Why Deschooling Was Important For Our Homeschool

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?

What We Learned From Deschooling- Why Deschooling helped our homeschool

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.

 

Our First Year of Homeschool: Small Changes in Our First 2 Months.

Hello from the beach!

Homeschool on the beach

My mother in law invited us to join her on a short trip to North Myrtle Beach so we hopped in the car on Monday to join her. I thought for sure 70 degrees would be too cold for the kids to get in the water but I was wrong, and the kids spent the afternoon with their pants and shorts rolled up running in and out of the water with the tide.

Our first year of homeschool

Adjusting to our new homeschool life has certainly had it’s challenges but the freedom to do things like this make it worth it.

In the past few weeks we’ve been to Shenandoah, Northern Virginia, Maryland, Jamestown and now South Carolina.

We’re still in that deschooling phase, adjusting to our new way of life. I’ll admit I was occasionally frustrated that after 2 weeks of “deschooling” nobody suddenly woke up saying “I want to learn calculus” or “I can’t wait to go on a 3 hour hike today!”.

When people talk about deschooling, or unschooling for that matter, the narrative always seems to be “we relaxed and now my child is reading above grade level/is a math genius/designed a rocket that actually went to the moon and back”

But we’re not focused on the product, we’re focused on the process. And lately I’ve noticed some little things that are telling me that we’re on the right track.

Max, who hates learning, is asking more questions. “What kind of bug is that?” “Can I listen to that book while we drive?” “Can I take a picture of that?”

Hudson, who used to cry every time he had reading homework, sleeps with a giant stack of books in his bed. He looks at the pictures every night. He’s sounding words out on his own out of curiosity. And he’ll sit and listen to me read until I have no voice left.

Hudson’s speech therapist remarked that he seems like a “totally different kid” that he walks in more relaxed and ready to work.

The kids are asking to collect things. They are keeping themselves more entertained outside. And I even heard the words “I’ve been on the computer enough today” come from my 10 year old.

We haven’t made actual rockets, nobody has discovered a secret hidden genius. But we’re learning, and that’s what our homeschool is all about.

our process learning about homeschool

Homeschool Adventures: Slowing Down

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In some ways the past couple weeks have flown by; in some ways they’ve crawled by.

Several people have asked me how homeschool is going and I haven’t really had the ability to answer that question.

Two weeks ago, everyone went back to school. I had been meaning to write a post about it, but the day sort of came and went.  We spent what would have been our “first day of school” wandering the woods of a local park, spotting mushrooms and turtles.  Since then, the days have passed doing much the same thing.

One of the many reasons I wanted to homeschool was because I wanted things to slow down.

It’s not that the kids are growing up too fast (they are) or that I felt we never had time for any extra stuff during the school year (we didn’t).  It’s that childhood is an amazing time in our lives and I don’t want to rush that. We feel pressure to focus so much on results as parents and not so much on the process… the childhood part. That part we never get back.

The problem with the rushing is that it never ends. Forget about the discovery; it’s about getting good grades. It’s not about grades, it’s about college. It’s not about college, it’s about your Masters. It’s not about your Masters, it’s about your job. It’s not about your job, it’s about the job title, or the pay raise. It’s about the big house. It’s about your kids’ grades. It’s about your kids’ schools…

There’s always a next step.  But really, those next steps come all the same whether we rush through our daily life or walk slowly. And so I wanted us to let ourselves walk slowly and just be in the present for a little while.

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Explore a little more. Try something new. Make time for failure.

But what has been surprising over the course of these two weeks is that, regardless of how much I wanted it, slowing down isn’t easy.  At least it hasn’t been for me.

It feels weird. We’ve felt a little out of sync with the world around us. I’m sure the kids have felt out of sync with their friends.

Over the summer, the rest of the world slowed down, so we felt in pace with our peers… but when Fall comes and things start picking back up for everyone else it’s hard to maintain that steady pace. It’s hard not to rush.

And so, occasionally, the panic sets in.

We aren’t doing anything. The kids aren’t learning… not enough… not the right things.

There’s so much knowledge out there and I’m not CRAMMING IT INTO THEIR BRAINS, testing them and moving on to the next thing.

They’ll never go to college if I don’t make them do workbooks.

They’ll be woefully unprepared for life if I don’t make them write essays right now.

And then I try to remember to breathe…

And trust my kids, myself, and this slowing down process.

And soak up the long walks, and seize the opportunities to try new things.

As firm as I feel in our decision to homeschool, and even though so far the situation has been pretty idyllic so far… I didn’t anticipate how difficult the adjustment would be.

So I apologize for being a little slow to post.  Time is moving a little differently than it was before.

We’ve Got Work to Do.

Finding time to blog has been particularly difficult lately, but posting a picture with a little caption is a bit easier. If you want to keep up to date on what we’re doing in between blog posts please follow me on Instagram for more regular updates.

"I hate learning" homeschool challenge

One of the parenting moments I cherish the most are my talks with Max. I’ve been inviting Max out on a beach walk each day of our vacation and sometimes he takes me up on it.

“Mom, I’m never going to like learning.”

Silence.

“I mean, it’s nice to know stuff and I like the benefits of knowing things but I am never going to like actual learning.”

This is the kid that has basically every Pokemon memorized.  Who while at the aquarium, impressed strangers who overheard him telling me about parrotfish. The kid who enjoys reading and watching shows about trivia, and when I find something out to impress him usually responds with, “I know,” and gives me a fact I didn’t know back. Who tested into a center based gifted program at school and we didn’t even realize he was being tested for it…

… this person hates learning.

If learning is miserable to a kid like this, we’re basically all screwed.

This is my challenge for our homeschool year. After years of school I feel like now we have to go backwards in some ways instead of forward.  Back to the playing, the experimenting, back to the joyful and fun part of learning. And it makes me worry… is it possible to reframe our idea of learning and to find the joy in it?

Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but it’s scary to hear that your child hates learning when you are about to be the one responsible for their education. I realized that switching gears from learning by demand to learning out of joy is a little bit of a delicate process.  I don’t want to find myself being just another person who pushes them to the point that they completely lose interest and yet, trusting the process and allowing them to “learn nothing” while exploring their interests is mildly terrifying.

Since summer is winding down and the regular school year is approaching, I am curious to see how the kids will feel when they don’t go back to school with everyone else.
And as my husband is planning his year of teaching ahead, I am thinking about mine.

For the kids, I have two overarching goals for our first homeschool year:

  1. Redefine learning as something enjoyable that never stops.
  2. Reconnect with the outdoors (it’s not just a place you go to get from one building to another).

For myself I have a number of other goals:

  1. Learn to follow their lead.
  2. Manage my expectations.
  3. Learn when to give them a gentle push and when I’m pushing too far.
  4. Create an environment that gives them opportunities to discover new things.
  5. Make time to let them teach me about the things they love (this will involve many Pokemon lessons).
  6. Not go completely insane panic (too often).
  7. Slow down and enjoy our time together.

So while the school year is gearing up, we’re still winding down.