My feelings and approach to education are always evolving. My kids are only young (2 and 4) and yet I’ve dove into the deep end of home education and unschooling with regards to my 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 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 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 process.
The main reason to deschool is 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 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.
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 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.
Still, I went through mainstream education and I question everything and learned how to learn. However, while I don’t think it’s entirely due to school, I also don’t think it’s entirely in spite of school either.
I’m not saying schooling is all negative or that 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).