How to Deschool YOURSELF Before Homeschooling Your Kids

By Shelly Sangrey of There’s No Place Like Home

Are you thinking of homeschooling? Chances are since you’re here reading this post, your answer is YES.

I’m going to be upfront with you. Making this decision is likely to feel overwhelming at times. I mean, let’s face it…educating your children is a huge responsibility, but fear not! I’m going to share with you the one thing that may help you pull through this while keeping your sanity intact.

Deschooling.

Not sure what that is? Put simply; deschooling is living life for an extended period of time as if school didn’t exist with the sole purpose of detoxing from preconceived notions of what education has to look like.

Now, when most people hear the term “deschooling,” they immediately associate it with something that children who spent time in school should do before settling into the homeschooling lifestyle, which is true.

However, that’s not the type of deschooling I’m referring to.

What I am referring to is why you, dear homeschool mama, need to deschool YOURSELF.

The fact is, we adults have generally spent far more time in the traditional school institution than our children, so it should go without saying that we need just as much – if not more – time to break free of the “school is the only way to learn” paradigm.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. In our determination to support our kids in this brand new endeavor, we forget that deschooling will never truly happen without a parent who has learned to let go of what society typically deems a “proper” education.

Today I’m going to share with you how to do that.

How to Deschool Yourself before Homeschooling your kids

This post may contain affiliate links, you can find my disclosure policy here.

5 Steps to Deschooling Yourself Before Homeschooling Your Kids

1. Don’t Look at that Curriculum Website

I know, I know. Shopping for curriculum is fun.

As fun as it may be, however, this is one of the last things you need to do at this time. After all, how will you break free of your compulsory school mindset if you keep looking at things that remind you of it?

Take a deep breath, and let. it. go.

2. Put the Planner Away

Now is not the time to start planning your homeschool year. You need to allow yourself time to see the many ways organic learning can happen. Jumping into planning mode too soon will almost guarantee a re-creation of public school at home. While that may be your homeschool method of choice when all is said and done, that decision shouldn’t be made until after you’ve seen the benefits of what natural learning looks like.

3. Time to Read, Read, Read

The deschooling period is the perfect time to do your research on homeschooling, education, and, most importantly, how children best learn.

Of all the books I’ve read on these topics, the best authors to seek out during this time are John Holt and John Taylor Gatto.

The late John Holt was a former teacher who eventually became known as “the father of unschooling,” (which was the original term for homeschooling). He spent an extended period of his life simply observing children in their homes, at school, and out in the community and wrote numerous books describing the value and effectiveness of letting kids learn from life.

John Taylor Gatto is also a former teacher who now specializes in educating people on the rather dark history of compulsory schooling and why, therefore, its methods should not be replicated for an optimal educational environment.

Live as if School Doesn't Exist
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

4. Live Life as if School Doesn’t Exist

This can be the hardest part of the deschooling process because homeschooling parents are very conscientious of the fact that they are responsible for their children’s education.

I get it.

But living every day trying to identify which subjects are being covered while your child is playing, reading, or interacting will not be fruitful.

Forget school. Forget subjects. Push your past experiences with school out of your mind and live as if every single day were Saturday.

Take the time to enjoy your children. Be with them. Observe them. Find out what makes them tick and what sends them running in the other direction.

But please, please, do not try to conform their activities to fit within school subjects. That time will come, but not until this process is over.

Join me in my Homeschool Mindset Facebook Group.

5. Take as Long as You Need

As a rule of thumb, most homeschool veterans recommend spending one-month deschooling for every year your child was in school.

While that may seem like a REALLY long time to not be doing structured learning, keep in mind that learning happens every day, whether you’re intentional about it or not.

Just as with everything else related to homeschooling, the length of time spent deschooling will vary with each family. Some families need more time. Some less. The key is to relax and not rush the process.

And remember. Many homeschooling families adopt this philosophy permanently and continue to learn using only life as a curriculum.

As a new homeschooler, beginning the deschooling process can be scary because it involves abandoning the traditional school model and developing a trust for what children do naturally on their own.

Once you’ve experienced the benefits and learn to embrace a more holistic educational environment, however, you will never look at “school” the same way again.

I guarantee it.


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About Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling mom of 11. Join me as I write about homeschooling, family, and MAYBE do a little ranting (okay, a lot of ranting) about public schools.

10 thoughts on “How to Deschool YOURSELF Before Homeschooling Your Kids

  1. So many panic at the thought of not doing formal school for an extended period. I never had to deschool my kids because I never sent them to school, but I have a story that may encourage those on the edge of embracing the idea of deschooling.

    A few years back one of my kids had a concussion. His eyes were rolling around and he couldn’t walk straight. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion and we were assured he would be fine in 2 weeks. About 3 months later he seemed to have finally recover. When you have symptoms of concussion you are not to read, do school work etc.

    About 18 months after his concussion it became obvious something was wrong. He was tired all day, but could not sleep during this fatigue. Soon he got a headache every time he began the academic potion of his day. We stopped doing everything, even reading, which is not usually included in the deschooling process. Soon he was having episodes where he would stagger around like he was drunk and/or his arms and legs would start twitching. He stared off into space with a blank gaze frequently.

    The doctor assured me that concussion never results in long term problems like this. They said he was having a growth spurt. Then they decided he was depressed, but his mental health evaluation came back glowing. They tried to induce a seizure, nothing. Eventually, several months later he received the diagnosis of headaches, because those started at some point in his decline.

    In the end I took him to a physical sports therapist who specializes in treatment of concussions. He adjusted his skull bones. The kid was fine ever after.

    In total he missed at least a school year worth of not only homeschooling but also reading.

    This all went down just around two years ago.

    The thing is, he is not “behind” in anything. He is, if we want to play comparison games at least a year or two ahead in everything subject except spelling. A healthy brain can learn fast. I promise, your kid is not going to miss out on anything or be behind because of an extended break.

  2. Excellent advice, Shelly! I soon realized while deschooling my young son (6) after pulling him from the middle of his first year of public school that I was the one who really needed deschooling. As soon as I let go of my school mindset and embraced natural learning, my son soared and was the happiest I’d seen him in months.

  3. My oldest daughter has asked if I can unschool her and I am frustrated with her and her 8yo sister’s resistance to doing their workbooks. I am not sure how to do this. I live in a state where I have to do a portfolio review so it’s kind of confusing to me how I could do that and unschool. I feel like I need to deschool before I could successfully unschool but I am scared to try something new in the middle of the “school year” after having just switched to an umbrella program after having done reviews through the public school since DD1 was in K. Need advice!

    1. That’s a lot, Christiana! What state? I have friends in states that sound tough, but there are ways to appease everyone and still live a relaxed learning life. Really think about whether the workbook is doing anything if they just fill it in to be done and get on with life. It might make you feel better to see what is in the workbook and come up with real-life ways to cover the same things.

  4. What would you recommend if the family didn’t deschool long enough before trying to jump in but had a trainwreck of a 1st year?

    My kids went to a traditional, small private Christian school. My oldest for 11 years (prek3 thru 8th), my 2nd for 9 years (thru 6th), my 3rd for 6 years (thru 3rd), and my 4th for a year. We tried to deschool til the end of Sept (mostly me trying to get my act together), with my oldest going on A Days to public since drivers ed is required for our state, and he wanted to be in band. We struggled along til Thanksgiving, getting further and further behind in the curriculum. So I finally called a halt til after New Year’s. We got to about 1/3 of the way thru by April 30th and I said enough. And we were only doing the 3 Rs with the big kids! They tried to skip stuff, etc. The curriculum is great, but I needed something less labor intensive for me since I have a preschooler and also a 2yo who require a lot of attention. I’m just lost now. Deschool more, or try again with a better curriculum that doesn’t require my constant surveillance??

    1. Well, the first thing many people will tell you is that summer doesn’t count towards deschooling. Your kids already expected a break at that time, so it wasn’t that far out of the norm to just be for the summer. I would suggest looking at your own expectations and whether they are true or just what everyone says you have to do. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be every subject, every day. It can be whatever you make it to be.

  5. I’m new to homeschooling. My daughter when to a private Christian school for 1 year of preschool before I decided I wanted to take part in my kids education. I jumped into this with a brand new baby who is now only 7 weeks old and I feel like I’m having a hard time keeping up with the curriculum. I’m thinking it’s partly cause I’m new at this and partly cause of the new baby but also because my entire life I’ve been in and worked in public schools. And I’m thinking deschooling myself would be a great thing to do. But how long do I do that?

    1. You know, Sara, if can vary widely. Given your time spent in the school environment, it might take a while. If she’s only in K and you have a new baby, put the curriculum away. Go to the library, park, and zoo, that’s all a kindergartener needs. Oh, and read John Taylor Gatto books – he’ll speed up the process of shedding the school mindset.

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