Have you ever had a great teaching moment come up that you then killed because you kept trying to make your point and you drove it into the ground?
I know I've done this, too many times to count.
(Let me know in the comments if you have been guilty of this too.)
We become like the parents in the Charlie Brown specials, just sounding like "wah wah wah-wah-wah".
As homeschoolers, I think we especially feel that extra responsibility to teach, and so we tend to go on and on about something, hoping some of it will penetrate.
Over the years I have come to find that usually the more brief I can be, the more memorable what I said becomes.
This is called the point of diminishing returns. The idea that there is a point at which more input does not improve the output, and the effort is wasted.
There is this rapid climb, then a slower increase to a plateau, and then a rapid drop.
If you can be aware of what is going on with your interactions with your kids, you can learn to quit at or before the top of the curve, and not drive the lesson into the ground.
When you point something out in a story or in life, or a child asks a question, be as brief as you can. If they engage and ask another question, or talk more about it, converse with them.
When they get quiet, that is your cue to wrap it up fast. If you keep going, hoping to engage them again, hoping that you will get another climb of interest, you will more than likely kill their curiosity it entirely.
If you can stop yourself from talking about it for too long, the next time the topic comes up, it will still be alive, and your conversations have a chance to get longer or more involved.
I do this when reading out loud. Say I am reading and I begin to notice a Hero Cycle, I might simply say "I think this story might fit the Hero's Journey, so-and-so seems like The Mentor to me." and that's all. That statement might induce a question from one of my kids, or it might not. If it does, I don't launch into a ten minute lesson on the Hero's Journey, I answer the question as simply as I can. This prevents me from droning on and on about something well beyond the interest level of my kids. I know the topic will come up again, and next time I'll answer another question or two.
I always want to quit on the rise of interest if I can, no matter the topic. This goes for math, history, science, literature, and everything else too.
Leave them wanting more.
I believe this is one of the big reasons my kids follow up on ideas or topics that come up in our read alouds or in daily life. I just want to whet their appetite for it, so that interest stays high, and then they are more likely to seek out more knowledge on their own. And when they seek knowledge, they learn.
Kids don't learn when we keep going on and on and on, they just tune out.
They learn when they seek it themselves. As Yeats famously said:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
I do this with topics I hope to spark in my kids. I keep it casual and light, wondering about something or sharing a tidbit of info, and then I wait to see what happens.
This is a dance, it will take time to learn. I still mess up regularly and push things too far, so don't be too hard on yourself either.
Rejoice in the little wins.
Try this in your home this week.
Try to quit when you are ahead, leave them wanting more.
I'd love to hear from you, let me know in the comments how this works for you.