Deschooling - an Important Part of Homeschooling
Deschooling. Do you know what that term means? For those who have only recently started to homeschool, you are quite likely to see behaviors from your child that might not be what you expected. After all, the whole “homeschooling” thing is new to them, too. It’s not at all uncommon for these types of challenges to surface in the beginning, so don’t let it discourage you.
As you read along, it’s my hope that you’ll find some tips here that help you to understand deschooling and all that it can do for you and your child. Yes, I included “you” here, because sometimes, parents need to deschool as much as their children do. Getting rid of preconceived notions about how the educational journey should look is one of the most liberating things in the world.
What is Deschooling?
In 1971 there was a book, Deschooling Society, written by Ivan Illich. In it, he talks a lot about disestablishing the modern school system. Although I don't know that I agree with everything he says in his book, I do think that the idea of deschooling is important when you are transitioning from the public school system to homeschooling.
The difference between “deschooling” and “unschooling” are sometimes confused by new homeschoolers if for no other reason than that they sound a whole lot alike. There’s also the fact that both point towards a sort of undoing so far as education is concerned. However, there are distinct differences between the two. Unschooling is a homeschool teaching style. Just like the Charlotte Mason Method, Classical homeschooling, or the Montessori Method.
Deschooling, on the other hand, speaks specifically to the transition from public school to homeschooling. If you’ve never placed your child in public school to start with, this will be of no consequence to you. However, for many parents, deschooling is something that is crucially necessary when transitioning to home education, yet often overlooked.
During the deschooling period for children, the adjustment can vary. Those who have been in a traditional school setting for a longer period of time will need more time to adjust to no longer being in that environment. Furthermore, fully transitioning from the public school environment to the homeschooling environment can take time and a lot of patience on your part. The adjustment period for children to accomplish this process can take days, while others need months to process the change fully.
Changing From the School Experience Learning Environment
One of the biggest things you’ll have to overcome is hearing your child say, “That’s not the way we did it in school”. If you’ve chosen a homeschool teaching style that goes deeply against the grain of the formal education model, you’re more likely to hear it. Unschooling, for instance, can make your child feel like they’re not really “doing” anything, when in reality, they may be learning more than they ever have before. Some homeschool parents might choose to teach their kinesthetic learner, for instance, to spell while playing hopscotch. Again, this will feel different to them, but your patience can make all the difference when moving from school to homeschool.
Healing from Public School
If you had to pull your child out of school because of an abusive setting such as bullying, either by peers or teachers, or social situations in which neither you nor your child was comfortable or for any one of a variety of personal reasons, it can take a great deal of time for healing to take place. As a rule of thumb, they may lack self-confidence or self-esteem, they might be hesitant to try for feeling like a failure, or they may simply feel as if they have nothing to say or add. Regaining their footing can take time, but you can help by making them feel as comfortable as possible in their new setting. Be sure to apply measures such as shorter lesson periods, grace for assignments and mistakes, and plenty of praise when they’ve earned it.
Homeschooling Parents Need Deschooling Too
It’s hard, sometimes, to think of anything other than the public school model when starting to homeschool your children, especially if you were a product of a public school yourself. For instance, you might feel drawn to “do school at home” in much the same way it’s carried out in public school. Getting up early, having a room or desk set aside for learning, and keeping strict grades, with quizzes and testing can all be a part of simply “doing school at home”.
For some this a pattern that works well, but in many other cases, a child can learn better with some personalization to their specific learning style. Before fully embarking on your journey, it can be very helpful simply to take some time to learn about learning. You might be surprised to find that your child can learn just as well through play, reading, watching videos, or some other unconventional method.
Falling behind is another area in which parents can quickly unravel. Whether it’s you or your child that’s doing the lagging, the effects can often be anxiety, worry, and fear that you are not providing quality education to your child. In reality, you’re doing a far better job than you might think.
Deschooling Benefits Your Entire Family
After fully deschooling, you won’t be nearly as tempted to spend excessive amounts of money on a homeschool curriculum. It’s true, a good curriculum is a treasure for many homeschooling families, while others find it far too rigid and constraining. Some families prefer and do well with a prepacked curriculum that includes everything needed for the entire year. Others are happier to put together a skeleton curriculum that best suits their very specific needs.
You’re also very likely to find that your children develop a love for learning that simply isn’t seen in public schools. Their curious nature, especially if they’re younger, can lead them to deeper and deeper depths of knowledge. You might even find that you have trouble keeping up with all the things they want to learn on any given day!
One of the best things about homeschooling life is that you likely won't need to force education. In fact, forcing the learning process on a child who is still not finished with the deschooling process can not only cause a great deal of resistance to newer principles, but it can cause resentment as well. Building life up in ways that provoke your child’s curiosity, a little at a time if necessary, is the best way to spark their interest, ensure their participation, and push them towards a desire to learn for themselves.
You’ll know when your child is properly deschooled, in that they will relax and begin truly to enjoy the learning process. As your methods casually move towards more and more informative content, you will spark natural interests and activities that forge a path forward and will create a well-rounded young person. Joy, relaxation, and motivation are all great signs that moving forward into a busier homeschool lifestyle is something you can now readily turn to.
A simple Google search can lead you to volumes of deschooling resources and information, as we certainly cannot include everything here in one blog post. If you take this route, you’re sure to find an almost overwhelming amount of information. But, remember to always spend more time on things that are relevant for your own family, lifestyle, and special learning needs. Keep in mind that the deschooling you’ll have to go through with an autistic fourth-grader is certainly not the same as the deschooling process for a left-brained eighth-grader.
The truth is, you know your children better than anyone, so focus on exactly what they need and what makes more sense for your homeschooling outlook. These can be drastically different, depending on which homeschool teaching style you’re using. The Classical homeschooling style will look a lot different than Unschooling. And both of those are different from Relaxed or Eclectic homeschooling. So be sure that whatever you do, you focus on a goal that will benefit the whole family.