By Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things
The last day of public school for our family was in 2010.
My oldest spent his second-grade year bored, bullied and overwhelmed by the smells, sounds and experiences that 32 children in one classroom create. I felt so good that last day. I remember picking him up, taking him for frozen yogurt and talking all about the fun we would have next year, our first year homeschooling.
Fast forward three summer months and our second day of school erupted into tears for everyone – me, both of my children and more me.
Our first year homeschooling was the worst. It was hard, every single day, for every single subject. I tried to recreate the school environment right down to ringing a bell when it was time for recess and saying the pledge of allegiance at the same time every morning.
It was so difficult, but looking back now, nine years later, I realize it didn’t have to be.
The best advice I didn’t take that first year? I should’ve paid more attention when other moms told me about ‘deschooling.’
Deschooling is essentially taking some time without any formal learning to allow a child (and mom for that matter) to transition away from the traditional school mindset. Many veteran homeschool experts recommend a month of deschooling time for every year a child was in school.
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Deschooling: The Best Advice I Didn’t Take When We Began Homeschooling
My child was home all summer before that first year, without any school, so I quickly dismissed the idea that we might need to deschool a bit.
I was so wrong.
Summer vacation is still part of the traditional school experience, so it wasn’t until September rolled around that all of the expectations and perceptions we had about school began to impact our learning.
Hindsight is, of course, 20/20.
The Benefits Of Deschooling
Looking back, I can see that we both needed a little time to undo all the ideas we had about how learning “should” happen.
With this in mind, here are the three main benefits I believe deschooling brings to families (and would’ve brought to mine) in their first year homeschooling:
One of the most significant benefits of being home with our children is the chance to foster strong and individualized relationships with our kiddos. Unfortunately, by jumping right back into the school mindset, our relationships suffered in the beginning.
Deschooling allows an entire family to reform and strengthen relationships that may have been strained, or even damaged, by the daily demands of fitting into the school system.
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Natural Interests Emerge
The more I allow my children to explore and even be a bit bored, the more their natural interests become apparent. My oldest loves fish tanks and building computers. My youngest is fascinated by reptiles and plays the guitar.
These interests play an important role in our approach to learning now but only began to emerge once a school mentality was no longer a major part of our days.
Experiencing Learning vs. School
I think this is, by far, the greatest benefit of deschooling and the one that takes the most time. For both my son and me, it was difficult to separate the concept of learning from the reality of school itself.
In the beginning, I was prone to forcing worksheets on my kiddos, so that I could show that they “learned something.” My son was loathed to complete even the most interesting projects if he thought they were “school.” It took time for us to undo the connection between the approach schools take and what actual learning can, and should, look like.
Deschooling eventually happened for us, but it took longer and was more painful than it needed to be. I highly recommend a much more intentional approach to transition from school to home.
I wish I would’ve listened to that advice so many years ago!
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