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The RIGHT Way to 'Socialize' a Painfully Shy Child

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, March 30, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 25 March 30, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please share it with a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Reader Feedback
Helpful Tips
-- Draw while Listening
Winning Website
-- Jefferson Lab Science
Reader Question
-- Overcoming Shyness
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Reader Feedback

[First I have an email in response to our article last week
about homeschool convention tips. Thanks, Judy!]

A Use for Return Address Labels

"One thing I have been doing for years, is to save the extra
address labels that I receive from mail soliciting donations
throughout the year. I take them along to the homeschool
conferences and they come in VERY handy when signing up for
door prizes, drawings and free giveaways. It saves a LOT of
time I would spend writing! You can even make your own on a
computer. If you do so, include your email address and phone
number also if you enjoy receiving more information from
vendors." -- Judy

[I also thought I'd share some more reader emails that came
in about those dumb comments people make to homeschooling
families and ways to respond to them.]

Just heard the oddest homeschool question...

"The other day I was talking to my daughter's homeschool
friend. She said that several years ago she went to a
family event where she met a man who found out that she was
homeschooled. He asked her... 'Do you know anything?' "
-- JoJo Tabares - http://www.ArtofEloquence.com

[Editor's note: This happened to my oldest son when he was
about 14. Ben was managing my bookstore for me when 2 older
men came in the store. He happened to have his books out
-- both German and Algebra -- and was working on an equation.
One guy said to him, 'If you're homeschooled, how will you
ever learn to read?' -- I kid you not, he really said that.
Ben didn't know what to say, he was so dumbfounded. The guy
seemed completely serious, too! -- Heather]

A Standard Come-Back

"A question I have frequently been asked is 'How long do you
intend to keep going?' Every time I answer, 'Do you want my
standard answer or the real one?' That, in fact, IS my
standard answer. People are so predictable -- each time
they ask for the REAL answer. My comment at that point is,
'As long as we see it as the best choice for our family'.
In some cases I add that most parents try to make the best
choices for their children. I usually get agreement."
-- Helen B. - mother of four


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Listening and Drawing

"While reading the Bible aloud to my daughters then 9, 7, & 6,
I would lose their attention quickly. However, I gave them each
a notebook and asked them to illustrate to me what they were
hearing. Eureka! Their enthusiasm for listening to me read them
the Bible went up 100%. Sometimes their illustrations are silly
and funny and they enjoy sharing them with each other, just for
a laugh." -- Phyllis in MI, www.ThirdTimothyPublications.com


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

Science Education at Jefferson Lab – http://education.jlab.org

This company strives to encourage teachers in students in the study
of science. Don’t miss the All About Atoms tutorial! The site is
filled with teacher ideas for hands-on lessons, as well as
interactive activities for students. They have a great kids'
section and even have a place where they answer kids questions!

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have a 5 year old only child who will start kindergarden this
next school year. Her dad and I have planned on homeschooling but
we are so worried about the shyness. She will not speak to the
lady in the grocery store, she hides behind me whenever anyone
speaks to her. She is very uncomfortable in social situations.
As I am sure you can imagine, we are bombarded by friends and family
about our choice to homeschool. Now we aren't so sure; maybe we do
need to send her to school. Everyone worries we are going to make
her a anti-social person. On play dates she seems to play alone
as the other children play together. I am very concerned about what
we need to do. I don't want to 'scar' her as friends and family
insist we will be doing by 'secluding her from the world'. Are
there any moms out there that have severely shy children that are
homeschooling? Any comments or suggestions?" -- Leanne

Our Readers' Responses

[Editor's note: For the second time since I've been editor of our
Homeschool Notebook, we have had a 'record' case of a exactly 31
responses to our question!! Sadly, I do not have room for every
single loving reply to Leanne, but I did pick out a 'baker's dozen'
to share. Thanks to all who took the time to write! -- Heather]


"As a painfully shy child myself I can tell you that shyness has
nothing to do with homeschooling. Nor is it made worse by home-
schooling. In fact, by homeschooling you can actually help your shy
child. As a public school graduate, I was more intimidated in school
than I would have been if I was allowed to be homeschooled and taught
social skills one-on-one. Being in a large classroom can be very
intimidating to a shy child! Contrary to popular belief, homeschoolers
are actually more social than public schooled children because they
tend to interact with different age groups more often.

Shyness is not usually a character trait, but mostly a result of being
intimidated due to a lack of effective communication skills. Remember
that being an introvert (a personality trait) doesn't mean you are not
socially proficient. It only means you are intimidated to communicate
in social situations. I know many introverts who do well in social
situations -- they are just not bubbly people!

The more a child grows, the more society expects her to be able to
function in social situations. If a child is intimidated, she will
not allow herself the opportunity to grow her skills in these
situations and so it will become a vicious cycle.

I broke the cycle in college and it took me quite a long time. After
getting my degree in Speech Communication and almost 25 years in the
field, I discovered with my own children that the earlier you teach
your children effective communication skills, the more proficient
they will become. I have authored several curricula on communication
skills including studies for children as young as preschool. Feel
free to contact me if you have any more questions. Once I learned
how to communicate effectively, my whole world changed! I want that
for each and every child. I found that I was actually quite an extro-
vert! I am currently an author and a speaker on the subject of
communication skills." JoJo Tabares - www.ArtofEloquence.com


"When I was her age, I was just as shy as your daughter. I went to
public school, and I was worse. I was overwhelmed - in a fog.
Teachers would say, 'Earth to Heidi'. It took me until middle school
to overcome it.

My daughter at that age was just like me. I sent her to public school
for kindergarten and first grade. She returned from her first day
like she had shell shock. I took her out and homeschooled her. It
was only a year until she overcame it. Now she's confident with all
ages and most situations.

Maybe you can explain that the severe shyness is precisely why you're
homeschooling -- to have a step-by-step plan to overcome the problem
they see since accademics are not a problem.

It's normal to worry if what they say is right. That is just proof
that you ARE considering all angles of the situation in a balanced
and responsible way. You know your child best. Just go for it and do
what you know is right. The proof will be in the pudding." -- Heidi


"Our pediatrician says it's not SHY - it's RESERVED - and in today's
society and world - and the way children act and are - being RESERVED
is a very good thing! :-) - See the benefits not the negatives of your
child embracing that characteristic. Please remember - you do NOT
send a child to school to socialize. You are supposed to send them
there to learn. You will have more opportunity than you are even
aware of now to help your daughter 'break out of her shell' and be
not as 'shy' as you are calling it when you homeschool. Homeschooling
is not just staying home and shutting ourselves off from the rest of
the world. And don't forget - we teach our children almost from
birth NOT to talk to strangers. And yes, a stranger might be the
lady in the grocery store. I still have to remind my 11, 9 and 7
year old - it's 'okay' to talk to a stranger WHEN I am WITH them."
-- Charity in NY


"I can honestly tell you that putting a shy child in a situation
where they are forced to be around lots of other children every day
can do more harm than good. If your child is shy, (all three of my
children are shy) they are that way no matter where they are. School
is not going to change their personality and in fact may cause more
problems. Children who are shy do not need to be forced into
situations that make them uncomfortable; this just forces them to
shut down. Some of the shyness they will grow out of; some of the
shyness they will 'learn out of' as I put it. My son was very shy
until recently. He is 7 years old now and I can tell a definite
change in him with regard to interacting with people he regards as
strangers. He needed to be around ME encouraging him to interact
with other people in appropriate ways. Shy children are not going
to get attention at school that will encourage this -- they will be
overlooked. My son's kindergarten teacher told me this herself.
My son needed attention in a particular area and rather than getting
that attention, he was being overlooked because he was quiet and not
letting her know that he needed help. I would highly recommend
homeschooling your shy child because she is more likely to let you
know if she is having trouble with something than a teacher in a
classroom where she is surrounded by other children.

My son came home in a bad mood every day for two years. He was
exhausted from being in an environment that was overwhelming for him.
Children cannot learn when they are overwhelmed by their environment."
-- Jennifer in NC


"When one of my sons was four years old, he had somewhat the same
issue. Instead of hiding when people spoke to him, however, he
would just stare or ignore them or do other things that I perceived
as rude. One day my Mom (his grandma) heard me say something about
him being shy and she told me to never let him hear me say he was
shy. She recalled as a child that she was shy and even as a child
she considered it a bad trait, so hearing a parent say 'she’s shy'
was perceived by her as a very negative thing.

Another friend told me that her grown daughter recently told her
that she remembers being very shy as a child but also remembers the
exact minute it turned around. She heard her mother tell someone,
'this is my daughter Suzy and she is very outgoing, not shy a bit.'
The girl said that once she heard her mom's valuation, she decided
to live up to it.

Regarding home schooling, I know there is a lot of pressure out
there that would tell you your daughter needs traditional school
for her social skills, but I say your child will be better off
being in homeschool where she can obtain the extra confidence to
be gained from being with a parent doing daily life things (post
office, groceries, visiting with elderly neighbors, etc.) We don't
keep our children at home only to 'protect' them, we keep them at
home to also 'prepare' them." -- Melanie


"I think you have just explained why homeschooling is the ideal
situation for you daughter! I don't understand why people insist
that forcing a child who is shy into a setting where shy children
are made to feel less than the rest is somehow good for them.

Homeschooling is not hiding in a closet. You are not secluding
her. However, it sounds like she would do better in one-on-one
situations at this point in her life. Find a friend in the
neighborhood. Go to a few homeschool park days and play with her
at the park while she watches the others play. Maybe you will
find another child playing alone or with siblings only. Talk to
the mother. Find her a playmate who is similar in nature, or even
someone who is more bold than she but who won't steamroll her.
Allow her the chance to connect one on one with some children --
not in a group, but just she and one other friend. She is not the
only shy child out there! I am sure you can find others in a
similar situation. Don't rush her. As she gets comfortable with
a few friends one-on-one, you may try small classes, like an art
class, where she is responsible for herself, but in a room with

Don't force her to be someone she isn't. Just love her as she is,
support her by your acceptance, and help her find ways to gently
become more comfortable around people. She will probably never
be a cheerleader or rock star -- but we have enough of those
anyway." -- JoEllyn


"I have 5 children and none of them have ever 'met a stranger'
except my second child. He's the oldest of 4 boys and has never
really been a 'people person'. He prefers to do things alone even
at the age of 8. When he was younger he would play beside the
other kids rather than with them and it took forever for him to
speak to anyone outside his immediate family. When we decided to
homeschool him he was behind in his speech and still very shy,
and we got many comments from concerned family members.

I did a couple of things to help him get over his shyness. First,
whenever we went to a birthday party or a playgroup, I would talk
to him about whatever activity we were going to. I would talk
about who was going to be there and tell him something about them
or a funny story if I knew them, how long we expected to stay,
and what things I expected that we would do. Then once we arrived
I would find something for him to do that would allow him to
observe for a bit before having to enter the fray. Small jobs
like helping to pour drinks in the kitchen would allow him to
check everything out without any pressure to be apart of all that
activity right away.

We also did a lot of role-playing at home. We printed out paper
and dressed the kids as policemen, firefighters, other children,
etc., and had many conversations as those people. This allowed
him to try out social skills to see what would happen in a 'safe'

My last suggestion helped my son quite a bit. We started going
to the mall for lunch. In our local mall the food court was on
the second story and we would get our food and 'people watch'.
This allowed him to observe social interaction between people and
learn what to expect when it was his turn to deal with someone
in a similar situation. I would ask him why he thought this
person did this or that person did that. We'd have conversations
about why people might act one way or the other and what usually

All of these things helped him understand what to expect from
people and to know what is expected of him. Today he can carry
on a conversation without any anxiety, but he still would rather
hang out in his room alone. Some kids just have quiet souls.
Some days I wish the rest of my kids were like that!" -- Casey


"My oldest daughter is very socially awkward. She can't handle
being in groups bigger than 2. We sent to her school, with
devasting effects. We are now homeschooling her and she is
extremely happy. I am glad we are homeschooling her; she will
come out of her shell when she is ready." -- Stephanie C.


"I have four children, all grown now. My second child and only
daughter was very sensitive and shy when she was young. I
remember that if her grandparents came to visit, she would hide
behind the furniture for the whole visit! If we went out some-
where with other people, she would always want to be on my lap
or in my arms. I felt that if I just kept meeting her needs
and supporting her, that eventually she would feel more
comfortable with others. And, at age 8, she started to really
come out of her shell. By the time she was a teen, she was a
remarkably self-confident young woman. She's now 28 and has
completed her Master's in Social Work, has traveled to England,
Italy, Cuba, Mexico and various places in North America. She
does a lot of public speaking and everyone is impressed by how
comfortable she is with people of all ages and all walks of life.

I also have another homeschooling friend whose daughter is now
20. She got to know me just as my daughter was moving past her
shyness, and she was so relieved to see my daughter changing
because her daughter was even more shy than mine! Her daughter
would not speak to any adults other than her immediate family.
Even though she knew me very well, if she was at my house playing
with my kids, she wouldn't talk to me, but would ask one of my
children to pass on the message. I still remember how excited
I felt when she spoke to me for the first time -- she was seven
years old. She is now attending university and has also become
a confident, happy world traveler (she's been to Ireland and
South America).

The reason I believe that this patient approach is important is
this: I have a sister who was also very shy as a young child. My
parents were advised by everyone to get her into school to 'cure'
her shyness, so they sent her - and she wouldn't talk in school,
either. She was absolutely miserable there. To this day (she
just turned 50) she is extremely shy and has a tough time in all
social situations. My mother, having seen what happened with my
own daughter, says she wishes so much that she had not tried to
force my sister into being less shy by sending her to school.

You know your child best. Have faith in her. If you can give
her a strong, secure base at home and in your relationship with
her, she'll eventually become more comfortable in her relation-
ships with others." -- Teresa P.


"Please don't let well-meaning family and friends stop you from
making the decision that you know is right for your family. My
oldest son (now 12) is extremely shy. Your description of your
daughter sounds exactly like my son at the same age. We tried to
prepare him for public school by involving him in soccer, bible
school, etc. before kindergarten but it didn't help at all.
Adjusting to public school was so hard for him and therefore
hard on me. He only spoke at school when asked a direct question
and he hung back from all the play groups even though he really
wanted to be included because he was too shy to jump in. His
second grade teacher was convinced that he couldn't read because
he had such trouble reading aloud in class. We had him tested
to prove he could read to keep the school from putting him in a
lower reading class and he tested above grade level. He was
simply too shy to read aloud in front of everyone. By this time
the other kids had figured out that he was a very easy target for
teasing. We spent 2 1/2 years trying to get teachers and school
officials to protect him from teasing and bullying. They didn't.
Obviously, none of these things helped him overcome his shyness.
He only became convinced that no one liked him. After entirely
too long, we took him out of public school. Within just a few
short weeks, he became a smiling, happy child again. After just
one visit with relatives, they told us that they had heard him
talk more and saw him smile more in the one visit than they had
in years. Once removed from the large groups in public school,
he was able to develop friendships one-on-one and only a year
and a half later is able to go into group situations with

All kids develop at different rates and times. We should let
them. Involving your daughter in other group activities like
Sunday school, play groups and homeschool co-ops will give you
the opportunity to allow her to overcome her shyness gradually.
Your experience with public school might be much better than
ours but in hindsight, throwing an extremely shy child into a
large group and expecting them to be okay and excel doesn't seem
like a reasonable expectation. Do what you know is right for
your child and prove well-meaning family and friends wrong.
-- The Barker Family


"My daughter is 17 and also an only child. She too used to take
a little bit longer to warm up to people. Both of her grand-
parents have retired from the government school system and were
terribly concerned that we were raising an illiterate, social
outcast! But now my daughter is a vivacious and lovely young
lady who is a joy to be around. She is tender-hearted and has
great empathy for everyone she meets. So my advice to you would
be to listen to your heart and trust your daughter. She will
reach out to others when she is ready. Lots of government
schooled children are shy or mean or nosy or cruel... going to
school is not a guarantee of perfect social skills! What I did
with my daughter for the first 9 years of her life was to cuddle
her and read to her. We had marvelous adventures in the pages
of classic books. We also started taking piano lessons. Then
we did a year of basketball, followed by a year of ballet. She
then chose two years of voice, a couple of Shakespeare plays,
and well, before I knew what happened she was 17 and a very good
friend to other wonderful, like-minded children and adults! So
be of good courage -- your daughter needs you and in time she
will be fine." -- Katherine


"My oldest child (who will soon be 21 years old) was very shy.
He was a very quiet child and it took him a long time to get
comfortable around other people (including children). We had
not even considered homeschooling when he entered Kindergarten.
He didn't cry or make a big fuss, but you could tell he was
uncomfortable and became more and more withdrawn. We would go
to the parties in the classroom and he would spend most of the
time by himself. He stayed in public school until he was in 2nd
grade and by this time I had begun working at the school as a
part-time janitor. From one of the windows I could see my son
on the playground. He kept to himself most of the time. What he
really wanted to do was be inside drawing, reading, or playing
with Legos. He was more comfortable with just a few friends
around him to play with. We pulled him out of school at the end
of that year. He was still a shy child, and still is introverted,
but the pressures of day-to-day bombardment of so many kids and
the rigors of public school were behind him. He was able to make
several friends over the years, but within the limits that we
set. He is now working in a food service job and has to deal
with customers and other employees on a daily basis. He is
friendly, and always ready with a smile. His employers just
love him and constantly ask us when we can send them some more
of our kids to work for them! They are impressed with his level
of maturity and responsibility.

I said all this to encourage you to do what YOU feel is right
for your child. If she is a shy child, putting her into public
school is not going to make a social butterfly out of her. In
the case of my son, it could make her worse... or bring about
other problems later. Bullies usually pick on the ones who will
give them the least resistance, and shy children tend to be their
favorite targets." -- Martha


"My granddaughter was very shy at five, hiding behind us when she
was spoken to by third parties and all. She was lucky to be left
alone at home with her very loving mom for one more year, and, lo
and behold! she is as social as should be and no more -- at the
age of six. She also acts a lot more responsible and mature than
most children of her age, and shows great interest and concentra-
tion in the subjects she likes. She is well-liked and has a lot
of friends of all ages. Since about a month ago she has started
to try her hand in reading, and her overall attitude is quite
happy. Unluckily, in my country homeschooling is practically for-
bidden, so this wonderful self-taught person shall have to attend
public school as of September. So, please, consider yourself
lucky for having this amazing option and do not listen to 'social'
people as concerns your little princess's schooling. I'm sure
your love, support and attention will see her to a brilliant
future in both society and spirit." -- Georgia from Greece

Answer our NEW Question

"I will begin my first year of homeschooling my first of three sons
(all 5 and under) in the fall. I would love to hear what veteran
homeschoolers would say to someone just beginning. Is there anything
you wish you had known then that you know now?" -- Jennifer K.


What a great question from Jennifer! I look forward to reading the
answers as well. :-)

Please send your emails to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


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Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
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Tags: homeschooling, painfully shy children, child, reserved child, children, introverted, introvert kids, homeschool socialization, social skills for extremely shy child, extremely shy children, shy kids, home education tips, homeschool help, support, reviews

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