What is deschooling? If you are considering home education or have recently started home educating, you may have found that there is a fair amount of jargon surrounding home education. ‘LA’, ‘EHCP’, ‘SAO’ and ‘Unschooling’ are all terms that you may hear a lot, to name just a few.
‘Deschooling’ is another of these terms and it can be confusing to clarify exactly what this is and how you go about the process. In this article I’ll explain exactly what it is and provide some tips on how to go about it.
It is important to note firstly that the term ‘deschooling’ should never be used in dialogue with the LA (Local Authority or council). Local Authorities will perceive this term to mean ‘education not taking place’, which is a misunderstanding that you absolutely do not want to have in your lap. (If you need help with your Local Authority, read this post ‘Do Councils Check On Home Educators?’)
Of course, deschooling doesn’t mean this at all- it is in fact a very important process that families go through together.
What Is Deschooling?
Deschooling is the process by which parents and children learn to live life without school, and without the rules, restrictions and expectations that are present in society because of school’s existence. When you home educate you are no longer playing by school rules, but it can be tricky to un-learn what we have been told about the importance of school and schoolwork for our whole lives.
(One of the trickiest bits, which I’ve written a separate post on, is being honest with ourselves about how our childhood affected us). We need time to discover that these ‘rules’ are actually ideas; ideas that we don’t have to subscribe to when we home educate.
For example, one rule that the school system has created is the idea that children need to follow the National Curriculum in order to be ‘educated’. It only takes a couple of minutes to realise that this of course must not be true; the vast majority of the most intelligent people in the world did not follow the UK’s National Curriculum (which has only been around since the 1980s).
A few more minutes’ consideration might reveal that the National Curriculum teaches a lot of things that are absolutely irrelevant to real life. 6 year olds are being taught to memorise definitions of graphemes and phonemes – it is likely that if you are an adult you were not taught this, and I’m willing to bet that it hasn’t caused you harm yet (other than perhaps, ironically, helping your 6 year old with their schoolwork).
Learning about the different kinds of rocks, or very specifically selected parts of/ people from history, or the angles in a triangle, can’t possibly be useful for everyone- so why is every child forced to learn these things? The answer is so that the government has a way of testing children in a standardised way, because the system needs it to be convenient and quantifiable.
The fact that this kind of test measures a horribly specific kind of intelligence (memorisation and articulation of decontextualised data, primarily) is unfortunately irrelevant.
Deschooling asks these questions:
- Is this necessary?
- Why are we learning it?
- Who are we learning it for?
- Is it enjoyable, and if so why not?
- What is relevant to my child?
- Is the way we are learning it the best way, or is it the way we have been told to learn things?
- What is going to help my child develop into the person they want to be?
Asking these questions will help you avoid replicating school at home, and instead lead you on a path to create a wonderfully tailored education for your home educated children. You may like to read about a day in our unschooling life, where my children learned lots without any schoolwork at all!
Deschooling tends to expand into other areas of life, not just academia and education. When you home educate you have fewer physical restrictions (getting up early for the school run, for example) so many families find that they can relax rules that they previously had about bedtimes or when certain things need to happen, for example.
Part of the joy of deregistering your child (or indeed home educating them from the start) is that they are less likely to experience significant stress from bullying, exam pressure or other school-related issues. This may be a relief especially if your child has experienced school trauma.
This means that (in my experience, meeting countless home educated children over the past 11 years) kids will be more relaxed and happy than when they attend school- and if they are struggling with something, their environment and lifestyle can be adapted to suit them more quickly than if they were in school.
This contributes to a more peaceful household and many home educating families find that they can even relax rules about chores, food, screen time or other things that may sometimes cause friction within the home. This may sound out-there but I can honestly say that I’ve never enforced rules with my kids, and they still help with chores, put screens down to pick other activities, and eat vegetables voluntarily (most of the time!) If this sounds like something you’d like to know more about, see my posts on why we don’t limit screen time, how I parent without punishment and what is unschooling?
How To Deschool
Particularly if your child has had a tough time at school, a good option may be to avoid anything that looks like schoolwork. Children may refuse to do any reading or writing; this is a completely normal and valid response to being forced to do it at school.
The more you force it, the more that this will cement the idea that reading and writing is something to be dreaded, so taking a period of time where you act as if it is the summer holidays can be really beneficial. Take day trips, watch movies together, bake and cook, do some DIY, go on holiday if you can, get outside or in the garden, do arts and crafts, Lego, puzzles and board games.
These are all brilliant enjoyable ways of learning and will help your child relax into their new home education life. A great question that I find helpful when planning an activity for my family is “Is this enjoyable?” rather than “Is this educational?” We learn so much better when we are happy and relaxed, so try to make having a nice time the goal, and the learning will naturally happen.
You may have ‘wobbles’ while deschooling and this is completely normal- after all, when we are told something for decades, it will take a while to change our thought process. Speaking to other experienced home educators, especially those who choose a relaxed home education approach such as unschooling or similar, may help to boost your confidence in what you are doing.
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