Deschooling: Ideas and Activities For A Smoother Transition To Homeschooling
Deschooling. That little word can be hard for many new homeschoolers to understand. It sounds scary. Taking months off of school to do….nothing?!
Yet, taking the time to pause BEFORE starting homeschool can possibly be the most important part of the journey.
I totally get the fear and confusion surrounding the idea of deschooling. It is so far outside the school mindset that it feels scary and impossible to do. You are worried about your children falling behind and not keeping up…forever. You are anxious about what others would think if you didn’t do academics. Then there are state regulations to keep up with and consider. Lastly, general, vague fear of “failing” at homeschooling can make it very easy to ignore deschooling in favor of starting right away.
But if you are here, I assume you are considering. Maybe you have already done a ton of research. You are almost there, but pulling the trigger is another thing. Maybe you started homeschool and you are now struggling. You jumped in with both feet and it was fine for awhile. Now, its a fight to get the kids to do their work. Everyone is feeling stressed, you feel like you can’t do this. You desperately need a do over. Deschooling can help.
Besides, what does a deschooling day look like anyways. Do my children just sit around on screens all day?? Are we wasting time? What do you do while deschooling if you can’t do school?
In this article, we will touch on what deschooling is, how long to do it and why you should consider this first before jumping right into homeschool. But mostly, we are going to talk about EXACTLY what you can do instead of school to get the most out of this valuable adjustment time.
Deschooling doesn’t inherently mean you don’t do any school or nothing at all. It is simply taking a break from imposed academics in order to live life, pursue hobbies, and bond as a family.
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What is Deschooling?
A break, a decompression, a time for recovery from a negative school experience, an easing into something new, a time of observation before jumping in…deschooling is a little bit of all these things.
Deschooling is simply the transition period in between leaving school and officially starting homeschool.
It can be for the child if they are leaving the confines of the school system and need time to heal or to experiment with how to love learning again. It can also be for the parent, to help shed misconceptions about how learning can happen so they can be more prepared to begin homeschooling with peace and knowledge on how to tailor an education for their child. It gives us parents time to learn and tinker with a completely different form of education so we don’t fall into the trap of rushing into homeschool by just recreating the school environment that wasn’t working in the first place.
I love this definition best…
Deschooling is the time it takes to adjust to learning at home without school. During this time, we come to learn who we are, what learning is for, how we can work together, and all that is possible when we learn in the world around us. Deschooling is a transition from relying on external measurements of success, to instead finding our own rhythm, meaning, and goals. Deschooling is the process of becoming unleashed from the habitual ideas of what education is, which gives us new tools which are more compatible and appropriate for learning at home with our children. Deschooling isn’t just for kids. It’s for adults too. It’s a family process. Deschooling means getting it out of our heads that in order to learn, we have to do things like the schools do it. Being deschooled means being free. ~ Tasha Takahasi Author of Deschooling Gently
What Are the Benefits of Deschooling?
- Helps to let go of the “school mentality” for both the parent and child
- Allows children to learn to be themselves without school or peer labels.
- Gain confidence in your ability to be in charge of your Childs education
- Allows time to heal from negative school experiences
- Allows parents to discover their Childs learning style
- Allows time to focus on relationships and family bonding
- Learn your Childs interests
- Gives you time to research and prepare for homeschooling
- Helps your child rediscover their natural curiosity and love of learning
- Gives parents time to figure out what they like, what works for them and how to plan homeschool accordingly
- Limits the recreation of school at home
Would My Family Benefit from Deschooling?
Not every family needs to deschool. Some jump right into homeschool and do just fine. Families who homeschool from the beginning might decide the children are fine but that they need to deschool. Others, who have been homeschooling for years may choose a period of deschooling as a reset, if needed.
If you are wondering if deschooling is right for you, ask yourself these questions…
- Are you homeschooling suddenly and unexpectedly?
- Do you need a reset in your homeschool?
- Did your child have a negative school experience?
- Do you feel overwhelmed with beginning homeschool and need more time to plan, prepare and research.
- Are your children leaving public/private school.
- Are you worried you don’t have the patience to homeschool?
- Do siblings need to reconnect?
- Are you feeling a lack of confidence in your ability to teach your kids?
If any of these apply to you, deschooling might be the perfect option before diving into homeschool.
How Long Should I Deschool and How Do I Know When We Are Done?
You and your children make up the rules. In fact, during deschooling, there are no SHOULDS, no RULES, no RESTRICTIONS. You are allowed to do whatever you want. You are free to learn in any way that excites your children, even if that looks NOTHING like “school”.
The beauty of homeschooling and deschooling in particular is the freedom. You have now been released of any preconceived notions of what learning SHOULD look like, how it SHOULD happen and what you SHOULD do as a new homeschool parent/teacher.
Since you are in control now, you get to decide how long deschooling will last for your family. Maybe your child only needs a couple weeks before they are asking for academics once again. Maybe they will need longer. Maybe you need more time to sort out the transition. Maybe you decide that this relaxed form of education is best for your child after all and you don’t return to a curriculum. All of this is okay.
The general recommendation is to deschool one month for every year your child has attended school. So, if your child is in the 5th grade, they will need roughly 5 months of deschooling.
However, every family and every child is different and what worked for one probably doesn’t work for you and your unique kids.
You will know you are done when you are no longer worried they will fall behind, when you feel confidence in the choices you are making and when you are both feeling excited about learning.
After all, it takes time to settle in and find out what works for your children and yourself.
Its a process. And a vague one.
Its hard to not give you a concrete answer. I want to give you a solid timeline. But you family is unique and only you will be able to determine when the transition is over.
After a while, you will come to the realization that your children are leading you. By observing and watching and being in tune to them during deschooling, they will show you exactly what they need to learn best. Now, you can turn around and use that information to design a homeschool for them. This is when you know you are ready to move on.
What To Do While Deschooling
While deschooling, it’s best to focus on learning activities that don’t feel like learning. Deschooling activities can be compared to summer break activities. In that, you will try to incorporate all those fun activities that summer time is known for, while also focusing on rest, bonding and relaxation.
Here are a few general categories to incorporate in your transition. None of these require a curriculum, a lesson plan or schedule of any kind. Yet, these maximize learning in a way that doesn’t feel like learning at all.
- Field trips ~ Get out and explore! Remember how field trips were the best days at school? Visit art, history, regional and science museums. Find a planetarium, fish hatchery, factory or mine tours, working farms, State or National park, historical markers and sites, battlefields, Do lots and lots!
- Unstructured Play ~ Give your child plenty of free time to be creative with their own activities. Let them choose what to do. This time must be completely child led in order to gain the benefits of play. Do not be tempted to organize their play with fun activities. Those don’t count. Don’t be worried if they are out of practice and act like they don’t know how to play anymore. If they have had years of schooling and years of schedules filled to the brim, they will need time to remember and relearn what to do with themselves when nobody is directing them. Be patient, have faith in them and be their supporter during this time.
- Books ~ Start to fill your home with books of every kind. Go to the library often and let your child browse and bring home anything they want. Start a family read aloud and read one chapter a day. Make books the cornerstone of your new homeschool.
- Nature ~ If you can, make outside time an essential part of everyday. Make backyard play time non-negotiable. Buy clothes that allow them to play outside in the rain or cold. Go on lots of walks, bike rides, hikes and explore the green spaces of your area. Visit your local nature center and sign up for programs and classes. Start identifying birds, trees, plants and flowers in your yard and on your hikes. Nature time is science!
- Life Skills ~ Now is a great time to revamp the chore chart and give your children more responsibility around the house. Get them involved in things like cleaning, cooking, meal planning, outdoor chores and finances. Teach them how to clean a bathroom properly and do their own laundry. Give them time in the kitchen to bake, cook and prepare their own breakfast and lunches. Let them help with dinner even when you don’t feel like you have the patience. Not only do they need these important life skills to eventually be on their own (that’s the ultimate goal after all!), but it will help free you up from having to do it all. Homeschooling is messy, mom is not a maid and the kids don’t get a free ride.
- Hobbies ~ Being stuck in school all week leaves little time for children to pursue their passions and explore their interests. Give your children the benefit of free time to focus on what they love most, even if that is something you don’t love. Maybe they are unsure of what their passions are right now. Deschooling is a perfect time for exploration. For hours of quiet and calm to think, ponder and just try. If you can, sign them up for lessons during the day or find someone who can help them take their hobby to the next level. Try new handicrafts. Leave wood whittling tools, sewing machine, yarn, loose parts, a camera, musical instruments, etc out where the kids can find and use them. Help facilitate their hobby by finding new materials and books, if applicable.
- Just being together as a family ~ Have you bonded lately? Did having your children in school all week hamper your ability spend quality time together as a family? Do you struggle with patience if you are around your kids all day? If your children were in school for several years, you will need extra time just to learn how to live together again and be around each other all the time. Siblings will need time to reconnect too. This process will probably continue long after you choose to stop deschooling. Take the time to slow down together. Go on family walks and bike rides. Start a huge family puzzle. Play boardgames and watch movies together. Start read alouds as a family and discuss the books after. Sit down for meals more often and just talk. Have great conversations. Ask your children about their goals, dreams and future desires. Focus on relationships.
- Start Thinking About Daily Routines and Rhythms Ditch the idea of a schedule delegated to the half hour. They are a recipe for burnout and failure. Instead, now that you and your children are together all the time, start thinking about how your day naturally flows. Who are the late and early risers? When do your kids seem to have the most energy? When do you have the most energy? Knowing how your day flows will help you when you are ready to begin homeschooling. If low-key enrichment activities naturally happened in the morning, you might consider formal academics in the morning and afternoons free for play, errands and outside lessons once homeschooling starts. Read this for a beautiful example of a homeschool routine vs. a schedule.
110+ Ideas and Activities to Do While Deschooling
- Find a volunteering opportunity
- Visit Grandparents
- Go on a family bike ride
- Be tourists in your own town
- Let kids plan the next field trip
- Let kids plan and pack a picnic lunch
- Attend a local concert
- Help a neighbor with lawnwork
- Take a one day road trip
- Take a free local class
- Try a new sport
- Go fishing
- Find lessons offered during the school day
- Visit nearby historical markers
- Feed the ducks
- Visit the closest state park
- Go garage sale-ing
- Explore new playgrounds
- Spend a day at the library
- Browse a local bookstore
- Go thrifting (give kids an allowance to find something educational)
- Visit historical sites or battlefields in your area
- Tour a university
- Attend library story time or event
- Visit a nature center (ask about classes to join)
- Go on a hike and journal about it later
- Visit a local lake or pond (take a field guide to help ID plants and animals)
- Go downtown for the day
- Visit a botanical garden
- Tour a local factory
- Visit a science center (ask about classes and programs to join)
- Spend an afternoon at a river/stream/creek
- Take music lessons
- Join a math club
- Go bowling
- Spend the day at the beach (take a field guide)
- Find new art, history or regional museums in your area
- Join a scouting organization
- Go camping at a local campsite
- Go art gallery hopping
- Tour a working farm
- Take a nature walk and find animal tracks to follow
- Explore new restaurants and coffee shops
- Visit Mom/Dad at work
- Join a book club
- Take apart old electronics
- Learn a new handicraft
- Play boardgames
- Listen to an educational podcast
- Have a bonfire
- Play in the rain
- Make an outdoor fort
- Mad libs
- Practice Origami
- Bake something
- Take online art lessons
- Play solitaire
- Color in an adult coloring book
- Plan a garage sale
- Write handwritten letters to Elders
- Start a neighborhood business
- Host a sleepover
- Do a messy outdoor science experiment
- Start a kid blog
- Learn how to sell old toys on eBay
- Practice photography
- Hang a bird feeder and start identifying backyard birds
- Wash cars
- Watch documentaries
- Start a kid YouTube channel
- Practice random acts of kindness
- Read a long novel
- Start a relaxed unit study
- Learn a new language as a family
- Climb trees
- Learn how to watercolor
- Try finger knitting
- Identify all the trees/plants/flowers in your yard
- Start a daily journal
- Track the weather for a month
- Plan and start a garden together
- Paint rocks and hid them at local parks
- Raise butterflies in a butterfly house
- Plant a butterfly garden
- Plant a herb garden
- Do extreme dot-to-dots
- Train for a race as a family
- Update a room or rearrange furniture to make homeschooling easier
- Start a rock collection or any nature collection
- Let kids plan and make dinner
- Get backyard chickens
- Create a terrarium
- Make a fairy garden
- Build a huge lego city
- Raise tadpoles in an aquarium
- Play minecraft
- Learn to code with Tynker
- Map out your family tree on a wall
- Learn a new graphic design program
- Start a family read-aloud
- Make bug and animal shelters for your yard
- Build a birdhouse specific to your backyard birds
- Read to younger siblings
- Listen to an audiobook
- Build a snow fort
- Watch family home videos
- Make a family movie bucket list and then start watching
- Work on a huge family puzzle
- Go camping in the backyard and read nature myth stories
- Find a pen pal from another country
- Make a map of your neighborhood
- Unstructured play
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To recap, deschooling is not about doing nothing. Your children can reap the benefits of taking a break from structured activities while still maximizing learning. You will gain knowledge by observing how your children learn best and using that to plan your homeschool. It will allow you to spend precious time together as a family without pressure or expectations.
Deschooling will allow you to transition to homeschooling peacefully, calmly and with confidence.