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Switching from Public School to Homeschool May Not Always Be Smooth and Easy. Explore How to Deschool Your Homeschooler Here!

What Is Deschooling?

By: Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.  

New homeschoolers may feel uncomfortable about the transition to homeschooling—particularly if their children have spent a lot of time in traditional schooling prior to the transition. They may feel they need to recreate what they know about brick-and-mortar schools within the home—complete with traditional school schedules, classroom-like setups, and typical school activities and assessments. Many homeschoolers will eventually move away from this school-at-home method of homeschooling as they unpack the full benefits of homeschooling, but that metamorphosis may take some time. Likewise, new homeschooled children must go through a process of mentally deconstructing what is known about school and reconstructing what school can be on this new journey. For both parents and children, this process is known as deschooling. Let’s explore it here!

What is Deschooling?

The Challenges of Deschooling
How to Switch from Public School
to Homeschool Gracefully

Other Deschooling Resources

*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Although most of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials. 


What is Deschooling?

As a new homeschooler, you have probably encountered many new homeschooling terms and definitions, and “deschooling” is likely one of those terms. While your first thought may be something more extreme—like undoing the schooling that has already happened—deschooling is less a look backwards and more a move forward. First coined by Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich, in his essay, “Deschooling Society,” the term “deschooling” has come to mean the transition process that parents and children undergo when switching from public school to homeschool. It involves breaking the routines, habits, and mindsets of traditional schooling to enable the full benefits of homeschooling to be realized.

One of the roles of a new homeschooler is to help the child through this process. A child switching from public school to homeschool may be used to the school calendar, rigid daily schedules and routines, classroom rules and expected behaviors, and traditional forms of instruction and assessment. As you try to move past these standard school practices in order to embrace the flexibility and customization of homeschooling, your child may initially reject your efforts. Regardless of your own opinions of what was happening in your child’s classroom, your child may have become comfortable with the structure and procedures. When you begin homeschooling, you may be inadvertently bucking a system that your child had thoroughly accepted. That transition may take some time and effort!

Deschooling is the process that supports children who are switching from private or public school to homeschool. It may take a short time, but it may stretch into months. Generally, it involves doing less formal schoolwork for a period of time to allow your child space to recalibrate and reconnect to a love of learning. At the same time, you will be reconfiguring your understanding of how your child can and does learn. While many unschoolers have adopted the term “deschooling” as a central tenet to the unschooling homeschool method, we will approach the term here as it applies to any transition from traditional schooling to homeschooling.

Check out these resources to discover the basics of what deschooling really is:

Understanding Deschooling | Outschool
“How do you help kids transition from brick-and-mortar school to homeschooling? Enter Deschooling. Here’s what it is and how to do it.

What is Deschooling? | Homeschool.com
“In short, deschooling is about learning how to learn outside the classroom. Deschooling is a process for children and parents alike when transitioning from traditional school to homeschooling. The reality is that homeschooling is very different from traditional school. It requires a period of adjustment, and it’s not necessarily easy.” How can deschooling help your homeschool? Found out here!

What, When, Why & How of Deschooling | Time4Learning
“The term ‘deschooling’ arose over time as more and more public school students began the transition to homeschool. On this page you will learn more about the process of transitioning from public school to homeschool, why students doing this need a period of time to make that transition (deschooling), and how to continue the transition to a more formal habit of homeschooling.”


The Challenges of Deschooling

For many of us, classroom learning is somewhat of a norm. Our parents may have gone to traditional school and may have raised us in a way that made traditional schooling the standard. We may have continued the cycle until something or someone prompted a move to homeschooling. As new homeschool families, we need to think about the differences between learning in a classroom and learning in a homeschool and then adjust to those changes. This may take a while, especially depending on how long your child was in traditional schooling.

There are certain challenges that accompany deschooling. First, you have to make sure that whatever you envision deschooling to be will still allow you to meet the homeschooling laws and requirements of your state. The lack of structure during this deschooling period may also be unsettling for both you and your child as you worry about the quantity and quality of your child’s learning and your child misses some of the old (i.e., teachers, friends, routines and experiences) and struggles to transition to a new educational lifestyle. Relax! There are ways to make this transition easier for both of you!


What Is Deschooling?


How to Switch from Public School to Homeschool Gracefully

Offering your child a period of time to transition to homeschooling may have many benefits. Although some homeschool families may view deschooling as a kind of school break altogether, there are things you can do to keep learning going while making this transition. Here are some ideas:

  • Start by adding activities that are familiar and that your child can do easily. For example, begin reading books by authors and about topics that your child enjoys. Don’t jump right into book reports!
  • Teach household skills like preparing meals, doing laundry, or using simple tools.
  • Ask if your child is interested in taking a class in something (e.g., photography or coding), joining a club or sports team, starting a new hobby, or signing up for lessons (e.g., dance or martial arts).
  • Find a homeschool support group where you can connect with other families, get motivated by their stories, make friends, and get a little advice.
  • Visit the library and get to know the librarians. A lot of learning can happen by just being in the library and exploring the shelves, reading a book here and there, or participating in library programs.
  • Keep active by learning a new sport or exploring the outdoors together (and learning a few things along the way).
  • Plan some educational field trips that allow your child to be learning while enjoying a day out on the town.
  • Spend time playing educational games (see our gameschooling resources), doing arts and crafts, and watching documentaries or musicals.
  • Eventually add some engaging lessons in subject areas that are aligned with your homeschool plan. Try choosing a curriculum that has the flexibility to start slowly.
  • Gradually add more structure (if your homeschool plan includes more structure), additional curriculum or learning materials, and other features as you morph from deschooling to homeschooling.

Looking for more ideas? Here are some thoughts on deschooling from homeschoolers themselves:

DE-schooling | Rocky Mountain Education Connection
“Picture this scenario. You are considering homeschooling your child. You have read and researched everything in print available on the subject. You feel that you are more than ready to take that first step in homeschooling. At precisely that moment, you are introduced to the term ‘deschooling.’ And you are back at the beginning of your research.”

Deschooling Homeschool: Critical in Transition to Homeschooling | Homeschool Super Freak
“Understanding how long it takes and why the deschool process has major, necessary benefits in helping a child decompress and successfully prepare for switching to home school and formal school work. Get tips for de-schooling, learn how to start homeschooling with deschooling, the difference between deschooling vs. unschooling, and more!”

Deschooling Your Family | Fearless Homeschool
Learn “what it is, why it’s essential, and how you can start deschooling today.”

From School to Homeschool: What is Deschooling? | The Homeschool Mom
Deschooling is the adjustment period a child goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling. To really get the benefits of homeschooling, a child has to decompress and disconnect from ‘school’ being the default and ‘school ways’ being the standard expectation.”

Parental Deschooling: Finding Your Non-School Normal | The Homeschool Mom
“Most parents who are choosing to homeschool their children today attended school themselves. We have also lived for many years in a world where the public school model of education is predominant. School is the status quo.”

What Exactly is Deschooling… And Do I Need to To Do It? | Raising Lifelong Learners
“We’re accidental homeschoolers, forged in the fires of failed public school attempts, and absolutely thriving now. It’s taken time and trials to get us into the rhythm we have now – lots of time and lots of trials. Over the years we’ve been able to fine-tune each kiddo’s education for their specific needs in a way the schools were just unable to. We are in the homeschooling zone. First, though, we had to deschool.”


Other Deschooling Resources

You may want to know even more about deschooling before making it a part of your transition from private or public school to homeschool. Below are just a few more resources that you may want to explore:

Deschooling: A Comforting Directory Page | Sandra Dodd
Check out this compilation of quotes, links, and other resources about deschooling from an unschooling perspective. “Don’t read it all at once. This is an ever-growing collection, but reading doesn’t do it. Read a little; try a little; wait a while; watch.”

Deschooling Gently $
By Tammy Takahashi (Author)
“Discover the best way to educate your children at home, not through rote process, but by learning how to find the answer within yourself. This plan will provide confidence to trust your own educational decisions, a clear understanding of your children’s needs and how to meet them, the ability to make calm and wise decisions about your children’s education, a solid footing for starting the homeschool journey, and most importantly – concrete ideas on what to do now to make your transition to homeschooling smooth and painless.”

Deschooling Society $
By Ivan Illich (Author)
“Schools have failed our individual needs, supporting false and misleading notions of ‘progress’ and development fostered by the belief that ever-increasing production, consumption and profit are proper yardsticks for measuring the quality of human life. Our universities have become recruiting centers for the personnel of the consumer society, certifying citizens for service, while at the same time disposing of those judged unfit for the competitive rat race. In this bold and provocative book, Illich suggests some radical and exciting reforms for the education system.”

The Essential Guide to Deschooling $
By Bonnie Loveday (Author), Sarah Ly (Editor)
“For parents ready to take the leap into educating their children at home, “The Essential Guide to Deschooling” provides critical insight into successfully navigating this vital transition. This article will describe what deschooling is and how it can best be applied within your unique family. Practical insights will resource the parent with tools to make a smooth transition into home learning. Intentional deschooling is the path to an excellent homeschooling or unschooling experience. Are you ready to explore your family’s potential?”

Everywhere All the Time: A New Deschooling Reader $
By Matt Hern (Editor)
Everywhere All the Time presents an array of historical and contemporary alternatives to traditional schooling […]. Major themes in this book include: children’s self-directed learning, encouraging community-building and participation from parents in the learning process, critical thinking for active engagement and democratic self-governance, and alleviating the negative psychological effects of traditional schooling methods. It also includes the voices and artwork of alternatively schooled children themselves.”

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Have your own thoughts and advice about deschooling? Please share your experiences with our new homeschoolers in the comments below….


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