If you’ve started down the homeschooling path, or are about to, you’ve probably heard the term deschooling. You may have heard people talking about it at a homeschool group gathering or read about it online. It may have been suggested on a Facebook group or other online community.
But what does it mean? You may think that deschooling sounds like a waste of time. You may even be afraid of the word. It seems to defeat the whole purpose of keeping your kids at home. You’ve brought or kept your kids home to do school, not deschool. So why is it so important and why do you keep seeing it pop up in conversations in the homeschool/unschool world?
Let’s take a look at deschooling. Even if your kids have never stepped foot in an institutional learning facility, you probably have. At the very least, you live in a society that values institutional style learning, where the child is told what, when, how and where to learn.
For the past 150 years our society has bought into the fact that when children reach a certain age, it’s time to stop learning naturally and start being taught. Kids in institutional learning facilities are required to learn certain things by certain ages or else they’re labeled as behind. You as the parent have probably bought into that idea to one degree or another. There is so much momentum behind this idea that in order to step away from it and look at it objectively, most of us need to deschool, let go of the school mindset and find another way.
What Is Deschooling and How Do I Do It?
Deschooling is a time that we get to relax. Think of it as a summer vacation. It’s a letting go. A period of rest and rejuvination. A time that we can just be with our kids and have fun, leaving behind anything that looks “schoolish”. It might be good to set up a predetermined period of time in which you vow to not even think about school. Give yourself time to let go of the artificial learning parameters set by the school systems.
If you’re kids have been in a school setting, they need time to decompress. To “be” and not have to worry about producing. They might watch t.v. for hours or play video games for days on end. That’s okay. You might go on walks around the neighborhood, sleep late, cook together or play board games. For the deschooling period, allow everyone, including yourself, to have a break from rushing to some invisible finish line.
The focus is on being together and also having time and space to think. It’s a great time to drop all expectations of HOW life should be and just LIVE life together as it is right now.
For you as the parent, this can be a great time to read all of the information there is about every form of homeschooling out there. It can be an information gathering time. A time to see what resonates with you and try it on for size.
Why Should We Deschool?
Our society and most of the world for that matter have bought into an idea that just isn’t true. We’ve bought into the idea that children need adults to define a curricula and implement it, otherwise the children will stop learning.
Did your child ever have lessons to teach them to walk? Did they ever have a teacher who taught them to talk? In most instances, the answer is no. They learned by watching you, their siblings and the world around them. They learn these things because they are the natural progression of a child. They don’t have to study or take classes to learn these things. They naturally want to do them.
Children are naturally curious about the world. When left alone, children will remain curious about the world and nothing will stop the learning process.
Deschooling allows us to contemplate a new way. It allows us to see how learning really happens. It gives us an opportunity to examine our paradigm around education and life in general and gives us new perspectives to work with. Deschooling can help us to shed the belief that learning has to happen in a certain way. It opens our eyes to the learning that is happening in every activity we participate in.
Deschooling is the gift we give to ourselves and our children – the gift of time to reexamine all that we think we know and be open to a new understanding.
What are the Benefits of Deschooling
Deschooling gives you time to discover – your children’s learning styles, their interests, ways to communicate better. It’s a time to discover how to be together all day, every day.
It gives you time to research and think about the different approaches your family might want to take.
It allows everyone to relax without feeling the need to produce.
It helps the child rediscover that learning is fun and can happen in ALL activities.
It helps kids that may have been in difficult situations at school to de-stress and relax.
It gives the parent time to observe their children and discover what they like, what they dislike and what their gifts and talents are.
What sort of Things Can We Do When We’re Deschooling
First and foremost, put the focus on Being rather than Doing. Inspired Doing will happen when a child is relaxed and enjoying him or her self. Allow the child to lead for a while. Let them do what they are inspired to do, even if that is to sleep. Having said that, here are a few ideas:
Stay up late watching movies, then sleep late the next day.
Go for walks
Play board games together
Have alone time – As much as your child needs.
Work on Projects together
Do Volunteer work
Build a Garden – take a gardening class together
Get outside and play – football, bike rides, soccer, playgrounds
Read-alone or together or better yet BOTH!
Play Video Games together – Parents: See what the buzz is around that new video game your child has been dying to play.
Hang Out – Talk about everyday life together
Go out for Pizza
Wash the Car together
Camp out in the backyard – gaze at the stars and contemplate the miracle of life
There are so many things you can do with your kids. You can also give your kids (yes, even your teen) time to play. Let yourself play. Rediscover what it’s like to just enjoy life on a day to day basis.
What If I Don’t Want to Deschool? My kids are already “behind”!
Deschooling may come later for you. You may jump right in with the curricula that you’ve chosen and then realize you need a break. Even some of the seasoned unschoolers started out jumping right into curricula, only to realize that a big break was needed shortly after.
Deschooling will not make your kids more “behind”. In fact, it just might give them the rest and inspiration that they need to excel at something they didn’t have time for when they were in school or doing school at home. Watch for those things and work on letting go of what our school systems have told us our children “should” be doing. Instead focus on what they are already doing and learning, without comparing it to anyone else.
I want to learn more about Deschooling. Where Can I Read More about it?
You can read more about deschooling at these websites:
Learn more about Michelle on our Contributors page.