Would like to hear what you think...I have a 4yo dd who is the sweetest, gentlest thing and super shy (not like her mama!). She has always been like this, from birth...the type of baby who isn't content unless they are in constant contact with their mama. A baby who thrived on touch---ALL THE TIME. Anyway, she has never grown out of it....she is super outgoing at home, or with family members who she feels comfortable with, but it doesn't matter how long she is around someone else, and how well she knows them, she is just really reserved and shy. She tends to get overwhelmed with kids her own age especially, as this age is very hands on and a little roudy, which she is not. She does well with girls who are about 8 or 9, who have calmed down and give her the space that she need to open up. She is a gem, but as we enter into the thoughts of what to do next fall for schooling, I am getting quite a bit of preasure from everyone, including dh.....
I would like to homeschool. One due to the education that I feel that she will get at home, and 2 because of her personality, I feel like school would just overwhelm her, and possibly impact her in a negative way as she is so sensitive. That being said, I recognize the need for peer interaction. I have looked into the local co-op here near me and am SO not impressed. It seemed more like a social time for the moms, versus the education of the kids.
So what do I do? Everyone is pushing me that she will never open up unless I make her have the peer interaction. I already take her to things during the week, but she always wants to be with me, holding my hand...sitting on my lap, that she doesn't interact with her peers. They are so loud for her and she hates it. It scares her. I feel like I don't want to push her, and she will open up in her own time...but my dh says what if she doesn't? My mil feels like I am overproctecting her and need to let go. To all of them (except my dh) I want to say bugger off....she is my dd and this is about respecting her pace.
So, I am at a loss. I want to homeschool in large part due to her personality, yet, is what I doing not helping?
Homeschooling can be great for developing skills, like your daughter, mine middle dd is more sensitive, she is shy out in public and often prefers to stay home. So, some people assume that because she isn't all that out going, we should make her to those things that are hard for her. As a parent, I know that she can be pushed, gently, to try new things but she needs lots of support.
So, my take on it, is that homeschooling can fit her emotional needs while you help her navigate playdates, co-op and meetings with other kids. People often assume what works for them, works for others as well. And remember, she is just 4, which is the age where kids begin to form friendships but often want Mom/Dad around for support. She is getting time with other kids, and will move away from you when she is ready. There is no need to force it. Trust me, my dd, who I started to worry about because she wasn't all that out going, now is happy to leave me and do her own thing (she just turned 7).
Dh, Me , DD 10 , DD 7 , DD 4
We , , , , not in that order
Well, you COULD press the question. "What if she never opens up?" Yeah, so what if she doesn't? Some people are extremely introverted. It doesn't mean there's something WRONG with them, that they're sick or maladjusted or unhappy or will never amount to anything. If she's happy being by herself most of the time, with just a few good friends, and is never crazy into the whole social scene -- what *specifically* would be wrong with that?
Maybe it's less than "ideal" but would it really be *terrible*?
As for the friends pressuring you with the idea that they need to be forced into social situations in order to be able to open up ... they've obviously never been a severely introverted kid in the first place. That was me. I was seriously and incredible introverted, and TERRIFIED of people and new social situations. The kid hanging back in the corner with her head down and tears running down her face and unable to say a word? That was me.
Going to school did NOT make it better! Going to school was stress and panic and fear every. single. day. I enjoyed the education side of it, actually... I was a 'brain' and my one pride was my good marks and being able to answer the teacher's questions. But I had NO FRIENDS and I knew that I was the social outcast. Sometimes those tears were tears of loneliness. Often times, I *wanted* friends, I *wanted* to socialize, but I had absolutely no idea how to do it. What most kids just naturally pick up through observation about the 'social rules', I was blind to. When I would try to break out of my shell a bit, I'd make faux pas after faux pas, foot in mouth, embarassing myself endlessly. I was teased, mocked, bullied, you name it.
It wasn't until well into adolescence when I finally started to find some kids with true common interests... or maybe because we were *all* maturing, our social interactions became more mature and less stressful. And it wasn't until university that I was finally "better" -- ie, confident enough with myself to engage in a variety of social situations without undue fear and panic. It *was* in large part because of experience -- having a sufficient amount of *positive* social experiences that I was more or less forced to do and learned that I *could* do them and that the negative outcomes I worried about didn't happen. But that was when I was OLDER and could handle that bit of stress for the positive outcome. NOT when I was 5!! In fact, all the negative situations when I was very young probably made it take LONGER for me to get 'out of it'.
I'm still very much an introvert, but I'm very, very successful in my field and in my personal life. I am confident and capable in social situations - I just don't *prefer* them most of the time. ;) I'm actually a stage performer, classical musician, I can give speeches and all that sort of thing as well. As an introvert, I actually have certain advantages in terms of thoughtfulness, empathy, analysis, etc -- not to say that extroverts LACK those skills, just that there is a *general* trend that introverts and extroverts have different skill sets (and different weaknesses) and that there are advantages to BOTH ways of being.
When introversion and fear of social situations is as extreme as you describe with your daughter -- and as it was with me -- it is worth looking into the possibility of Asperger's. I do honestly believe, looking in hindsight at my childhood, that this is likely the case with me. It explains soooo much. And as I went through adolescence, I learned the coping mechanisms I needed.
When Asperger's is identified earlier on, kids can learn the coping mechanisms they need. But not by jus being thrown into stressful social situations! One of the primary traits of Asperger's is that they do not just naturally pick up social skills through observation and exposure, as most kids do. So throwing them into social situations -- school, dance classes, co-ops, playgrounds, whatever -- is like throwing a non-swimmer into the deep end of a pool and just expecting them to figure out how to swim. They just don't have the skills to cope, nor the ability to learn the skills without *coaching*.
As it turns out, my son also has Asperger's. He's not an introvert -- he's EXTREMELY social. But as I was surprised to learn, Asperger's does not necessarily mean 'non-social', it just means 'not good at socializing' -- difficulty learning the social cues. In his case, he can be TOO social, thinking that everyone is his friend - so the 'mean kids' would take advantage of him when he was younger. Getting in other kids' faces until they get annoyed and don't want to be friends with him anymore. He'd miss the 'cues' that they weren't interested in his conversation or attempts to be part of their group. Once it was identified (when he was 12), we were able to take some steps to 'coach' him a bit. Before that time, he'd never been to school, but was in lots of clubs and classes etc, and had had NO improvement in terms of social skills. Learning that he wasn't going to be able to figure this out *by himself* (and that this was OKAY and just a trait he has to deal with) helped immensely. He's now 13.5yo and seems to be doing just fine socially now!
Oh, and when we sought diagnosis and therapy when he was 12 -- the therapist was SO HAPPY that we were homeschooling him!!! She said for kids with his social issues, school can be so hard, and it does NOT teach them the skills they need, it's just more stress they don't need. (Kids with extreme social issues spend all their energy on coping with the social stress, and have less energy for learning!) She said we were DEFINITELY doing the best thing for him and that he was lucky to have had that chance. :)
My nephew also seems to be another Aspie (and yes we suspect it runs in our family, there are 'suspects' in my parents and grandparents' generations as well). He's the 'extreme introvert' type, like your description of your daughter. Very, very similar in fact. He's almost 7, and is also homeschooled. He has NO desire to go to school! And every year, I can see him gradually expanding his world, bit by bit. I know he'll be fine in the long run, since he's being allowed to blossom in his own time; not like me, and not like his father (my brother) who were forced too soon.
Anyway, this is long and a bit rambly but I hope it helps a bit... Maybe do a bit of research on the biology of introversion and why it's not a terrible thing. Maybe some stuff on attachment theory -- "Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers" is a great one -- to help understand why the great concept of "socialization" is over-rated and potentially harmful. (I think YOU understand this, but having some of this research and expert opinion under your belt could help when you are 'attacked' on this subject.) From someone who was in that situation as the scared child, PLEASE believe me that you are doing the RIGHT THING. :)
What a tough situation to be in! I know so many people who think that pushing kids to do things they're uncomfortable with is the best way to get them comfortable with those things. Like you, I think it often does the opposite and try to only push my children in gentle and highly supportive ways. I wonder if it would be helpful for you to find a book that speaks to you as a parent of a more introverted or highly sensitive child. They're actually different traits, and your daughter may have both or one of them (or maybe it's something else entirely!). That might be a way to get your husband on board.
You might also want to think about a specific plan for getting your daughter some exposure to peer groups. Or maybe not peers, but other kids of whatever ages. Not a plan "to do at all costs" but a plan of outings and things to try. I personally can end up allowing my kids to stay only in their comfort zone, and having something to hold me accountable helps. For example, my son doesn't like trying new things and is not interested in any activities. However, I believe that a highly structured out-of-school activity (he's in kindergarten) would actually serve to increase his confidence, something sorely lacking. I've made it a goal to help him try two different activities this year. We already tried basketball after he expressed an interest but the environment was too overwhelming for him. We went for two sessions, sitting on the side-lines. He's expressed that he'll try it again in first grade. Next week we're trying ice-skating. I'd never go do these things if I hadn't said "we're going to try two things" simply because the risk of it not panning out is so great. So I tell myself that just going to the rink and seeing people ice-skate is going to be enough. That will be success. Maybe there's a parallel for your daughter?
Lastly, maybe there are some stories that your daughter would like that would help her practice some social interactions. Reading a kid's book where a child makes a new friend might help your daughter to "rehearse" the scripts needed for that. While other kids are practicing those scripts because they're outgoing and enjoy their peers, your daughter can do it through story. You could also help her to play out those scripts during pretend play, if she's into any character pretend play. My eldest plays a lot with pollypockets and squinkies which has been great for rehearsing social scripts and also for exploring alternatives to the scripts she learned from her birth family.
Just some thoughts. Overall though, it sounds like you're totally doing right by your daughter and helping her develop at her own pace is a wonderful gift to give her!
Married to DH since 2006. Adoptive mom to DD1 (June 2002), DS (Jan 2006), and bio mom to DD2 (May 2009).
Are you looking into coops for interaction or education? If it's interaction and the moms and kids are nice, then go for it. They still might have good information about what's going on for homeschoolers in your area and connect you that way. I wouldn't dismiss this group out of hand.
I am a big fan of Home Education Magazine, and their website would have excellent articles to print and share with reluctant family members. Their website and others would be good for them to browse and get a feel for modern homeschooling in general.
Our society has a tendency to view situations like yours negatively (she would be "fixed" if she were pried off your leg, you know!) Unfortunately pushing "socialization" can end up spoiling what might turn out to be a natural transformation later in childhood. My daughter was the same as far as not liking kids her age-- they break all the rules and it can be very traumatic for sensitive kids. I wouldn't push it, and I don't with my own. "Socialization", as defined by the Great Masses, is overrated. (OK, don't use those exact words with the fam. That's just between you and me!)
"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
Yes, I also immediately thought "hmm, indeed, what would happen if she never really worked through being able to play with 4 year olds?" The answer is that she'll grow up seeking the company of older people. And one day the people she is comfortable with will suddenly be her peers. I'm not saying there aren't any drawbacks to this, but it is what it is and it's not the end of the world.
I'm not your daughter but for me, cultivating one-on-one relationships with kind and predictable people was the best thing my mom did for me. She found me a small handful of friends that were indeed my friends, and once she saw that I could be comfortable with them, she made it happen. One of them was a 45 minute drive away, but she made the effort to do the driving and keep our relationship. This friend came to my wedding all those years later.
The greatest damage I have socially is not from lack of socializing but from failed socializing - what I couldn't get away from. My middle school years were the worst and at age 35 it can still haunt me a bit.
I do have some social weaknesses today. So I'm not claiming it will all just fix itself magically. However, when I come upon my social weaknesses, what is in my head is not "I wasn't forced to do this as a child" but "I had to do this as a child and it was utterly awful." As an adult I have more control over my social situations and don't have to put up with bullies or drama queens or ostracizing (well, maybe a bit in extended family for the former two, lol!) and can make an adult choice to get through things that aren't as comfortable. And since I'm usually with other adults, I generally don't regret it, and can feel more comfortable.
Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.
I'm the parent of a 17-year-old who was just like your dd at 4. We chose not to push. We decided to homeschool and gently introduce her to situations that would stretch her comfort zone a little. Homeschool co-op activities, playdates with other children, community events, etc.. Nothing that was beyond what she seemed to want to try.
At 17 she is still an introvert.
However, she is living on her own in a large city on the other side of the country, dealing with a largely francophone environment (in Montreal). She is coping with landlords and service providers and cooking and shopping on her own, forging her own social network, managing her own applications for university, driving her own education (through a combination of on-line learning and in-person specialized training). At 14 she spent two months backpacking through rural SE Asia with adult friends. At 15-16 she held down two part-time jobs both in the service industry, was outgoing and hard-working. Last summer she was away the whole time on a college campus and on tour with an orchestra. She's leaving for China in a week and a half for another tour.
She has pushed herself just fine. She only needed support and trust.
Mountain mama to one great kid and three great grown-ups
Oh, just wanted to add - while I see the benefits of socializing with other homeschooled kids (not least because it's more convenient, you don't have to wait until kids get home from school to get together) there is no reason in the world you'd have to limit yourself to those.
DD is 6 (despite my unupdated sig) and while we've made a few connections with homeschool families, none of them have clicked yet. Every one of her friends is actually in school (some public, some private). It works fine.
I'm also actually thrilled with the fact that DD is able to relate to children of different ages (and sexes too). She is 6, her friends range from age 3 to 10. Yes, her two best friends are 5 and 7, closest to her age, but she is perfectly able to get along with younger and older children.
When she was 2 and 3, she was very social and interested in interacting with other children, but her peers were not as socially advanced as she was (that is, wanted to just play alone or just couldn't play cooperatively) and older children didn't want to play with what they perceived as "babies." It was an awkward time. But we've just slowly collected friends that clicked with DD. There are 4 year olds out there who are quiet and predictable and will get along with your child. It may take time to find them. It's not an emergency, it's just something to work on in a natural way.
We found all of our friends by going into different situations. Some we've found at the YMCA, others just from playing at the park, others from the library, some are neighbors, and so on. Not every kid was the right match for DD, but we just made sure to make the effort to keep the ones that were.
Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.
My dd was similar and I think you are doing the right thing by respecting your dd.
I would consider your dd an introvert from your description. It isn't going to magically go away if she goes to school. It will take time and patience no matter what.
My dd hated kids her own age until they got older and settled down a bit. She has no trouble getting along with them now.
Introversion isn't even something that needs fixed- would you force a left-handed child to use their right hand? It is likely your dd will become more comfortable socially with gradual exposure.
She may always have a very small social circle though and be perfectly happy with that level of social interaction. I would focus on her actual social needs vs. what other people think is best.
I would suggest that you skip group activities with free play until your dd is older or keep going to the same one and just be patient. They can be very overwhelming and tiring for an introvert. When she gets to know a couple of people there very well she will likely feel more comfortable. You could also either go for an organized class/lessons or try to set up one-on-one playdates for socializing.
As laohaire said you don't need to only get your dd together with only homeschooled children just because she is homeschooled.
There is nothing wrong with playing with older or younger kids either. The beauty of homeschooling is that your dd does not need to be stuck with only kids the same age and sex for friends and playmates.
Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)
You're dd is only 4 - don't worry about it. She doesn't need pushing in any direction right now.
My ds1 - now 7.5 - was VERY shy also at age 4, although in his case he was only shy with adults, to the point where he wouldn't even talk to non-familiar adults (me, dh, grandparents) until he was 5 or so. Needless to say, he didn't do any activities on his own at that point. As he got older - 4,5,6 - he did open up a lot and became less shy with adults all on his own. However, in the past year or two we have had to give him some pushes. For instance, he would express a desire to do an activity - soccer, karate, whatever - but once we actually arrived at the activity and he realized that it involved interacting with a unknown adult, he would refuse to leave my side (literally). Dh and I have come to realize that the key for ds' participation is for us to NOT BE THERE (at least at first). Ds1 has now taken swimming lessons and is doing karate (things he said he really wanted to do); when dh or I took him to the first lesson, it was the same old scenario - he wouldn't leave our side. However, when we sent him with grandma and a trusted babysitter, with a little encouragement he did the classes and really liked them. In both cases we had grandma and the babysitter take him to 2-3 classes, just to make sure he was completely comfortable. After that though, all was well and dh and I were able to take him with no clinginess.
I am agree with pretty much every pp who posted. I'm an introvert, my dd is too. She's 5 now and up until recently she was just like your dd. She still is in
many respects. We are homeschooling her. I help her find friends, based on the kids she tends to pick out at parks, the beach, etc. We do hs coops. Not
everything works out with everyone but we make it work. I usually like to have 2 or 3 kids she knows well and set up playdates every week. I think it would
help your dh and the others who are pressuring you to read about personality theory. There is a huge difference between introverts and extraverts and everyone is
correct no amount of schooling is going to change the basics of someone's personality. You can help her navigate and cope with the world of socialites on her
own schedule, time, and in her own way by allowing her more breathing room to come into her own. This was my philosophy with my dd and it worked out
She's not "cured', she's still an introvert. She still won't sit on Santa's lap. She still gets overwhelmed if storytime at the library is packed.
But she can manage because she knows I am close by to offer her some coping skills or at least a safe place to land.
Give her room and time and she will blossom into the flower she's supposed to be
My babe is just as social as I am, which led me to decide to homeschool. If your babe is only 4 I would give it time and hang out with the same group often.
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I think that if a mom has a true calling to homeschool, then it will always be superior to the alternative. Listen to yourself, not the "people". Try what you think of doing and then take a look and evaluate.
For the record, my extremely shy child did not come out of her shell in school, she actually felt inferior to the chatty kids. As a homeschooler, she can be an introvert and have it be acceptable, and her social engagements are tailored to her liking. What a lucky kid and mama we are! She is doing light years better and is learning her "coming out of her shell social skills" at her own pace in a comfy environment. Especially on account of her sensory issues, public school is a wild zoo!
If you decide to home educate, you can manage your child's socialization, whereas at school, other adults will manage your child's socialization.
Co-ops are not the only answer. Your every day interactions will help to socialize your child: how you treat homeless people, whether you practice stranger danger (we don't), how you respond to service workers, how you interact with your friends and family, bringing the child into your conversations, and role-playing.
Sometimes socializing your child means teaching them who NOT to play with at the co-op or how to handle specific situations.
I have a very shy child, and role-playing introductions and what to do past that point has helped a lot. It doesn't work for everyone.
I feel like I don't want to push her, and she will open up in her own time...but my dh says what if she doesn't? My mil feels like I am overproctecting her and need to let go. To all of them (except my dh) I want to say bugger off....she is my dd and this is about respecting her pace.
So, what if she doesn't. There are many shy adults out there who do very well. I assure you that whether or not she "opens up", she will not be wanting your lap at 16. I think your intuition is dead on. I would keep her at home but skip the co-op. Instead, I would find a structured class like ballet (creative movement or preballet for this age) or an artsy class that meets once a week. The structure of the class should keep the kids from bouncing off the walls and she may just enjoy it. It also keeps her in contact with kids her age. I would also do storytimes at the library. She could sit in your lap, enjoy the story, and then you can peel your eyes for someone else who may have a "shy" kid.
Here is the question I would counter your opposition with: "If I am overprotective, she will likely push me away a bit when she is older, but if I don't protect her enough now--how will she know that she can trust me when she is older. What is the potential harm of sending her into an environment that she is not yet ready for?"
Mom to three very active girls Anna (15), Kayla (12), Maya (9).
I second the structured class. My oldest did not always want to do this, and when she was little we stuck to parks and open gyms. She preferred this even though sometimes it could be chaotic and upsetting. This did not get her used to making friends, and she stayed growly with other kids, esp those her age. But once she got past the need to always do things her way only (about 5 or so) the structured environment of her gym class I think got her toes wet, so to speak, with creating relationships with other kids. The classes were short, offered no chaotic free time, and the kids were of all different ages. This softened her up a bit. It won't help if your dd must be peeled off you to join in, but when she is ready, this can be a lovely introduction to other kids. Not that my daughter is a completely different person, but she can be bubbly and friendly on a superficial level, and she charms the socks off all the adults we meet. One day, we might be ready for deeper friendships, but not yet. She is nearly 7yo.
"She is a mermaid, but approach her with caution. Her mind swims at a depth most would drown in."
I don't use co-ops, but my kids attend choir, gymnastics team, swim team, Spanish class, and my older also does dance, diving, and Scouts.
Home schooling does not mean isolated at home. For me it just means I can cherry pick the quality of both my children's academic curriculum AND the above mentioned group activities. And they get a full night's sleep and get to go outside and play.
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