During that time, you’re not supposed to put any academic pressures on your child. He should be able to do what he wants to do. Eventually, your child should come to a place where he regains his love of learning and actively seeks out opportunities. This type of eager, self-motivation for learning is the ultimate goal for many homeschooling families.
Of course, it can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially if you had a normal school experience.
Once you learn more about deschooling, though, you’ll see that it could be a good move for your family.Why Deschooling Is Important
If you’re thinking about homeschooling, school is probably not a “happy place” for your child. Maybe she’s being bullied or facing too much criticism from the teacher. Maybe the environment is just not conducive to her learning style. Whatever’s been going on, there are probably a lot of negative connotations with school and learning. If you start homeschooling by trying to act as a teacher, you’re going to come up against a lot of resistance. Since you’re her parent, things can get even nastier than they might get with her regular teachers. A period of deschooling allows her to rest and reset. She’ll also start to feel empowered by the control she has over her life.Do You Need to Deschool?
If your child has never been to school or has only been in preschool, you may not need to start with a deschooling period. Additionally, some kids are excited to break free from the school routine and get started with their own, self-directed learning. If this is the type of child you have, don’t feel pressured to deschool.
However, you may want to revisit the idea if these types of eager learners suddenly start getting into a rut. Part of the beauty of homeschooling is not having to stick to a strict schedule.
What Deschooling Looks Like
During a deschooling period, you should place no academic requirements on your child. Some families choose to give the child completely free reign. If all he wants to do is play video games, that’s all he has to do. If the child wants to do nothing but build with LEGOS, that’s what he does. Many parents put limits on electronics, but are open to the child doing whatever he wants beyond that. Don’t forget that your child still needs to be an active member of the family. Chores are important, and your child shouldn’t be allowed to shirk off family responsibilities.
Most families also try to get out of the house as much as possible. It’s fun to spend time in nature, head to local museums, or start exploring social meet-ups with other homeschoolers.
Plan to take your child to the library often, letting him take out books on anything of interest. If he’s not a strong reader yet, look into audio books or read to him.
Many experienced homeschoolers have said that it can take about a month of deschooling for each year that the child has been in school before he’s really ready to take on serious learning again. That can be tough for parents of older children, since a fifth grader might spend half a year of “doing nothing.” It’s hard to trust that a process like that will yield good results, but it almost always does.
The hard thing about deschooling is that your local school district doesn’t view it as something that’s necessary or good for the child. If you live in a state that requires you to file quarterly reports to the district or cover specific subjects, you’ll naturally worry about what to report while your child isn’t actively following a curriculum.
Fortunately, daily life offers a wide variety of opportunities. If you’re child has helped with baking, she’s had a math lesson in measurements. If you’ve gone on a hike, she’s spent some time learning about the local environment. Ask local homeschoolers for some tips on the types of activities that have and have not passed muster with the local district. Some are stricter than others.
Starting to Homeschool
In contrast, homeschooling is about re-introducing a more formal learning approach into your child’s life. By this time, you’ll have researched the types of programs available and have landed on a curriculum or learning style that’s right for your child. After your child has deschooled for a while, he’ll ask to learn. You’ll then be able to start planning learning activities and helping your child find the path that’s right for him.
Talk to your child about what he wants to do and what homeschooling means to him. If he’s not on board with your plan, it can really disrupt family life. It’s important to find the path that fits his interests.
A Brief Note on Unschooling
Many people confuse the terms “deschooling” and “unschooling.” They’re similar in that both methods allow the child to freely follow her interests, spending most of the day doing the things that she wants to do. However, deschooling is about shaking off bad habits to create a fresh slate while unschooling is more of a way of life that appreciates all of the learning opportunities the world has to offer.
For instance, many people might view a child having a Dr. Who marathon as “wasting time.” An unschooler, however, would assume that the child is getting some benefit to it. She’s getting a brief introduction to some historical events, which can spark an interest in further research. She’s learning how stories work and how writers develop a story arc within an episode and over a season or seasons. She might be inspired to write her own story. These are all valuable lessons.
Many people do choose to follow the unschooling path once seeing how beneficial the deschooling process has been, but many families also turn to more traditional learning methods after the deschooling period. It’s all about what works best.
Making the switch to homeschooling requires a shift in perspective, and it’s through the process of deschooling that families come to appreciate the true benefits of homeschooling. Don’t discount it simply because it doesn’t look like learning. You’ll have an easier time if you plan to take some rest.