Deschooling

123…Deschooling!

Home learners who have withdrawn a child from school often find a time of “deschooling” to be beneficial. The term “deschooling” or “refreshment” has come to mean the process of reawakening the child’s natural curiosity and interest in learning, by reducing or entirely removing enforced, coercive, and compulsory learning and formal academics.

This approach can help children “decompress” from any stresses of their previous learning experiences and begin to think about learning in a different way. The time recommended varies, but one recommendation I’ve heard is one month of deschooling for every year the child has been in school. Parents know their own children best, however, and different families will make different choices about this adjustment time.

If your child has had a bad experience in a public school, they are most likely going to balk at anything that even resembles schooling. They will be almost overcome with a sense of uneasiness that they are unable to effectively express in words. This can be interpreted as rebellion if you don’t understand why they are reacting this way.

This could be one of the most important parts of starting your home school experience. The time spent deschooling will vary from child to child. Depending on how long they were in public school, the whole process could take anywhere from two minutes to two months. Your child will let you know when they are ready to start learning again.

Take it slow and be understanding of how they feel. Don’t try to rush the process just because you’re ready to get started. If you do this, you’ll be pulling out your hair in frustration trying to figure out why this whole home school thing isn’t working.

Remember that this type of reaction is normal and won’t last forever. In fact, de-schooling can be just as beneficial for parents as children. It’s a way for you to forget what you know about teaching and learning so that you can open up your mind to your child and how he or she best learns. There is no cookie cutter mold for teaching and adaptations need to be made according to your child’s specific learning style.

The easy way to approach deschooling is to just stop. You need to stop thinking in “school terms”. Stop acting like a teacher. Stop talking about learning as though it’s separate from life. We learn every day whether we realize it or not. When you approach school as just life experience, you and your child will learn much easier.

Remember that you have been your child’s teacher from the day they were born. You taught them to eat, you taught them to talk, you taught them to walk. You’ve been teaching them subconsciously and there’s no reason for you to stop now.

Even as parents leave school to teach their children at home, there is a longing for the old way. Curriculum, learning through workbooks and directives, checking of learning lists, “keeping up”, and making sure that kids learn “everything that’s important” are concepts that are deeply rooted in our American psyche. Giving any of these up is like going cold turkey to give up shopping.

If you can’t go cold turkey, and you just can’t imagine a life without at least a little of the school ways that are a part of our culture, don’t give these things up. Don’t turn away from what you’ve always known. Keep all the stuff you like about school in your pocket. Don’t go cold turkey (well, unless you know you’re the kind of person who does better this way). De-school gently.

In fact, when you start de-schooling, there are a lot of old ways of thinking you must let go of. It’s not always easy – in fact, it can be downright difficult. Most of us have had school protocol and procedures pounded into our brains for years.

But you’ve made the decision to home school. What else should you let go of? The answer is – a lot! Get away from the mindset that there are certain things that your child should learn. Don’t get caught up in the standards and learning objectives of our archaic public educational system. Those are school directives, not your child’s directives.

Your child has his or her own directives. However, it’s hard to completely let go of the idea of what a child is supposed to learn. So, keep your directives. But let go of the “when” your child has to learn it. Yes, your child needs to learn the multiplication tables, but it doesn’t have to be done by a certain age like the public schools dictate.

Perhaps they’re ready at first grade; maybe they’re not ready until fifth grade. Dump the thinking that there are certain times when learning must occur. Let your child tell you when it’s time and everyone will be happy.

Most schools use checklists. The thing is that they use these checklists to tick off what they’re teaching, not what the kids are learning. Schools have to spend a lot of time making and checking off lists, because kids take their own sweet time learning what they have to teach, and because they have a lot of people to report statistics to.

Homeschoolers can still make lists and check them off, but instead of focusing on what kids learn or what has been taught, make lists of what you want to do, and what you have done. Then leave it open as to what everyone’s going to get out of it intellectually. Developing a Home Based Learning Road Map can help you create the abundant learning experience and lifestyle of your family’s dreams.

Oftentimes, the things we think our children will learn are quite different than what they actually assimilate. If we focus on doing stuff and let our kids learn what they are ready for, then we can make our lists as long as we want. Another concept you should let go of is the urge to compare your child to others his or her age. Your kids aren’t in public school anymore, so there’s no way to effectively compare them to anyone else. They are learning at their own pace which is dramatically different from the way their peers are learning.

If you want to compare your kids a year from now, after you’ve deschooled a bit, that’s OK. But during those first few months of deschooling (or, adjusting to homeschooling), give up the idea of comparing your kids to anyone else. The comparison between children is one of the biggest deterrents to learning and can create “educational blindness”, where it becomes hard to see the successes of
our children compared to their own previous achievements. Ok, so this is hard to get rid of.

Don’t think of it as “never comparing again.” Think of it as putting the “keeping up” idea on the shelf…just for a few months. Then revisit it again after you’ve had time to get to know your children, read up on educational philosophies, and discover your own definition of success.

During the deschooling process, it’s hard not to think that our children are learning ‘nothing’. We took them out of school so they could learn MORE, not LESS, right? Ok, take a deep breath… education is a long-term process.

We want our children to be happy in their lives, successful and self-confident. These are the important things. Without these things, the quantity of what they know gives them nothing. So, drop the school subjects of learning and focus on the fundamentals that are required before a child can really learn in harmony and work towards his life success.

Focus on self-esteem, confidence, knowing yourself, knowing each other, understanding how the world works, knowing how to access information, how to make decisions, and how to be compassionate for the people in the world.

You may have different things for your list of fundamentals, but the concept is the same. Focus on these FIRST. Then, once that is covered, go back to figuring out how to cover all the academic topics. But in doing that, don’t leave behind the fundamentals.

Deschooling is not giving up everything and doing nothing. Deschooling is a focus shift. You can do it “cold turkey”, or do it gently. But definitely do it. Give yourself space. There is no rush in life.

We live in a country where the only limit to education is our own self-defeatist perspective. Any person of any age can gain knowledge. But once a person’s self-confidence and introspective compassion are lost, that is extremely hard to regain later.

Slow down, enjoy life, and learn to live better every day. The learning will come, in your own way. If you don’t give it at least a little space in the beginning, it will be hard to see the forest through the trees.

You can find learning experiences anywhere. This is especially important during the de-schooling process. Visit a museum, attend a concert, go to the library and browse the books during this time. Play games, read aloud, or just sit and talk with your child. Tell them about your past, have them share their feelings and ask questions.

Above all, to be an effective teacher, you need to listen and react. During deschooling, listen to your child and gradually introduce school to them in a friendly environment.


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