By Dr. Julie Shamas
You may hear something about “deschooling” when you first consider homeschooling. Most people wonder what in the world it is. I know I did.
Not to be confused with “unschooling,” deschooling is the concept that you need time to adjust to homeschooling when you first start. It gives you time to just be with your kids, without stress, and without any new rigid curriculum or learning right away. The idea is that the children and you have been taught a certain way to learn by school systems. You need time to move away from this ingrained thinking. It takes time to “unlearn” what has repeatedly been taught as a system of learning.
The amount of time that your family might need to deschool depends on how long you’ve participated in traditional schooling’s more rigid structure. You have to decide what is best for you and your family. When I first read about it, I thought the concept was frivolous. So, we skipped it. I had read articles warning me that if we didn’t do it now, we would end up doing it later, and I wish I had heeded the advice I’d read.
Instead, thinking I knew best as a very concerned and well-read mom, off we jumped into the curriculum I had chosen. I doubled up on many things to be certain my kids would not fall behind their traditionally schooled peers. I wanted to be certain to check every box on the list in my mind of what must be learned during the school year. It didn’t take long to realize that this would not work for my kids or me.
I know I am not the only mom in the world to make this mistake. In fact, my single greatest advice to new homeschooling families is to deschool first, then choose the learning resources and curriculums that are right for you. Give yourself some time.
Take time to adjust with deschooling
The idea of deschooling is that you need time to bond and build trust with your child as a parent, mentor, and teacher. Your children aren’t used to seeing you in this new role. They are also used to being told what to do when to answer, when to write, when to be quiet and when to raise their hands in traditional school. There is nothing wrong with any of this. In fact, employing control strategies is the only way to accomplish any learning in a classroom of 25-30 students.
But here is the thing: your kids are no longer in a traditional classroom. As a homeschooling parent, you’re not charged with 25-30 pupils. You do not have to resort to systems of control to minimize chaos. You have the freedom to lean into the chaos to optimize your child’s learning!
After a few months (Yes, months! My fellow parent, you will not ace this on day one!), I wanted to quit. I was certain I was going to ruin my child in the first few weeks. The kids fought me. They were stubborn. I was a stoic dictatorial curriculum wielding momma. The battles commenced. Time passed, and we all learned more. Then, it got better. Soon afterward, it was just awesome.
Find your groove with deschooling
I chilled on the curriculum. I listened to my kids and observed how they learned. I stopped forcing curriculum and books onto them that weren’t working for them. They realized they could do things differently. They asked questions. They asked for brain breaks and learning games. Sometimes an activity meant for a short time would be drawn out all afternoon and into the next day, and we realized that was okay! We meandered and then headed back to the target. The target moved, altered and then moved again. And my kids are now learning and doing far more than they ever would have in school. It took time. It took me relaxing. It took them discovering how to lead and ask questions. Their self-confidence blossomed.
Homeschool is not just school at home. It’s different. It’s an entire mindset change for everyone. It takes time and space to breathe to find the rhythms that work best for you and your kids. Instead of diving right in, spend a few weeks to play, explore, and get to know each other on a deeper level than just that of a parent and child.
Learn to learn your own way with deschooling
Deschooling doesn’t mean not learning. It means learning to learn differently. Get away from the textbooks. Read a novel together curled up on the sofa. Go to the park and study bugs. Go to the zoo, read up on all the animals and talk about what you learned with your kids. Read every placard. Plant a garden or try nature journaling: Bake cookies and compare teaspoons to tablespoons. Do the math. Ride bikes together and feel the freedom of the wind in your hair and no bells chiming your kid to his or her next class. Go down those less-traveled paths. Teach your kids in those first weeks that learning happens everywhere. Then, when you are ready, settle down and let Anything Academic help you find the perfect curriculum.