I was told by more than one homeschool expert we were supposed to “deschool” after starting our homeschool. To me, this concept was a little scary.
What exactly is deschooling, and what is the point?
At first I found deschooling was a surprisingly difficult process. Everything I knew about education came from traditional schools; the idea that we weren’t supposed to be formally learning anything just felt… wrong. Even though I felt like the general idea of deschooling made sense, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to discover at the end of it… and perhaps more perplexing… how would we know when “deschooling” was over?
But I told myself to trust “the process” and from June to January, we embarked on what I called “The Longest Summer Ever“. We took trips, visited a few parks and museums, listened to audio books, gazed at stars, took long walks on the beach, and did a little soul searching until we came to a point where we got a little restless.
It was time.
Sometime in October, I really started to understand why deschooling was important.
I also understood why people had a hard time articulating exactly deschooling was so important.
Deschooling allowed me to take a step back and observe our new family dynamic, see they way they learned and what they were interested in. It is only after school really, truly, isn’t a factor anymore that everyone settles into their more natural tendencies and the family dynamic starts to shift. After deschooling for a few months, I could really step back and see how to fit a homeschool around my child, rather than a child around my homeschool. I was pleased that some of my ideas about how I wanted our school to go were confirmed, but I was also a little bit surprised.
Here are deschooling taught us about what we need in our homeschool:
We need fresh air.
Surprisingly, the boys don’t always agree with me on this, but getting outside has been essential to keeping the peace in the house. I can always tell if we haven’t had enough outdoor time when people get lazy and start bickering. EVERYONE, even the reluctant ones, feel better once we’re out and about, and that feeling extends long after we get home. Our homeschool must incorporate plenty of time outside and exploring.
Mornings set the tone.
After trying a few different ways of doing mornings, I realized it was the morning that set the tone for the day. We’re a group that loves to sleep in and stay in our pjs so the temptation is to start late. But I found that if we aren’t up, dressed and fed by at least 9 we never seem to get our day back.
We need a schedule.
I am not a person who naturally falls into a schedule on my own and neither are the kids, so we need to make a conscious effort to implement one. Nothing strict, but having some kind of schedule adds predictability to our day, which keeps everyone happier.
STEM is everywhere; the humanities resources are harder to find.
There are thousands of resources out there: local events, books, games, toys, and programs, but the humanities are not nearly as emphasized. I get why STEM is so important, but the humanities are as well. With STEM enrichment resources being so plentiful, we’ll be working extra hard to balance them out with heavy doses of art, history and English.
Unschooling is not for (all of) us.
When I decided to homeschool, I promised myself to be flexible… after all, that’s one of the huge advantages to homeschooling in the first place. I promised that if something didn’t work, I’d do my best to recognize that and throw it out.
The homeschool I envisioned was more child-led. I wanted the kids to take ownership of their education and run with it. I would be involved of course, but more in the role of supporter than teacher. Finally, my oldest son came up to me and said, “I need you to just tell me what to learn and I’ll learn it.” Oops.
After I thought about it, I understood why.
Sometimes, when I find myself with a few hours alone, I am absolutely frozen with indecision on what to do, often I waste the time simply because I can’t choose between all the possibilities. The kids felt the same way. There’s a whole wide world out there with a lot to learn; there are hundreds and thousands of things to discover and it caused the kids to feel like a deer in headlights.
While I still love the idea of a child-led education, we’ve moved to much more of a parent-led education than I expected. I call it “teacher-led, child-influenced.”
Of course, we would have come to these conclusions eventually anyway, but deschooling gave us an unhurried, pressure free opportunity to figure out exactly what we wanted. To my surprise, after deschooling the transition to our more “formal” schooling (which I’ll share more about soon) was surprisingly smooth.
And so our homeschool journey has been a little bit of a winding road; I imagine that it will do quite a bit more winding before we’re through. Now, we’re all feeling refreshed and looking forward to what this school year will bring us.