Deschooling is the best way to create a decompression transition and adjustment period between leaving public school and starting home school to create a schooling experience for alternative education. We’ll tell you how the deschool process fits into how to start homeschooling as well as the difference between deschooling vs. unschooling.
If you want to get right to it, here’s a quick deschool definition and overview:
What is deschooling in education?
Deschool is based on the book Deschooling Society and the beliefs of Ivan Illich (and supported by John Holt). To get the full benefits of homeschool, you and your child need to leave behind the rough days and formal schooling environment through the deschool process where the kids are free to learn.
READ ON TO UNDERSTAND MORE!
In This Post We’ll cover:
- Deschooling definition and meaning
- Why deschooling before homeschooling is so important
- Example of a deschooling day
- Difference between radical unschooling and deschooling
- How to “catch up” in homeschooling after you deschool
- Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
- 7 Fun and Easy ways to deschool
- & MORE
Be sure to watch our quick video on deschooling to get an overview!
Starting Homeschool: The De School Choice
To start your home school journey the right way, you need to learn about deschooling, or the adjustment period before starting homeschooling.
If you’re wondering, How do you transition from public to homeschool? the deschool process will help let go of that public school (or private school) mindset and prepare yours for a life of learning at home — which can look very, very different from what you know in a traditional school sense.
And, we’ll also help you understand deschooling vs unschooling, which can be very confusing (even for seasoned homeschoolers!).
Did you know that deschooling is one of the biggest factors in helping kids adjust to homeschool?
Have you ever heard of deschooling and wondered “What is deschooling anyway?”
Chances are, if you’re new to homeschooling you may not have heard about deschooling.
But, the deschool process is an important part of the homeschooling journey that you definitely need to know about!
Anytime someone asks me “What is the first step to homeschooling?” or “How do I transition from public school to homeschool?”
Know my answer?
(Yep, you guessed it . . . )
(Well, it’s ONE of the important first steps in how to homeschool . . .)
So, what is the deschooling meaning?
What does deschooling mean?
You can define deschooling this way: it is simply a decompression period that helps kids (and parents!) transition from a traditional school setting into a homeschool setting. It is especially helpful when going from public school to homeschool. It allows time to leave the traditional school mindset behind and be open to a completely new way of learning.
The philosophy became known when Ivan Illich wrote about it in his controversial book, Deschooling Society. The features of deschooling are beneficial for both children and parents, especially if either (or both) were “schooled” in traditional settings. Deschooling is different than unschooling, which is a philosophy based on the teachings of John Holt. Both are considered non formal education.
Deschooling is one of the most beneficial things you can do as you start a new homeschooling journey. I WISH I had known about it before I started!
(It’s never too late to stop what you’re doing and deschool for a while, by the way . . .)
What is the Goal of Deschooling?
The goal of deschooling is removing what you and your child know about schooling and replacing it with a completely different way of thinking and approaching learning and education. If your child has been in any form of traditional school, he or she will need a period of deschooling—or “unlearning”—to transition from the traditional methods of learning to a more relaxed homeschooling style.
(By the way, you will need this time to “unlearn,” too! But, more on that later.)
Your child will need time to understand that they don’t have to raise their hands to ask questions or get permission to go to the bathroom or sit at a desk for an hour or two on end doing worksheets.
Deschooling simply means that you don’t have a fixed schedule or a set curriculum or things you need to learn (or do) for a period of time.
Basically, you just “be” and enjoy life and let learning occur naturally without thinking about structured schooling.
Yes, your kids can even sleep late and lounge around some of the time!
(An important thing to remember is that kids will learn naturally during this period!)
DESCHOOLING TIP: Transitioning from a traditional school setting to a homeschool setting can be super uncomfortable for you and your kids in the beginning.
Even if your child is looking forward to homeschooling, there may still be some uncomfortable moments as he or she untangles those feelings they have about transitioning and leaving behind the things they know.
Consider that you are taking your child from a familiar, scheduled setting (“school”) and having them do something unfamiliar and, sometimes, you may not even have support from friends and family.
You are basically transitioning your family from a completely scheduled day to a more relaxed schedule.
It sounds terrifying, right?
But, don’t worry! It’s not as scary as it sounds!
Just be aware (and don’t be surprised or concerned) if your child (or even you) feels anxiety during this time of change.
It’s a learning process for all of you and you need to ease into it by having a completely relaxed schedule at the beginning.
“But, I’m not going to deschool and just let my kids do whatever they want for six months!”
Because we are all conditioned to be “doing something” at all times, deschooling may make you feel uncomfortable.
Like, shouldn’t my kids be doing . . . something that I planned?
If having a free schedule is more than your anxiety can handle and you want to “schedule” things during this period, you can put daily rules in place for each child to meet.
For example, beds should be made each day by a certain time.
Or, screen time is limited to one hour.
Maybe the kids must spend a minimum of two hours outside each day.
Or, you can create a structured bedtime routine each night.
You don’t have to put any rules or goals in place, but if you’re someone who feels uncomfortable with an unscheduled life, then these kind of goals or rules may be helpful during this transition.
However, after a couple of weeks, that feeling that you are doing “something wrong” or “wasting time” or “doing nothing” will pass and you will settle nicely into deschooling.
OK, now let’s get into it a little more and help on how to get started with the de school process.
We’re breaking down the real truth about deschooling and its importance when getting ready to start homeschooling.
So…how do you transition from public to homeschool?
As we’ve discussed, the best way to transition from a traditional school setting (like public school or private school) is to first deschool.
But, how the heck do you get started?
Homeschooling Tips : How To Start Deschooling
Here are some simple steps on how to start deschooling:
- Allow a period of rest and relaxation from the time that they stop “regular” school to homeschool so that kids (and parents) can decompress and leave behind habits of a institutional educational setting.
- DO NOT do any formal lessons, curriculum, or academics.
- Focus on life skills.
- Ask your kids about their interests and then provide natural ways to learn on those topics.
- Get comfortable with lots of free play and open time.
- Let your kids choose what they want to do.
- Create with art, music, and building things.
- Enjoy nature.
- Take advantage of museums and local sites by being a tourist in your own town.
- Don’t rush the deschooling period!
We’ll cover more about the steps to deschooling later (so don’t miss out).
ALSO CHECK OUT:
But, if you deschool, won’t you be behind in school?
How to catch up in school homeschool
You may be worried how to catch up in school homeschool if you spend so much time deschooling.
Believe it or not, your children will be learning naturally during the deschool time. You may find that they don’t even need to catch up in homeschool once you start!
Also, one of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can slow down (or speed up) to match your child’s learning needs. So even if you feel that they are behind, you can spend time getting them where they need to be for requirements and standard testing.
However, many people find that their kids are not behind, even after deschooling!
Homeschooling Transition | Example of Deschooling
Your brain may be in deschooling overload right now.
That’s because many of us have been trained to think about education one particular way, so unlearning that way does not compute sometimes.
So . . .
. . . let’s talk about activities to encourage a productive deschooling transition.
To help with this, let’s take a look at an example of a deschooling day, giving you some tips for deschooling, and examples of things you might do during a deschooling schedule:
- Your kids (and you!) may sleep in until 10 a.m. (It’s OK! Their minds and bodies probably need it!)
- Then, your kids get up and play Lego bricks for an hour.
- After that, you all make lunch together.
- After lunch, you all decide to go on a nature hike and you observe a bird that you see on the trail.
- When you get home, your youngest child wants to make a bird feeder, so you help her with that craft.
- Your oldest one works on a computer game he is programming (or just plays a video game—and that’s OK!) and your middle child is outside in the hammock reading.
- You make dinner while the kids are working on their “things” and you eat outside on the patio.
- Later, you make a bonfire and roast s’mores.
See how that day progressed naturally with no scheduling or overt directing?
That’s how a deschooling schedule works! It just flows through a pattern of natural living.
DISCLOSURE: Affiliate links are used on this site and may be used in this post.
Please refer to our DISCLOSURE STATEMENT.
When deschooling, remember three things:
- Learn (naturally)
During deschooling, allow your children the freedom to get bored!
Once they’ve reached that stage, they will start to creatively fill their own time with learning about things that naturally interest them.
Do not use summer break as a time to deschool. Summer break should be just that … a break.
That was A LOT, right?
Your mind is exploding because deschooling probably goes against all the “traditional” things you know about education.
If you stopped RIGHT HERE, you would have a high level understanding of deschooling that probably fulfilled your curiosity about this homeschooling topic.
However, if you’re serious about transitioning into home school (or, you’re someone who likes ALLLLL the information on a topic), KEEP READING.
We’re going to go deeper into this topic and also answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we’ve received on this topic.
(We regularly add questions and answers that we receive, so let us know if you have more questions!)
Let’s take a closer look at the whole deschooling process, get into more detail, and answer some more of your questions…
Definition of Deschooling | Ivan Illich and How Deschooling Started
✅The Deschooling Book and How It Started
Deschool Meaning | Deschooling Society Summary
The term “deschooling” actually came from Ivan Illich, a priest and philosopher who was vocal about his disagreement in some contemporary practices in education (and also in other areas like medicine, work, transportation and more).
What did Ivan Illich mean by Deschooling society?
In Illich’s book, Deschooling Society, he covers how “schooling” is not really “learning” and that people learn better independently. Illich believed that institutions are not really capable of providing the best learning opportunities for children.
Ivan Illich deschooling society summary from the book:
The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value.
Illich’s beliefs were criticized by many, especially since he was a proponent of disabling and dismantling formal institutions in place (like schools).
Today, a broader definition of deschooling has been adopted by the homeschooling community as an alternative way of facilitating learning and supplementing and advancing home education.
Now that we’ve covered the Deschooling Society Ivan Illich summary, let’s go on to talk about whether or not deschooling will benefit your family.
Is Deschooling for Your Family?
If your child (or you) has been in the traditional school setting in any way for any amount of time, then you need to deschool.
Taking your kids out of public school on Friday and then starting homeschool on Monday is setting you and your family up for failure.
I know, I know.
You’re excited to get started on your homeschooling journey!
But, skipping the deschooling step may actually create a setback in your homeschooling.
Why Parents Need Deschooling, Too
Just like your child needs time to “unlearn” traditional schooling methods, you need this time, too — especially if you grew up in a traditional school setting (like public or private school) and have never homeschooled before.
I have to be honest, when I first started homeschooling I had no idea about deschooling.
However, I wish I had known about deschooling because I planned our homeschooling based on what I knew from traditional school.
I got a school desk.
And, I planned specific things to happen at specific times.
And, it was a disaster.
When our first homeschooling day fell apart just a couple of hours in and didn’t look anything like what I thought it was supposed to look like (from my traditional school experience), I hid in the pantry and cried.
So, don’t discount the importance of deschooling.
You will need the same amount of time to “unlearn” traditional methods and just “be” and not think about schooling in any way.
This means that during deschooling, you shouldn’t be planning your homeschool journey or searching for the best homeschool curriculum or stressing about how you’re going to juggle home and homeschooling.
You shouldn’t be doing any kind of homeschool shopping or planning . . . at all.
Instead, use this period to spend time connecting with your kids and talking and strengthening the bond.
(When is the last time you did something with your kids that had no schedule or agenda? Exactly!)
This step is so beneficial when you start homeschooling and is such a beautiful part of the process!
How Long Should I Deschool?
You may be wondering how long does it take to start homeschooling after the deschooling process and when to stop deschooling.
The great thing about deschooling is . . .
. . . it’s flexible!
So, the amount of time you should deschool is up to you!
There is no set time that is perfect for when to stop deschooling.
Homeschool Tips: There are no homeschool hour requirements as far as requirements to homeschool during certain hours (like 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
However, your state may have specific laws about hours of instructions.
When To Stop Deschooling
Most homeschool parents recommend from one to three months of deschooling.
Some even recommend one month of deschooling for every one year the child was in a traditional school setting.
(So if you have a kid who was in six years of public school, you might deschool for six months.)
However, the amount of time that you deschool is up to you!
Just know that it should be more than one or two weeks.
Think about it this way: Have you ever gone on a two week vacation?
The first or second day, you may have a hard time relaxing.
You’re still “on schedule” and stressed about work or whatever you had going on before you left.
You’re still waking up at 6 a.m. (the “regular” time you get up).
As the week goes on, you may find yourself relaxing more.
You may even be sleeping in a little later each day.
Well into the second week, you may be getting up later and lounging more in a relaxed state.
That’s how it is with deschooling!
Your kid’s body and brain both need an extended amount of time to relax off of their regular schedule.
(And, your body and brain needs that adjustment period, too!)
Deschooling Activities and Ideas
When you deschool, it doesn’t mean that your children won’t learn anything during this time period.
REPEAT AFTER ME: CHILDREN LEARN NATURALLY.
This is an important concept to remember because your brain and experience will lie to you and tell you that deschooling is a bad idea because your kids aren’t learning and they are falling behind.
If you are exposing your children to new and interesting opportunities during this period, they are still learning!
It will just be uncomfortable because it probably doesn’t look like anything that you’ve seen or experienced before, but they are learning.
FEATURES OF DESCHOOLING
HOW TO DESCHOOL: 7 FUN & EASY WAYS
Here are some deschooling ideas and deschooling activities to get you started:
1. Focus on life skills.
Life skills are things that may have fallen by the wayside because your child was so busy at school.
The period of time during deschooling is a good time to brush up on things that will help them throughout life.
(And, life skills should be included in your homeschooling schedule once you get started!)
Life skills can include cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of pets, gardening, and any of the other things that keep your home (and life) running.
2. Visit the library. OFTEN.
Deschooling is a great time to reintroduce books and help foster a love of reading.
Unfortunately, during traditional school, kids are so often told what they can and cannot read.
For many kids, this sadly turns them off of reading and it becomes a struggle to get your kids to read . . . anything.
During deschooling, take your kids to the library and don’t put constraints on what your child can check out (within reason, of course).
For example, my daughter wasn’t a big reader.
Once I took her to the library and got her a library card, that all changed.
And, I firmly believe that’s because I never told her what she could and couldn’t read.
The first couple of times, she checked out picture books that were well below her “level.”
After a few times, I showed her graphic novels in a no-big-deal “Hey, thought these looked interesting!” way.
Now, she loves reading and has graduated herself to more challenging books.
Also, don’t forget about reading aloud with your kids.
No matter the age, family story time is still a lot of fun!
3. Get outside!
It’s so easy for kids now to stay inside and do fun things, but a big part of deschooling should be getting your kids outside (no matter the weather or season)!
Visit parks. Go on nature hikes (and learn more about nature journaling for your hikes!).
Go to local fairs and festivals.
Spend time playing old school games like tag or red rover in the backyard.
Go to a baseball game.
Have a picnic.
Just get outside for some fresh air that will do all of you some good!
Helping others is an important life skill for kids.
During the deschooling period, find a place (or several places) to volunteer as a family.
It’s one way that you can give back to your community while your kids also learn about helping others.
5. Get artsy.
Head to your local dollar or craft store and stock up on art items — paper, colored pencils, stencils, paint, crayons, construction paper, glue, yarn and anything else that would be fun to make something out of.
Then, put them all in a big tote.
Declare “art time” several times a week.
And then, let them make what they want and create until their hearts are content.
Maybe one day they make something they saw on TV or in a book.
Allow them to be creative with as little “instruction” as possible!
And, the best thing about art? It works for ALL ages!
6. Be a tourist in your town.
You know all those places around your state or area that you always say, “Wow! We need to go there!”
Well, it’s time to do it.
Sit down with the family and make a bucket list of 20 things that you want to do. Put each item on a strip of paper and place them in a jar.
Then, you can take turns drawing out of the jar what you’re going to do for the day or the week.
7. Just . . . go!
Take scenic, backroad drives with no destination in mind. S
top at the old country stores, or antique malls, or roadside vegetable stands, or the world’s largest ball of yarn, or anything else that you see of interest!
You’ll be surprised what you find, see, and learn along the way!
Deschooling vs Unschooling
What is unschooling?
One last thing I want to cover is deschooling versus unschooling because some people use these terms interchangeably.
Remember, deschooling is a decompression period between traditional school and homeschool.
Unschooling is child-led learning or natural learning.
With unschooling, children take the lead in what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.
Want to learn more about the difference between Homeschooling vs Unschooling vs Deschooling? Check this out!
For example, instead of learning from textbooks and worksheets and homeschool curriculum, an unschooling approach might incorporate a child’s interest of cooking as a way of learning science and math naturally from recipes.
Deschooling and unschooling often get confused because during the period of deschooling, your family may actually do some unschooling.
And, they may look very similar.
The major difference is that deschooling is a decompression period for a period of time.
Unschooling is a method or style of learning led by your child.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Now that you have all this information, what should you do with it?
- Check out some of the recommended deschooling and unschooling books (below).
- Gain a better understanding of homeschooling vs unschooling vs deschooling.
- KEEP LEARNING! If you’re new to homeschooling, check out our ULTIMATE HOMESCHOOL HOW TO GUIDE!
RECOMMENDED HOMESCHOOLING BOOKS :
Homeschooling, Deschooling, and Unschooling