When you begin homeschooling, many people will tell you you need to deschool. But what is deschooling?
Deschooling can be defined as removing the influence of the formal education system from your way of thinking. Many children who have been in school will need time to adjust to their new lifestyle, and learn this new way of education. This period of adjustment is usually called deschooling.
On a wider scale, nearly everyone in society has what could be termed a ‘school mindset’ (and you will notice this in the questions you get about homeschooling). As most of us went through school, and its training is pervasive, deschooling yourself is an important part of the process. It involves challenging and questioning your school mindset, and replacing it if a better mindset is available. This can be a difficult, long-term process, and immersing yourself in homeschooling reading can assist greatly.
A deschooling period is commonly recommended upon beginning homeschooling. A child who has been highly regimented or has had a traumatic school experience may need time to relax and rediscover their interests, and find the joy in learning again. A deschooling period can facilitate this.
During deschooling try to ignore curriculum and the ‘shoulds’ in your head. Don’t worry about falling behind, as this period of rest and rediscovery will allow greater success once you begin structured work again. Or you may decide this lifestyle is for you, and segue into unschooling.
This period will also allow your child to settle back into their natural bodily rhythms. Sleep, toileting, eating, drinking and learning is all scheduled for the school child. They may be sleep-deprived after years of getting up earlier than their body likes, and sleep quite a lot to begin with. Maybe they won’t want to have breakfast until they’ve been up for three hours. Relaxing into it will help them get back to their normal and feel fresh and revitalised all the quicker.
Benefits of deschooling
- You won’t waste (as much) money on curricula. You won’t buy out of anxiety, and you’ll buy what suits you because you KNOW what suits you.
- Your children will want to learn. Really truly! It may take a while for their natural curiousity to rekindle, but once it does, they’ll be unstoppable.
- You won’t have power struggles. Honestly. You don’t need to force your child to do anything – if you homeschool right, they’ll learn in leaps and bounds without forcing.
- You won’t have panic attacks because you’re ‘doing it all wrong’. These occur because what you’re doing IS the wrong fit for you, but you feel that you have to do it anyway. You don’t!
Things to include in a deschooling period:
- Lots of unstructured time – This may be stressful at first, as a child who is accustomed to their time being regimented may be unable to work out what to do to fill in that time. However, the following ideas will help to reintroduce them to their independence.
- Reading – Just for fun, no book reports or assigned reading allowed! Visit the library and go shopping together for books (op-shops are great for building a large library cheaply). Read aloud to them, no matter their age. Listen to audiobooks while doing other activities.
- Nature time – Rediscover the peace and beauty of nature. Take long rambling walks, examine plants, fungi and insects, have picnics.
- Arts, crafts, and other activities – Try any kind of art, craft or hobby that sparks your interest.
- Mindful use of technology – Often, technology can numb us to paying attention to ourselves. It is incredibly easy to distract yourself from your issues and feelings by mindless surfing. Instead, use it wisely. Watch TED talks, find tutorials for other activities, and watch documentaries.
- Homemaking – It’s never too early to learn skills in cooking and cleaning. Even easy activities like learning to turn the washing machine on, or bake a simple cake, empowers children. And once they’ve mastered each skill they’ll be contributing meaningfully to the household.
- Get moving – Physical activity is a wonderful way to relax mind and body. Take younger children to the playground, go for walks or bike rides, go to the skate park or try an activity like yoga or parkour.
- Join a homeschool group – Finding people who are doing what you are is a great normaliser. If your child now feels ‘different’ this can reassure them that they’re not, while giving you great support.
As a parent, you can facilitate all of these activities. You don’t need to push or force – in fact, doing so can induce resistance and resentment. Instead, incorporate these activities into your life, and include your child. If you’re going to the library they can come along and get their own card and choose their own books. If they’re not interested in origami, sit and do a few YouTube tutorials yourself and show your excitement at your success. Put on a documentary about an interesting topic, and tell them a few quirky facts if they don’t gravitate there automatically. Give them the bowl and beaters to lick as you bake. As with your entire homeschooling journey, your modelling will influence your child.
As your child relaxes into and begins to enjoy this new lifestyle their interests will begin to emerge. Keeping an informal journal of the activities they choose to do can help you to recognise patterns and emerging interests. You can begin to address these casually by finding a book at the library about the topic, or buying the materials needed for it. From this they will naturally begin to fill their time with worthwhile activities. It will also provide you with guidance on what resources and educational methods will best service your child’s learning style and interests.
All of the activities above will also help you both deal with one of the greatest challenges – learning to spend most of your time together. This can be difficult when you’ve led separate lives. You may feel like you don’t really know or understand each other. If you have started homeschooling more than one child they may fight and argue. It may be depressing and disheartening to realise just how little time you used to spend together. The thing to remember is that now you are spending time together, and if you make it relaxed and enjoyable you will only get closer and more comfortable with each other.
Once you and your child are feeling relaxed, happy and motivated then it’s time for the next step – instigating a style of homeschooling and getting busy! If you’re interested in reading more about homeschooling styles, take a look at my Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Styles.
Deschooling Society | Ivan Ilich – The quotes in this post are from this book. I highly recommend it.
General homeschooling books will also help you deschool – here are my favourites
Take a look at my Deschooling board on Pinterest.