Deschooling and Your Homeschool: Everything You Need To Know

What is deschooling? Do you need to do it? And how can it possibly help your homeschool? Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about deschooling.

What Is Deschooling?

Let’s start with what deschooling is. Essentially, deschooling is a period that you go through when you first start homeschooling, especially if your children have ever gone to public school, private school or any other kind of school setting. Deschooling allows you to take a step back from everything “schooly” and academic, and begin to teach your kids that learning doesn’t just have to be sitting down at a desk or a table and reading a book. We want them to know that there are lots of different ways to go about learning. Learning might mean sitting on the couch and having your mom read a novel to you, or laying in your bed or sitting at a window seat and reading a really good book for yourself. These are just as valid  as reading a chapter and answering the questions at the end.

This period of deschooling is important, especially for kids who have been to school, and are maybe just a little burned out or disillusioned with the whole system of education. We try to show them that true education and authentic learning is often more than what they have been led to believe, more than the system that they have participated in.

I want you to stress that I’m not beating up the system. The system of education in public schools and in private schools is used because it’s a very efficient way to educate a large group of kids. We have the system set up and in place because you have to manage a large group of children in a classroom environment. You have to be able to demonstrate that they are learning.

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is we are not bound by those limitations, but it’s all our kids have ever known – this one specific kind of schooling. We have to show them that there is a different way to learn.

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Homeschool Parents Need To Deschool Too!

As homeschooling parents, we also have to go through this period of deschooling.

We have to learn to trust that real authentic learning can happen, even if our kids are not sitting at the table, filling out workbooks, and answering questions at the end of the chapter. Real learning can still take place. We deschool for ourselves as well. The entire deschooling process is learning that learning is not just from a textbook, a workbook or all those little assignments that we did in school.

How Long Should A Homeschooling Family Deschool?

You may be wondering how long you should spend deschooling. If you bring a child home and they’re really resistant to homeschooling  (i.e.. they don’t want to work for you) or maybe you are bringing them home because they were having a horrible time in the school system – how long do we go through a deschooling period before introducing back in more formal academics? The rule of thumb is one month for every year that your child was in the public school system. So, if they’re in a first grader, about a month. If they’re a second grader, about two months. If they’re a ninth grader, it could take an entire school year before you’ve transitioned them.

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Why Is Deschooling Important In Your Homeschool

We want our children to see what true learning is like. We also need to see it for ourselves – to start trusting in our children and that they can learn in different ways.

We also do this because sometimes, a child is completely overwhelmed by a system that did not work for them. In this scenario, you have to earn their trust. Deschooling is largely a trust issue, whether you, the parent, are learning to trust that authentic education can happen in different ways than what we have always known, or whether the child is learning to trust that education can be authentic. It does take a little bit of time for everyone to build up this trust.

A question arises, do I have to deschool if we’ve always homeschooled? The answer is maybe, or maybe not. I look at the journey that I have been on as a homeschooling parent coming out of the public school system and having been a public school teacher. I began trying to teach my children in that same public school way, and then over the years, gradually released a lot of that to a more authentic, more organic form of learning. My deschooling journey has taken me a number of years.  It’s entirely possible that there may need to be some deschooling done either for you, your children, or both of you, even if your kids have never been to school.

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Does Deschooling Mean We Don’t Do Formal Schooling Anymore?

When we initially deschool, we step back from anything that looks academic and formal, but it does not mean that we’re never going do things that look academic and formal again.

No. It means that we’re going to step back from that for a while and explore all the different ways that we can learn. There could be a time that we do come back to more academic and formal learning for certain subjects, because for some subjects it’s a really efficient way to learn. For examaple, if you have a child who is college bound and who needs to learn to write an essay or a paper for a college class, sitting down and walking through the steps and doing a bunch of practice essays is a great, really efficient way to get that done. Textbooks can also be a very efficient way to learn sometimes, depending on what your goals are and what your needs are for each individual child. Just because you deschool, you should not stop exploring all of the different options available.

It also does not mean that you’re never going to do formal learning again. Where it makes sense to start introducing formal learning back after you have gone through this period of deschooling, especially if you’re deschooling a reluctant child, take a few months and then start adding it back.

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What does deschooling practically look like on a day to day basis?

First and foremost, it looks like putting aside all of the formal learning exercises that one would typically do in school. These are things that typically require the child to produce some kind of output for us, or leaning into text heavy books, where we hand the book to the child and have them go work on their own.

Instead use your library card! It’s a great tool for deschooling. Take the kids to the library and everybody gets to choose books about things that interest them. That’s it. Throw the formal course of study out the window for a while, and have everybody come home, with just this big stack of books and spend time reading it.

Go on field trips, just as many as you can. Visit your local nature preserve or nature park, take any little community classes, and take advantage of art museum activities – just go everywhere that you can.

Watch documentaries, play lots of games with your kids. You’re going to find that you learn so much by doing all of these things, and you really start to trust that learning can happen even when we are not sitting at a desk all the time.

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Morning time is a fabulous thing to do during your deschooling process, especially if you add things to your morning time that each one of your children finds absolutely fascinating. Put it in your morning time, pull your kids close, read all of the best books, play all of the best games and just really enjoy learning together.

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  • Lisa says:

    How do I handle a lifelong homeschooled 13 year old (Classical Conversations and other curriculum) that has “suddenly” become resistant to completing schooly assignments to a specific standard and not wanting to wake up even for homeschooling; does not want me doing any of the teaching, has decided not to do math (and would be considered “behind” if she went to school) and is having behavior issues related to all of this? If it were up to me I’d unschool for a year, but my husband feels very strongly that she should go to school? This is a lot! But we are at a crossroads here and I’m conflicted.

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