How to know when you are done deschooling

So, my post on the importance of deschooling went mini-viral… but then people had questions.  Most notably: how do you know when you’re done…

When you’re “done”.   Hmmmm… That’s a good question. You will WANT to be done before you ARE done and that uncomfortableness is the barrier we are trying to break through. Deschooling is truly for ALL of you, but truly–the majority of the change is going to be with the parent in most cases.

You’ll be done when you stop worrying about when you will be done.  🙂

One major thing that will change for you is that you are no longer worried that they’re falling behind or not learning enough.  When you stop wondering if you’re ruining their lives, you’re almost done. I mean, these might always be fleeting thoughts for some people.  Geesh, even I will occasionally have a 3-minute panic that I’ve set my kid up to sleep on my couch for the rest of his life; but they’re not going to drive you into a panic that makes you TRULY start reconsidering homeschooling.  I’m not talking about that “I’m trying to convince myself” kind of thing–but you truly are okay with not breaking out the curricula or being out of step with the schools.  A comment from a friend isn’t going to send you spinning and the idea of your child’s education being entirely in your hands doesn’t immediately make you bite your nails.

You’ll change.  You’ll see yourself shift from basing your decisions off of the rest of the world’s model.  When they’re doing nothing at all, you’ll be more INTERESTED in what they are enjoying about that moment than you will be CONCERNED about what they’re NOT doing.

As for the kids, they will be done when they no longer shun anything deemed educational.  When they can look at a trip to the zoo or the library or a museum as something enjoyable rather than “tolerable education”.  Even if they become willing, but begrudgingly–they’re not done.

Admittedly, if you’re going on a year and still having a problem, you should look deeper at what’s going on.  What did this child experience or what feelings to they hold about themselves and learning that has them still–after truly being deschooled and having all learning expectations and conversations go out the window (unless the conversation is initiated by the child)–makes them avoid anything educational like the plague.  Do they associate it with something traumatic from their schooled time?  Did they inadvertently develop some very deep and unhealthy ideas about themselves or their abilities?  It would be time to initiate that conversation, but not from a “because you need to start learning” perspective.  If that’s your take, YOU need more deschooling and your child’s lack of motivation is just part and parcel of that.  But if you’re greater concern is your child’s happiness and their thoughts right now–you’re ready.  And realize that you may need outside help for this one.

Everything will change in the absence of the confines of an education model.  It may even be a scary time–for all of you–because there are no established expectations.  We have been conditioned to simply meet the expectations and goals dictated to us.  Suddenly, you have a lot more control over your destiny and that can be really scary for people who have never driven a boat.  For both parents and children, that can produce a great deal of anxiety.  A good set of routines and rhythms to your days can really help (I write about that in this blog post)

Whatever you do, don’t discourage their more ridiculous dreams. Encourage them–knowing that they will use those to motivate themselves to learn things that apply elsewhere; and hey–they’re kids: they will change their minds at some point. I am on career 3 and I’m not 50 yet. So there’s no harm in taking their goals and working them in the meantime. If that means they want to be a Minecraft programmer, so be it. That’s a lot of math right there.😉

It’s over when you are all so relaxed that the idea of learning is welcomed–possibly sought out. So, you will look and feel relaxed before you are THAT relaxed. The estimate is 1 month for every year of traditional schooling.  Yes–that’s right.  And if you went from school to school-at-home, you can add that school-at-home time.  That’s hard for a lot of parents. But in the end, it gives back far more than it takes out of you!

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9 thoughts on “How to know when you are done deschooling

  1. I think deschooling sounds like a good idea but how do you do that in states that require testing and attendance records and a Syllabus for the year?

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    1. It’s harder, but it can be done. The unschoolers find ways around it. In my state, the law says I have to teach 6-7 specific subjects (and have to teach them in English). I use Homeschool Skedtrack, set up the subjects the state tells me to teach and then each week I pick through our activities and decide which subject each thing provided learning for. Helping cook meals is science and math. Any kind of discussions had about the body, puberty, implementing new hygiene routines, etc. is “health”. Park playdates count as phys ed. I’m sure that they might require a syllabus for the year, but as a former teacher–we all know that the projected syllabus may not equate to the executed lessons. As a result, the district I worked for was one that required us to submit our syllabus AFTER the lessons were taught so there was a record of reality.

      Believe it or not–there is a LOT of education-worthy stuff that goes on when kids are “doing nothing”… it just doesn’t look like what we consider “learning”. Climbing a tree requires a lot of balance–and how is it different than rope or rock wall climbing in gym class? Reading is, ummmm… reading. You could try to keep a reading log, but during this time period–YOU keep the log.

      Take pictures of everything and pick through things that are education-worthy for states with a portfolio requirement.

      As for testing… let them test. You’d be surprised what a relaxed kid can do and frankly, if yours was a good test taker before they will probably still perform well. If they were a horrible test taker before, it’s possible they will still bomb them. But if they slip a little in content this year, it’s not the end of the world. Especially this year–during the adjustment year. I don’t know of a state that reviews tests for minimum scores with the threat of forcing the kids back into school and that would’ve made the rounds in the homeschool groups when talking about relocation.

      You will get creative. You will also be forced to find learning in things you didn’t think of before. And that could be a great thing!

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  2. I hadn’t thought about de-schooling my kids, but we homeschool only part time (which I know is controversial in and of itself) so the expectations are still there. It’s a breath of fresh air to think about no expectations though!

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    1. I don’t find partial homeschooling controversial! It is still customizing your child’s education and using the resources that work for you!

      But in that situation, deschooling is different for sure. They still need to recognize that their time at home is different (with different expectations) than school. Depending on what percentage of time and learning is done in school–it can be difficult!

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  3. We are going through the process of deschooling. I’m hoping we’ll start fitting things in naturally over the next few months. It’s hard to be feel completely relaxed about it yet though – clear sign we’re not there yet! Great piece 🙂

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  4. We’ve been homeschooling for over five years. Tree went through a period like deschooling. I called it “detox.” Kids are 14, 13 and 11 now. Homeschooling is getting harder as they get older. Classes done online increase screen time. I’ve always wanted my kids to learn what they want, but they still seem directionless. After reading your article, I wonder if we need to deschool again. Do you have thoughts on that?

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    1. If you have been directing their learning and want them to be self-directed, then yes–I think that’s a really good idea. When they have nobody telling them what to do and learn and they know it’s not just a break–that’s when things happen.

      Given their age, it might be wise to implement a weekly Family Meeting. That process might encourage them a little to come up with places to visit, etc. by way of having agenda items for “plans for later in the month” and “money that needs to be set aside”. It also opens up dialogue for collaborative problem solving. The combination of their age and the situation makes me wonder if giving them that new, consistent way to contribute their ideas and possibly talk about challenges could be a good thing.

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    1. I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking about here. Do you mean “How long do you let this go on with an autistic child so they don’t regress?” I’m going to function on that assumption and go with it. I’m going to speak about our experiences.

      Our autistic son had already achieved some level of “recovery” when we went through this process. I was unaware of the concept of deschooling when we pulled him out and when I learned about deschooling, I didn’t equate his preschool experiences with “school” and therefore the need to “deschool”. Add to this the fear of skill and behavior regression and I wasn’t exactly under the impression that it was something that would be beneficial for my household.

      I was wrong. Certainly I saw some significant pushing of boundaries and things got difficult before they got better; but it was short-lived. When he knew he wouldn’t be going back to school, everything changed. Mine was young so that period was short. Mine was also not at the more severe end of the autism spectrum at this point so I got away with just a touch less structure.

      Most children in the spectrum are receiving therapies that they need and perhaps you think I mean that by “deschooling” you might drop their therapies? I don’t mean that at all. But being removed from the other demands of a school environment helps them process a lot of their therapy challenges without added stress and confusion. You can build structure at home as well as it can be done in a school if that is the need. I linked to a blog post on this further up in the article–about building structure without imposing academics. If you are concerned about a skills regression, then find ways to reinforce those skills as part of your daily routine.

      I write quite a bit about homeschooling children with autism on this blog. If you hit the keyword “autism” you will find articles related to the various aspects.

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