Several years ago I became aware of the idea of age disequilibrium. It answered many of my questions regarding how a child’s behavior could change so drastically over the period of a few months. I wrote at one point about my perplexity with the half year disequilibrium at three and a half years. If you aren’t familiar with these concepts, then you can see this explanation of the roller coaster of equilibrium and disequilibrium.
It is unfortunate that every expectant parent isn’t required to study child development and topics like this. I think many problems could be avoided, especially for parents who truly have no idea about the different stages of childhood. I had a good working knowledge as an educator and even then that was not enough.
Although there are general time frames, every child goes through the stages at his or her own individual pace so you have to learn to observe and read your child. For example, one thing I noticed over time is that Caroline did not hit the stages at the six months on and off exactly. She seemed to hit the next stage about two months ahead of time.
Age Disequilibrium and Homeschooling
So what does this have to do with stress in homechooling? It could have a great deal to do with it depending on your child’s birthday and your school year flow.
For example, let’s say it is the start of school and your child is hitting a disequilibrium stage or is already in the midst of it. Here is the dedicated homechool mom trying to get the school year off to a great start. Here is her child entering a huge developmental change which entails lots of angst, emotions, rigidity, etc.
Can you say recipe for conflict and stress?
Mom feels like the child is uncooperative and disobedient. The child feels out of sorts and probably doesn’t even fully understand what is going on in his body. This is the kind of situation that will cause a lot of stress for mom. It may even make mom hate homeschooling and want to quit.
Disequilibrium + First Year of Homeschooling = Major Challenges
So what if your first year of homeschooling coincides with your child’s year of disequilibrium?
Can you imagine? If you look at the stages of development chart here, imagine you start homeschooling in kindergarten. Are you starting kindergarten with a child who is happily in equilibrium from 5 – 5.5 or are you starting with a kindergartener who is in disequilibrium from 5.5 – 6? Can you see how that could make a tremendous difference in how homeschooling goes?
Or what if after a couple of years of traditional school you decide to homeschool. So you bring home your seven year old child to start homeschooling in second grade. Except year seven is an entire year of disequilibrium. And lucky you if your child’s birthday coincides with roughly the start of school.
So not only are you trying to deschool and adjust to homeschooling, your child is also going through a major period of disequilibrium.
Can you see how that could contribute to homeschooling stress?
Homeschooling During Disequilibrium
There have been times when I could discern Caroline was going through a period of disequilibrium and I just said forget it. If she’s already dealing with growth stuff, I’m not going to pour gasoline on the fire and push her in other ways. Disequilibrium is not the time to decide you are going to double-down on the academics and get caught up. You might be lucky to just get the minimum done.
The trade-off was when Caroline was in equilibrium, we could get so much more done. She was much more cooperative and eager to learn. Honestly, it is easier to coast for a month or two when the disequilibrium is at its worst and make up for it later on when the child is better able to handle it.
Obviously the more children you have the more challenging it is going to be to adjust your homeschooling to their periods of disequilibrium. But if you can be aware of how these times of growth and change are impacting your child, you can at least make some adjustments with your academic expectations. And if for some reason you truly have to keep a rigid schedule, just remember that the way your child is acting has far more to do with what is happening physically, mentally and emotionally than it does with you. The Center for Parenting Education points this out specifically:
Try not to blame your child for being more sensitive or less flexible during periods of disequilibrium. They are not “acting that way on purpose” and are not “out to get you”.
It’s really important to not take it personally even though it might feel very personal at times.
This goes double for the mom who is also in the role of homeschooler/teacher.
I wrote a post about 5 Reasons Not to Quit after Your First Year of Homeschooling. There are so many challenges and adjustments to make that first year. I think it’s especially true if you have been through a tough year of homeschooling AND your child was in disequilibrium.
If the stress of homeschooling makes you want to quit, try to step back and look at the big picture. See if developmental spurts might be contributing to the stress and then come up with a plan to adjust your year or expectations accordingly.