What is Deschooling and Should You Do It?


Since we started our educational journey with homeschooling, it was never a necessity to deschool.  Naturally, we tried multiple homeschooling methods over the years, including unschooling. Though we didn’t have anything to “deschool” from, I know plenty of others do have to face this situation.

What is Deschooling?
For many kids, getting up and heading to school every day is simply the norm. While there, they know exactly which classroom to head to, which desk is theirs, and what the teacher expects as soon as they walk in the door (usually some type of “Bellringer” activity). Throughout the day, the kids will obediently do as is expected of them, from collaborating on group projects to taking pop quizzes. The teachers will call on students to answer questions here and there, they’ll have paperwork to hand in that was meant to be signed by parents, and they’ll focus on turning in homework they should’ve completed the night before. At some point in the afternoon (after being there for a solid 7-8 hours), the dismissal bell will ring and the kids will be able to head home where they’ll spend another few hours on homework, squeezing dinner and bedtime in there somewhere.

When it comes time to homeschool, parents of children who’ve been in school may feel the need to imitate the above. I’m here to tell you that exactly the opposite of what they’ve been doing is in order! Deschooling involves pulling away from all of the things written about in the first paragraph. It involves taking time to, well, deschool and undo all of the learned attitudes and behaviors that result from being in school all day every day.

What Does Deschooling Look Like?
At the beginning of the day, rather than waking your child, let him wake when his body wakes. Let him decide whether he wants to get dressed for the day or stay in more relaxed clothes. Perhaps, following breakfast, your child would like to take a walk around the block/neighborhood and enjoy nature. If anything catches his eye on your walk, make a mental note of it and plan to find some library books on the topic later that day or week. When you and your child return from the walk, see if he’d like to color, play a game, or watch something on TV or YouTube. Maybe he’d like to look up videos about that weird bug that caught his eye while on the nature walk. When your child is hungry for lunch, let him eat and (if he’s still young) take a nap. When he wakes from his nap, maybe he’d like to go for an afternoon walk or perhaps this would be the perfect time to take a trip to the library to look up more information on his nature walk findings.

Should You Deschool?
If your child is coming from a situation where he’s used to a public or private school setting that is very rigorous and structured, deschooling is likely going to be in the best interest of you, your child, and the rest of your family. Allow your child some time to decompress from everything he’s ever been taught about the school setting can have lasting benefits – not to mention, you’ll build incredible memories!

The length of time for the deschooling period varies from family to family, but some families spend just a few months deschooling while others spend their first year of homeschooling on the process. Deschooling will also help your child separate from the concept of what’s “5th grade work” and gravitate more toward simply doing the work you’ve assigned. He’ll stop thinking in terms of “grade levels” when it comes to assignments and workbooks and will move toward an all-encompassing model of thinking (e.g. “upper elementary/middle” instead of 5th grade, 6th grade, etc.). Deschooling will also help your child see himself as being on equal ground with kids who aren’t necessarily the same age as him.

Deschooling is one important way to transition children from a traditional classroom setting to homeschooling. Many new homeschooling families who feel like homeschooling isn’t working find that deschooling is exactly what they need to do. Do you think deschooling is just what your family needs? Do you have a deschooling success story to share with us? Let us know in the comments how deschooling has worked out for your family!