What is overachieving, exactly?

In homeschooling communities, there are usually people who pooh-pooh the whole gifted thing because “gifted” is a “school category.” Sometimes there’s (spoken and unspoken) suspicion of people who seem to be “rushing,” “pushing,” or otherwise pursuing some course of study at a pace or intensity perceived as “not normal.” They celebrate the homeschooler’s freedom to go at her own pace, but that usually means the freedom to meander (which is great!) not the freedom to go balls to the wall.

This attitude gets under my skin, which is why I enjoyed a somewhat older exchange I just found on Just Enough, and Nothing More. Tammy Takashi posted a story about a homeschooler, Chelsea Link, who was very successful getting into top colleges — evidence that homeschooling doesn’t knock you out of the running for selective programs, if that is your goal.

A couple of commenters were not sure whether this was good news. Part of one response:

Ugh – I think we need to take homeschooling back from the overachievers…the goal of homeschooling is not to get into all the best colleges, you know

I hope very much the real Chelsea Link is the Chelsea who offered this excellent response:

With all due respect, I’d rather like to take home schooling back from the overachievement-bashers. What exactly qualifies as “overachieving” vs. just “achieving,” and what about it is so “ugh”-inspiring?

I think “the goal of homeschooling” is up to each individual home schooler. My original goal in home schooling was pretty much to have the freedom to “overachieve” if I darn well felt like it, without being hassled by The Man. When I was five, I certainly was not thinking, “So first, I’ll ditch school, and then I’ll make sure to pursue my passions and score well on tests so I can get into a top-ranked college…” What I was actually thinking was more like, “You know, I really love reading chapter books, and I want to learn to write in cursive, and I kind of like long division, and I’m not really allowed to do any of those things here, so…forget this.”

When high school came around, though, I will willingly admit that I had two goals in designing my curriculum: 1) to continue to learn and do interesting things, and 2) to get into a good college. And why did I want to get into a good college? So that I could continue to have the freedom to go where I want to go and do what I want to do. I’m going to Harvard for all the same reasons I stopped going to kindergarten – it has very little to do with degrees of achievement, and everything to do with having fun and enjoying life to the fullest. I sincerely hope that this simple desire will soon cease to evoke an “ugh” reaction.

Yay for you, Chelsea Link! If I had a selective university, I would admit you too.

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9 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, In the News, Learning Styles, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Why Homeschool?

9 responses to “What is overachieving, exactly?

  1. Meg

    I guess to me, homeschoolers don’t “overachieve” because they are working to the best of their abilities. Overachieving would be pushing past those abilities and thereby causing the “system” to break down in some way.

    Of course, I just graduated my homeschooled son and he leaves in less than a month to a top ranked college on a full tuition scholarship.

    I don’t feel he “overachieved,” he was studying things that interested and challenged him.

  2. This is an important point, and a really great post. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for this — I’m not alone in the homeschool blogosphere!

    I’ve linked to your article on my blog.

  4. Seems to me that it appears as overachieving to the same folks who wonder why anyone would read To Kill a Mockingbird for fun (to refer to something Rosie posted about the other day). There are lots of folks who can’t imagine why you would WANT to do long division at all. Ever. And having taught in a university, there are also plenty of people that think the point is the piece of paper and the prestige of where the paper comes from. You should have heard the reactions I got from students when I told them that I’d designed the assessment so that if you learned something you should do well and if you didn’t learn anything you wouldn’t. People dropped the class. (Good riddance.)

  5. adsoofmelk

    I loved Chelsea’s reply, which is exactly – EXACTLY — why I wish I had had the option to be homeschooled myself and why we’re homeschooling our child (among other reasons). I appreciate the fact that in homeschooling, she’s *allowed* to be in fifth grade for one subject, ninth grade for other subjects, college for others — basically, wherever she really needs to be regardless of where she’s “supposed” to be according to her age.

    That’s why I think HSing is such a good fit for everyone who’s outside the main belly bulge of the bell curve — it’s tailored to fit wherever one happens to be.

  6. I also love Chelsea’s response. Thanks for bringing this up. I just posted what my schedule for Fall and I am sure to some people it will seem overly ambitious. I am always nervous about posting what Z is doing because I usually get comments that feel judgmental.

    But Z (like your girls) is intense and passionate and loves learning and *gasp* academics (this morning while I cooked breakfast she read a children’s version of the constitution while crouching under the table. Now she is under there reading a book about starting her own business.) She wants to learn so much that I need a schedule to help myself make it happen.

  7. Pingback: Overachieving & Choices « Soaring Mountains Academy

  8. I do accept as true with all the ideas you have presented to your post.
    They’re very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for newbies. Could you please prolong them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

  9. It’s great that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as from our argument made at this time.

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