The following is a post from contributing writer Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
If you’ve been homeschooling awhile, you’ve probably heard the term “deschooling.” If you’re new to homeschooling, however, you may have no idea what it means, let alone if it’s something you should do or not.
Deschooling simply means giving your just-removed-from-traditional-schooling child time to decompress before starting formal learning in your homeschool. The idea is that all children are born with a sense of creativity and a desire to learn and that these innate desires have probably been squelched by the institutionalized school setting.
In giving children time to deschool, you are allowing them time to rediscover their own natural sense of creativity and desire to acquire knowledge.
The commonly held belief is that the longer a child has been in a formal school setting, the longer he needs to deschool before you begin formal learning at home. Many advocates recommend one month of deschooling for every year that a child has been in a formal school setting.
For a younger child, this can easily be accomplished in the summer months between the ending of public school and the beginning of homeschool in the fall. For an older child, the time proposed by deschooling advocates can make parents squirm.
Even if you don’t take a full month-per-year off from formal learning, I do think that some time off from formal learning can be good for kids transitioning from public or private school to homeschool.
So, what happens during this time of deschooling. Do you allow your child to sit around and play video games or watch TV all day?
No, you shouldn’t allow any more screen time than you normally would. The idea is for the child to begin to rediscover his natural curiosity. Some ideas for filling this deschooling time could include:
Visits to the library
If it were me, at first I would put no stipulations on the types of books your child checks out (within your family’s value system, of course). Instead, let your child rediscover his love of reading. Later, you might encourage him to branch out in his selections.
I have a friend who used to require each of her children to select one biography and one non-fiction book during each library trip. It didn’t take long before they were selecting more and more of these books by choice. My son actually prefers non-fiction to fiction books.
Encourage your child to experiment with different artistic mediums, such as:
Let your child use this time to explore his musical giftings or her flair for drama. Do you have a community theater where your child could audition for a play or volunteer to help behind-the-scenes?
Does your child have a musical instrument that he would enjoy having more time to play or one that he would enjoy learning? Again, this is a good time to let your child explore without expectation or formal lessons unless he or she has been begging to take lessons.
Use this time to visit all those places that you’ve thought about, but just haven’t had the time. Your field trips don’t have to be elaborate and formal. Just brainstorm some homeschool field trip ideas, then, have fun visiting interesting places.
Our first-ever homeschool field trip was to the downtown historic area of our own city. We visited placed we’d heard about or driven past, but had never actually seen. That trip still makes our top ten list of most memorable field trips.
Use the deschooling time to encourage your child to express herself through the written word with activities such as:
- Short stories
- Novel writing
- A family newspaper
- Comic strips or anime
Get a hands-on learner? Give your child a chance to learn by tinkering. Let him take apart that old, non-working VCR or fiddle with that TV that’s been on the fritz (taking into account appropriate safety measures). Give him supplies and let him build a clubhouse.Ask Dad to show his daughter how to change the oil or fix the leaky faucet. Build Lego creations.
Nature study is a great way to learn about the world around us in a relaxed, low-key way. You can also incorporate other creative ways of learning, exploring, and documenting, such as photography, poetry, nature journaling, and flower pressing.
Nature study might also inspire your child to learn more about the things she observes by checking out library books, researching on the Internet, or watching a documentary.
Deschooling can be a valuable tool in helping your child transition from a traditional school setting to homeschool. It can also provide much-needed time to rekindle your child’s natural inquisitiveness and creativity.
If you’re removed a child from a more formal school setting, did you take some time for deschooling? If so, did you feel that your child benefited from that time?
Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, is the classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom to three amazing kids, the Christ-following, sweet tea addicted wife to one unbelievably supportive husband, and the formerly obese, couch-potato-turned-healthy runner of a bunch of 5K races and two half-marathons.