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.
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- They may express school-based concerns about grades and testing that are no longer applicable or necessary.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.]