Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Personality and Homeschooling

We all had a summer cold last week. While the kids took it easy and vegged out in front of The Great British Baking Show, I took the opportunity to do a little homeschool planning for next year. For some people, planning involves actually opening books, counting chapters, scheduling out work, etc. For me, it involves reading about philosophies and going down rabbit holes doing personality research.

Recently my second daughter took a Meyer-Briggs test and determined that she was an ESFJ. Reading up on the ESFJ type, many things fell into place for me. (Although of course a generalized personality profile isn't going to get everything right, there was enough that rang true on this site that I found it overall helpful.) Her personality is almost the opposite of mine. We approach many things from different angles, and often end up frustrated with each other.  Understanding her strengths and weaknesses helps me to give her a better educational experience.

We went the round of personality tests with the older three girls (15, 13, and 11) and discovered different results.

Eleanor: INFP
Julia: ESFJ
Isabel: ESTJ

For reference: I am INTJ and Darwin is ENTJ.

For some personality fun that even the younger ones could get in on, the kids found a site that sorted them into their Hogwarts houses:

Eleanor: Ravenclaw
Julia: Hufflepuff
Isabel: Gryffindor
Jack: Slytherin
Diana: Ravenclaw
(I'm guessing that William is Gryffindor, based on his willingness to do just about anything, no matter how reckless. Maybe that's just being three, though.)

I'm putting myself in Ravenclaw because that's what I like.

All this knowledge is well and good, but how does one apply it to homeschooling? Simply Convivial has a page devoted to how personality type affects your homeschooling style, which was fascinating even for the kids to apply to themselves. But for me:
INTJ - the determined homeschool mom. 
INTJs are the most rare type among women, but you will find them disproportionately represented in the homeschool world. That's because they have zero tolerance for stupidity, they have drive, and they prefer to be unconventional and do things their own way. An INTJ will always create a system that is consistent with her principles, but following-through on it quickly becomes tedious and draining. Likewise, she has a keen awareness of the underlying worldview or principles she encounters, but her sense of her physical surroundings suffers the more she exercises her attention to ideas. 
Strengths: confidence, problem-solving, ability to turn theory into practice, fostering independence in her children 
Difficulties: handling noise & hubbub, obsessing, showing affection, noticing emotional or physical cues 
Style: nothing scripted, everything researched, decisions made based on their own priorities and principles; generally focused on reading & writing with few outside commitments or activities or also likely to be STEM-invested.
As with everything, it's not 100% applicable, but pretty close. For example, I don't have difficulty picking up on emotional or physical cues. I simply choose to overlook them if I don't want to reward certain histrionics with notice, or if they are out of proportion to the situation. But I do carefully note when outbursts or frustrations seem to coincide with being sick or hungry, or with monthly cycles, or whether some people just need a nap or quiet time. It's not hard for me to pick up on emotional cues, and it's not hard for me to ignore them either.

But four functions are not enough to understand personality. Let's kick it up to eight.

These four functions — intuition, sensing, thinking, feeling — are actually eight. Each of them can be introverted or extroverted, used for internal operations or external activity.
Here’s a handy chart to help summarize this information:
How you learn and what you notice (by cognitive function).
Each of the Myers-Briggs types has a primary function, a secondary function, a tertiary function, and an inferior function. Every primary/secondary pair has one introverted and one extroverted function, one perception and one decision function. The lower two will be sort of a mirror pair of the top two.

How you decide the right thing to do (by cognitive function).
This is key to understanding how to manage energy for your type.
If everything you do requires you to act outside of your primary function, you will be worn down quick as anything. It’s extra work to use anything other than your top one or two functions.
Again, applying this to my children, it seems to account in some key ways for their personalities, in ways that make me laugh out loud with recognition.

So for me, my functions are:

Primary: Ni -- introverted intuition. Perspective is key; wants deep insight.
Secondary: Te -- extroverted thinking. Effectiveness is the goal; wants to do what works.
Tertiary: Fi -- introverted feeling. Authenticity is the goal; wants to act with conviction.
Inferior: Se -- extroverted sensing. Sensation is thrilling; wants verifiable information.

Looking at the bottom two functions, the tertiary Fi explains why I've never been able to make Latin work in our homeschool. It seems so authentic! But just feeling like "real homeschoolers do Latin" is not enough to make it stick for me. And the inferior Se says everything about my avoidance of hands-on science experiments, and why last year's time-intensive lab-heavy science curriculum was dropped within weeks. And it speaks to why co-ops wear me out and make the rest of the day dead time.

On the other hand, the primary Ni fits perfectly with my readaloud culture and love for big ideas and the big picture. The secondary Te explains why we keep coming back to certain workbook math curriculum and phonics pages. They just work.

The next step to create a plan based on this information. I've been reading through some planning series at edsnapshots and flipping through the posts at Simply Convivial. Also, even if you're not battling serious illness or physical inconvenience, there's a lot of good advice and perspective to be gained from Brandy Vencel's series, The Low-Energy Mom's Guide to Homeschooling, which contains the post where I found the eight function personality chart above.

You'll notice that none of this is about specific curriculum choices. That comes later, to my mind, because if there's one lesson I learned over this past year, it's that you have to know who you are and how you function before you go throwing just anything onto the bookshelf.

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