What is Deschooling?

Deschooling is the process of unlearning that the traditional school system is the only path to education.

For the majority of us, traditional school is the only education system that we have known, which is why many homeschoolers come up against backlash from friends and family when they decide to embark on their homeschooling adventure.

One of the important aspects of homeschooling is first to un-learn or deschool what we already believe and have been programmed since an early age to think is the only way.

A lot of homeschoolers struggle with teaching their kids because they are trying to transfer the education system from traditional school into the home. Homeschooling does not have to look like a traditional school but is set at the kitchen table. 

Before we get into deschooling, you might want to read the How to Start Homeschooling with Confidence post first.

How do you start deschooling?

First and foremost, explain it to your kids. Otherwise, they are going to think they are on an extended holiday! 

If your child has been in the education system then it’s recommended for each year that they have been at traditional school that they take one month off to deschool. If a child has been in traditional school for 4 years, then they should take 4 months off to deschool.

But doesn’t that mean they will fall behind?

No, not at all and this way of thinking is why it is important to remember that parents need to deschool too, otherwise, you will constantly fall into the trap of comparing your child’s educational journey with a school education.

What are the steps to deschooling

Once everyone is onboard with the idea that you are now in deschooling mode and not on holiday you can start having fun.

Homeschooling is all about learning and not about teaching. You are not their teacher. Start off by brainstorming together what they are currently interested in. This could be anything, it doesn’t matter the topic.

Now continue and add ways they can learn more about the topic this could include:

  • Going to a museum/gallery/exhibit
  • Borrowing books on the subject from the library
  • Visiting a zoo/park/nature reserve
  • Watching a film/documentary
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Doing some hands-on experiments
  • Contacting a local business or store to ask if you could visit 
  • Interviewing someone connected with the topic
  • Looking for classes/lectures/experiences that involve topic
  • Outschool or similar online classes
  • Youtube or Skillshare tutorials
  • Sports lessons – horse riding, tennis, bouldering…

You get the idea, I’m sure you can think of more.

Logan LaPlante explains a great way to do this with his “hackschooling” ideas. I highly recommend you watch this with your kids and then add to your list of ideas.

What about legal requirements?

We will dig into this more in the curriculum post. Obviously staying on the right side of the law is important. In which case, chat with your kids again, and explain that legally, they have to do X, Y, and Z but that they have a choice on how to go about it.

Get their feedback. Be clear with the objectives and deadlines and create a schedule that is realistic. Because work done at home doesn’t take as long as it does in traditional school, you could set it up to do 30 minutes of math a day or X amount of pages for example.

Get them to do the maths for how long it will take them to complete the set work. Some kids might look at it and say, well if I do 2 hours a day, 3 times a week, I can be finished complete in 6 weeks. Whereas other kids might hate the idea of doing blocks or 2-hour study and instead prefer to do 20 minutes a day, every day. Go through the different options together and formulate a plan, let them take the lead on this so they feel like they are making the decisions. (Even if you are guiding them!)

Putting my productivity coach hat on, I recommend tackling anything they don’t enjoy early in the day so that they can get it out of the way and not have the doom cloud of maths hanging over their head all day.

Remind them that once the box-checking lessons are done, they are free to learn about whatever they like. 

Issues that often arise when deschooling

When a child who has been in traditional school starts homeschooling they may come across some of these issues:

They might be a bit puzzled about what to do with their newfound free time. After all, they’ve been so used to having their day planned and scheduled by the school system. But you know what? It’s an exciting opportunity for them to explore their interests and passions at their own pace. Help them discover fun activities and hobbies that make their free time super enjoyable! Less structure and more freedom of choice.

Now, if you decided to leave school because of tough circumstances like bullying, social issues, or feeling like they didn’t fit in with the academic standards, it’s completely natural for them to need some time to heal and regain their confidence. They deserve all the time they need, and you’ll be there to support them every step of the way. You’ve got this! 

For kids that have been in the system for a while, you might hear them say, “That’s not how we did it at school”? 

It’s their way of saying they’re used to the traditional approaches. But here’s the thing, we can introduce them to innovative and engaging study methods that make learning fun! Show them that there’s a whole world of exciting ways to explore new subjects and ideas. They’ll be amazed at how much fun learning can be! 

Remember quizzes and tests are not fun but if a child is learning something they are interested in, they will learn at a much deeper level and absorb more information, with no need for tests and exams.

If you decide to go with a curriculum (we will cover this in another post) you can choose the curriculum together for homeschooling. Having a say in their education is a whole new experience for them, so they’ll need time and support to adapt. Find creative ways to make the curriculum more engaging and tailored to their interests. 

Even though they wanted to homeschool, there might be times when they miss certain aspects of traditional school. It’s totally normal! Change can be a bit tricky sometimes, and it’s okay for them to feel a little nostalgic. You can create a safe space for them to express their thoughts and emotions. It’s all part of the journey, and figure it out together. No judgment!

Talk about what it is they miss and see if you can create something that fills that gap.

Remember, your job is to make homeschooling an amazing adventure filled with joy, growth, and lots of laughter. And to tackle any challenges that come our way with love, patience, and a dash of fun. Your kids are in great hands, and you’re going to create unforgettable memories together. 

How do I deal with my own deschooling issues?

If you have been through a traditional school system yourself, you will naturally feel uncomfortable with some (or all) of this and no doubt, have some self-doubts. All of this is perfectly normal. Start reading about how children actually learn (aff link) and this will help you navigate it all. It does get easier!

I recommend journaling this out, whenever that self-doubt or questioning voice pops into your head, get the journal out and examine what that belief is all about.


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