What is Deschooling?
Many families who decide to homeschool come to this decision because other schooling options have failed. The reasons for that failure vary greatly, but one common need tends to connect all of these families: the need to transition smoothly from a traditional school setting to the brand new adventure of homeschooling. This time of transition is often referred to as deschooling.
The process of deschooling is important for parents and children alike. It can be difficult to move past the traditional school mentality and realize that it really is okay to do things differently!
Points to Ponder
Here are some things to keep in mind as you process through deschooling.
Many families choose to do no formal learning for at least a semester, if not a year, after pulling away from a traditional school. While this may raise the fear of falling behind, it often has the opposite effect on children, especially if the transition is made during the elementary years.
Pulling away from formal learning does not mean that learning ceases. It simply means that, instead of going right out and shopping for curriculum, you take the time to learn your child’s needs. Read aloud together. Encourage exploration of the back yard. If your child expresses an interest in a specific topic, follow through with books from the library or other exploration opportunities. Meanwhile, observe your child to determine how she learns best, making yourself better equipped to choose curriculum later.
What life skills have slipped by the wayside because of the stress of school? Depending on the age of your child, now would be a great time to step away from the academics a bit and teach your child skills such as care for their own possessions, age-appropriate chores, following a daily routine, and working well with siblings.
For upper elementary children, this is a great time to introduce a planner to introduce a measure of responsibility for keeping up with their own schedule and basic responsibilities.
Read, Read, Read
Reading aloud together as a family offers a relaxing, delightful diversion that also accomplishes a great deal during the deschooling phase. First, it allows you to enjoy an activity together once a day or several times a week, as your schedule permits. Second, it brings history and concepts to life in a way no textbook ever can. Third, it encourages learning even when no textbooks or curriculum plan are being utilized.
Select a topic or a time in history, make a visit to the library, and set aside twenty to thirty minutes at least three times a week to read together. This can even be accomplished by listening to an audio book while you fold laundry, clean the kitchen, or run errands.
No More Desks!
As you step away from the classroom, it is important to avoid bringing the classroom home. Although the kitchen table might be a great center point for your homeschool, many kids find that they learn best sitting on an exercise ball, reclined in a hammock, perched in a tree, sprawled out on the floor, or curled up on the couch.
Spend some time exploring and experimenting and see where your child is naturally inclined to station himself. Does he seem to retain information well while moving? Then bouncing on the trampoline while reading is actually helpful! Does he slow down and get incredibly distracted while working by himself in his room? Then bring him out to join the rest of the family.
Here are a few tools and suggestions to help you process your child’s learning style and determine the best environment for learning.
Talk It Out
One of the best starting places is listening to your child. If you haven’t already talked about her greatest struggles in the traditional school setting, do so now. Ask her what her favorites subjects are and then find out why. What is it she likes about those subjects? What principles could be borrowed from those subjects to make other subjects more enjoyable? What can she think of that would make a disliked subject become more fun?
Games are such an incredible learning tool, and they can also teach you a great deal about your young learner. Play a combination of educational and just-for-fun games, watching which ones your child prefers and excels at. Consider ways that game playing can be implemented into the learning process.
Guess what? You are absolutely not alone in this discovery process! There are plenty of parents who have walked this road before you and have tried to process through what they observed. While you want to be careful to not be overwhelmed with advice – especially the “I know this will work for your child” advice! – there is nothing as wonderful as learning from those who have been there, done that. Check out blogs, send e-mails, and read books like Carol Barnier’s The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles to help you process what you are observing.
A Few More Thoughts
As you work through the deschooling process and seek to discover what will work best for your child, there is one more thing you can be doing: establish a routine. Determine what time of day will be best used for school work, and begin establishing habits that will work toward that goal. Start and end your days as consistently as possible, work chores around what will be your school hours, and try to begin structuring a family routine that will allow for school, play, rest, family time, and other obligations.
As time progresses and learning becomes fun again – or maybe even for the first time – begin adding in some formal learning. But, don’t forget what you have learned during your deschooling time. If you implement what you have observed, then continue to observe and adjust as needed over the years, your child can discover that learning really is fun!