On the path to homeschooling, you’re bound to encounter many terms, like unschooling, game schooling, and deschooling, that might make you feel like the whole process is way too complicated for you. Having so many ways in which you can deliver your kid’s education can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to change that.
Homeschooling can be the perfect opportunity to explore your child’s full potential and try new learning methods that might be better for their temperament. But, before embarking on the journey to homeschooling, there are a couple of things you should know, and deschooling is one of them.
In this article, we cover everything you need to know about deschooling as a process meant to facilitate the transition from public school to homeschool. We’ll talk about what deschooling is and how to deschool your kid with clear and easy-to-follow instructions.
What Exactly Is Deschooling?
To put it in simple terms, deschooling is the process through which you prepare your child for homeschooling. In other words, it’s the process of deinstitutionalizing the child or disrupting the institutionalized mindset that’s created in a typical school environment.
For example, in schools, students learn not to speak without permission, wait until they’re called upon, and memorize a set of facts to pass a test that determines their knowledge or skills.
In contrast, homeschooling allows for a more friendly and interactive environment where they can fully express themselves. Basically, the style of education is adjusted to the child’s pace, instead of the other way around, which is the main difference between public schools and homeschools.
However, when you drastically change your kid’s educational framework, as it happens when transitioning from public school to homeschool, you need to allow your child to adjust (deschooling). This is crucial if you want to not only have a successful homeschooling experience but also develop positive feelings and spark motivation for learning in your child.
Think of deschooling as a mental process during which a student forgets the rules and other school principles so that they can embrace learning in an unstructured way.
“Deschooling Society” by Ivan Illich
The philosopher behind the concept of deschooling is Ivan Illich. He is known for his critique of the modern school system that, according to him, has a corrupting impact on people. His worldwide-known book, the “Deschooling Society,” is probably why we’re talking about this process.
Deschooling became a thing when Illich struck a chord writing “The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value.” (Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, 1971).
This made many people acknowledge his point of view and search for an alternative educational system, like homeschooling. But, before a child can learn in a homeschool environment, they need to be deschooled.
In his book, Illich gives a lot of suggestions on how to make these changes, for example, teaching children to use advanced technology to find what they want to learn.
If you want to dig deeper into the philosophy behind the concept of deschooling, we recommend his book (Deschooling Society), but for now, keep reading to find out how to deschool your child.
The Difference Between Deschooling, Unschooling, and Homeschooling
Before continuing our discussion on deschooling, let’s make sure everything’s clear. People usually have trouble differentiating between deschooling, homeschooling, and unschooling.
Are they all the same thing?
No, not really. Deschooling is a temporary process that aims to prepare the student for a completely different learning environment, like homeschooling or unschooling. On the other hand, homeschooling and unschooling are two alternative approaches to education, but fundamentally different.
Homeschooling is somewhere between the traditional school system and unschooling, while unschooling, on the other hand, is an entirely unstructured way of learning.
While homeschooling, parents or tutors act, more or less, as teachers in a classroom, and follow a particular curriculum. Unschooling is child-led learning, which can be defined as “learning what one wants, when one wants, in the way one wants, for one’s own reasons,” according to Mary Griffith (The Unschooling Handbook).
You can learn more about unschooling in our article “What Is Unschooling and Is It a Good Idea for Your Homeschool Children?”
The Importance of Deschooling: Is It Necessary?
So, you’ve decided to educate your kids at home (homeschooling or unschooling), but don’t know where to start and whether deschooling is something your child should go through first. Here are several reasons why people decide to do deschooling.
First of all, deschooling becomes more important the longer your child has been in school. For example, first graders might not be affected by the change significantly, as they haven’t spent much time in a traditional school environment. On the other hand, fourth-graders might resist the changes and regress toward their previous habits if the transition comes too suddenly.
Second of all, the importance of deschooling depends on the child’s character and temperament, too. Some children react better to changes than others. Some are more emotional than others. This is why, as a parent who knows their child best, only you can make this decision.
Finally, whether deschooling is necessary depends on the plans you have for your child’ future education. Are you going to homeschool or unschool them? Do you already have a curriculum you’re going to follow? Has your child expressed interest in learning something specific? If you’re going to homeschool your kid following a traditional curriculum, then deschooling might not be as crucial as when unschooling.
However, we should mention that whether deschooling is truly necessary is still up for debate among experts. At the end of the day, you have to make the decision, and all you have to remember is that deschooling certainly can’t hurt. It may help create a positive attitude toward homeschooling or unschooling, and make the transition easier.
The Benefits of Deschooling
Deschooling is not a vacation or a break from school where your kid spends all day in its pajamas playing video games or scrolling through social media. Deschooling is a time where your child will learn how to learn things differently than the way they were thought in school. Here are some of the benefits of spending time to deschool.
Discover Your Child’s Interests
In school, children have a strict curriculum to follow, regardless of their feelings toward the subject. Although this has its benefits, it doesn’t allow kids to spend more time exploring exciting topics.
When homeschooling, you can personalize the educational material to fit your kids’ interests, while unschooling is based on what they want to learn. However, bear in mind that you wouldn’t be able to know what your kid wants to learn if they don’t get the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a wide range of topics and subject matters. During deschooling, children can discover different professions, issues, natural phenomena, etc., and decide what they want to learn.
Deal With Psychological Issues
Unfortunately, many kids experience bullying, discrimination, or other types of trauma by their peers during school years. This can seriously affect a child’s social and emotional development. Experiencing psychological issues in school might may well be a reason for switching to homeschooling or unschooling. Regardless of the reasons, when there’s a psychological trauma in the way, deschooling provides an opportunity to deal with it directly and heal before continuing the education.
Find the Best Learning Style
Deschooling is a period that benefits parents, too. During this time, you have the opportunity to bond with your child. Listen to their thoughts about the school experience – what they liked or disliked, and experiment with different learning methods to see what will best suit your kid’s character and learning style. You can also use this time to evaluate your kid’s cognitive development, strengths, and weaknesses, which will help you personalize the curriculum. This ensures that you’ll realize your child’s full potential.
Teach Kids the Importance of Learning for Themselves
In schools, children learn that they must follow the rules, memorize information, and pass tests, regardless of whether they’re tired, unwilling, or find the subject too hard. This inevitably brings a lot of stress and externalizes the studying process – they learn because they’re told they must, not because they want to.
In a home learning environment, this is going to change drastically. This is why deschooling is a beautiful opportunity for children to become aware of why and how the learned material will help them achieve their goals in life – to internalize the studying process or learn for themselves.
How Long Does Deschooling Take?
The rule of thumb is one month for every year a child has been in school. However, as we’ve already discussed, this can vary depending on the child’s temperament, previous experience, and life-stage.
Your child might need a longer deschooling period if they:
- don’t like changes or react emotionally;
- have been bullied or discriminated against;
- don’t know what they’re interested in;
- have struggled with school assignments;
- develop cognitively at a slower pace than their peers;
- have an aversion to studying and school work;
- they are at the end of their high school studies.
Finally, make sure to follow your kid’s reactions, behavioral, or emotional changes during the deschooling period to be able to notice when your child is ready for a new learning environment.
After all, the transition from deschooling to unschooling or homeschooling should be gradual and almost unnoticeable. There’s no indication that can tell you to drop everything and start learning from tomorrow.
In general, experts advise:
- One to eight months for elementary school and middle school children.
- Six months to a year, or even two for high school students.
The Deschooling Process
Now that you know how to decide how long the deschooling period should be, we can talk about how to begin, what to do during, and how to finish the deschooling period. According to these three phases, we can also divide the deschooling process into three steps.
- Initiation Phase: Relaxation and De-stress
- Active Phase: Discovering Interests
- Transitioning Phase: Beginning With Learning Activities
The first few weeks after getting out of school, children should take some time to relax and de-stress, which is why it’s important to do nothing during this phase. Taking some time for themselves will help children let go of the pressure built in school and the negative feelings associated with studying. Let them sleep a while longer, go out with friends, play games, and basically, just have fun.
After the initial first few weeks, it’s time for you to take control and plan several different activities that will help children find their passion and discover new ways to learn useful information. Further in the article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the activities you can plan during this phase.
Finally, a few weeks or a month before starting with homeschooling or unschooling activities, it’s a good idea to start introducing some of those activities and see how your kid is going to take them. If they’re too easy for them, that’s a good indication that you need to plan something more challenging, or if you see them struggling and losing interest, try something more fun and easy.
However, keep in mind that this is just one way to organize the deschooling process and there are no fixed rules which you should follow. This is simply a guide to help you out when you’re in doubt.
Activities While Deschooling
We’ve covered deschooling in theory, but how does this process look like in practice? Here are some typical deschooling activities:
- Take a walk in nature. Going to the park, or visiting beautiful natural attractions in your region is the perfect deschooling activity for many reasons. First, you can use that time to bond with your kid. Second, you can let them enjoy the views and have fun while still sharing cool nature facts. Finally, you can have a relaxed conversation about your child’s interests.
- Plan gardening activities. Children can learn so much through gardening. First, they’ll learn responsibility and patience by taking care of the plants, and second, they’ll learn a lot of educational information about plants.
- Visit museums. This can be a fun activity, as today there are so many different museums and they frequently organize interactive events. Technology, biology, and physics museums, for example, show fun experiments that can easily impress kids.
- Go to the library. Visit a library to show your child just how much knowledge there is in the world. Let them spend as much time as they want, going from one section to another, looking at the books. You can also tell them they can choose whichever books they want to take home, so you can read them together.
- Start an art project together. The best way to stimulate creativity and curiosity is to play with different arts and crafts. Take an online course together about drawing, painting with different materials, sewing, photography, leaf printing, paper crafts, or something entirely different.
- Take up a new hobby. There are no limitations to what you can do here. You can develop their logical thinking by playing chess, or solving big puzzles; their cognitive abilities by playing a new instrument or learning a new language; or their motor skills through sports.
- Organize a picnic with other homeschooling/unschooling kids. Socialization and maintaining good relationships with friends are crucial for a child’s social and emotional development. Don’t let them feel isolated by not going to school.
- Plan holidays and family trips together. Kids thrive most when they feel supported by the people close to them. This is why planning family trips together can be a wonderful opportunity for bonding as well as learning what your child wants to do or see.
Tips for Deschooling
Deschooling might be highly beneficial for your child, but it won’t mean anything unless your child perceives it as a positive experience. Here are some tips for deschooling to make sure that even the modest teenagers end up accepting this change as a positive activity.
- Praise your child whenever they show interest in something new or learn something independently.
- Create a close bond with your kid and encourage them to speak openly about their feelings toward this project and future educational activities.
- If they struggle to learn something, or have resentful feelings at the beginning, be on their side. Tell them that you understand and that it’s going to get better.
- Involve your children in the decision-making. Decide what is the best course of action for future activities together.
- Don’t criticize your child if they fail at something. Instead, say something along the lines of: “It’s okay because now we know another way that doesn’t work. Let’s try it together this time and see if we can make it.”
- Encourage children to try new things and meet new people. Homeschooling can feel isolating if your child isn’t involved in activities outside the home environment.
- Show children that what really matters is the process of learning and they should enjoy it, not the results at the end.
Before You Leave
By now, you’ve learned what deschooling is, why it’s important, how your child can benefit from deschooling, and how to plan the process. We made sure to include specific examples and activities, so you can get a better idea of how deschooling looks in practice. However, don’t forget that this is a flexible guide and you can always adjust the deschooling process to fit your child’s needs and preferences. After all, the main goal of deschooling is to prepare the child for new ways of learning.
If you decide that deschooling is the right step in your journey to homeschooling or unschooling, our worksheet library is here to cover you every step of the way. Plus, you can always subscribe to our newsletter, and visit our blog, where you can find a lot of information useful for parents and tutors involved in homeschooling.
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