If you’ve started looking into homeschooling, you’ve probably come across the term “deschooling.” It’s a particularly popular suggestion when you talk amongst a group of homeschoolers about how to get started. “Be sure to take some time to deschool,” they might way. But what does that actually mean and how does deschooling work?
What is Deschooling?
Deschooling is a time of intentional effort on the part of parents to dump the “school” perspective from their daily life. It means shedding the public school constraints, expectations, and routines that has become such an integrated part of our culture.
Keep in mind that deschooling isn’t the same as unschooling. Deschooling is a temporary transition period or a time of purging the public school out of our heads. Unschooling is a homeschool philosophy that doesn’t provide any instruction or guidance at all and is a longer-term approach that some families take. Deschooling, however, is for the short term, and after you’re done with it you can move into whatever homeschool methods and styles you choose.
Who Needs to Deschool?
Most likely, everyone needs to deschool at some point. Here’s a list of some folks who can benefit from it:
- Kids who have recently been pulled out of school
- The parents who withdrew them
- Parents who themselves attended public/private school
- Parents who were taught using materials that were designed for private school (which is what early homeschool materials were)
- Parents who worry or who are often told by those close to them that homeschooling is a mistake
- Parents who feel tempted to replicate public school at home
- Parents who are unsure what to teach and assume the government is the logical source of that information
In those early years of homeschooling journey, that list covers pretty much everyone. And, let’s admit it, homeschool moms… some of us may start to realize that even after years of homeschooling, we have drifted into a “school culture” mindset that isn’t working that well for our families right now. That’s ok. We can benefit from some deschooling at times, too!
Why is Deschooling Important?
Deschooling helps you evaluate your assumptions through the experience of living life with your children unhindered by the constraints of institutionalized schooling. It helps you more confidently answer this most important question: “What is the best education for my child and who is best suited to teach them?”
The process of deschooling can be a huge benefit to your family:
- Helps you practice leaning on the Lord and turning to Him in prayer for all things. This is a great time to establish a habit of homeschool prayer!
- Allows time to establish family rhythms and routines.
- Helps you focus on foundational discipleship, relationship, character issues first.
- Starts you out with exploration of the interests, personality traits, and strengths of your children.
- Helps you settle into methods and styles that are actually a good fit for you, rather than what someone else is doing.
- Saves you time and money by keeping you from bouncing from curriculum to curriculum as often.
- Helps avoid running to right to public school schedules, systems, styles, etc. when you hit road bumps along the homeschooling way.
- You’ll practice stepping outside your comfort zone to find creative solutions.
- Provides for a more peaceful transition to homeschooling.
- Takes some of the stress and pressure down a few notches so you can actually ENJOY the time you have with your children!
Maybe you’re convinced now that this is worth a shot but aren’t sure how to actually DO this deschooling thing. Let’s dig into that next.
So, How do I Deschool?
First, make sure you know what your state homeschool laws are. If you have a high regulation state, you’ll need to work out how you are going to deschool in that context. You may consider reaching out to unschoolers in your area and asking how they handle things like attendance and subject requirements, and see if you can follow suit during your temporary deschooling time.
Once you think you’re ready to start deschooling, here are some things to keep in mind.
What to do to start deschooling:
- Block out time on your calendar for deschooling and choose a time when school would normally be happening.
- Decide on a basic routine (not a time-bound schedule, but a general routine) for your days.
- If desired, make a list of fun trips, trails to hike, life skills to explore, books to read aloud, etc. Like a bucket list.
- Make regular dates with each kid for 1:1 time. This can be an activity out of the house or something at home that’s fun.
- Observe your children and watch for what they enjoy, their strengths and interests, how they learn, etc.
- When you get antsy, submit your fears and worries to the Lord. It also helps to look up more articles on deschooling and remember why you’re doing this.
What NOT to do:
- If possible, don’t deschool over the summer or other typical school breaks. The goal is to break out of the school mindset. Not doing school during vacation is what everyone does, so trying that will simply not bring about the intended results here.
- Don’t overplan deschooling time. Having a basic routine and some fun things to do together is great. Resist the temptation to test out homeschool schedules, sneak in formal lessons, etc. Again, don’t sabotage your efforts.
- Don’t forget that YOU are deschooling too. Hold off on researching curriculum, methods, etc. Have a notepad to jot down those questions/ideas and then set it aside until your deschooling is over.
How long you want to deschool will depend entirely on your needs and situation. I have heard some say that 1 month for every year in the public school system. I think two to four weeks is good for those who aren’t coming out of public school but just need to reset.
Ultimately, you know yourself and your family best so I would choose what seems like a reasonable amount of time and try it. Once you see your kids relax into a good routine and you’ve moved past the constant internal pressure to “do school,” that’s a good sign.
What to After Deschooling
Ideally, now the “school” will be out of your brain and your family will be in a good routine, enjoying time together. Now’s the time to revisit your priorities and goals for homeschooling, prayerfully asking the Lord to guide you.
Look at the various methods and curriculum options out there and see which ones will be good tools for the coming year to meet your goals and priorities. Remember: you are the boss and your curriculum and methods are just tools.
Will Deschooling Solve All My Problems?
No, deschooling is not a silver bullet. You will have challenges as you find out what really works best for you and your kids, and that’s ok! That’s part of the journey, too.
You’ll still sometimes find yourselves stressing out about what the public schools are doing or what your friends are doing. Keep praying, showing yourself and your children heaps of grace, and reminding yourself that homeschooling is a lifestyle, not a curriculum.
You’ve got this, mama. Have a great homeschool year!