So you’ve just decided to homeschool and now you have that panicky feeling “What do we do next?!?”. Don’t worry, many of us have been there. In fact, a lot of people suddenly find themselves homeschooling and they’re not entirely sure where to start. The good news is, especially if you have a child that was in a traditional school setting, the first step is to relax.
What is Deschooling?
School in a traditional setting is different than school at home, or it can be. Some people choose to emulate traditional school at home (and that’s awesome if that’s what they want and what works for them). However, most people who choose to homeschool do it to get away from the traditional school setting. Jumping from one rigorous setting to another is bound to create resistance and trouble.
Deschooling is the process of taking a break from school. This will look different for every family as every family has different needs. For us it involved setting up a regular routine at home that involved enough down time for them to explore what was interesting to them. Honestly, for a few weeks they didn’t even want to explore their interests. They wanted freedom and relaxation – kind of like the first few weeks after summer break begins. So we spent a lot of time going to the park, riding bikes, visiting fun museums, and playing with friends.
Deschooling is as much for them as it is for you, the parent or homeschool ‘teacher’. There is a school mindset that develops at public schools or any school setting outside the house, which will now all be under the umbrella of public school for simplicity sake).
Don’t They Need to Learn?
This is the biggest argument I hear against taking a break to deschool. Yes, they need to learn. However, there are a few good reasons that you can allow a break.
First, they are learning. Maybe not specifically grammar lessons or math, but they are learning. Kids, when left to their own devices, will learn. They will learn social etiquette when playing friends, engineering when playing with bricks or LEGO, anything when watching a good TV show or reading a book. There are learning opportunities everywhere and I guarantee they are picking something up.
Second, time moves differently for homeschoolers. No, we’re not time travelers (working on that, but not quite) but just given the student-to-teacher ratio, there is more time in the day for homeschoolers than kids who school out of the home. After talking with a lot of homeschool parents, I’d guess the average homeschool day is 4 hours. In the event a child did get behind, they have plenty of time on an average day to catch up. We give incentives to our kids to get ahead, but more on that another time.
Baloo has developed a strong interest in trains (Who am I kidding? He’s loved trains since the first time he laid eyes on Thomas). When we visited the Museum of Science in Boston over the summer he read every little bit he could on trains. Train engines, train exteriors, the history of trains. If I ever wondered if he was learning, I didn’t have to after that. He repeated, nearly word for word, much of the information he gleaned that day.
Provide a Learning Atmosphere
Instead of worrying about curricula and schedule and all that, first focus on creating an atmosphere that is conducive to learning. Leave books in accessible areas. Visit the library. Sign up for some free websites (like Khan Academy and Mystery Science). Find free events in the area that would be of interest.
The library is my gold mine. They don’t like the library, really. But we go at least once a week. On the ride home though, they’re all silent just reading. Even Logi-Bear, who cannot yet read, is engrossed in a book. This often spills over once we get home and I find them curled up in a corner somewhere with a book. The best is when they find something interesting and just have to share it with their brothers.
The steps of deschooling:
- Provide learning atmosphere
- Take your time getting ready for a school routine
- Start school
- Adjust curricula and routine as necessary
How long should we deschool?
That’s so entirely dependent on many variables that I cannot begin to give that advice. But, I’ll try. If you are not leaving school on negative terms, the child is enthusiastic and ready, and you don’t feel stressed, take less time. A few weeks, maybe.
If you’re leaving school negatively, the child is stressed or burned out, or you are stressed and burned out, take longer. A few months is still perfectly fine and healthy. Make sure both you AND your child are ready before starting.
Some people say take a month off for every year the child was in school. This will work for some and not for others.
Do what feels right for you.
Don’t miss other great Homeschooling-related 5 days series going on during the Hopeschool Blog Hop!