Sign up to receive 10 free downloadable workbooks! Sign Up

Deschooling vs. Unschooling: What’s the Difference?

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Deschooling vs. Unschooling - What's the Difference?New homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers sometimes wonder about the word “deschooling” vs. “unschooling”. The prefixes “de” and “un” often mean such similar things. We “de-humidify” and we “un-tie” our shoes — both acts of reversing the meaning of the root word.

Looking for a curriculum your kids will like?
An online homeschool curriculum can open new doors by creating an interactive learning experience that brings concepts to life.
online curriculum
Homeschooling should be fun.
With Time4Learning, it can be!

And in that sense, the words are related. Both deschooling and unschooling require thinking about the inverse of schooling.

But within the world of homeschooling, the two words deschooling and unschooling have meanings that are, most often, distinct from one another.

Within the culture of homeschooling, deschooling refers to the transition from school. Here at TheHomeSchoolMom.com, I have written about deschooling for kids as well as a whole series about deschooling for parents.

Within the culture of homeschooling, unschooling refers to a specific approach to homeschooling — a homeschooling style that emphasizes living and learning without regard to school expectations and norms. TheHomeSchoolMom.com also has a lot of information about unschooling, and a good place to begin is, well, with this Beginner’s Guide to Unschooling.

Deschooling is important for all families who are starting homeschooling, even if they will ultimately use an ongoing approach or homeschooling style that is not unschooling. After a period of initial deschooling, they may choose a unit studies approach, a curriculum approach, a Waldorf- or Montessori-inspired approach, an eclectic approach, an engaged homeschooling approach, a Charlotte Mason approach, or the Moore Formula, all homeschooling styles which are explained here at TheHomeSchoolMom.com.

What can get tricky to wrap your head around terminology-wise, is that deschooling might also lead to unschooling. Some families go through the deschooling process and become so comfortable with the ideas of learning without school, that they make a conscious decision not to turn to a different approach to homeschooling.

Some families just slip into unschooling without a decision. During the deschooling period, they see their kids are learning, and the parents continue to facilitate that learning, brushing aside the idea that they would adopt a different homeschooling style once a certain deschooling period was complete.

In that sense, deschooling trails off into unschooling. And many unschoolers will tell you that they continue to “deschool” for years and years, looking for ways that clinging to the defaults of schooling may be harming effective learning at home.

There are even parents who know they will unschool from the beginning (they come to home education planning to use unschooling as their ongoing approach to their children’s learning) — who still find themselves deschooling. We live in a society where schooling is so pervasive, that getting out of the box of school norms can take a lifetime.

This can make embarking on deschooling especially scary. What if I can’t get my kid back to My Plan? What about graduation requirements or college admission? (There’s a wealth of information out there by people like Alison Mckee, who explains how this can work — but it’s another topic for you to pursue as you are learning about home education).

And yet, even advocates of more formal and structured approaches to homeschooling (homeschooling styles other than unschooling) continue to advocate deschooling as an initial step to home education. There is, quite simply, no substitute for it, especially for families who have been in or around schools for a long time.

Learn More...

If authentic engagement represents your homeschool philosophy, read more about how to engage your children in these posts from our contributor Living Education by Oak Meadow covering topics like nature-based learning, creativity, handwriting, homeschooling multiple grades, authentic engagement, and more.

Living Education posts »

To complete the circle (and add to the confusion?), I know many families whose unschooled kids have chosen to attend school, particularly for high school and college. Without compulsion to be there (they know they can return to learning at home), and without burn-out from years of schooling, they often enjoy school and do well. Others decide after a semester or a year that the trade-offs are too great, and they go back to learning at home.

And, of course, we know kids who have always attended school for whom school happens to be a great fit. These kids and their parents may wonder why anyone would need to deschool, unschool, or homeschool at all!

If you were one of those successful school kids, or if you are a teacher by training, and you are now embarking on homeschooling your kids, you may resist deschooling at first and dismiss unschooling altogether. If you homeschool more than a year or two, hang on for the ride of your life.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer has homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a recent news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Jeanne teaches writing and literature for her youngest son’s homeschool co-op, and she is a student of how learning works – at home, in the music room, in small groups, in the college classroom, on the soccer field, and in the car to and from practice. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne conducts portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress. To read more of Jeanne’s writing, inquire about a homeschool evaluation, or ask her to speak to your group, see her blog, Engaged Homeschooling.

Read Next Post
»
Read Previous Post
«

TheHomeSchoolMom Blog: Deschooling vs. Unschooling - What's the Difference? />

TheHomeSchoolMom may be compensated for any of the links in this post through sponsorships, paid ads, free or discounted products, or affiliate links. Local resource listings are for information purposes only and do not imply endorsement. Always use due diligence when choosing resources, and please verify location and time with the organizer if applicable. Suggestions and advice on TheHomeSchoolMom.com are for general information purposes only and should never be considered as specific to any individual situation, nor are they a diagnosis or treatment advice for any kind of medical, developmental, or psychological condition. Blog posts represent the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors or the publisher. Full terms of use and disclosure

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *