Introverts and Socialization

Many accomplished people are not famous, preferring to stay in the background while they excel at what they do. That’s often the sign of an introvert.

In Susan Cain’s book Quiet, she describes Darwin Smith, the former CEO of Kimberly-Clark who led that company to become the most successful paper company in the world, as “shy and mild-mannered” and very hard-working. She also refers to a study of high-performing CEOs that surprised many with its finding that top CEOs were “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated.” So much for the stereotype of the loud, charismatic, self-promoting Trump-like CEO.

In her book, Ms. Cain mentions other famous introverts like Rosa Parks, Moses, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. These people were highly gifted and successful, though not extroverted. It appears that they excelled when they were allowed to do things in their own way instead of the popular way; it makes me wonder how many children are unable to develop their gifts and interests because they’re continually being forced into a mold of extroversion by the well-meaning adults in their lives (both teachers and parents).

This book also made me wonder: when people ask how homeschooled kids can be socialized, aren’t they really asking how they can be turned into extroverts? These questioners rarely seem satisfied when told that homeschooled kids meet and hang out with a variety of people of all ages in their daily lives. Perhaps what the questioners really mean (whether they know it or not) is, how can a homeschooled child be taught to stand up and speak in front of the class, lead the team, run for student council? And of course, all those activities are meant to encourage extroversion.

Ms. Cain makes it clear that many people aren’t comfortable with the idea of letting introverts be introverts, wanting instead to turn them into extroverts. Even some parents do this in a misguided attempt to make their children “turn out right.” But it seems to me that all children should spend their time in an atmosphere where they will thrive. Growing up in a home where they’re accepted for who they are, being given time to learn as much as they can in whatever way they prefer, and being allowed to mature without the constant pressure to perform publicly will help them thrive; all of those things point to homeschooling.

Next week: Is Your Child an Introvert?


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