not a special breed

Sometimes I get the impression that, because I homeschool my kids, people assume I love staying at home.

This is both true and untrue. It’s true because I am doing exactly what I want to do, and it’s untrue because staying at home often bores me to tears.

I’m an extrovert. I like pressure and action and new. I get run down by routine. This means that many nights I go to bed dreading the next day—the studies, the battles, the chores, the messes. Even though homeschooling is, over all, profoundly satisfying, hanging out with my kids day in and day out doesn’t, in the moment, feel fulfilling.

The other day I was talking with another homeschooling mom who passionately adores homemaking and raising her kids. “I’m so introverted, I’m practically autistic,” she laughed.

“Oh, not me!” I said. “I have to prepare for my week at home by overloading my Sunday with people.” 

She cocked an eyebrow at me, so I explained what, for me, constitutes a perfect Sunday: 

*a people-filled church service
*Sunday school
*conversations in the fellowship hall, the deeper the better
*a new person to meet
*a brilliant thought to ponder
*a bit of gossip to savor
*guests for lunch
*visiting with my husband
*a walk with my sister-in-law
*perhaps a quick pop-in visit at my parents’ place
*a long phone call with a good friend

By evening, I’m filled up to my eyeballs with relationships and I go to bed happy, eager for my quiet Monday of ordinary and routine.

However! Come Tuesday or Wednesday, the people buzz has worn off, and I’m mopey and bored all over again and have to actively find ways to recharge.

My friend gaped. “I’m about dead after just church!”

When we lived in Nicaragua fifteen years ago, I discovered that the community folk believed postpartum women must rest indoors for forty days and subsist on a diet of corn drink and tortillas (and maybe cheese, too?). If the rules were not obeyed, the baby would get sick. Or the mother. Whatever.

I thought the birth rules were crazy unhealthy and couldn’t wait to demonstrate how healthy a well-fed and exercised new mother could be. So when I had my first child, I proudly washed diapers by hand, scrubbed my floors, walked about the community, and ate anything and everything. After some time, I triumphantly pointed out to our neighbors that, even though I was doing everything “wrong” according to their customs, my baby and I were thriving. And then I held my breath, eager to watch enlightenment dawn.

But my neighbors just cheerfully shrugged and said, “You can do that because your blood is different.”

My blood is different? My blood?!

I kept my incredulous disbelief and exasperation to myself. When a person gets written off as a different breed of person, the issue at hand is a moot point. There is nothing to say.

Sometimes I feel that people think homeschooling parents have different blood—or a different genetic code—that allows them to live with their children during the day. Like maybe they’re picturing all homeschooling parents as gentle, patient, generous, encouraging, soft-spoken introspective introverts who like to hang out with their kids.

Which is too bad for me because I am a demanding, impatient, and aggressively-selfish extrovert. Being with my children all day long drains me. I have to work to find meaningful, people-oriented activities to energize myself. If I don’t, my spirit shrivels.

So anyway. I just thought you should know the truth. Hanging out with my kids all day long doesn’t feed my soul.

P.S. But now I’m wondering: are most homeschooling parents introverted? Am I, as an extroverted homeschooling mom, an anomaly?

This same time, years previous: an ecclesiastical funk, a swollen eye, three stories, oven fries, and my excuse.


  • Beverly

    I was more introverted as a full-time chaplain than I am now as a mostly-at-home mom. I know a fair number extroverted-ish homeschooling moms, and one of the joys of my week is WEDNESDAY, when I typically get to hang out with some of them. As learning without the assistance of school or learning formally at home becomes commoner, I think people are beginning to get the impression that the parents of kids who learn at home and on the go are just…parents, who DO like to be with their kids…a lot of the time. And who also like to engage in the full range of experiences enjoyed by adults–heck–people in general. As a fairly extroverted person, I love the idea of front-loading Sunday with a lot of social time. That feeds my spirit, too. And coffee dates with friends…which I can take most any time of day as long as I don't schedule my husband to be working away from home at the same time I'm away.

  • Lindsay

    We've talked about homeschooling (so far we only have one, 13 month old, daughter). And while I love the idea, as an intensely introverted person I also love the idea of sending my kids to school and having blessed hours alone. Part of me wonders if maybe what I really want is a do-over in which *I* am homeschooled.
    My husband is working a lot right now to enable me to stay home with our baby; something for which I am so grateful. But when he gets home, especially after a 14+ hour day, or frequently after two or three days away, I pretty much throw the baby at him. So while I understand that for many extroverts immediate family doesn't "count" toward your people time, for many introverts they absolutely do (for me, my husband usually doesn't "count," but my parents and sister very much do – something that is even more obvious now that I don't live with them. Whether or not my kid(s) will remains to be seen).

    • Jennifer Jo

      This is funny, because when the kids were babies, I could hardly make it 7 hours without calling my husband to COME HOME NOW. And then I'd flee to my room for some nobody-need-me time. 14 hours solo parenting sounds brutal.

  • RobynHeud

    I needed to hear this today. I haven't officially started homeschooling as my oldest just reached kindergarten age, but it's always been the plan. In the last six months, we've switched from my husband being the SAHD and me working full time to the other way round. Every day that I'm with the kids, I wonder if I have the right personality for it. Patience is often in short supply, and though I class myself as an introvert, I find that I do need to be around people to revive myself at least a couple of times a week (and I agree, my kids don't count). But again, thanks for the reassurance. Maybe I'll finally start lesson planning, or maybe put together a schedule 🙂

  • Anonymous

    What makes you think it takes an introvert to be able to endure being closed up with their kids day after day. Do you know what an introvert is? It's not being shy and withdrawn. Nor is it the epitome of patience.

  • karen

    It's like anything that requires some self-sacrifice. Other people, not wanting to imagine what they think would be horrible, say, Oh, I'm not that kind of people.

    When you lived overseas, for example, that's what you said to them. Village life is different. It isn't only there that people have strict after-birth regimes that involve resting and caring for the new mom, who will have plenty of demands on her for ever after. it was not your blood that was different, not your scientific blood. It was your cultural blood. There way may well be the better, it is up to the culture to decide.

    I believe it is the same for we who choose to home school. We decide to do it and then show up in whatever way we can. We make it happen.

    It is the same for parents of disabled kids. People say, oh, I could never! Except in this case none of us gets to choose that part (unless we foster or adopt). And what those parents know better than anyone else is that what they do is not special, it is not a choice, it just is. And out of love for their children, they do.

    I was "never a home birth" person until I had one at a hospital who, through the poor systems at place in that hospital, ended up in an incubator. Being that there were no complications to the actual birth, I never went back to birth baby 2 or baby 3. It was no longer in my blood. I quickly became open to another culture.

  • Camille

    I am an extrovert. Through and through. So, no…you are not an anomaly…at least, not to me. Love what Jane had to say about homeschooling and nursing…so true! Great post! 🙂 Hugs, Camille

  • Suburban Correspondent

    I am definitely in the middle – I really need us to get out and about a few times a week, socializing with other people; but I also really need those quiet days in between to recharge. And there comes a time each day when my kids need to be outside or else I lock myself in my bedroom, just to get some much-needed down time. Being with kids all day is draining, so I don't understand how all these introverted homeschool moms do it. There must be some complicated calculus going on in their brains whereby their kids do not count as "other people."

    • Jennifer Jo

      And as an extrovert, I definitely have "some complicated calculus" going on in MY brain whereby my children ALSO do not count as "other people." Weird!

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    My skin almost crawls when people say to me, "I'm too impatient to homeschool," or, "There's no way *I* could homeschool." What they're saying, then, is that there is something different about me. Yes, we're all different but I am not always patient and some days I don't feel like I can do it/or want to do it- in fact, I want to go into a closet and cry or scream my head off. You hit the nail right on the head.

    As far as introvert/extrovert goes…I'm somewhere in between. I love the days we don't have to go anywhere (but am super quick to accommodate my kids' play dates) but need an evening out with a friend every couple weeks. I could get excited about your ideal Sunday…but only if it happened every other month or so. I'd need that long to recover:-).

    Homeschooling kind of reminds me of breastfeeding. You have to really, really be committed in your heart and mind to do it. There are times when it hurts, it's frustrating (think newborn nursing) and you just want some space BUT you love the closeness and you wouldn't choose any other way.

  • Unknown

    Homeschooling is definitely not the fairy tale it seems to be! I don't always have a smile on my face when help is requested and I swear it feels like my kids are not 15 ft away from me the whole day. I enjoy being at home but have to have a little me time in each day to recharge. I am a loner at heart and really enjoy being alone so constantly being around someone feels like a chore sometimes. But luckily I like my kids(most days) so I remind myself some people would kill for my life:) I just wanted to tell you I love your blog and have recently went back to the beginning to read it from the start. Oh and I love how you were telling the story in the background while discussing something totally different. Great job!

    • Judi

      This comment makes me laugh because it is how I feel some days especially since I have six children and I am nursing baby number six right now! I feel bad but sometimes I just need to be alone!

  • Rebecca

    Yes, that breed/blood stuff gets thrown at me, too, and I wrote the introverted book. "Oh, I'd love to homeschool but I'm just not that patient." Ha. I always hope my kids aren't around for those comments 'cause snorting and eye rolling are rude.

    My mother-in-law, bless her name, told my husband, when he was a kid, "Long-time married people don't fight less then divorced people, they just decide to stay married." I think homeschooling's the same. Homeschoolers don't have some sacred fund of patience, they just decide to spend all day with their kids. Sometimes, to everybody's sorrow. (My kids would totally play whatever-fer crazy game is going on there.)

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