Are you a brand new homeschool mom who just pulled her child out of school? As you transition your children from the public or private school classroom to the world of homeschooling, you’ve probably run into the term deschooling. If you haven’t, please allow me to introduce you to the concept, for your benefit and that of your child.
New Homeschool Moms and the Importance of Deschooling
However foreign the idea of deschooling may be to you, I strongly recommend taking a deep dive into what it means and why it is necessary for your homeschooling journey. You will soon learn that understanding what it means and how to apply it to your own homeschool experience will make all the difference for your transition into homeschooling.
What is deschooling?
Invented by Ivan Illich, the term deschooling is the shift from a traditional, government-influenced institution of schooling to a less restricted method of learning, typically lived out through home education.
This particular “shift” can be seen as the adjustment period that a child (and their teacher) will go through when leaving school and beginning their journey as a homeschooler. Because of the big adjustment most children encounter during this switch, they usually benefit by having time to disconnect from the structure of a school’s way of doing things.
The rule of thumb is for every year a child has spent in a public or private school system, they should get 1 month to deschool. For example, if your child had 6 years of public schooling, then it’s safe to take at least 6 months for allowing them to process not being in school anymore and learning what education looks like as a homeschooler.
Why is deschooling necessary?
Simply put, children new to homeschooling may have a challenging time with trying to process what their new educational experiences will look like. It is common to see children:
- Confused about learning in a new way.
- Hesitant to try something new (because it’s not how they did it in school).
- Not sure how to handle a new schedule.
- Resistant to using a different curriculum style.
- Appear to be less confident in their ability to be homeschooled.
- Adjusting slower than originally anticipated.
- Worried if a homeschool education will benefit their future.
These are just a few “side-effects” of making the switch, but there are certainly more that could be added. Every child and each situation is unique. Always take your situation case by case and don’t feel bad for what your child may go through during this time. And on the flip-side, don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t experience all of the above-mentioned issues. Just like adults, some children adapt to change much easier and more quickly than others.
This time period is also a good time for you as the parent to deschool – especially if you were public or private schooled. Although it may have been many many years since you’ve attended school, I’m willing to bet that you have some subconscious beliefs of what education and learning should look like. If you happened to have been a public or private school teacher, this may especially be true for you. It is a given that you have some ideas that will evolve over time as you transition yourself to being a homeschool teacher. Being a public school teacher is different from being a public school student. However, these schedules and experiences have likely developed into a learned behavior that will now come out when it’s time to teach your own children.
That being said, honestly, it’s likely most of your beliefs probably stem from your experiences of what education looked like for you when you were a child. I remember waking up at a set time, catching the bus at a specific time, getting to school and having each individual subject taught at particular times, and so on.
While some children thrive from a school system style, most find it a relief to be able to learn according to their unique learning style, interests, and passions, often with a less rigorous schedule.
How to Start Deschooling
Once you’ve made the decision to bring your child (or children home), it’s time to start deschooling. For starters, be completely open and honest with your child and let them know that not only will they be homeschooled, but there will also be a period of time where learning as they once knew will be put on hold.
Explain it in a way they will understand and invite them to be hands-on during the development period of what homeschooling will look like. Use this time to get to know how your child learns. Talk to them about subjects they like or dislike. Take note of any special learning needs as well.
The data you are collecting about your child can be used for planning any and everything from a daily schedule to curriculum and resources. It is important to listen to your child and take into consideration their past learning experiences. Did they love school? Or were they frustrated by it? Did they seem to fall behind in school? Why is that? Were they advanced in an area? Ask and answer these questions. These answers are gifts to you as a homeschool mom because they can help shape your homeschool into one that will not only meet the needs of your child, but also help them fall in love with learning. And isn’t that the goal in the end? A child who loves to learn?
Slowly start to add different aspects of learning. See if your community has a local homeschooling group or CO-OP. Take advantage of learning outside the box and go places. Take lots of field trips and start to enjoy the true freedom of homeschooling.
When you’re ready, start looking for curriculum and resources that complement your child’s learning style (and your teaching style). There are a lot of resources to choose from so take your time and try out samples before making the full investment. Don’t be afraid to use non-traditional resource such as:
- YouTube videos
- Documentaries and DVDs
- Library books
- Games and Apps
- Book clubs
- Membership sites
The possibilities are endless!
The Benefits of Deschooling
Taking your child (and yourself) through a period of deschooling provides more benefits than most people realize. Although there is an inner pressure to homeschool “the right way”, it is not a one-size-fits-all thing.
Even though my son never attended public or private school, if I could go back to the beginning of my homeschooling journey, I would have (1) deschooled myself, and (2) understood and embraced just how unique my journey would be. Deschooling gives you the cushion to find your groove all without the pressure of getting it perfect. And trust me, the pressure you will put on yourself to do this perfectly is one that is hard to push away. But please try.
In fact, homeschooling success will look different depending on the family, their unique needs, and their educational goals for each child. While some children desire to go to college, others do not. Some kids want to go straight into working and others may choose a technical college. The flexibility of homeschooling will allow you to meet the needs of all of those outcomes to the best of your and your child’s ability.
The common denominator in those examples is the ability to provide your child with an educational journey that enhances their dreams and desires. Yes, there are state laws and I certainly encourage you to know what those are and follow them. However, there is still a wide range of freedom to homeschool your way. And your homeschool NEVER needs to look like anyone else’s. Remember – comparison is the death of contentment.
Use deschooling to your advantage and without adding any unnecessary pressure to you and your child. Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time to figure things out and never hesitate to make changes when necessary. This is a special time to build relationships with your child and grow with them. Don’t miss this valuable opportunity!