it!” even before I’d boiled the kettle.
As an introvert, that little slice of alone time first thing in the morning really helps me to start the day with intention, taking time to ask God for His help and to reorient my perspective to His.
2. Investing in deep friendships with other mums
As an introvert, one thing that I find really exhausting is all the chit chat with other mums when we’re out and about. Apart from being selective about how many activities I can realistically manage in the week, I’ve found that what helps with this is trying to go deeper in my conversations with other mums.
It’s easy to spend a whole hour on small talk, but if I intentionally ask questions with purpose and seek to learn new things, it’s less tiring. (And the bonus of being a newbie is that I have lots to learn!).
I like to ask other mums about how they handle specific issues that come up in home education, what led them to start homeschooling, or how they were schooled as a child (and how that has factored into their decisions).
I also find it helps to focus less on myself and how I’m being perceived and more on how to meet the needs of the person I’m talking to. One of the key struggles of being an introvert (in my experience) is the tendency to overthink things and get stuck in our own heads. So letting go of that and simply focusing on the other person can be a welcome relief.
Over time, these deeper conversations become more natural and friendship grows. There is still the effort required to make conversation and be engaged, but I find it’s less draining than small talk.
3. Getting out in nature
We’ve always loved getting out in nature with the kids, and really, there are so many benefits.
But one particular benefit I’ve noticed since homeschooling is that getting out into the bush, near a creek, or even to a spacious playground gives me a reprieve from the constant chatter and conversation of being at home together.
The kids spread out to build a fort, cross a rushing stream, or follow an animal track, and I am free to sit and just listen to the birds. Bliss!
Of course, there are other, conversational aspects to getting out into nature, like observing, questioning, instructing. But I find that spreading out in a bigger area means the conversation is not constant and draining.
Time outside is refreshing for all of us!
Maybe you’ve thought before “I could never homeschool because I’m too introverted” or “I wouldn’t cope with being around my kids all day”.
I’ve felt those things too.
Even on the harder days of homeschooling, I’ve thought about sending them back to school just so I can have back that quiet part in the middle of the day (then I remember about the drop offs, the lunch boxes, the homework, and the endless paperwork…).
At the end of the day, being around my kids 24/7 is hard but it is a blessing. And I can see the blessings to come as I look forward.
Already, I see how my own attitude has changed – I no longer feel a sense of dread and panic at the thought of having to do things alone with them. (Okay, maybe there’s still a teensy bit of dread when I take them all to Costco…)
Another homeschool mum told me last week that when they become teens, they all start sleeping in and you get your mornings back.
I was thinking the other week – daydreaming, really – about some unknown day in the future when all my birds have flown the nest. And I pictured myself sitting down in a quiet house, with a hot cup of tea and a good book.
It was a peaceful vision. But also unsettling.
Is that what God wants for me? A quiet place to put my feet up and not have to talk to anyone?
Well, sometimes, yes, it is. Sometimes this is how He calls me to rest.
But is that the goal of my life? Is that how my days are to be spent?
Even after my kids move out, I hope that the Lord will fill my house with noisy conversation, mouths to feed, wounds to bind up, and hope to be shared.
I don’t want those things in my flesh, but praise God, he is breaking me of these fleshly ideals and replacing them with His.
So at the end of the day, yes, it is hard to homeschool as an introvert. But for every hard thing, God gives more grace. And praise God that His vision for my life is bigger than mine ever was.