How to Find a Homeschooling Style That Fits Your Personality

The coronavirus lockdown has brought us plenty of shocks and adjustments, but for parents, perhaps the most startling change is suddenly being responsible for our children's education. Suddenly we're all ready to vote in six-figure salaries for our local teachers as we realize what's actually involved in keeping kids occupied, stimulated, and educated day after day...after day.

Many of us are feeling out of our depth, and you may feel as if you've been thrust into a job that you're not only unqualified for, but also fundamentally unsuited for. Teaching, like any occupation, tends to attract a certain personality, and if you don't see yourself as a schoolmarm type, you may be especially struggling with your new reality.

But don’t panic. If you're having trouble inhabiting the teacher role, it doesn’t mean you’re incapable of making homeschooling work. More likely, it means that the approach you’re adopting does not mesh with your own personality. You don't have to become someone you're not; you just have to find a teaching style that’s right for you.

Just as personality influences our career choices, parenting and communication style, it also plays a major part in how we guide and educate our children—everything from the degree of involvement we expect to have in our their education, to how we instill discipline and offer rewards. Each of us brings our personality to homeschooling, whether we like it or not.

That’s why following the school’s plan, or a friend’s plan, or trying to imitate a teaching style you found on the internet, can leave you feeling defeated. There may be nothing inherently wrong with those techniques. But if they’re forcing you to spend your energy on activities that feel meaningless to you, or play a role that doesn't fit—well, that’s a recipe for disaster. We’re already living in stressful times. It's crucial that you find a way to manage homeschooling that lets you feel like yourself.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at four unique personality styles and how they approach the task of teaching. Identify your own style to learn how to play to your strengths and make home education bearable...or, dare we say, even enjoyable.

Traditionalist Parents 

Traditionalists are responsible, stalwart authority figures. They place a high value on learning within established structures and want to do the right thing by their child, which usually means trusting the school to know what’s best and closely following whatever lesson plans have been provided. Consistent and detail-oriented, these types make a plan and stick to it, which means the child will always know what’s expected of him. If you are familiar with Myers-Briggs personality types, you'll recognize these Traditionalists as Sensor-Judger types: ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, and ISFJ personalities.

Strengths: 

  • Establishes clear and consistent routines and follows through on plans; you can count on Traditionalists to make things happen.  

  • Skilled at organizing their own work, life and other responsibilities around the child’s education routine.

  • Takes a hands-on approach and will invest wholeheartedly in their child’s education.

Weaknesses: 

  • Tends to be very black-and-white in their approach, which makes it difficult for them to follow the child’s lead and be flexible.

  • Likes to see the results of their efforts; may get frustrated when lesson plans don't deliver expected results.

  • Tends towards control and perfectionism, which may put too much pressure on everyone.

Tips for success: 

  • Look to the school’s curriculum and established ‘school-in-a-box’ resources for inspiration; Traditionalists prefer to implement tried-and-true solutions rather than create plans from scratch, so don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

  • Take care that you’re not letting the plan become the master rather than the tool. If the child is not responding, you’ll need to be more flexible.

  • Don't expect too much of your child and resort to punishment. Be open to acknowledging when it's time to relax the routine. 

Adventurer Parents

Full of enthiasism, Adventurers bring a sense of fun and and spontaneity to the learning experience – these types are always up for hands-on experiments and turning everday tasks into a learning activity. Adventurer parents teach by being present in the moment, working side-by-side with their child on a fun task and allowing kids to discover things for themselves. They’re the definition of chill and tend to be pretty gung-ho about letting their children try things out, even when it gets messy. What they’re not so great at is following through on a structured learning plan. In Myers-Briggs parlance, these are the Sensor-Perceivers: ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, and ISFP.

Strengths:

  • Great at inspiring excitement for a project and keeping the child's enthuasism up.

  • Can turn any experience into a practical learning activity, making the whole world their classroom.

  • Hands-on and flexible; will try just about anything together with their child. 

Weaknesses

  • Blasé about structure, routines and follow through – plans may fall through the cracks.

  • Deadlines are a loose concept for Adventurers, which may conflict with the expectations of the child's school. 

  • Often finds things easier to do than explain; to getting frustrated and doing the task themselves if the child isn’t getting it.    

Tips for success:

  • Adventurous types are super hands-on so the DIY approach works for them. Create a flexible learning plan and build the homeschool environment around lots of practical activity.

  • Leave plenty of wriggle room for free time and spontaneous activities to reduce boredom.

  • Watch that you’re not being too unpredictable and confusing your child.

Supporter Parents

Supporters are committed to helping their children flourish, and they do so by mentoring and guiding them along their learning journey. Rather than being prescriptive about timetables and learning activities, these types will quickly clue into how their child is feeling and will sense each child’s unique abilities and needs. These types love to nurture others and prefer to follow a loose curriculum that leaves plenty of room for quality time and deep conversations. If you've tested as an Intuitive Feeler on a personality test (ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, INFP), you're a Supporter.

Strengths:

  • Willingness to give everything to support their child’s needs; Supportive parents are their child’s biggest champion and their children will trust that the parent is there for them. 

  • Mentoring and adaptive teaching style; Supporters take cues from the child and cultivate their unique interests and passions.

  • Not afraid to throw off routine in order to do something fun and inspiring.

Weaknesses:

  • Goes above and beyond for others, regardless of personal cost, and is easily overwhelmed and burnt out.

  • Avoids conflict to the point where the child may wind up calling the shots and getting away with poor behavior.

  • For some Supporters, consistency is an issue. These types may be too visionary and actively avoid anything too formulaic, rigid or detailed. 

Tips for success:

  • Use a planned curriculum as your starting point and to keep you on track, but adapt it according to your family’s needs. The best scheme will support your child’s individual learning abilities and leave room for inspiration and spontaneity.

  • Notice if you’re biting off more than you can chew and/or are lapsing into perfectionism; remember that good enough is enough in these difficult times.

  • You love books, read-aloud stories, games and conversation, so don’t be afraid to use these tools in your homeschool plan. Have the confidence to take the eclectic approach and follow your gut.

Scientist Parents

Scientists are so-called because they are rational, experimental and tend towards the intellectual—which means they have zero tolerance for work sheets, quizzes and other such unstimulating nonsense. These types have lots of big ideas that they love to test out with their child, but no patience for the mundane. Their teaching style tends to be fairly hands-off; Scientists are all about encouraging their children to discover and learn things for themselves. Their instinctive approach is to “unschool” and provide an environment where the child is free to ask questions, try things out and absorb the material in their own way. Scientists are also known as Intuitive Thinkers (ENTP, INTP, ENTJ, INTJ) in the Myers-Briggs framework.

Strengths:

  • Fosters independence and a contagious love of learning in their children.

  • Good at seizing opportunities and improvising the day-to-day while staying focused on overall objectives.

  • Opens the child up to lots of possibilities and gives them options to learn things in their own way, without stepping in to interfere.

Weaknesses:

  • Prefers ideas to routines; following through on structured learning plans quickly becomes tedious.  

  • Struggles to pick up on the emotional cues of the child.

  • Impatient with neediness, clinginess and kids who don’t "get it"; often struggles with the tedium and repetitiveness of educating young children. 

Tips for success:

  • You prefer to be unconventional and do things your own way, so nothing too scripted is a good approach for you.

  • Take care that you don’t have 20 unfinished activities left hanging, and that you’re providing some closure and feedback for the child.

  • Pause often and make sure you’re doing the right thing by your child, and are not letting your big ideas and scorn for the "rules" dominate the atmosphere.

Whatever your personality type, there's a teaching style that will suit you—and it doesn't have to even vaguely resemble the education you remember from your own childhood. So what if you don't fit the mold of what a teacher "should" look like? There are as many teaching styles as there are different personalities in the world.

So cut yourself some slack, and give yourself some space to develop a teaching style that works for you. When you bring your authentic self to the learning process, you'll find this strange and uncomfortable experience can actually bring you and your family closer together.  

Molly Owens

Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly.

Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.

Comments

Cassi (not verified) says...

What a fantastic post! I can imagine many parents will enjoy knowing that there isn't a one size fits all teaching approach and that's a good thing!

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