Is Homeschooling Better for Introverts than Group Education?

Seldom does a nonfiction book grab my attention and hold it as well as Quiet just did.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking fascinated me because we have introverts in our family. And until I read this book I didn’t realize how many of us are introverts. It gave me new insight into my husband, though we’ve been married for almost 35 years, and also helped me understand more about my kids, which is always helpful. I even learned a few things about myself that made me feel a little better about some things that happened to me when I was young.

Author Susan Cain’s main point is that we live in a society where extroverted behavior is celebrated and expected, even though 1/3-1/2 of the population is made up of introverts. This cultural preference for extroverted behavior (which doesn’t exist in some other cultures, ex. Asian) is reflected not only in how employers choose workers, but more importantly (at least in my view) in how school personnel treat children.

That last point, which Ms. Cain covers in one chapter of her book, is very important, because children are so sensitive and affected by how the adults in their life act towards them. If an introverted child is treated like there’s something wrong with her, it can affect her negatively, with lifelong ramifications. When I read this, my brain started going “Ding! Ding! Ding!” because it made so much sense to me based on my own personal experience. In fact, as I thought about what I had just read, I realized that much of my own personal dislike for school had to do with the incessant pressure from teachers to be someone that I wasn’t.

Ms. Cain believes that we need to stop trying to change introverts into extroverts, and instead celebrate the gifts that introverts bring to the world. Many of the world’s creative geniuses have been introverts; this makes sense because introverts need a lot of thinking time, which usually translates into creative time.

When faced with hectic social situations, introverts often need recovery time afterwards. While extroverts are energized by being in large groups of people, introverts tend to find them exhausting. Just think of the ramifications of being in school all day, every day, for years, for the introverted child!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are several really interesting aspects of this book that I’d like to cover, so I think I’ll post about them in the coming weeks. For now, let’s just take a brief look at the common characteristics of introverts vs. extroverts:

  • Introverts tend to prefer talking with one or two people instead of being in a group activity, while extroverts find a big, loud party to be their idea of a great evening.
  • Introverts like to spend time delving into a subject, while extroverts tend to be better at multi-tasking.
  • Introverts usually prefer to avoid conflict, while extroverts enjoy the verbal back-and-forth of conflicting opinions.
  • Introverts hesitate before speaking, not because they’re shy but because they’re thinking first, while extroverts often speak before they think.
  • Introverts prefer working on their own to working in a group, and usually work best on their own (this has huge ramifications for how well they learn in school settings.)
  • Many introverts like to write, and are sometimes accused of “living in their heads.”

So, do the habits of introverts remind you of any of your children? Your spouse? You?? Stay tuned to learn more about introverts.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Next week: Introverts and Socialization

Flashback Friday: Our Tax Dollars Hard at Work

Just received one of the many puff pieces our local school district sends out in an effort to justify its existence. After spending years on our state’s financial and academic watchlists, it needs all the good P.R. it can buy. This particular quote is from the principal of one district school that recently “transformed itself”:

“Over the past few years, XXX School has transformed itself,” says Principal John Doe. “There is a palpable sense of the good things happening at XXX. We have embraced the philosophy, ‘If the horse is dead, get off of the horse.” (emphasis theirs)

(As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Hat tip to dd15, who encouraged me to put the quote on my blog.)

Originally posted 3/10/07

A Parent’s Righteous Anger

We never sent our youngest son to school because we were already homeschooling our older three kids and didn’t think his having Down syndrome was a good reason not to homeschool him, too. That was our main reasoning. But underlying that logic was our fear that he might be mistreated in school.

When I went to school, the “retarded,” as they were called, were often made fun of and picked on by other students. But it never occurred to me back then that teachers might do that too. Adults were supposed to be above such things; teachers in particular were supposed to care about children and be kind to them.

As a parent, I wasn’t quite so naïve. Yes, there are good teachers out there, but I know from the experiences of some relatives and friends that you take your chances when it comes to your child getting a good teacher vs. a bad one. When your child has mental retardation (and particularly when he has speech delays or apraxia), you lay awake nights worrying that someone might hurt him in school and he wouldn’t even be able to tell you that it happened, much less share his pain so that you could help him recover from it.

So homeschooling our son resolved all sorts of problems for us. But not everyone can homeschool their special needs kids. Take this single dad, for example. His 10-year-old son has autism and as a result has difficulty communicating at times. But he’s normally a sweet kid, so when he started acting out in school, his dad became concerned. Then he sent his boy to school with a recorder in his pocket and soon discovered the ugly truth that his son could not tell him.

My heart breaks for this man and his son, and for all parents of special needs kids who can’t homeschool them. What you will see in this video is righteous anger:


Learning From John Taylor Gatto

Children learn what they live.

Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community;

interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important;

force them to plead for the natural right to the toilet and they will become liars and toadies;

ridicule them and they will retreat from human association;

shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even.

The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.

That’s by John Taylor Gatto, and he cuts right to the chase, doesn’t he? Here’s a quote from a review of one of his books over at Amazon:

I wish I’d read this while I was in school; I’d have seen then that there was something wrong with the system, not me.

That’s heartbreaking. How many adults were wounded by school when they were children? Gatto knows. He taught in the public schools for thirty years. When he was given the New York State Teacher of the Year award, his acceptance speech (pdf) was not exactly what they were expecting! It was a criticism of the institution of school.

If you have any time in what’s left of summer, you might want to check out Gatto’s books. He gives all parents, not just homeschooling parents, much to think about: