Deschooling

 

My feelings and approach to education are always evolving. I think it’s important to dive into the deep end of home education and unschooling with regards to your own research. I’m still amidst the throws of deschooling myself and I thought I would share a bit of that with you.

For us, the deschooling is only fully needed for the adults in the family. My kids have never been schooled. Deschooling as an adult can be quite the process as the expectations and beliefs that you have surrounding education are deep rooted in years of experiences.

What is deschooling?

Deschooling means different things to different people. Personally, I see deschooling is a process whereby you separate education from the institution of school and instead learn through life experience. I believe that deschooling is about challenging many common beliefs held by mainstream education. Deschooling is about reassessing and redefining what learning means to you and for your family.

For me, it began with questioning. Questioning those thoughts that I had always accepted, without question because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” It started, of course, with the view of the child and progressed through alternative education.

I think that mainstream schooling (let me be clear, I’m not saying teachers personally but schooling as a whole) operates under the assumption that learning can be imposed from outside the child through methods of coercion, manipulation, rewards and punishments.

If you have not yet watched Sir Ken Robinson’s brilliant talk on changing education paradigms – that’s somewhere I most certainly would start. It was one of the catalysts in my introspection! It is based in the US but it applies to most of western society education.

Why and how to deschool?

Elements of deschooling are not just for unschoolers and homeschoolers. Even if your child is in school, you can question how your influence on your child can be changed and how you can better connect with your child and their learning.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” – Alvin Toffler

Unfortunately, there’s not ’10 step guide’ or set of information that you can go through and you’ll be ‘deschooled’. Deschooling is a dynamic and deeply individual and ongoing process.

The main reason to deschool is typically to help you properly unschool. What I mean is, often as an unschooler you can find yourself looking for learning that looks more like school. Deschooling is the basis by which we can realise how little of these preconceived ideas are actually necessary.

Living joyfully has lots of thought provoking information about unschooling and deschooling. Here’s an inspiring snippet of what she had to say about deschooling:

Alongside that, since at its most basic unschooling is about creating an environment for learning to replace school, it’ll help to examine your thoughts, ideas, and filters surrounding learning. Ask yourself tons of questions to explore your understanding of learning. You’ve been learning for many years, so how’s that been working for you? How would you define real learning? What does a test really measure? How much of what you learned in school do you still remember? What’s the difference between what you remember and what you don’t? Do you better remember the stuff that was useful to you? Interesting to you? Have you learned things on your own since leaving school? What about hobbies? Is that learning any less valuable just because it was done outside a classroom? Is there a difference in how easily you learned things you were told to learn and things you wanted to learn?

Challenge your views. Even if it simply reiterates what you initially believed.
Challenge the dichotomy between ‘learning’ and ‘fun’, and ‘learning’ and ‘life’.
Challenge whether children need teaching.
Challenge the weighted focus on academia.
Challenge the linear approach to learning.
Challenge the separation of ‘school subjects’.
Challenge what testing really measures.
Challenge what needs to be known for our future.
etc etc

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The first logical step in deschooling is reflecting on your own schooling history. For myself, my schooling was successful on paper. I consistently scored high in all areas, was well behaved and loved learning. I graduated high school with very high grades and a promising academic future ahead of me. I loved school. However, I don’t think liking school is a positive thing.

I couldn’t tell you most of what was taught to me. But what I primarily learned was how to work the system. I learned to memorise efficiently, how to take tests, and how to decipher criteria. These aren’t terrible things to learn, but there were some elements to my schooling which really negatively affected me. I learned to value my worth on my grades. I learned to be obedient regardless of whether it was necessary or best. I learned to conform or be ridiculed.

I’m not saying the negatives are true for everyone. I am saying that I think reflection on what it means to be educated can be helpful for everyone (regardless of whether you have children, are an educator, are sending your children to school, homeschooling or unschooling).

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Thank you for reading!

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  1. I graduated summa cum laude from a university. Twenty-five years later, I’ve forgotten most of what I was taught in school. What I remember most from my childhood and young adulthood is wisdom from my parents and things I learned on my own. Since having children I’ve lost my confidence in the ability of the powers that be in the educational system to “educate” the vast majority of children. I finally started unschooling this year after assuring myself that I wouldn’t ruin my son’s chances of getting into an occupation that requires a university degree. I’m still trying to get over the fear that I’m going to fail to properly prepare my son for adult life.

  2. I so resonate with this post!
    I’m also a bit concerned because I plan to send my daughter part-time to French school, as we live in a bilingual country but I grew up abroad so I don’t speak French (plus so I can work part-time). I think that we’ll end up having to deschool daily :)

  3. Two years into home educating my daughter and I am still deschooling….. my daughter has adapted far more quickly than I. Oh for the neuro-plasticity of the young! The only useful thing I remember learning in highschool was how to type – on a manual typewriter! The institutionalised schooling system is still based on a 19th century model – time for a change, me thinks!

  4. I’m so grateful for finding your blog and particularly this post. This is my second year homeschooling my 3 rambunctious boys and I’m at my wits end planning schedules, printing lap books, and doing other things for them that they have no interest in. I’ve decided to unschool but have fears about their future and whether or not their really learning. Beginning this past school year I declared I wanted them to have a passion for learning which is something they can do without all the things I think they should be doing to learn. After reading this I’ve received so much encouragement and help to return to what real, natural learning is and the endless possibilities it presents! Thank you

  5. It’s great to have found your article this morning. I am strongly feeling the need to deschool in so many areas of my life. I resonate with being the “good girl” at school. On getting my A level results (age 18 in UK), my mum cried with happiness as I had secured a place at university. I went off on my own and cried with a deep sense of frustration and sadness. Yes I had done well. Yes I could go to uni (which I did). But the results said NOTHING about me as a person – just that I was good at memorising facts and solving maths problems.
    I look forward to reading more.