[00:00:00] Cait: Hey sisters, Kate here. Happy February to you and yours. It's officially the longest, shortest month ever and I hope it's treating you very well.
[00:00:08] Cait: Before I dive into today's episode, I just want to take note, if you happen to be watching on our YouTube channel, which is new this year, I apologize for the lighting today. I wanted to record this episode earlier in the day and life got in the way and I am in the granite state where it still gets dark before five in February.
[00:00:28] Cait: So we're doing the best we can over here.
[00:00:30] Cait: In today's episode, I am going to be addressing a question that I received recently. And if you are a newish homeschooler or if you are someone who has experienced the process of transitioning a child from a more traditional school setting to a homeschool setting, particularly an overachiever, uh, I think you're going to really enjoy today's episode.
[00:00:54] Cait: I just adored this mom's sign off name for the submission. The sign off name is trying to figure out how to turn off the pressure cooker. And this is the question. I homeschool two kids, a 2nd grader and a 5th grader. My concern is for my 5th grader. I've homeschooled my 2nd grader since pre K.
[00:01:12] Cait: My 5th grader has had a more traditional school experience with the exception of a brief period of homeschooling during COVID. And yes, real homeschooling where I handled the curriculum, not facilitating virtual learning. So this is not our first go round. I started homeschooling her again earlier this year when the focus of her school shifted to disciplining unruly classmates.
[00:01:34] Cait: She was witnessing fights and not being challenged at all. Despite the challenges, she has always been an excellent student.
[00:01:41] Cait: Once we started homeschooling this October, I quickly realized that being an excellent student is very different from being an excellent learner. She wants to check off boxes and get things done, not understand them or improve them to make them better. I knew this would take time. I considered deschooling and realized that she would feel like a ship without a rudder if she didn't have defined tasks.
[00:02:04] Cait: So I gave her defined tasks. If I gave her too little, she would panic about not having enough to do. If I gave her too much, she would panic about getting it all done. When we came back after the holidays, I tried something new. I put all of her assignments for the foreseeable future on sheets of paper on the wall, organized by subject.
[00:02:23] Cait: I gave her weekly grids to write out what she did, like a kid's version of planning from behind.
[00:02:28] Cait: I explained that I had laid out the next few months of work, that I was fine with helping her with it in any order, and she could decide how she wanted to use her time. I said she should listen to her brain and her body. If she was cruising with math, do more. If it was frustrating her, try science instead.
[00:02:46] Cait: Loving a book? Keep reading it. If history was making her eyes go crossed, maybe do a puzzle or some handstands.
[00:02:52] Cait: I've said if there's something she wants to explore more, just ask and we'll make it happen. I've included her ingenious hours at the library, where her only task is to take an hour and learn about something, anything. I've told her I will make sure she stays on track, but she's well ahead of most kids in traditional school, so she doesn't need to worry about quote unquote falling behind.
[00:03:13] Cait: Still, she is putting immense pressure on herself. She starts thinking she hasn't done enough, and then she gets so worked up about it that she doesn't really get much done for the rest of the day. Again, academically, she's doing plenty. She has a good mix of in person classes with friends, online classes, sports activities, etc. So she has time with friends and time away from me. Any other ideas about how to take the pressure off an overachiever, even when I'm not the one applying it?
[00:03:40] Cait: Love your show. I've listened to practically every episode. Thanks for talking about gifted kids and realizing there are struggles there too. It's nice when people understand that and don't think you're bragging.
[00:03:50] Cait: And again, this submission is signed, trying to figure out how to turn off the pressure cooker.
[00:03:56] Cait: So first things first, I absolutely love your sign off name, and I can relate because I have one of those kids as well, and I want you to know, and I'm sure every sister out there listening right now will be nodding along with me, that you are doing an amazing job,
[00:04:11] Cait: you clearly understand your child both as a person and as a learner.
[00:04:16] Cait: I absolutely loved how you watched her progress from October to the holidays and saw what would drive her bananas and what worked for her, yet still acknowledging that she's not where you want her to be yet as far as not putting all this pressure on herself. And I am also a parent who doesn't put a lot of pressure on my kids academically, and I have one who puts immense pressure on himself, and that's something that we're constantly working on.
[00:04:46] Cait: Uh, coincidentally, he was also the kid that had a hard time losing when we first started playing games and doing game schooling. So it's, I mean, some people, it's just this inherent personality trait where they just, they like to check boxes and they like to get things done.
[00:05:00] Cait: I think it's great when you came back from the holidays and you reassessed where you were at and you created this new system that gave her more ownership over her learning while still covering all the subjects that she's worried about, that she's putting pressure on herself about.
[00:05:15] Cait: I think you made it both playful and fun and also respectful of her needs in regard to wanting to check those boxes off. And then you're telling her to listen to her body and her interests and let her interests guide. what she wants to do in this particular day, that it's all here, that you'll help if you need to, but that she should really listen to , what her body wants to do, and what is interesting right now, and what do I want to do right now.
[00:05:43] Cait: And that's, so important, because you are transitioning from a system, and, you know, I'm a, I'm an advocate for public schools, but they, they are a system, and systems have Lots of quirks and lots of hoop jumping and things like that. So you're transitioning from the system where she had learned to be an excellent student, you brought her home, and now you want her to be an excellent learner.
[00:06:09] Cait: You want her to be a curious and joyful learner. And being an excellent student and being an excellent learner are two different things, as you mentioned.
[00:06:19] Cait: So, I just want you to know right off the top that I think you're doing everything right. And, if she were not this perfectionist type of child, you might try de schooling and that might be really successful, but you recognize that she needs to be doing something and you're honoring that.
[00:06:37] Cait: While trying to make this transition from excellent student to excellent learner. And I think it is going to take time. And I think you even said that in, your submission.
[00:06:47] Cait: So number one, you're doing amazing. And I just want to recognize that and give you a virtual fist bump because I think you're rocking it. I was just hiking with a friend last week, and she has a child who has transitioned from homeschooling to our local high school. And we were having a conversation about systems and how it can be hard, you know, in the reverse situation, it can be very difficult for a homeschooled child to transition into a public school setting where.
[00:07:20] Cait: The conditions have changed, the expectations have changed, and you have to learn to be an excellent student. So because it's a system, you have to jump through certain hoops. So she had told this story about, , her daughter had a particular class where the teacher was asking the students to interpret different statements, and her daughter wrote out her interpretation.
[00:07:47] Cait: And it was valid. I don't want to give away too many details, just privacy reasons, but it was valid. But she got points deducted. And then when my friend suggested that she go to the teacher, approach the teacher and just say, you know, did I misunderstand the assignment?
[00:08:02] Cait: Can we just talk about this? The teacher basically said. Yeah, you're wrong. And so her daughter was extremely frustrated because she said, basically, if I want to get an A, then I have to regurgitate what the teacher says in class and not necessarily share my interpretations and my thoughts. So she was thinking, do I, do I make a stink about it and get points reduced? Or do I play the system and regurgitate what the teacher said?
[00:08:35] Cait: And get the A.
[00:08:35] Cait: Your submission came through within 24 hours of this conversation I had with my friend, where we were essentially talking about what you're talking about, that there's a big difference between an excellent student and an excellent learner.
[00:08:47] Cait: And while I know we have many sisters out there listening who were homeschooled themselves, I know that we also have a lot of homeschoolers who experienced a more traditional school in their childhood and teen years and now ended up homeschooling for whatever reason, and you have to unlearn the system and Try to shake that public school mindset as you're teaching your children.
[00:09:10] Cait: Growing up, I was the excellent student. And, I realized in homeschooling my own children, over the years, that it was so fun. to relearn many of the things that I had learned at one point that I had very little recollection of because I didn't learn it when I was interested in it.
[00:09:30] Cait: And so while I was an excellent student, I wasn't necessarily an excellent learner
[00:09:36] Cait: because a lot of that information wasn't retained necessarily.
[00:09:39] Cait: And I know I'm not the only one out there who was absolutely delighted at times throughout our homeschool journey by learning alongside my kid, something that I had previously learned, but wasn't that interested in at the time or learned about things that I feel like I should have. Learned about as a, as a child or a teenager
[00:10:01] Cait: I think a huge benefit of homeschooling is the fact that it's not a system and that we are able to look at the students in front of us and to know their strengths and to know their weaknesses and to know them in a As a person, as a human, in a way that , even the world's best teacher could never know them.
[00:10:19] Cait: And we can embrace their interests and use those interests to drive learning and to try to raise curious, joyful, lifelong learners. I know I've told this story in my courses. I don't know if I've told it on sisters before, but growing up, I didn't really have the traditional grandparent experience, but I did have these two great aunts who never married and always lived together. And the oldest, my aunt Ruth ended up being a public school teacher and her younger sister, my aunt Blanche,
[00:10:53] Cait: became a professor. She was super smart. She was double grade skipped in elementary school and whenever someone asked her about it, she credited her older sister for reading to her every day. I just love that story so much because reading is so important.
[00:11:07] Cait: But she went on to go to Tufts University and then Stanford and Harvard and she was a professor of labor and economics at BU and other places for many, many years.
[00:11:18] Cait: And they were amazing because they would show up at our house regularly. And they would take us places. It was like field trips. But before they did that, they would show up and they would have a book for each one of us. And the book was always related to something that we were interested in.
[00:11:35] Cait: And they would have some sort of little trinket or toy. So, uh, One example , do you remember those little frogs that you would squeeze the, the air thing and then it would hop because it was fueled by the air or, , balsam gliders were another one, the little parachute guys that you can go, you know, up in a tree or out the window.
[00:11:55] Cait: And they would, even though they were so much older than us at the time, because they were my great aunts, they would get down on the floor with us and they would play with us. And we didn't realize it at the time, I realize it now as an educator and as a parent that they weren't just playing with us, but they were teaching us about physics, about mathematics, about history in a conversational like
[00:12:18] Cait: we were interested in the toy and they would be explaining it and we would be covering all these different subjects and then they'd take us on a field trip and so we went to museums. We went to exhibits at Harvard and MIT. We went to a house made entirely out of paper and the whole time we'd be having these conversations and having fun.
[00:12:37] Cait: They took us to Harvard to see the glass flowers. And if you don't know what those are, you need to look them up and just imagine taking young children into this very, very historic glass exhibit at Harvard University. But the whole reason why I'm telling you this is because I remember those trips and those conversations.
[00:12:59] Cait: a bajillion times better than I can recall any field trip from my whole history of schooling or any conversation in a classroom that I had in all my years of public schooling and, , college and graduate school.
[00:13:14] Cait: And really in homeschooling, when I, when I fell into this, I thought of them all the time. And that's how I kind of based our approach to learning was always, you know, we read a lot. We read books that we're interested in and we dive down rabbit holes. If you are, you know, one of my brothers was into antique cars.
[00:13:34] Cait: We went to some sort of antique car thing and . And then later still over the years, I'd be at college and I would get these letters from them and there would be a clipping, a a comic. that they saw and thought of me or an article that was related to something I was interested in.
[00:13:50] Cait: And again, you know, here I am in college and I'm reading this article from the New Yorker because my aunts thought of me when they read it and it was something I was interested in.
[00:14:00] Cait: Side note, I'm hoping that you can't hear Puppet's dog in the background, but once he starts barking, he kind of doesn't let up. So I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna roll with it. And if you hear Bailey, just try to ignore him. Like I do. Um,
[00:14:13] Cait: so anyway, my whole point in telling you this story is that when I fell into homeschooling and even though I had an education background, I realized our first year, that public school mindset kept coming up and I would have to kind of squelch it and like push it down and be like,
[00:14:28] Cait: he's not in public school right now because it's not working for him, so why would I try to recreate it at home? It has to be different, and it has to incorporate things that you learn in child development, like reading is important, play is important, nature is important, things like that. So what can that look like?
[00:14:44] Cait: And I kept thinking, I mean, on the daily, about my great aunts and how they approached learning with us, and how, as a kid, to me, it was just fun.
[00:14:54] Cait: I'm telling you this because when I read your submission I think wholeheartedly that you are knocking it out of the park and that you don't need to do a single thing differently that , you understand your kiddo so well, and you're making that transition and helping her to unlearn some of that pressure and Goal oriented, achievement oriented, need to be checking boxes sort of thing.
[00:15:16] Cait: So I don't think you need to do anything differently. But if you are looking for additional strategies that might help her to embrace the learner inside and to find that, that spark. Because I remember when I started homeschooling my oldest, when we pulled him. School, , squelched his little curiosity flame and it took a bit for it to come back.
[00:15:39] Cait: And he was little then, so we're not talking fifth grade, and they say when you're talking about de schooling, which I know we're not doing here, but they say that de schooling takes longer for every year you've experienced a traditional school setting because you have to kind of undo all of that. So I, I witnessed that spark lesson and it took a bit for it to come back in our homeschool.
[00:16:03] Cait: That spark came back when. I embraced what he was interested in and at that time, I mean, he was in first grade. And he was interested in really out there sort of topics. I've said this before, but my, some of my favorites are the Humboldt squid, the cuttlefish, the Komodo dragon, the Iguanodon.
[00:16:23] Cait: Gosh, there, there was so many, but, , they were things that you couldn't necessarily find a book for a first grader on the cuttlefish or the Humboldt squid.
[00:16:32] Cait: And I can remember thinking to myself, my great aunts would incorporate all these different subjects and conversation. And really, when you think about it, anything you're learning about can incorporate any traditional academic subject. If you're willing to break outside of that public school mindset and see how Subjects intersect because in, in a traditional school, you have to break the subjects up because you are educating the masses, but really in life, they're all intertwined.
[00:17:05] Cait: You don't just go through life and it's like, this is my math moment. And over here, this is my social studies moment. They're all, they all intersect. And so when you. Try to shake that public school mindset and you think about a topic that your child is interested in.
[00:17:20] Cait: You could just take a piece of paper and write the topic, you know, Humboldt squid in the middle, and then take branches off. Okay, so, science, easy. What's its habitat? What does it eat? How does it behave? I remember he was, he was doing creative writing about the scary squid and, , you can do art. You can draw or paint or use chalk pastel of a Humboldt squid. There's like a million and one ways that you could incorporate every single subject. So this is what we did.
[00:17:49] Cait: And at the time, I didn't know we were doing a thing, but I eventually just called it Lazy Unit Studies because they were super lazy I remember one time I tried to create a unit study for him and it took so long and I was so proud of it. But by the time it was ready, he had moved on to some other quirky interest.
[00:18:08] Cait: And so when you have a kid. Who is curious and interested in things, , sometimes they can be really interested in something for a very long time, and sometimes it's like a flash. So what I started doing was what I called lazy unit studies, and I would always start with books. So we'd go to the library and find anything I could.
[00:18:28] Cait: Um, whatever the interest was, antique cars, okay, let's find every book we can. And then I would see if there were any documentaries or movies that related to that. If there were any field trips we could do either in person or virtually. And I would just keep layering on the learning until the child wasn't interested in it anymore.
[00:18:49] Cait: And then we'd just stop. And we go on to the next thing. So we had some lazy unit studies that would last, you know, a day where it was like, let's say you're reading a picture book about somebody interesting from the, from the past and.
[00:19:04] Cait: There's a part of that story that your kid is like, ooh, I never knew about that. So then when the book's done, you go off on the internet and you go down like this different rabbit hole. So some can fuel other rabbit holes. I remember one year I probably told this story, , we were reading these Jim Arnonski books.
[00:19:22] Cait: I would do lazy unit studies with authors when they were really young.
[00:19:25] Cait: Because they'd get really into Jim Arnonsky or really into E. B. White or really into Dr. Seuss. And so we would just clear the shelf at the library of that author entirely and then see if we can find any biographical information. We'd just go on this deep dive. So that, that's what we were doing with Jim Arnonsky. And then, , , , the book had animal prints and they were, I think they were actual size, so they could put their hands up to it and see this is the size of my hand next to a bear print.
[00:19:54] Cait: And this was the fall and my kids were like, let's go find a bear print. And I was like, Okay. Like, what are we incorporated nature every day? Let's go find a bear. But we actually, this is like the likelihood of this ever happening is ridiculous, but we actually did find one. , but that led to, it just, it rolled like that whole fall.
[00:20:15] Cait: We were doing animal prints and then habitats and then they got really into rotting logs and what you could find in like bugs and it just kind of rolled like that. I know this is younger than fifth grade, but. You could take whatever your daughter's interested in now and make it into a lazy unit study and not even call it that because I never called it anything.
[00:20:36] Cait: I'd just be like, Oh, Oh, you like American girl. Oh, cool. One time we did American Girl Math, my daughter was fighting me on math, and I just took the catalog out, and I had American Girl Catalog, and I also had, I forget the, the Target brand that's kind of similar, and basically on her own she was doing math.
[00:20:53] Cait: I gave her problems too, and I made them fun, but that was like an example of just a day or a week of doing something like that.
[00:20:59] Cait: The thing I like about the Lazy Unit Study is it's not a lot of investment for the parent, and It doesn't have to be expensive. So, with the world of the internet and streaming services and whatnot, you can learn so much from your home, even if you don't have access to, you know, I was telling you about my aunts taking me to exhibits at Harvard and MIT.
[00:21:19] Cait: You might not be in an area where there's a bunch of universities like I was, so you can go online. You can do virtual field trips. I mean, this post COVID era, there are so many virtual opportunities, so much more than there were before. And there was a lot to begin with, but you can just embrace that interest
[00:21:37] Cait: just ride the tide for as long as it's there and then move on to the next one. And the really cool thing is that, every lazy unit study is almost like a building block in the previous one. I can say this now years out because I've witnessed it happening, those previous Lazy unit studies intersect with future ones, and because the child or teen was interested in what they were learning at the time, they can remember more.
[00:22:03] Cait: Like they recall it in a way that I didn't recall anything from high school. And they can be like, Oh my gosh, that's like, . that book that we read by so and so. Do you remember? Or, you know, remember when we watched that documentary on the various zones of the ocean? This creature would be in this zone. Things like that.
[00:22:20] Cait: So, like I said, I think you're doing awesome. You don't have to change a thing. You get, you get your daughter so well.
[00:22:27] Cait: But if you're looking for. A way to encourage her to follow her interests and to learn joyfully, learning alongside her when she's interested in something, taking interest in what she's interested in and just diving down rabbit holes and not even necessarily calling it homeschool is such a great way to learn.
[00:22:48] Cait: And I think I said this on a , previous episode, or maybe it was in an every board learning event, but
[00:22:53] Cait: I had two teacher conferences this fall, and they were separate for each student. And the teams of teachers essentially said the same thing about two different kids.
[00:23:05] Cait: They were talking about doing group projects and my children being involved in group projects and both separate teams about two different kids said, classmates love to be in group projects with this kiddo because they're really good at finding information and they're really good at finding information because we.
[00:23:27] Cait: Doped down so many rabbit holes over the years, and they learned how to learn about what they're interested in.
[00:23:35] Cait: And so I would like to tell, trying to figure out how to turn off the pressure cooker, that number one, you're doing a phenomenal job. I think you're knocking it out of the park. I think you know your kiddo better than anyone else on this planet. And you know how to teach this kiddo better than anyone else on this planet. That you acknowledge her Many strengths while also recognizing that there are some areas that you'd like to work on with her so that she doesn't put as much pressure on herself as she does and that she learns to embrace learning for learning's sake rather than crossing off boxes.
[00:24:12] Cait: And I think what you've done by creating the papers on the wall with the boxes of the various subjects, And you're giving her the choice, the autonomy, the independence to take whatever direction in accomplishing those, those check boxes that she needs. You are meeting her in the middle, so you are showing her how to follow your heart and your interest and embrace those rabbit holes.
[00:24:41] Cait: So I don't think you need to do anything differently. If you are looking for additional strategies, I would just suggest trying a lazy unit study and not calling it that and not even calling it homeschooling. Just work in something she's interested in and learn alongside her and just model that, you know, like my great aunt, uh, that curiosity of what she's interested in.
[00:25:05] Cait: And it might be something That you hate, to be honest, because, um, I've told this story before, but I hate balloons. And at one point, my oldest, this was many, many years ago, was really into balloon animals. And I can't stand the smell or the squeak or the impending pop. Fortunately, it didn't last that long.
[00:25:23] Cait: But I just tried to be as interested as I could. And he learned a ton from that. And it might seem like something that wouldn't be that quote unquote educational, but he learned a ton. And You're going to learn a ton too, the both of you this year, and I just wish you the absolute best. I would love for you at some point to, to check back in and let me know how everything's going.
[00:25:44] Cait: I'm sure you're going to just rock this year and you are growing a joyful, curious, and lifelong learner, I have no doubt.
[00:25:53] Cait: I'd love to hear from all the other sisters out there, what advice would you give trying to figure out how to turn off the pressure cooker? How do you manage perfectionist kiddos who put a ton of pressure on themselves? What strategies have worked for you?
[00:26:07] Cait: Head on over to the show notes for this episode and let us know. I love hearing from you. And please know that you can always write into the homeschool sisters at gmail. com and send us your questions. We unfortunately cannot answer every single question, but we love reading them. And even if we can't answer them, we have a running list of topics that it's like our wishboard of all the topics we want to cover on the podcast.
[00:26:30] Cait: So every question you ask is helpful and we try to incorporate it in some way, even if it's not an individual answer. So with that, I hope everyone has. A fantastic rest of your day and again, head over to the homeschool sisters show notes for this episode and let us know if you have a kiddo that is a little pressure cooker too.
[00:26:52] Cait: What has worked for you? And just remember you've got this sister by sisters.
[00:26:59] Hey sisters, I'm back for a second. After listening to and editing this episode, it occurred to me that if you are new to the concept of lazy unit studies, you might like a discount on a course that I have called the lazy homeschoolers guide to unit studies.
[00:27:13] So I'm going to include a link to the course and a promo code for you to use, to get 50% off the lazy homeschoolers guide to unit studies.
[00:27:22] So again, to get 50% off the lazy homeschoolers guide to unit studies, just head to the show notes for this episode and click the link and use the promo code at checkout by for real sisters.
[00:27:33] Talk to you soon.