How much input is too much?
It's something I still struggle with a lot, even after home-educating several children. Getting the balance right is very difficult. I've made some big mistakes in this respect in the past, and also the educational needs of schooled, deschooled and totally unschooled children are all very different, as are the educational needs of each individual child at each individual time, of course. So it's a matter of being flexible and responsive and trying not to get stuck in a certain rigid way of doing things.
It took me a long time, but I finally learned that the most effective method is to wait until the child shows interest in doing or learning something, then to be very careful about the amount of enthusiasm I respond with. If I get too keen on the idea, the child usually starts thinking I want to take over ownership of the process and backs off. But maybe that's just me - I can get quite passionate about things!
Sometimes it's just enough to provide the tools or information required and leave them somewhere easily accessible. I've learned not to go mad spending a huge amount of money on a certain kind of learning resource I thought might interest a certain child, because too much is too much, and it turns off their curiosity.
I think most conscientious home educators are at more risk of providing too much input rather than too little, even if they're not worried about issues like whether the child is learning 'enough', at the 'right' level. I can understand that kind of angst , but I have to say that I don't believe there's a universal 'right' age to learn anything, any more than I believe there's a universal 'right' way to learn it. Every learner is unique, and the facilitator's skill is in recognising and responding to that.
Signs I've learned to look for that a child has lost interest in something are pretty obvious ones to any parent: it's mostly in the eyes and the body language. If they're starting to look elsewhere and move like they want to be elsewhere, they probably do and the chances of them learning any more in that particular instance have passed. I try to stop providing input before that point is reached, but it's very difficult to gauge the timing. Being hyper-aware and observant helps, but we all have off-days.
I've been increasingly thinking about co-learning and 'teaching' in terms of power-struggles. Intrinsic motivation seems to depend on the child being in control and 'owning' the learning territory. Too much input is when we impinge on that territory and the child feels to lose control of the learning process.
Thanks to Lucy for inspiring this post (in *140-character* admirable chunks!)