What is deschooling?
When people are new to homeschooling, they often go to groups and ask questions about how to begin. Inevitably, during this type of conversation, the topic of how to deschool comes up. Deschooling occurs when you take the time to relax, realize you are not going to operate your homeschool the way a brick and mortar school is run, and have a chance to recharge your and your child’s energy. Once you are finished deschooling, you and your child should feel energized, renewed, and ready to learn. Many people will not understand this concept of taking a break in order to better utilize future learning. You could explain it as a vacation or mental health break in order to have time to rest and renew interest in learning. Most people understand the idea of a vacation or time off from work due to stress. This is the same concept as deschooling.
How long does deschooling take?
There is not one way to deschool. Each child or family will do things in their own way. There is no set length of time for deschooling, either. Instead, it is best to take your cues from your child. While you may not let the child make all choices, you can observe behavior and look for signs that he or she is ready to move from deschooling to home or unschooling. I suggest taking at least a week, but possibly several weeks or more depending on the situation. Always be aware of the requirements in your state, but if you are able to choose when your “summer break” is and begin your school year any time during the calendar year, you may choose to begin in a non-traditional month and to take your vacation at a time which is different than when public school students vacation. Again, keep in mind attendance laws and other rules in your state in order to be sure you deschool while leaving enough time to complete what must be done to meet state requirements.
What activities should we do during deschooling?
Many people are concerned about record keeping as well as how to provide an enriching environment while deschooling. This is a hugely important issue to address. Parents want their children to succeed and that is why homeschooling works so well in many cases. My advice is to make sure that you keep a schedule of some sort, for example wake and go to sleep around the same hour each day. Also, leave time during the day to explore toys, activities, documentaries, and play outside or attend local field trips. Do not plan set activities and do not force your child to stick to a rigid school schedule. Instead, leave the time you would normally use for homeschooling open in order to let your child find his or her interests while providing open ended options he or she may choose, if interested. You can, of course, play board games, draw anime, or create movies about your neighborhood if your child is interested in these activities, but they are not graded and have no deadlines. The activities can be completed or left incomplete. The key is to allow the child to have a break from the rigors and forcefulness of some educational models. Do not dictate the activities unless you must limit something, such as screen time, due to behavioral issues.
This is a great opportunity to let your child choose while you observe how the child learns best and, what activities are important to your child. If your child was bullied in school, use this time to work on self-esteem and how to be kind in the face of negativity. If your child found school difficult, work on self-esteem and consider where you may begin once deschooling is complete. Do not stress out if your child wants to watch television or eat junk food all day. If this is an issue again and again, then add a few rules which require outdoor time or the child to play with toys instead of only watch television.
You do not have to move from brick and mortar school directly to a homeschool curriculum. Take time to deschool so that when you do start, you and your child do not begin while being burnt out due to prior stressors. Do observe your child’s interests as well as what is easy or difficult. This will help you to know where to start when homeschooling does begin. Be aware of your state’s laws regarding attendance, work samples, curriculum, and homeschooling. Remember, not everyone has to deschool, but if you feel that you and your child need to take some time to reset your goals, ideas of what school looks like, or other concerns, then deschooling is probably a wise choice for your family.
If you would like more information about deschooling, homeschooling, unschooling, or behavior concerns, please contact me for a consultation. I am happy to put my years of working with students and families to work in order to help your family.