Deschooling and unschooling: What are they and how do we do them?

I get this question often in different forums. What is deschooling and how do I do it? Not far from that are questions about unschooling.



Deschooling

This is, simply, the process of shifting mindset away from the typical brick and mortar school setting and expectations. When parents decide to pull their kids from traditional school settings, I encourage a period wherein the parents and children can wash away the rigors of school expectations and learn one another in a calmer setting again. When kids are in school, the day feels harried. Parents get kids up in the morning, rush through breakfast and getting ready for school and work, then everyone rushes off to their activities. The evening is rushing home from work and school, having dinner (hopefully together), then bedtime. Homework fights and extracurricular activities are commonly sprinkled in for good measure. Weekends are the only time it seems kids and parents get to reconnect in a truly meaningful way. Perhaps you've constructed your home to feel differently than this harried time without much connection, but too often, this is what I see. When parents decide to take charge and move away from the expected 8-3 school day, they need to reconnect with their kids. So much of young lives surrounds school in some way. Parents and kids need the chance to connect without that hanging over them.


HOW?


PLAY. First. Just exist together and play or talk or read or take walks. Whatever feels gentle and without pressure. Let everyone discover their passions. Let everyone learn what makes them laugh and feel calm.


Then, take some museum or zoo field trips. Things that are learning adjacent but enjoyable. Make sure you ask what your kids want to experience.


These steps will help you learn what your kids need and want. Then, you begin to ease into whatever school needs to look like for you. No one else's family or routine will serve you like your own will.


Unschooling

We are eclectic and unschool adjacent. Unschooling is letting kids find their way, study their passions, and learn through life. We do a lot of this. Science and Social Studies are largely unschool in feeling. We frequent the library to find new books. We explore museums and trails and art exhibits. However, we also do math. We simply do so in a way that follows where the kids' levels naturally and without force. They are free to dig in to one topic until it is comfortable or to jump around and do things they find fun. There are no grades. We shoot for mastery. When they are proficient in a topic, we move on. Through programs like Khan academy, CK12, Prodigy, Freckle, and more, they get to follow their paths. They each do so in their own way and in their own time.


Many who follow unschooling do more freely than we do. They engage in whole-life unschooling wherein the kids lead the way in all things. Kids choose food, help cook from a young age, learn from life and their own choices. This can be an impactful way to raise kids. It encourages thoughtfulness and can result in adults who are free thinkers and adaptable. However, there must be some boundaries such as carseats, fire and knife safety, etc. Many parents who whole-life unschool discuss these dangers with their children and maintain physical safety boundaries. Rather than engaging in whole life unschool, we explain why certain choices are dangerous. Sometimes, we allow choices that may result in minor pain so the kids can better learn their own bodies and boundaries. My boundaries are not my children's and shouldn't be.


Whether you choose whole-life unschooling or some other version of homeschooling to help your children's education progress in a freer way, deschooling is paramount to that journey. And, I am here to help you navigate figuring out whether a schedule or a general routine works better for YOU. Enjoy the journey. Have fun learning.

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