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How to Start Homeschooling: Tips for Deschooling


For children who are starting homeschooling after an experience in a traditional school setting, deschooling is an important part of the transition. In an earlier post, we defined deschooling and how it might manifest in children who are transitioning from school to homeschooling. Knowing about deschooling helps parents to have realistic expectations about their children’s adjustment to homeschooling after they have attended school.

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Today, we’ll take a look at how to start homeschooling after a traditional school experience with tips for deschooling:

How to Start Homeschooling: Tips for Deschooling

  1. Tell your child about deschooling. Be honest that homeschooling has a “break-in” period while the family is getting used to the new dynamics. Explain that during this time, your homeschooling will be developing, and it won’t look the same now as it will in a year or so. If you intend to allow this (and please do), tell your child that she or he will be able to make suggestions about how homeschooling will go. However, keep in mind that kids respond differently to this — some want to have influence right away while others may find it overwhelming after not having much input when they were school students. You may hear some “just-tell-me-what-to-do” as you attempt to get your child involved.
  2. Go easy on the curriculum or formal academics. Give your child a break from formal, school-like lessons. If you need your child to complete some “work” so  you’ll feel better, or if your child feels this way, you can certainly have some “school work.” Keep in mind, though, that discovering the curriculum or learning style that will work best for your child is a process, and deschooling will help you identify what will be most effective. Don’t spend a bucket of money on a curriculum at the outset. And remember that if you put yourself in the position of a classroom teacher, enforcing work that must be completed right from the beginning, you may get a lot of pushback from a child who is not used to seeing you in this role.
  3. Go places. One of the best things to do during deschooling is to make use of the new freedom to explore the world. Visit museums, historic sites, and galleries. Attend concerts, plays, and sporting events. Let your child help pick where to go and how long to stay. This experience in autonomy is a great way to help your child embrace the benefits of homeschooling.
  4. Find homeschoolers. Network on Facebook, homeschooling email lists, or through your state homeschool organization to find other homeschoolers. Ask your librarian where the homeschoolers are. Look for a Not Back To School event in your area, and if there isn’t one, organize one yourself and invite others. Keep in mind that not every homeschool group fits every homeschooler. You may have to visit several groups before you find people you are comfortable with, or you may have to visit the same group multiple times. Homeschoolers are notorious for being unable to attend all the things they’d like to — so your child’s new best friend (or yours) might be coming to the next park day.
  5. Create, build, and engineer. Encourage your child to make art. Stock up on paints, clay, and craft supplies. Tell stories or write down your child’s stories and make them into a little books. If he’s always wanted to build a workbench or fort or raft, now is the time to go to the hardware store and get the supplies and start building. Let the figuring-out-how-to-do-it be the homeschooling.
  6. Get back to nature. Visit your nearest natural area. Take a picnic, a camera, binoculars, a sketchbook — anything that might more fully connect your child to the outdoors. Use field guides to identify wildlife; set up a birdfeeder and start a list of birds you see there.
  7. Get moving. Find ways to increase physical activity — hiking, swimming, backyard play, neighborhood walks, organized sports or pickup games. A gym or YMCA nearby may have a daytime homeschool program you haven’t discovered yet. Small-town gyms may let your child work out with you under your direct supervision, depending on the age and maturity of the child. Try both competitive and non-competitive approaches to activity, to see what interests your child.
  8. Go to the library. Now your child has more relaxed time to browse, get to know the resources, chat with the librarian. Let your child select books and audiobooks. If your child has not been doing much independent reading, try pairing a book and its movie adaptation — which are probably both available at your library.
  9. Read, read, read. Read aloud. You can try a snuggly version of reading — in bed or on the couch, but you can also read aloud while a child is building with Lego bricks or digging in the dirt. The deschooling period is a great time to model reading, as well. Let your child see you reading your own materials — novels, magazines, and news.
  10. Volunteer. Find an area of interest and volunteer alongside your child. Many homeschoolers start out as parent/child dog walking teams at the local animal shelter, and you will find other great ways to help others through your church or a community organization. Service work is a great way for your child to develop compassion, feel herself doing something worthwhile in the world, and get connected to new people and concerns.
  11. Watch documentaries and educational TV. A lot of kids have interests in topics that are covered by television programs on The History Channel, NOVA, and PBS. Now they have time to watch and learn about black holes, earthquakes, and the black plague. If you use an inquiry-based approach with your child, you’ll find that a lot of learning has taken place — and you haven’t even taught a lesson! And, I admit it, a lot of homeschooling is done via Mythbusters.  It’s never too early to start watching that show together and talking about the concepts and the way the guys do their analysis. It’s the scientific method!
  12. Use the internet. Share interesting websites with your child. If age appropriate, encourage him to do searches on areas of interest and send you links to articles and videos. Make an interesting routine of checking an eagle cam or a panda cam. Watch TED talks. Try out some online games and educational sites. Discuss internet safety and responsibility.
  13. Connect with relatives and other important people. Take advantage of the no-school routine to spend more time with grandparents, other relatives, and those close family friends who are especially meaningful to your kids. Your child might want to create a blog for family and friends to keep them informed about the interesting activities you’re doing together. Children who leave school may perceive a void at first because their days are not filled with the number of people they saw in school. They will still play with neighborhood friends and see folks in Scouts or other activities, and they will keep up with their closest friends from school. They will make new friends in the homeschooling community.However, there is no substitute for a loving grandparent or special auntie — and it’s possible that your new homeschooling schedule will allow for more visits.Being with people who care about you is an especially good way to cope with transitions, and it helps kids realize the benefits and joy of cultivating high quality relationships rather than just having a high quantity of acquaintances. Of course, if your relatives are not supportive of homeschooling, you may have a different situation and, sadly, find you need to limit time with them so they don’t undermine your new efforts. And let’s just say that even referring to “deschooling” with them might create more problems that it’s worth, so you don’t have to share everything!
  14. Cook and housekeep together. Children in school may have chores, but because they are gone from their homes 8 – 10 hours a day, they may become disconnected from the ways their contributions keep the household going. During deschooling, you may find value in the opportunity to plan meals with your daughter or son, shop for ingredients, cook together, and eat meals the child has contributed to. Learning life skills is grounding for a child. Take the time during deschooling to incorporate your child into the life and work of the home. This shouldn’t be just about cleaning bathrooms, but also about your child affecting the environment with her creativity and initiative — can she help design a reading niche in the living room? Can he pick wildflowers for the table?

As children adjust to being out of school, parents see patterns emerge about how they learn, what their strengths and weaknesses are, their highest functioning times of day, and what their natural areas of interest are. This helps parents decide how to move forward with homeschooling — what homeschooling style to choose, what curriculum if any, and what kind of schedule and environment might work best.

A parent can make the most of what she learns during a child’s deschooling period if she’s also deschooling herself. That’s right, parents also need to deschool — and that’s the topic for my next post.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. 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 news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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  1. Danielle Johnson

    Thank you for this. I’m going to start homeschooling next year and have been going nuts looking into every aspect of homeschooling from unschooling all the way to structured, classical homeschooling. I’ve been stressing like crazy, trying to figure out how to make sure my son (7 when we begin) is going to learn everything he needs to learn. I keep coming to the idea that we’ll just go to the library, discuss things we read, and do a lot of lapbooks on some of the topics we read. I need to take a breather, stop freaking out a year in advance and just go with the flow when time comes.

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Danielle,

      You’ve got the essence of homeschooling in your idea: “We’ll just go to the library, discuss things we read, and do a lot of lapbooks on some of the topics we need.” Yes! Do that along with some of the ideas in this article, and you will live into developing the homeschool you want for your child. Keep in mind that no parent or teacher can “make sure” any child “is going to learn everything he needs to learn.” Number one, you can’t see the future, and what a child “needs to learn” is going to change over that future. Number two, every type of education leaves “gaps.” What we can hope for is having a child who will learn how to learn what she needs to know. Developing your homeschool over time, so that it meets the real-time needs of your child, will help your child learn how to learn.

      So yep – take a breather and stop freaking out. Deschooling is the key!

      Good luck,

  2. Single and doing it alone

    I have a question based out of Colorado. We have had many move and and divorce and as a result had a hard time finding a school to take her as both parents are having to reside with family and being that we share custody and the area we are in had give us a hard to enrolling her in school. So I have been i the mean time doing the whole homeschool thing on my own. I am concerned now because I have been getting mixed reviews from friends and family stating that may not be enough. I have tried to get through to the board of education through Colorado and have had no success. I did try to enroll her to some online schools and hit numerous road blocks because it was mid semester and the free tuition turned into not so free. Is what I am doing okay, or do I need to do more? Thanks for any assistance given!

    Single and doing it alone

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Every state has its own homeschool laws, and each parent needs to look into the laws of her state and comply with those laws; otherwise, you could face truancy charges.

      Usually school boards, including state school boards, are not the best at providing information to homeschoolers. You need to contact your state homeschooling organization and look for information about what you need to do.

      Not being able to enroll easily, moving a lot, or family problems won’t excuse you from compulsory attendance laws. In some states you don’t need to register or test; in other states you do.

      Use this link to find homeschool groups in your state which should have information specific to the laws you need to follow.

      Once you make sure you have done everything legally, you will feel more confident. Good luck!

  3. Beverli Bernard

    Thank you so much for this article! I have been feeling like such a failure because I kept thinking I needed to be that teacher role. This has opened my eyes to how much fun my kids and I get to have!! So thank you so very much!

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Beverli! Yes! You and your kids can have fun together while doing legitimate learning! You can be PARTNERS in education.

      Of course, since you are the one with experience and are the responsible adult, it is up to you to be committed to find the resources and make sure the learning is happening.

      BUT there is no reason that that has to “look like” what goes on in school. You can have on-theme “book parties” when you finish a book; you can learn history through field trips and videos; you can see what your child is interested in and take off on reading and writing about that interest.

      Deschooling helps you figure out your child’s interests and best ways of learning. It re-ignites curiosity and allows you to renew the connection between you and your child.


  4. Debbie Trail

    This is so helpful.
    I’ve just started homeschooling my son last week! The only thing is that he’s starting high school, so he’s very concerned that he’s not doing enough. Being high school we can’t exactly spend all day doing arts and crafts, however I am starting off pretty relaxed. This bothers him a little as he is on the autism spectrum and likes rigidity. We are BOTH going through deschooling, especially since I used to be a classroom teacher.
    I hope you see this comment and have some advice. Otherwise, this article is very helpful. I’ll be sharing it with him.

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Debbie. As you have probably found, deschooling and then finding what’s “right” for each child may mean that a family finds something different for a child on the autism spectrum.

      The key is not eliminating structure, but reducing the impact of pre-conceived notions of what “school” should look like when it’s done at home. Some kids do better with different approaches. Many request structure and expectations or simply show they thrive on that. But in homeschooling, we might find that we can structure time or the environment and not lessons. Or lessons and time. Or chores but not lessons. And so on. We don’t have to do what looks like school. If our kid wants to read huge nonfiction books instead of textbooks, that’s ok.

      The idea is to find what works for you and your child without being stuck in the box of what school looks like.

      However, it’s not at all unusual for the transition to be difficult for older kids, especially those in high school. He might indeed feel he can’t do crafts all day, but, for example, an older kid may be able to do other kinds of projects. For example, maybe he could participate in some kind of citizen science project (bird count? stream water monitoring?) or build a computer. There are high school versions of “out of the box” that can be helpful with transitions as well.

      Hope you are enjoying homeschooling!

  5. Deb Pugh

    This is SO GOOD! I’ve homeschooled for 11 years and this is exactly what I tell people who are just starting out! Great article!

  6. Bahar

    Thank you very much my country we lack such informations.

  7. Chelle

    There were SO many great ideas I could be doing with my little ones while we are in the beginnings of Homeschooling. I’m going to have to read this again and make a list!! Thank you so much for this post!

  8. Nicole

    I love these tips. We will start homeschooling next year. I would love to share this post on my blog. Thank you!

  9. Lisa

    I am so thankful to have read this article. Thank you very very much. I love the ideas you’ve given, but mostly I love the idea and (necessity) of deschooling. I’ll absolutely be putting it into practice.

    Thanks again!

  10. chona soriano

    thank you for this article: How to Start Homeschooling: Tips for Deschooling. This is such a great help for me as a Mom for an eight year old daughter. I pulled her out on a traditional school last month. It was a major decision that I need to make and need a lot of explanation to my kid. Well, this is very helpful. Thank you.

    • Kyle

      Thank you
      Me too.
      I just pulled my 9 year old son out of 3rd grade. This site is helping immensely!! Thank you, again.

      • Jeanne Faulconer

        I’m so happy when people say they’re finding info they need at TheHomeSchoolMom. Info and support are big helps for homeschooling!

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