Deschooling definition: planned period of adjustment a child needs when transitioning from public school to homeschool. Understanding how long it takes and why the deschool process has major, necessary benefits in helping a child decompress and successfully prepare for switching to home school and formal school work. Get tips for de-schooling, learn how to start homeschooling with deschooling, the difference between deschooling vs. unschooling and more!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DESCHOOLING
Switching From Public School To Homeschooling
Did you know that deschooling is one of the biggest factors in helping kids adjust to homeschool?
Have you ever heard of de schooling and wondered “What is deschooling anyway?”
Chances are, if you’re pulling child out of school to homeschool or if you’re new to homeschooling, you may not have heard about deschooling.
What is deschooling education?
The deschool process is an important part of the beginning homeschooling journey and a way to fully benefit from school at home. Deschooling happens as a transition between stopping school and beginning homeschool. De school allows your child to decompress from the influence of the formal education system and prepares your family for a fresh outlook on learning at home by giving them time off during a relaxed schedule at home.
(There is a difference between unschooling and deschooling! We’ll cover that in later sections and get into more about the de-school process. Don’t worry if it seems confusing at this point!)
Benefits of Deschooling
Advantages of deschooling:
- Allows your child’s brain, body, and attitude to “reset”
- Helps your kid “unlearn” bad habits
- Allows time to observe your child’s learning style (an important part in homeschooling success!)
- Gives parents time to make informed decisions on homeschool resources, methods, and home school curriculum choices without wasting money
- Helps families let go of seeing private/public school culture as the norm
- Helps motivate your child to learn things they are interested in learning
- Improves child’s self-confidence and decision making skills
- Allows parents to reconnect with kids
- Helps parents better understand their child’s interests
- Decreases power struggles with children and resistance to homeschooling
- Provides a fresh start to home school
- Helps lay the foundation for successful homeschooling schedules
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.)
It’s one of the best homeschool tips for beginners!
So, what is the deschooling meaning?
Here’s a quick deschool definition and overview (we’ll get into more detail after this):
PART 1: HOMESCHOOLING AFTER SCHOOL — AN INTRODUCTION TO DESCHOOLING IN HOMESCHOOL
What is deschooling in education?
Deschooling is a decompression period. To get the full benefits of homeschool, you and your child need to leave behind a formal schooling environment or any rough days with lasting effects. You do this through the deschool process where the kids are free to relax and “unlearn” old habits. The deschool process of homeschooling is based on the book Deschooling Society and the beliefs of Ivan Illich (and supported by John Holt).
What does deschooling mean?
Deschool means that you allow your kids (and yourself — yes even parents dechool!) a decompression period transitioning from public school to homeschool. Deschooling is not the same as unschooling and it is not a replacement for traditional homeschool. It is a temporary transition period that allows brain and body to reboot before starting a new way of learning by allowing kids to first relax before starting home school!
You can define deschooling this way: Deschool allows time to leave the traditional school mindset behind and be open to a completely new way of learning. It is especially helpful when going from public school to homeschool.
Deschooling is NOT how to get out of homeschool! It is a way to ease your way into home school and try out homeschool after school or leaving public school to homeschool.
Is deschooling necessary?
Deschooling is not required (it is not one of the rules for homeschooling), but it is a necessary step in order to help you and your child transition from a traditional school environment to a more relaxed homeschool environment. Deschooling is one of the most beneficial things you can add homeschool journey.
I WISH I had known about this period of education before I started!
(By the way, it’s never too late to stop what you’re doing and deschool for a while if you need a reboot!)
IF YOU NEED FUN IDEAS ON HOW TO HOMESCHOOL AND TIPS FOR DESCHOOLING, DON’T MISS A COMPLETE LIST IN PART 3.
In This How To Get Started Homeschooling At Home Post We’ll Cover:
- Deschooling definition and meaning
- Homeschool and Public School: the public school to homeschool transition
- About the “home schooling rules”
- How to change from public school to homeschool and 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!
Need helping deciding public vs homeschooling?
ALSO CHECK OUT
Starting Homeschool: The De Schooling Choice
If you’re wondering, How do you transition from public to homeschool? one of the first things you need to do is deschool. The deschool process will help let go of that public school (or private school) mindset and prepare your family for a life of learning at home — which can look very, very different from what you know in a traditional school sense.
How do you transition from public to homeschool?
How to switch from public school to homeschool:
- Research your home school state laws and understand the requirements.
- Discuss homeschooling with your child and family.
- Follow the process for un-enrolling your child from their current school.
- Allow a period of deschooling (and don’t rush it!).
- Observe how your child plays and learns during the deschool period.
- Take note of the children’s natural clock. (Are they early birds? Do they like to sleep late and become more productive in the afternoon?) This will be your sweet spot for homeschooling!
- Don’t try to make homeschool look like traditional school.
- Understand that there are many ways and methods to school at home and your way will be completely unique to your family.
- Start with a unit study before choosing a homeschool curriculum (if you choose a curriculum at all!).
- Start slowly, be flexible, and allow change!
If you want more information, our guide will really help you with the transition to homeschool so you don’t miss any important first steps! (YIKES!)
GET THE GUIDE:
10-STEP GUIDE ON HOW TO GET STARTED HOMESCHOOLING TODAY
You’ll get immediate access to our 25-page JUMPSTART GUIDE digital download on what you need to do today to homeschool, including worksheets, checklists and calendar printables to start scheduling!
A common question that people have is: But, if you deschool, won’t you be behind in school?
How to catch up in school homeschool
You may be worried about 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 (and, in some cases, may even be ahead once the stressors of a formal school environment have melted away).
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 (if that is required by your state).
However, many people find that their kids are not behind, even after deschooling!
Is Deschooling for Your Family?
If your child has been in the traditional school setting in any way for any amount of time, then you need to deschool in order to prepare your new homeschooler for a new way of learning.
►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.
PART 2: UNDERSTANDING THE DESCHOOL PROCESS
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 as the homeschool parent will need this time to “unlearn,” too! But, more on that in a bit.)
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!)
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 from traditional school.
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 some daily rules in place for each child to meet.
- 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 learning rules or goals in place during deschooling, but if you’re someone who feels uncomfortable with an unscheduled life, then this kind of structure in the examples may be helpful during this transition.
There is good news though: 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.
If you can get past that uncomfortable feeling of not having school learning in place, give the relaxed schedule a change. It’s worth it!
OK, now let’s get into more detail and help on how to get started with the de schol process (and even why parents need it, too!) and give you some fun home education ideas for this transition period.
We’re breaking down the real truth about deschooling and its importance when getting ready to start homeschooling.
Deschooling for Parents: Why Parents Need To Deschool, 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 set a (super rigid) daily schedule.
- I got a school desk.
- And, I planned specific things to happen at specific times, by 15 minute increments.
- I color coded a learning binder and schedule.
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?)
This step is so beneficial when you start homeschooling and is such a beautiful part of the process!
How long should you deschool?
You may be wondering how long does it take to start homeschooling after the deschooling process and when to stop deschooling. A loose general guideline is to deschool one month for every year that your child was in public school or private school. So, if your kid was in school for 3 years, you would deschool for 3 months.
The great thing about deschooling is it’s flexible!
The amount of time you should deschool is up to you!
There is no set time that is perfect for when to stop deschooling. Just make sure that you de-school for more than a couple of weeks. You need a significant decompression period for this to work.
So, when to start homeschool is when your kids have had enough time to relax from public school or private school.
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. (or, 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!)
Tips for Homeschooling: 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 total hours of instructions.
PART 3: 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 de schooling period!
ALSO CHECK OUT:
WHAT TO DO WHILE DESCHOOLING?
Homeschooling Transition: Example of Deschooling
Is your brain in deschooling overload right now? (I know mine was when I first learned about de schooling!)
That’s because many of us have been trained to think about education one particular way, so unlearning that way does not compute sometimes (at least at first).
It may take a bit of personal experience before it really clicks.
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, give you some best tips for homeschool / 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 plays a video game online with friends — 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.
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!
Deschooling Activities and Ideas
Tips for Student Activities During Deschooling Period
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 and you can become successful de schooling parents!
HOW TO DESCHOOL: 7 FUN & EASY WAYS
Activities and ideas for how to transition from public school to homeschool can actually be really fun and freeing!
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 check out our must-have items for hiking!).
- Learn more about nature journaling.
- Create cool backyard learning spaces.
- 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.
►CHECK OUT: Unique Ways Kids Can Help Community From Home
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.
Stop 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!
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 good understanding of deschooling that probably fulfilled your curiosity about this homeschooling topic and will get your started.
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, cover how deschooling started, and the difference between deschooling vs unschooling,.
PART 4: IVAN ILLICH AND HOW DESCHOOLING STARTED
The Deschooling Book and How It Started
Deschooling Sociology Definition | 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).
The deschool 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.
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 currently 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.
Deschooling vs Unschooling
What is unschooling?
One last thing I want to cover is deschooling versus unschooling because some people use these terms interchangeably (even homeschool blogs and education websites!). They are not the same thing.
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.
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.
Transitioning from Deschooling to Homeschooling
Starting Homeschool: Where Do I Go From Here?
Now that you have all this information, what should you do with it?
After deschooling what next?
- Learn how to start homeschooling today.
- 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!
- Read when did homeschooling begin.
- Check out some of the recommended deschooling and unschooling books (below).