Deschooling is the process children, and adults go through when they begin life without school. Have you just pulled your child out of school? Maybe you’ve decided never to send them in the first place. Before you can begin an authentic life without school, you will need to unpack your life long understanding of schools, learning, and parenting. Deschooling is the only way to live school free successfully. It is the process of exploring, and eventually banishing the fears and doubts that surround us, living in a school focussed society.
A child who has been attending a school will have some big adjustments when they first stop going. They are used to being shepherded from activity to activity, they’re used to being micro-managed. They may become stressed that they aren’t learning enough, and fearful that they will become “stupid” compared to their schooled peers. Deschooling children need plenty of support. Adults can only provide that if they themselves are working to deschool. If you’re not actively working to deschool, you could end up causing more stress for your child.
Schooling is a complicated aspect of our lives, which is extremely evident when you consider this: A child who has never attended school will need to deschool as well. This is because even children as young as four or five will have seen television programmes about school. Shows that emphasise how happy schools are, and how many friends there will be when they start school. Their pre-school friends will likely be enrolled before they turn five, and this is true, even for home or unschooling play groups of pre-school age children. Many parents fail to deschool themselves, so when school age comes around they enrol their kids in the nearest school.
So what does deschooling involve? Why can’t you just stop sending your kid, or never send them, to school and live happily ever after? The answer is simple. You live in a culture which has schooled you. If you attended school throughout your childhood, as most of us do, then you will have absorbed the belief system of school. Even if you didn’t enjoy it, even if you hated every single minute of it, your culture loves school. It’s on every children’s television show, the news, in the newspaper, school is ever present. And schools do schooling, whether we know it or not.
To properly deschool you need to take a look at all your beliefs around education and even childhood. If at any point in your life, you have held the following beliefs, you need to deschool actively, and be fully aware that your belief system is never bullet proof. You don’t just deschool once. Deschooling is a life long project.
- Children all deserve to learn the same things
- School teaches children to finish things
- Without school children don’t learn to do unpleasant things
- Exposing children to a little bit of everything helps them find their interests
- School is the gateway to university
- Without school kids would just sit on computers all day
- You can’t learn to read without a curriculum created by education experts
- The structure schools provide is essential for children
- Children need to go to school to socialise with other children
- It’s not good for kids to be around adults all the time
- School has opportunities that are missed with homeschooling / unschooling
- Children aren’t interested in learning
- School gives parents and children a break from each other
- Curriculums are designed by experts
- Schools prepare children for the real world
We won’t delve into the solution to all of your problems here, however there are several links at the bottom of this article that will help. The aim of this article is merely to encourage, and emphasise the importance of deschooling. Sadly for many families, these problems cause such insecurity and panic that children find themselves back in school before the journey ever got off the ground. The truth is that unschooling and homeschooling will never be an option for every family, but with proper deschooling, it’s possible for many more than currently live school free.
For a child who has spent time at school it is estimated to take six months per year, before they are effectively deschooled. Although some sources say more, and some less. For an adult who completed many years of schooling, and has lived in a western culture with the immense normalisation of schooling, deschooling is a long and complicated process. A process of ebb and flow, of relaxation and moments of guilt and fear. All parenting is like that though, isn’t it?
If you’ve decided, or even if you’re considering raising your kids without school you’ll need to think about your beliefs, and you’ll need to think about them in depth. it’s likely that friends and family, and even strangers at the shopping mall, will all have an opinion on it. In the early days it can feel like a persistent battering, and responding without floundering is essential. You can not confidently respond unless you are deschooling, and you don’t want to send the kids back to school because of other people’s fears. You don’t want to, but the reality is that it happens all the time.
A life without school can be wonderful for children and parents alike, but it doesn’t come without hard emotional and intellectual work, especially in the early days. The good news is that the longer you spend unpacking your views on standard education, the more you come to appreciate home or unschooling. It’s understandable that many people dabble about the edges of it, but are never confident enough to dive right in. The more you deschool yourself the more you will be able to support your kids through deschooling, and the more likely you are to succeed at life without school!
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