Deschooling: Transitioning to Learning at Home

Published:
May 12, 2022

Sarah Shelton

Contributor:
Sarah Shelton

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Have you made the decision to pull your children out of the school system to homeschool them? This is a big change and many families find themselves needing to do some deschooling before taking the plunge into a full time homeschool schedule. Not sure what deschooling means? Read on to learn more.

Deschooling: Transitioning to Learning at Home with photo of student with books

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Deschooling After Leaving the School System

When you decide to remove your children from a traditional school setting to homeschool them, this can be a pretty drastic change. Some parents can be pretty surprised at what this does to the attitudes of their children – and even themselves! Learning how to homeschool is one thing, leaving the traditional classroom setting behind is another. 

Getting to Know Your Kids as Their Teacher

There are many things that you may notice about your children that will need some attention. There may be some difficulty getting up in the morning. They may not do a good job listening to you telling them what to do when it comes to school work. You may even hear them say you are not their teacher!

New School Routines

Your kids’ lives and routines have changed completely. There is no staying up late to lay out clothes and pack lunches. No rushing around in the morning to get out the door. No more homework or sitting in a classroom for hours in a day. The setting has changed, and it will take some getting used to. 

Learning the New Normal

The change from formal learning in the school system, whether it be public or private school, is completely different than that of a home education. This can be quite challenging and stressful to children while they figure out the new normal during this period of time.

Deschooling

Children and even parents thrive on a routine. When that routine is disrupted and changed there can be a pretty big adjustment period for everyone. Deschooling is the period of adjustment after you take your children out of school to homeschool them.

What is Deschooling?

Deschooling is a term that was first invented by philosopher Ivan Illich. In the 70’s he wrote a book called Deschooling Society that criticized the school system as thinking that it can be the only institution of learning through teaching. His thought process was that children should not be forced to learn. Learning does not have to be taught, it just exists.

Learning Doesn’t Just Happen in a Classroom

Illich believed that learning can happen anywhere, and not just in a classroom. Most learning takes place casually, and much of it outside of a school and classroom setting. This sounds a lot like homeschooling, doesn’t it?

Deschooling for Homeschoolers

The word deschooling has been adopted by homeschoolers. Deschooling specifically refers to the transition period that kids and parents go through when they leave an institution of schooling to learn at home.

Deschooling gives your children the ability to actually decompress from a formal education system to embrace a new way of learning.

Many new homeschoolers embrace this period and encourage it as a necessary adjustment period. It can be used for children to gently adapt to a completely new and different type of learning environment and is especially helpful for parents as well.

How long should you Deschool?

A general rule of thumb is that there should be one month of deschooling for every year your child has been in school. Some families find one to three months to be sufficient. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t that much time if you consider just how different a traditional school setting is compared to home.

Easing into Homeschooling

Any type of deschooling period will help your children to adjust on their own time. New homeschooling parents will also really appreciate easing into school gently. It will give your family time to adjust to being around one another 24-7.

Deschooling also gives everyone time to work on any behavior issues or attitudes that may have been picked up from peers at school.

If your child is really struggling with a new routine and schedule, you may want to give them some extra time. They may be worried they are not doing enough, because homeschooling each day does not take up as much as a full school day.

How do I start deschooling?

The deschooling process is a mindset. This is a time to ease into homeschooling and adjust to a non-classroom type of learning. The first step to deschooling is to figure out when you are pulling your children out of school. Then you’ll want to officially start your school year at home. A good time to begin deschooling is over summer break.

Here are a few things to help the deschooling process along:

  • Introduce your new curriculum and slow work slowly. Let your kids help pick what they would like to learn about.
  • Offer plenty of unstructured play time. Allow students to foster their own creativity without being told what they need to do next.
  • Give your children plenty of books and educational games and toys. Leave them around the house and encourage your children to choose what they want to do next.
  • Spend plenty of time together as a family. Create a family movie time. Cook together. Eat plenty of meals together and foster those relationships.
  • Join a homeschool group, and meet other homeschool families for your children to connect with.
  • It’s okay to stay in your pajamas! Maybe you want your kids to get dressed most of the time, but do a jammies day every now and then!

Homeschooled 1st grader reading in pajamas

How to Adjust to Learning at Home

When you begin to homeschool you will need to break out of the school mindset and schedule of a regular school day. You do not need to do each subject 5 days a week. You also do not need to school for 6-8 hours a day and will find that is completely unnecessary. There are lots of different ways to adjust to learning at home and to ease into it.

  • Start by slowly introducing subjects. Start with Math and Language Arts, then add History, Science and so on…
  • Have your children help you pick what they want to learn next. They can choose the time periods for history and themes for Science.
  • Take breaks outside of the house. Take frequent trips to the library or the park.
  • Join a homeschool group for fellowship and put that on your weekly schedule.
  • Have family meetings and discuss anything that you would like to add or take away.

Homeschool is Not the Classroom

One of the biggest mistakes that new homeschooling parents make is that they try to replicate a classroom in their homeschool. A school environment is completely different than a home environment. There are more distractions at home. Many natural things happen at home to interrupt a school day. 

You can create a dedicated homeschool space your kids will love and it it doesn’t need to be an entire room! We’ve got some great DIY homeschool room ideas with pictures to inspire you. 

How to create a homeschool learning space your kids will love

Natural Distractions

Learn to embrace the distractions such as: siblings, chores, animals, hungry children wanting to eat all of the time, snacks and more snacks. These are natural things that you can incorporate into your homeschool. 

You will soon see that real learning can happen at anytime and anywhere. If you are having a rough day and the kids are fighting, take them outside or go on a nature walk. Bring a blanket, some snacks and school books outside. You will see the attitudes of everyone, including yourself, change.

You do not need to sit your children at a desk all day and give them a rigid schedule. Soon you will see that because there is more one-on-one instruction, kids can complete all of their work in just a few hours!

Homeschooled teens hanging out outside doing schoolwork

Finding Your Groove

It may take a while to find what works for your family. Not everything will go like you had planned. Do not worry about needing to change things up. Feel free to get rid of curriculum that isn’t working. Don’t hesitate to shorten your school day or school week if you need to.

Homeschool Schedule

You may find that your children do better in blocks of time with a big break in between, vs. a set schedule with times to follow. You can use a homeschool schedule template to get it on paper. Just remember that you can erase it and re-do it!

Frequent Breaks Are Okay

Some kids do better with concentrating on their school work after being able to have some outside time first. Nature study can be a great educational break. Do not be afraid to mix things up and experiment with what works best for your family and what they enjoy the most.

You will have lots of time to get serious about schooling when it gets to that point later on. Let your children be kids and let them enjoy learning at home.

Ease Into Your New Schedule

Remember that your home is not a classroom and that you don’t need to adhere to a very strict, minute by minute schedule. You can start slowly with introducing a new subject a week, or doing a 4 day school week. You can add new things each week to ease into your new schedule, instead of trying to do everything all at once.

Many homeschoolers do well with a morning schedule time block, then move on to a more relaxed afternoon. Homeschool families love incorporating a morning basket time. Afternoons are great times to let your children explore their interests and to do art or craft or creating.

Allow Older Kids to Create Their Own Schedule

As your kids get older you can even let them create a schedule that works best for them. Kids love taking ownership of their education. Older students are able to keep track of what they are doing in a homeschool planner. This is also a great life skill that will help them when they begin working and attending college.

Schedule in Field Trips and Outings

One thing your children may miss from the school experience is fun field trips and seeing their friends. Do not forget to make this a part of your yearly homeschool planning. 

Homeschool Field Trips

One of our favorite things about homeschooling are the homeschool field trips. There are so many amazing places our family has been able to go to that would normally cost us a lot of money. Group discounts can be half-off and sometimes even just a few dollars per person!

Check out local zoos, marine centers and nature centers. Many of them have set homeschooling days with discounted rates on admission and food, as well as extra educational activities. Discounted field trips are one of the many benefits of homeschooling!

Don’t forget to include weekly park days or homeschool group days. It is a nice break to get out of the house and something for you and your children to look forward to each week. 

Homeschool Family Field Trip

Make Homeschool Friends

Making new homeschool friends is a great way to get your children acclimated to homeschooling. Children may miss their school friends and seeing the same faces every single day. When you homeschool, there are many opportunities for socializing, but you do not normally see the same people every single day. This can be a big adjustment. 

Homeschool Support Groups

Getting involved in a local homeschool support group or fellowship group is a great start. Many groups meet weekly for park days, holiday parties and monthly field trips. Try to stay consistent with this. Then you and your children will look forward to seeing the same friendly faces week after week. 

Academic Co-Ops

Many families choose to join an academic co-op where subjects are taught together. There is less room for talking and playing at these co-ops, but there is always lunch break or park time afterwards.

Before you know it, your children will be growing up together, and even graduating together! My adult son still has friends now that he had from our homeschool group when he was in the elementary grades. Fellowship and friendships are important, so make sure to seek these out whenever you can.

Trips to the Library

So many educational needs can be met by taking trips to the library. Libraries have some great daytime programs that you can take your children to. There are educational activities, story times, craft days, and art and hands-on activities to explore. Many libraries have puzzles, games, and even interactive play areas for younger children to relax and explore in.

If you have older children, make sure you bring them to the library with you. They can research and check out books while your little ones attend a story time or puppet show. My teens really enjoy the quiet study rooms. They will bring their school work and do some school in there. It is a nice break from being at home.

You can also save so much money by checking out books to use in your homeschool. Your children can use the library for non-computer research and to pick out books on themes and things that they are excited to learn more about. This is a great way to encourage your children to learn and explore 

Try New Things

Kids have a natural curiosity for learning, which is a great thing to encourage in homeschooling. Don’t be afraid to let them try new things. Is your child showing an interest in gardening or butterflies? Maybe they will want to create a pollinator garden to attract butterflies to your yard.

You can encourage this by visiting a local nursery and researching the plants you will need to plant.

Do your kids love LEGOs? There is so much learning that can be done with LEGOs and you can incorporate it into many of your homeschool subjects. Maybe they will enjoy building so much that they will then want to get into STEM and robotics! 

The more things you try, the more excited your children will be to learn and try more. It becomes a cycle, and is quite fun to watch unfold!

Watch Educational Shows and Movies

There are so many educational movies and shows that you can incorporate into your homeschool. This is a great way to deschool your kids! Your kids will be so excited to get to watch tv for school. They won’t even realize how much they are learning.

When you do your homeschool planning, make sure to plan in some fun movies and documentaries or tv series that go along with what you are studying. There are some amazing nature and animal shows that my kids could watch for hours. There are family history movies, war movies for kids, math movies for kids, and lots of educational movies for kids that will serve you well on days that you just want to take it easy. 

Even video games can be educational and a nice break from time to time. Many families use Minecraft in their homeschool for learning and some educational free time.

Mom and kids watching an educational show

Practice Life Skills

One of our favorite benefits of homeschooling is the free time we have to explore life skills. Your kids are with you all day and wanting to eat. Encourage them to jump in the kitchen with you and teach them how to cook. Before you know it, they will be up wanting to help make breakfast.

My kids make their own lunches each day. The teens help us meal plan and come up with grocery lists. These are all great ways to prepare them for the future.

Incorporate Handicrafts

You can include sewing, handicrafts, wood working, gardening, car maintenance, animal husbandry and more. Did you know you can even take all of these life skills and create a class out of them? Learning life skills can be very educational.

In Conclusion:

The deschooling time period may or may not take a long time and that is okay. You will have lots of time in your homeschooling journey to tweak things around to what works best for your family. Catering to the specific needs of your family is such an important thing and one of many good reasons we choose this lifestyle. 

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