Personality and homeschooling

ENFP Mom in action! Photo © Jo Messett-Jory
ENFP Mom in action!

When I began homeschooling, I had no idea about personalities beyond the old school Christian “four temperaments” (Sanguine, Melancholy, Phlegmatic and Choleric). I believed, based on Biblical teachings, that women, wives, mothers were to aim to be a certain kind of cookie-cutter organized submissive domestic conqueror— Caroline Ingalls combined with Olivia Walton, perhaps.

I failed miserably, of course. OK, that’s not true. I actually learned a lot and developed skills that I never would have otherwise. I taught myself how to cook and bake just about anything form scratch. I learned how to sew and quilt. I had a wringer washer for a while, and only a cook stove for a few years. I studied herbalism, natural health, and natural childbirth. Yep, we were practically Amish… It was challenging. And it was a needed period of life that when I think about it I don’t regret because I grew as a person. But I did beat myself up a lot because so much of it required a double dose of effort from me and seemed to come so naturally to other women.

We found (studied, read, prayed) our way out of Christianity several years ago. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life.  Not only do I empathize with anyone going through such an upheaval, but I also understand why so many Christians, when faced with obvious inconsistencies in the Bible and their belief system, choose to turn a blind I and remain where they are. It is HARD. It is UPSETTING. I literally had nightmares for months.

When that part of leaving was over, I was grateful to begin to ease into who I really am, and to reconnect with parts of myself that had been shut down for a long time. I was grateful to be free to get to know myself, and to develop naturally and in tune with the world, family, people and life surrounding me.

Part of this was coming to understand how different we all are, and what trying to be something or someone that we aren’t on a daily basis can do to us. Yes, we need to work on our weaknesses as opposed to just ignoring anything that challenges us in areas that we are not always comfortable with. That is growth. But I never really understood how living in a way that requires doing the opposite of what comes naturally 90% of the time can exhaust a person and even lead them to a state of depression.

I am an ENFP. While it has been good for me to develop my Sensing, Thinking and Judging sides, because these areas are not where my personality falls naturally, too much of it began to be harmful to me both emotionally and psychologically. I was not happy, because I could not be me. I mean, sometimes I could, but I would guilt trip myself about not being this ideal person that I thought I should be. I was pretty hard on myself when I shouldn’t have been. And to make matters worse, because of my lack of understanding of personalities, I let myself be surrounded by people who drained me as opposed to people with whom I experienced a mutual “filling of tanks”, so to speak.

My husband wasn’t familiar with any of this at the time either, and couldn’t understand my perpetual failing at the things that came naturally to him, or my need for people or “fluffiness” (often viewed as superficial by those who do not have the same need for friendships and connections). I felt like I was always letting him down, and he felt like he could never make me happy because I always seemed to need other friends and people in my life.

I am so glad that I–we–have come to understand and accept that there are straight-from-birth, core differences between people, and that’s just part of life. It makes a huge difference to “get” each other’s differences in that way and respect each other fully. While I have my days and moments where I just need some quiet and space to gather my thoughts, I will never be an Intovert. If I go somewhere one evening chances are I will have at least three new Facebook friends the next day LOL. Truth be told there are a lot of people out there that I would rather not deal with and given the choice would choose time with Me Myself and I over interacting with them, but for the most part I enjoy dealing with the public. OK I pretty much love dealing with the public 99% of the time. I like (most) people. I am happier when I have a lot of friends. That is who I am. Thank god for the Internet during those years that I was home so much.  I made some friends online with whom I am still in touch today.

One of the nice things about being an ENFP is being able to accept my kids’ personalities—some of which are very different than mine. I try to understand and to interact with them in ways that adapt to who they are. Yes, I fail–miserably at times. But from what I’ve read, being and ENFP is definitely an advantage if you are going to live with eight other people. We also make terrific homeschooling/unschooling parents because we think so far outside the box that we have lost sight of where the box actually is (this can perplex other personalities and make them very uncomfortable at times, but when they realize that we are harmless, they get over it). I did not understand this about myself when I began homeschooling and tried to be structured and “get things done or else”–very damaging to both my children and myself. That’s not allowing them to learn in their own unique way. That’s not embracing life and learning through interest and passion. That’s not being Me, and respecting my babies in the process.

I see some of my homeschool mum pals of different personalities torture themselves as I used to for their weaknesses. I want to wrap my arms around them and tell them not to because they are so unique and cool and gifted as they are. They each have so much to offer their children and families, and yes, while they have to go out of their comfort zones to meet their children (who have their own unique personalities) where they are, they have to learn to see their strengths for what they are as well.

You can only be the best Mom–the best you–if you truly accept and embrace who you are.  That is key.

 

If you’re curious about Myers Briggs personalities, there is a free analysis here. I also highly recommend the book Mother Styles by Janet P. Penley.

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3 thoughts on “Personality and homeschooling

  1. What an amazing post. There is so much here.
    I am going to take the test. I don’t know what label I will get, but I know that with age, and experience, I have come to understand who I am and be true to myself. I had a “Christian experience” for a few years too but it never felt right. It wasn’t for me.
    I hope we get to spent some time together again soon.

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