We all want to see our kids excel. Whatever the reason we decided to homeschool, the bottom line is that we felt it would be a better education than what was offered in the government school system. That being said, we are compelled to make that a reality.
How do we do that? We find the best curriculum. We look for the greatest extra curricular opportunities. We try to take advantage of every possible experience that could enrich our child’s home education. We want it all. We want it for our kids. Our motives couldn’t be more pure, right?
But in the process of doing this wonderful thing for our kids, we can also become dangerously close to a trap. I call it the “Super Achiever Trap.” I’ve seen this countless times in my 23 years of homeschooling. I’ve seen the high school student who was involved in an unbelievable number of activities just so they could put them on his transcript. Some of the activities were things he wasn’t even interested in but would “look good” on his transcript. Another family I worked with had a first grader who was studying more subjects than most high school students. She studied Latin, Spanish, History, Science and Bible in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, every day. Add phys. ed., private music lessons and art lessons every week. This child was exhausted from memorization and recitation on a level that we wouldn’t expect from much older students.
What was the problem with both of these examples? The parents, in their zeal to provide the most amazing education, were in overdrive. They didn’t want their child to miss a single opportunity or experience so they crammed it all in at the same time. I have no problem with exposing children to all kinds of experiences but the motive shouldn’t be so it “looks good” or because the parent can’t wait to experience a particular subject with their child. Sometimes in our excitement to see our kids learn, we go way overboard.
There is plenty of time for that first grader to learn all those subjects. She doesn’t have to do it all at once. And high school students need to have opportunity to experience many different things, but maybe they should be allowed some input as to what those experiences look like.
Falling into the Super Achiever Trap causes much more harm than the good we think we are doing for our children. They can become so achievement oriented that they lose the joy of discovery. They become machines that crank out products but miss the chance to just sit for a while and marvel at the amazing world we live in. Sure, they may do fabulous on the SAT and they may win all kinds of trophies and contests but do they love learning or are they just exhausted?
And we haven’t even talked about what this trap does to the parent. When we fall into being a super achiever parent, we find there is never enough time. There is always something that seems to be compromised or forgotten. We are constantly running from one thing to the next and we never really get to enjoy any of the things our kids are doing since we are already looking to the next event or activity. We end up just pushing, pushing, pushing with no end in sight.
Here are some ways to help avoid falling into the Super Achiever Trap:
* Have a conversation with your child and find out what his passion is. Does he love sports? Is she excited about literature? Does he have an insatiable desire to learn about science?
* Help your child to focus on what gets him excited. Find ways to use the subjects he’s passionate about to propel the ones that are not so exciting by making his assignments relevant to what he loves.
* Remember, especially with elementary students, that you have plenty of time to expose your child to many wonderful experiences. You don’t have to do it all in the first year. That goes for older students too. If you are just starting to homeschool when your child is in the 8th grade, resist the temptation to jump in with too much too soon. You don’t have to make up for lost time in the first year. You have plenty of time. Take a few deep breaths and just enjoy the opportunity to be with your child!
* Be willing to throw out the plans for the day if some wonderful opportunity is presented to you. You are not a slave to the curriculum. You don’t have to finish every page of every workbook. You don’t have to cover all of a subject in one school year. Relax!
If you want more information on this topic you might find these previous posts of interest:
- Is the Goal of Education the Process or the Destination?
- Are You too Busy?
- The Death of Education, The Birth of Learning