Are you an overachiever?

Posted on April 19, 2015 by Lesley Arnold

What provisions can be made for the very capable homeschool families who tend to be overachievers?
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The following thoughts are compiled from an email thread between Oak Meadow K-8 teachers regarding over-achieving students and home teachers. The bulleted list below is a summary of the suggestions and advice:

  • You do not have to explore everything in depth.
  • Pay attention to your stress level. Slow down and lighten the focus if you feel rushed or pressured.
  • Moderation in all things.
  • Find a different perspective that helps an over-achieving student (and even the home teacher) to relax.
  • Think outside the box. Not every assignment needs to be in a final copy. Some assignments can be done orally, video taped, or even letting it lie until another year.
  • Take a walk for pleasure!
  • Focus more on the process rather than the goal or end result.
  • Show your children it is OK to make mistakes.
  • Remember that the joy of learning is the most important aspect of schooling.
  • Step back and look at the progress your student has made.
  • Sometimes less is more. Focus less on the number of pages and more on the quality and content of what has been written.
  • Stay in good humor. Children are like sponges – they pick up and absorb stress, if that is what you are feeling.

The following is a dialogue in response to the question regarding overachievers. Thanks to all the Oak Meadow teachers who participated in this collaboration. We hope it will guide you to your own style of learning!
Michelle Menegaz: I suggest looking for those times when just touching on something more lightly might be enough. You will know by how rushed, obligated, or pressured you are feeling versus maintaining a balanced enthusiasm, Children (and all of us, I think) need time to digest as well as ingest our learning.
I think it is natural and advantageous to go through cycles with writing… a time when you focus on brainstorming without the need to polish a final product is very useful in skills development. Sometimes the student may be digesting and assimilating knowledge and skills at a newer level before taking the next steps or leaps in learning. This is fine and even preferable to constantly churning out the same amount of work every month. I trust you to use your  intuition and be open to your student’s process to know when to push, listen, back off, or explore new ideas.
Andy Kilroy: Sometimes people seek out home school options to get their children out of the grind, and then get so wrapped up in the curriculum, that they forget all about the joy and flexibility and turn into taskmasters (home teacher) and over-achievers (child). It is important to not overdo the technical aspects of the work, but instead focus more on the joy and creativity aspect. I also like to reinforce to the home teacher that there is always something constructive to tell the student.
Sarah Adelman: Students of over-achieving home teachers seem to fall into two categories: those that put a ton of pressure on themselves to be as successful as their home teachers; or those that shut down or don’t bother because there’s no way they can meet that expectation. I currently have a student whose parents are both high-achievers. This student is really hard on himself and very much of an overachiever  While his parents could probably do a better job editing his papers than I ever could, it is much less stressful for him to look at outside feedback and suggestions. I think having another perspective, particularly on his writing, has helped him relax.
Lesley Arnold: The pressure and stress a curriculum and a home teacher might put on a student can weave into every part of life, which can lead to finding it difficult to do anything. I encourage “lightening up” and “thinking outside the box” on the assignments. Not every assignment needs to be in final copy. Not every assignment needs to be typed into a three page essay. Some assignments can be done orally, some can be video taped…etc. Some assignments can “sleep” until another year!
Home teachers need to know that they can be more flexible with the curriculum. Focusing on how much of the day involves “intellectual pursuits” can be very taxing and tiring. For example, taking a walk for mere pleasure and not for meeting the demands of an assignment is an invaluable part of a day!
Sarah Antel: It’s important for the home teachers to take a step back, a moment’s break, and look at the progress their children have made.
Leslie Daniels: I know ALL of us have felt like overachievers at more than one point in our lives. So, when this happens to me, I do the “wake up call” and remind myself to stay in good humor. And this is exactly what I suggest to my home teachers who present each lesson too much by verbatim or take each assignment too seriously. Have you noticed that many of the over-achieving home teachers seem to set high standards for their own personal lives – as parent, home teacher, partner, family/community member, etc? And this type of stressful nature in a parent also develops stress in the children. After all, children are like sponges and pick up on everything!  
It’s also important for the home teacher to understand that a child does not need to feel pressured by imperfections with lessons, etc. I encourage them to find humor in their own personal antics and to express this humor in front of their children, so their children will know it’s okay to make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes! Aside from basic concepts, most every concept that is being introduced and taught to the students in the k-4 grades is reemphasized in the 5-8 grades, and then once again in high school. So, in working with overachievers, I remind the home teachers to focus more on the process and to not always be so concerned with the goal. And most of all, I emphasize that instilling the joy of learning is THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of schooling. When a child is given the opportunity to learn in a joyful manner, then they will become life-long learners ~ and isn’t that truly what is the most valuable gift we can offer our children?
 

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