I love the Myers-Briggs personality typing.
Myers-Briggs – the personality system that gives you four letters – offers a vocabulary for talking about the different ways that people relate to each other and the world around them. It’s been so helpful to me in learning how to understand and value other people’s responses to ideas and situations – including my children’s.
I’ve written before about how personality typing helps me understand my kids, and I’ve written a brief explanation of how the Myers-Briggs system works.
Today I want to take this a step further and use the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index) categories to help us understand our strengths and weaknesses as homeschool moms. I can’t help myself. I’m an INTJ and so I love systems like this.
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When we realize that we’re trying to imitate a type totally opposite our own, we can realize why we feel defeated and beat up. Not only that, we can take a step back, value that other type’s abilities, yet shift our own energies toward what will work for us.
When we know our own type and what that means for us, we can automatically filter out curriculums and opportunities that won’t work for us. We don’t have to try it and crash and burn first. We can see that it’s not going to mesh. We also don’t have to feel bad about what doesn’t work for us, and we can better understand why something works for our friend when it doesn’t work for us.
When we know our personality type we can also see where we need to outsource, where we need to get help, where we’re going to have to budget recovery time and just what kind of recovery time we need. Recovery and refreshment plans for each personality type will be a post all it’s own. :)
Today, let’s look at how our personality types inform us of our homeschool style, strengths, and difficulties.
First, you’ll need to figure out your type. Start with this post if you don’t know your type already: “Understanding MBTI Typing.”
To describe the style of each type, I’ve generalized what I’ve read about mothering strengths, struggles, and styles to apply to homeschooling (my sources are listed at the bottom). Homeschooling is really an extension of mothering more than it is a separate role, and I think we’d all do a better job and enjoy ourselves more if we allow our own style to come through in how we set up our days and our curriculum. I steered clear of specific curriculum naming or education philosophies and identified more how each type would prefer to set up their homeschool routines (or lack thereof) and roles. I think these apply whatever other homeschool label you might claim. I also think there’s room for each type in the classical model.
The most significant benefit I see to understanding your own type and learning about other types is that we can stop comparing ourselves to types we’ll never feel comfortable imitating, stop feeling guilty we aren’t doing everything, and stop thinking so-and-so is doing it all wrong because she’s doing it differently (or, conversely, thinking you’re doing it all wrong because you’re out-of-the-box – or even in-the-box).
The biggest differences in personality type are not seen along the introversion-extroversion line, or even across the perception-judging line, but between the sensing types and the intuitive types. The styles and preferences between sensing and intuition personalities will be the greatest, and the differences there can be the cause of misunderstanding and bad advice between friends.
Disclaimer: I am an enthusiast on the topic, not an expert and have no credentials in the matter. I only read, think, and talk about it all the time. So sometimes I also have to write about it. Humor me.
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Sensing Types: lovers of the concrete, present reality
SFs will express their people-orientation through experiences, actions, and other physical means. They are the ultimate fun, adventurous, always-there-for-you homeschoolers.
STs will express their preference for logic and order through neatness, words, and high standards. They are the ultimate get-it-done homeschoolers who would never dream of slacking.
ISTJ – the responsible homeschool mom
The ISTJ mom always has a plan and she’s good at juggling details. She has a strong sense of responsibility and desire to do the right thing. ISTJs are very black-and-white, which makes it difficult for them to be flexible, but their concern and attention creates an atmosphere of security and interest in the realities of the world and day-to-day life.
- Strengths: consistency, boldness, stability, managing details.
- Struggles: rigidity, losing sight of the big picture, perfectionism.
- Style: school-in-a-box will be the default that is extra difficult for her to break out of; whatever her curriculum, it will be quite structured and reliable.
ESTP – the adventurous homeschool mom
A matter-of-fact type that is full of energy and enthusiasm, an ESTP homeschool mom will always be up for field trips and interest-based in-depth studies complete with hands-on projects. She will be certain that her children never think school or learning is boring and she loves to make the world her family’s classroom.
- Strengths: flexibility, sense of wonder & fun, living in-the-moment alongside her children
- Struggles: keeping a routine, distractedness, being at home too much
- Style: happy with hands-on projects, adventures, field trips, experiences, and wonder-based living
ISTP – the diy homeschool mom
This type of homeschool mom always makes sure each child has room to be himself and express himself. She is less authoritarian, preferring less direct guidance and letting kids learn for themselves even when it gets messy. She likes experimentation and discovery and makes room for it in her kids’ lives. She’s chill and gung-ho to let her kids try things out.
- Strengths: non-controlling, respectful discussion, fostering self-sufficiency
- Struggles: lack of assertiveness, teaching
- Style: Lots of independent learning, little direct instruction, lots of conversation and exploration.
ESTJ – the down-to-earth homeschool mom
ESTJs are the homeschool moms you can count on and who love to take charge and make things happen. ESTJ moms are happy when they are useful, effective, and busy. She establishes consistent routines and defined standards, helping her children feel secure and confident. She is good at juggling life, being dependable and engaged.
- Strengths: practical, realistic, makes things happen, community-minded
- Struggles: can be controlling or driven, losing sight of the big picture, difficulty in sticking out a long-haul process without concrete results
- Style: picks a method that she trusts and sticks with it unless it obviously doesn’t work; ESTJs might also find themselves the organizer or leader of a co-op, especially if they have a visionary to work with.
ISFJ – the nurturing homeschool mom
One sad truth about ISFJs is that they tend to be under appreciated and their dedicated, loyal, loving service is often overlooked and taken for granted. They do not draw attention to themselves, but they are always focused on caring for their family. ISFJs are very supportive and love being useful, but because they also dislike conflict, homeschooling becomes difficult when there is any push-back or frustration by the children.
- Strengths: care, loyalty, affection, attention
- Struggles: lack of confidence, guilt, conflict
- Style: packaged curriculum for the basics plus opportunities provided for each child; or, lots of outsourcing so she can play the support role she excels in.
ESFP – the in-the-moment homeschool mom
A friendly and outgoing ESFP will usually want to be part of a learning community or co-op and get out of the house to learn through experiences. She’s attentive, present, and engaged with her kids and instills a sense of wonder and sociability naturally. She’s good at seeing and meeting her kids’ needs and talking to them about anything.
- Strengths: playful, attentive, flexible, practical
- Struggles: dealing out consequences, helicopter parenting, taking things personally
- Style: prefers having group learning settings and guided experiences for her kids and lots of conversation in their home learning.
ISFP – the generous homeschool mom
Quiet, unassuming, and responsive, an ISFP will take her responsibility to homeschool seriously. She enjoys being needed and pours herself out willingly. She’s adaptable and gentle, and prefers to teach through being a role model than by direct instruction.
- Strengths: affectionate, attentive, modeling, gentleness
- Struggles: people-pleasing, routines & organization, assertiveness
- Style: balancing books and real-world doing to prepare for life
ESFJ – the companionable homeschool mom
ESFJs often love homeschooling because they love that the family can be all together. She loves to be with her children, watching them grow, and being a part of every moment. ESFJs tend to prefer a more active, out-and-about, hands-on lifestyle. They love people, and they love their own little flock of people most of all, so they invest whole-heartedly into creating a lifestyle of love and learning.
- Strengths: making connections, cultivating relationships, mentoring her kids
- Struggles: handling disharmony, perfectionism
- Style: directing a larger learning community with lots of activities, projects, and lively discussion
Intuitive Types: lovers of ideas and connections
Preferring intuitive understandings makes these types ideas-oriented and more theoretical than concrete. Problems that require concrete solutions (like pencils everywhere, books shelved improperly, and laundry routines – not that those examples rattled off my fingers too easily) tend to elude intuitive types. Though physical order is daunting to maintain, the principles underneath their decisions tend to be researched, examined, and solid.
NFs tend to express their people-orientation through empathy and fostering relational connections, which they do naturally and often without realizing. They are the ultimate relationship-building homeschoolers.
NTs express their preference for logic and order through research, systems, and conceptual understanding. They are the ultimate “you can’t tell me what to do” and “I’ll do it my way” homeschoolers.
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INFJ – the understanding homeschool mom
An INFJ homeschools to provide her children a safe, loving, understanding home environment. She listens to her children and is a mentor-guide to them. She tends to be hard on herself because the real world never matches up to her envisioned ideal. She’s so committed to doing the right thing for her kids regardless of personal cost that she is easily burnt out. Because she gets overwhelmed by details, the INFJ will generally be most comfortable starting with a planned curriculum that she can adapt according to her own needs. Her children trust her and know she’ll always be there for them, on their team.
- Strengths: dedication, relationship-building, understanding each of her child’s unique needs and abilities, a sense for how to help each child over his own difficulties
- Struggles: tendency to ignore her own needs while serving others, conflict avoidance, perfectionism
- Style: prefers a trusted, loose curriculum that leaves room for deep conversations, moments of beauty, and her own children’s personal flourishing.
ENFP – the creative homeschool mom
The ENFP is the ultimate fun mom. She’s likely to say yes to finger paints, play dough, field trips, play days, or whatever opportunity arises to throw off routine and do something interesting and inspiring. She loves stories and games, but most of all she loves her people.
- Strengths: relationship-building, flexibility, seeing kids’ needs with a willingness to drop everything to meet them
- Struggles: consistency, distractedness, being too visionary, drained by anything tedious or too detailed or rigid
- Style: a pared-down-basics plan that leaves room for inspiration and spontaneity; will not likely use a scripted or boxed curriculum unless she lacks confidence
INFP – the tuned-in homeschool mom
Attentive, perceptive, and understanding, a sensitive INFP homeschool mom takes cues from her kids to patiently meet their need. She loves to let her kids run with interests and passions, offering a guiding voice when needed but not before. She loves creating happy memories and watching her children enjoy life.
- Strengths: cultivating relationships, engaging her kids, attentiveness, understanding
- Difficulties: conflict avoidance, easily overwhelmed, distaste for decision-making, guilt
- Style: allowing of time for books, thoughts, and taste; independent study with one-on-one guidance rather than instruction
ENFJ – the enthusiastic homeschool mom
The ENFJ is a natural homeschool mom. She loves to teach, she loves to reach her children’s hearts and see them grow, and she loves to put together a plan just right for her family. She has energy and enthusiasm and she understands the big idea. She wants to be close to her children and be a part of their lives in their childhoods and as adults.
- Strengths: mentoring, teaching, relationship-investment activities like read-alouds and family vacations
- Struggles: people-pleasing, her own intensity, anxiety and inner conflict
- Style: whatever she feels allows for the best development of her children; she will prefer an eclectic approach that follows her gut.
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.
ENTP – the unconventional homeschool mom
The ENTP homeschool mom is brimming with confidence and energy, and strives to pass on both to her children. She shows her children possibilities and gives them options, letting them exercise their independence early and often and also letting them learn from direct experience without stepping in to interfere. Her unconcern with others’ standards or expectations allows her to fully embrace the freedom homeschooling allows.
- Strengths: fostering independence & a learning lifestyle, teaching through real life, going with the flow and seizing opportunities
- Struggles: abruptness, impatience with details, clingy or needy children
- Style: prefers a fun mix of ideas-based book-work and active, fun adventures
INTP – the intellectual homeschool mom
An INTP will read ALL THE BOOKS before she makes the choice to homeschool or before she begins. A knowledge base that is both wide and deep is vital to the INTP, and she is the most likely type to never forget to learn and grow herself. Because coming to a decision is difficult for INTPs, after exhaustive research, they are happiest choosing a ready-to-go program that supports their commitment to wide and varied study.
- Strengths: a contagious love of learning, understanding of underlying principles, calm dedication
- Struggles: getting overwhelmed by details, getting outside their head, hyper-focus
- Style: book-centered, discussion-based, idea-loving atmosphere
ENTJ – the decisive homeschool mom
Once an ENTJ has put her hand to the plow, she is dedicated and unwavering. She makes decisions and gets things done, but she always keeps the big picture in view, steering her course ever closer to her north star. ENTJs generally settle on an ideal, a vision for what they want out of their effort, and are never afraid to buck conventions and do what it takes to reach their ends.
- Strengths: strong will, vision, fostering independence, deep conversations
- Struggles: flexing her plan according to individual needs, slowing down, self-criticism
- Style: Thorough, teacher-friendly curriculum packages; checklists; activities and communities that support their vision, even if they have to create or run them.
This post is built primarily from my in-depth rereading of these three books:
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers
Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Keirsey
My Other Articles on Personality
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