Deschooling: What it is, How to do it, And Why it is especially important amid school closures

Deschooling is a term coined by John Holt and describes a period in which the child is transitioning from formal education to at-home education. This time is considered a break from all school like expectations. It is not a time in which learning or education is not occurring but rather it’s a reset for both parents and children to recover from the expectations of formal education and discover their values in their educator-learner relationship.

1. Forget about gaps and keeping up

The American public school system has constructed grade-level standards that put a tremendous amount of performance pressure on parents, students, and teachers. It’s important to remember that these standards are not representative of what true learning and education actually is. Instead of putting pressure on yourself and your child to “keep up” or “catch up” to arbitrary academic standards, ask yourself what is most important for them to learn right now for them to be happy, healthy, socially connected, and empowered to pursue their passions.

2. Allow time for idleness, play, and rest

It is likely that both of you will need time to rest and recover from the strains and stresses of the public education system. Honor this need for rest and encourage relaxation. Play with toys, snuggle and watch movies, listen to music, get bored. Allowing your child to direct their own time will also build trust between you and show them you respect their autonomy as a learning.

3. Invite your children to explore their interests and passions

Gently encourage your child to expand and explore their interests. Have conversations about what interests them and what skills they think are important for them to learn. Watch TV or Youtube videos on nature, baking, science fiction, music, art and observe what they gravitate to. Start brainstorming with them what skills they will need to pursue their interests.

4. Keep a list of the best parts of everyday

Keep a list of activities your child spends time engaging in independently and a list of activities the two of you enjoy doing together. Note if any rituals or routines spontaneously arise. Later on you can intentionally embed teaching and academics into these activities.

5. Journal about your educational philosophy and values

After making the decision to pursue at-home education it is important for you to think critically about what values you want to build at-home education around. Join facebook groups, listen to podcasts, read educational literature but most importantly think about education in terms of how it can best serve your individual child and your family. What kind of learner is your child? What kind of learner are you? Write an educational philosophy statement. Make a list of non-negotiable values you want to adhere to.

6. Explore your own learning interests

One of the most powerful way to encourage your child to learn is through modeling behaviors of a learner. Spend time each day pursuing a passion of your own.

Deschooling is important for anyone shifting into home education as it is a necessary phase needed to shift from the mindset of compulsory standards-based education to a child-centered holistic approach; however, it is especially important when at-home schooling is occurring amidst a stressful situation. Research has shown time and time again that anxiety prevents. Jumping into full-structured, performance-based expectations at home will result in anxiety, stress, and resistance and will ultimately teaching efforts will be futile.

School closures and home isolation is a phenomenon none of us has known in our lifetime. We are currently suspended in the unknown. Now is the time for reassurance, for rest, for self-exploration. We are receiving a collective call to go within ourselves and discover who we are. Allow for this self-discovery to emerge in your child. Breathe, Release, and know that learning will be most powerful when we practice staying calm and being in creative relation to the ones closest with us. Ultimately this time can be an opportunity to enrich our children that goes far beyond academic standards.

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