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From School to Homeschool: What is Deschooling?


What is "deschooling"? is the adjustment period a child goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling. To really get the benefits of homeschooling, a child has to decompress and disconnect from “school” being the default and “school ways” being the standard expectation.

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The longer a child has been in school, the more important it is to allow generous time to process the huge change from not being in school to learning as a homeschooler. 

Parents who are new to homeschooling and have taken a child out of school should expect the first days, weeks, and months of homeschooling to be hugely affected by the process of deschooling. It’s not unusual for kids new to homeschooling to have a challenging and confusing time:

  • They may claim they don’t want anything to do with something that reminds them of school while simultaneously objecting if you ask them to study something in an innovative way — because “that’s not how we did it at school.”
  • They may not know what to do with themselves, accustomed to having their day planned and scheduled by bells and teachers.
  • They may resist working with a curriculum they helped choose for homeschooling.
  • They may be nervous about attending homeschool events and meeting other homeschoolers, having heard stereotypes about homeschoolers while in school.
  • If they left school in part of a difficult situation, such as bullying, social issues, or not fitting academic standardization, they may take their time healing and regaining confidence.
  • They may express school-based concerns about grades and testing that are no longer applicable or necessary.
  • Having been told what to learn and when, they may cast about to reconnect with personal interests and things they authentically want to learn.
  • They may need to adjust to spending more time with parents. Children who have been struggling for a long period to try to find success or fit in school — perhaps with dramatic, concerned pushing by a parent — may be worried about spending more time with a parent who seemed for so long not to understand how school didn’t work. While parents’ concerns are justifiable and their push for children to meet school norms is typical, children may now have to get used to being “on the same side” as Mom or Dad.
  • They may miss school friends and acquaintances as well as specific teachers, classes, and activities.
  • They may worry about their status as homeschoolers, with concerns and anxiety about whether they can some day get a job or attend college.
  • Conversely, they may seem to parents not to worry enough about anything — lacking immediate investment in homeschooling.

Many homeschooling parents have found that accepting and allowing for a deschooling period is the best approach.

Parents experienced with deschooling observe that a rule of thumb is that deschooling takes at least a month for every year your child has been in school, which is another way of saying, the longer a kid was in school, the longer it will take for him to get used to not being in school.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at some tips for deschooling.

[NOTE: Just for clarity, deschooling also has a second, broader meaning that is applied to the larger world. Ivan Illich wrote Deschooling Society, published in 1971, about his view that society is not served well by institutional schooling, which in his view, should be replaced with decentralized learning networks.]

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. Jeanne Faulconer

    Hi Christy,

    Shyness is a character trait that does not seem affected by homeschooling to me. I know some shy children who go to school and some shy children who homeschool. If a child is homeschooled, people (who don’t homeschool) will often say that homeschooling is the CAUSE of his or her shyness. However, they don’t say that SCHOOL is the CAUSE of shyness in a child who goes to school!

    In fact, shy children can often find homeschooling a safe base from which to experience meeting others and having new experiences in a less overwhelming way.

    Homeschoolers who want their children to have a lot of social experiences can certainly arrange them in most places in the United States. In fact, there is an in-joke in homeschooling that goes like this: “Yes, we DO have a problem with socialization — TOO MUCH of it!”

    In many places, the number of activities for homeschoolers has gotten so large that people struggle with being overscheduled. So, if you are thinking that shyness comes from kids getting used to not going places and doing things, then you just make that a priority in your homeschooling.

    As for whether you will be enough for your children, I like to remind parents that their children learned to walk and talk under their care. These are gigantic leaps intellectually — I mean, learning to TALK? WOW! If your child learned that while living with you, were you ENOUGH for that child?

    No one loves your child like you do. If you are committed to their educational needs, you will be “enough!”

    My main tip would be to read the articles on deschooling I have written here at TheHomeSchoolMom. There is a whole parental deschooling series in particular. You need to think about a “non-school normal.” Teachers can find this especially challenging, because they have a specific vision of classroom learning that can be difficult to let go of.

    And my second tip would be to begin connecting with homeschoolers in your state and community. If you can go to a conference, convention, or workshop, you will meet people who have homeschooled in your state who can help you know the resources and laws. And if you meet local homeschoolers, you will begin the networking that can produce social and learning opportunities for your children.

    Many local groups have “park days.” This is a great low-commitment way to meet homeschoolers. Don’t give up if the first groups you visit don’t seem to be a match. There are many flavors of homeschool groups, and if you don’t click with one, try another.

    I know many teachers who love homeschooling. As you note, you see the negative realities that affect some children in traditional school, and you understand how being more present for your own children might benefit them. I taught at the college level before homeschooling, and I have enjoyed my many years as a homeschool mom, cobbling it together with teaching and other professional work over the years.

    Good luck with your decision!

  2. Christy

    This information is very helpful. My husband and I are thinking about starting homeschooling. We are both teachers. We have four children, ages 8 and under. We feel that there is not enough time in the day to work and “be present” for all of our children in the afternoon. As teachers, we see many negative realities from traditional school, we also see how homeschooling would benifit greatly. I would love to be able to NOT be in a rush, so that I can be more present in every moment for our children. Even though we are strongly leaning towards making the change for our girls, I do have a couple of concerns and fears. Are my children going to become more “shy,” like the used to be before they entered school? Am I going to be enough for my children? If you have any tips, sugggestions, advice, ect.., it would be greatly appreciated. God Bless

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