Deschooling is not so much a ‘method or philosphy’ or Home Education as a precursor to Home Education, almost always used for children who have recently left a formal school environment.
It is time for the child to adjust to learning without the rigidity and formality of the school system. So for this reason is more often used by those parents who are planning to adopt a less structured approach to Home Education than those who are intending to implement a full ‘school at home’ type system.
It allows the childs natural curiosity to rise to the surface again, allows them some time with’no pressure’ to explore the world and develop some independent interests. For children who have been ‘in school’ often the thought of having to think of ‘what to do’ can be quite daunting, they are used to being ‘shepherded’ thoughout the day. Often parents panic at the start of the deschooling process because their children spend endless hours just staring at the TV or playing computer games, but it should be remembered that often these children have no real memory of the time before school when they could ‘just play’ so have, in essence, forgotten how to. So, given lots of free time they just expand on the ‘relaxation’ activities they enjoyed after a long hard day at school.
Over time this does change, although that ‘time’ can feel incredibly long and often scary. It is natural to feel at times like your child will never ‘do anything’, but rest assured that thousands of parents worldwide have been through this process and their children have come out the other side ready to embrace Home Education.
The time taken for this process is usually linked to the length of time your children were in formal school, the general rule of thumb is one month for every year of school, which explains why those children who have never been to school don’t really need any time at all.
Another factor that can alter the length of the deschooling period is the child experiences whilst in school. Some children who leave school to be Home Educated do so because it fits better with their families lifestyle or beliefs, but some children leave because of difficulties. These difficulties can include such things as clashes with teaching staff, lack of help with learning difficulties or other special needs or bullying. Children who have left school after an upsetting or traumatic time can often have very negative views of education, and so it often takes these children longer to recover and deschool.
Also, older children may need to overcome some of the negative peer pressure they could have encountered in school from children who saw learning as somehow ‘uncool’. This can make the deschooling period even more stressful for the parents of older children simply because it can feel like time is somehow ‘running out’. It is a very fixed expectation in modern society that children will achieve certain milestones at set ages, GCSE style exams at 16, advanced studies at 18 and then on to University or work straight from there. These dates though are just set by the school system, because of the need to have children in classes which progress through set work. Home Educated children have no such limits, some take exams early, some later. But the overriding thing is that each child takes them when they are ready. So don’t worry … if, for example, you removed a 13 year old child from school and they deschool for 2 years you don’t have then try cram 12 GCSE’s into one year, they can take then at 17, 18, 19 …or even never (see the Distance Learning section for more information on this).
The final point to note on deschooling is that it can provoke concerned and sometimes negative comments, especially from people who have doubts about Home Education as a whole. Some ‘naysayers’ will almost ‘expect’ a Home Educated child to sit around doing nothing all day and the deschooling period can seem to confirm their suspicions. Honestly, there are no real answers to this. You can try explaining the theory to them (or give them a link to this page), some will be reassured but there will always be those who don’t understand or are just too plain happy to have their negative views seemingly confirmed. Have faith in your ability as a parent, and in your child, for some people time is the only thing that will prove them wrong (and then even that doesn’t always work, I still get told my daughter, who is studying at University, won’t ‘get anywhere’ in life without GCSE’s).
Basically deschooling is as individual as the child …it might feel very scary, and you might encounter negative responses from family and friends, but time has shown that it is valuable and does work.