Understanding deschooling

How do you help kids transition from brick-and-mortar school to homeschooling? Enter Deschooling. Here's what it is and how to do it.

The ins and outs of transitioning from public school

If you're considering homeschooling, you may have started looking into choosing a curriculumdecorating your homeschool space, or figuring out how to transition from public school to schooling at home.

There are a lot of fun things and many that are equally intimidating when making the transition to becoming a homeschooling family.

But what about your child? What could make them feel more comfortable leaving the world of desks, textbooks, and a room full of their peers? Enter Deschooling. 

What is deschooling?

If you're new to homeschooling, deschooling is a period of time set aside for children and their families to adjust when moving from traditional school to learning at home. Just like homeschooling, this period of transition depends on the needs of the family. For some, it's a couple of weeks. For others, it's a part of their homeschooled life.

How to deschool

If your child has been in traditional school for a while, there are a set of ideals already ingrained in them. The same may be true for parents raised in a conventional school system. The purpose of deschooling is to break that need to recreate school at home and instead create a new environment fit for learning. 

Because deschooling is a process, this is an opportunity to get to know your child even better. Find out what interests them through play, take time to explore nature, and let them lead with their interests. When you're ready to begin the school year, whether in September or February, you can do so with a fresh perspective on what school should look like.

What if? Answering hard homeschool questions

"What if they never want to "school" again?"

One of the greatest gifts about homeschooling is that the definition of school is up to you. While there are state regulations for homeschoolers in the U.S., how you meet those needs looks different for each family. Homeschooling allows you to teach at any time, any place. Trips to the grocery store turn into math lessons.

Camping with family becomes a nature and foraging study during the day and an astronomy lesson at night. Deschooling allows you time to rethink what school looks like by removing the four walls and the desk and opening up a world of possibilities.

"What if they don't learn anything?"

That's not possible. It's a common question homeschooling parents ask themselves even several years after learning at home. Fortunately, children are natural sponges, and while they may not be learning something specifically included in a textbook, they are observing the world around them. With deschooling, you have the chance to figure out your child's preferred learning style and then build around their abilities and interests instead of checking off the proverbial boxes. 

"What if I want them to go to college eventually?"

College is a must for many families, but it is not the only option available. For some children, learning a specialty as an apprentice or attending a trade school to learn a much-needed skill may be a better fit depending on personality, learning style, or just a desire to follow their passions.

Remember, deschooling does not have to be long-term. It may simply be a chance to recharge or reflect once a year to make sure that you're tapping into your child's interests.

Outschool resources on deschooling

Just because you're not "doing school" during this transition period doesn't mean you can't find what works best for your family. Maybe you work full-time, and the idea of your child not sitting at a desk all day makes you sweat. 

We suggest you join a co-op, make friends with other homeschoolers in the community, and take an online course, for fun or academics, on Outschool. Outschool has multiple educators who offer engaging classes perfect for this time or are deschoolers themselves.

The good news is that you're not alone! Let's look at how one mom team is helping to spread the word about the benefits of deschooling. 

What is Homeschool Unrefined?

Created in 2016 by longtime friends Maren Goerss and Angela Sizer, Homeschool Unrefined was built on realizing that the "What ifs" they were working through as homeschool parents could serve others in the homeschool community. These questions turned into ideas and, over time, morphed into a blog and podcast working to answer the many "What ifs" of homeschooling. Angela and Maren both hold Master's degrees related to schooling and work to "Keep homeschool simple, real, and fun."

In this episode, Maren and Angela discuss the concept of deschooling. Including how to get started, what is most important when going through the process, and what to do after. Want to know more? Check it out here: 187: Most-Loved Episodes #6: Where We Begin with Deschooling.

If you're short on time, jump to these key moments of the conversation:

Key takeaways

Note: Because this is part of the podcast's "Most Loved Episodes" series, the beginning of the show gives a wonderful introduction to Homeschool Unrefined and the women behind the show. 

14:29 - Understanding deschooling.

16:09 - What is deschooling? "There is a period of time where it can be weeks to months-long where you take to kind of deprogram yourself from the traditional school environment, the traditional academic environment."

17:46 - Another definition of deschooling is that parents and students are both continually deschooling to define what learning looks like.

19:33 - Traditional school mindset takes months or years to get past…if you can at all.

20:45 - "It's not something that easily gets flipped off or on like a switch." "Give yourself grace."

20:18 - What deschooling might look like in the first few weeks, months, and years from Maren's point of view. (Hint: "Learning is natural.”)

24:20 - Picking the right curriculum as a new homeschooler. When deschooling, it's okay to hold off while you get to know your child again.

25:40 - "Kids need to relearn how to spark that joy of learning again, and they also need to be credited for the learning that they do. [...] They need to feel that that's valuable."

27:18 - Set up your home environment with parameters by removing what you don't want your kids to focus on and replace your environment with learning opportunities.

29:00 - Set up a routine, not a schedule, when deschooling.

30:07 - Go on an adventure and share your interests with your children to add value to your homeschool.

31:45 - Why do we deschool, and why is it important? Angela explains her reasoning behind choosing to deschool.

34:00 - "When you have a structured day, full of curriculum, led by a parent, there's just no room for a=the child to explore their own thoughts. I think this can change the trajectory of their lives." 

35:23 - The love of what you're learning is the key to homeschool success. And how to develop the habit of loving learning with deschooling.

37:38 - When deschooling, concentrate on creating a connection with your children. It changes everything.

40:20 - What next? What to do after deschooling. 

41:40 - How to add curriculum to your homeschool and what that looks like.

46:00 - Find your group of people as you figure out your style of homeschooling. 

Remember that deschooling is just one part of making the transition to homeschooling if you choose to include it. Be sure to check out the Outschool blog for more information on homeschooling, online learning, and more!

Melissa Liipfert Melissa is a writer, IEW educator, and proud homeschool mom. When she's not writing or teaching others how to write she's usually lost in a book or dreaming up her own stories.

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