Deschooling: What it is, How to Do it, and 20 Deschooling Ideas

Whether you are starting with a preschooler or you are transitioning your child out of a classroom situation, a period of “rewiring the mind” is essential for success. This period of time between the classroom and homeschooling is commonly referred to as “deschooling,” and has several vital purposes. Please do not skip this step!

First, parents who have grown up within the traditional school system benefit tremendously from “deschooling.” Deschooling provides an opportunity to undo all the beliefs, routines, and traditions that have become ingrained. It is easy to tell who has undergone deschooling and those who have not. If you are worried about socialization, the prom, and whether or not you can replicate the classroom routine at home, you may need to deschool.

On the other hand, you may, after deschooling come to the realization that a more traditional approach is what works best for you and your family. Learning that now, before you dive into homeschooling head first is wise, and will prevent unnecessary and inevitable frustration and burnout.

For many students, a negative school situation is what brings them to homeschooling in the first place. They may not be receptive to anything that resembles learning until they have been allowed some time to decompress.

Parents who do not take the time to deschool frequently make the mistake of implementing academics way too soon, never fully giving themselves or their students an opportunity to address the reasons they left the classroom in the first place, or heal. In these cases, power struggles, resistance to instruction, depression, and other behavior issues frequently appear.

The 3 Types of Kids Who Typically Leave the System to Homeschool

1. The student with special needs (including giftedness), developmental, or learning differences who are generally being underserved by their current school situation.

2. The student who is simply bored and acting out. This student is typically very bright and in need of more challenging tasks.

3. This student is in a toxic situation where he is being bullied.

For these types of students, school and anything having to do with traditional learning may carry a negative connotation. These kids may be reluctant readers and resistant writers. They may feel discouraged and have lost interest in learning, especially when it resembles their classroom experiences. Many of them have experienced trauma that they are not developmentally able to verbalize, so a period of decompression and deschooling is necessary for them to simply begin to heal.

Most kids aren’t inherently malicious. There is usually a reason they are acting out or resisting. Determining whether your child fits one of the three types as listed above is the first step toward identifying the real issue.

Risks of not taking the time to deschool:

  • Resistance to homeschooling and power struggles with your child

  • A continuation of the behavior or academic issues that prompted homeschooling in the first place.

  • Confusion and frustration from the inability to settle on an academic routine, philosophy or curriculum, making any kind of sustainable routine impossible and resulting in a substantial waste of time and money.

  • Burnout and subsequent failure

Benefits of taking the time to deschool:

  • Clarity and peace of mind

  • Confidence

  • Improved behavior and motivation toward learning

  • Improved academic performance

  • A happy family

  • Sustainable homeschooling

How long you should deschool really depends on you and your student’s situation. A good rule of thumb is one month for every year spent in school. Some families will need more time than others. Staying aware of your and your students attitudes toward learning is a better gauge for how long you should be deschooling. Remember, there is no set time for how long a family should deschool. You know your family best, so trust your gut! It won’t steer you wrong.

Deschooling should be fun and relaxing. Fight the urge to buy curriculum, break out textbooks, workbooks, or flashcards. There may be a time when these items will be necessary, but this is not it! In fact, the less you try to do now, the better. The very best thing for your student to do during deschooling is PLAY.

The Importance of Play

Play is an extremely important component of learning that has all but been forgotten in the classroom. Allow your student to rediscover his imagination, her resourcefulness, his ability to problem solve, and to simply enjoy being a kid again.

When I speak of playing, I am referring specifically to unstructured play. The play that children do when adults aren’t directing it. Unstructured play happens when kids are left to their own devices with a large cardboard box, a container of Legos, or a playground. Our children do not need us hovering over them, dictating how and what they should play, how to solve their squabbles with other kids, and we should not be doing their playing for them.

A parent’s biggest jobs during unstructured play are:

1. to make sure their child stays safe, and

2. reinforce desired behaviors.


What about older children?

Teens benefit from deschooling as well, and should be allowed a short period to simply veg out.

20 Ways to Deschool

Deschooling is supposed to be fun and relaxing and it should not break the bank. Below is a list of recommended activities for deschooling. Most are free or low cost. Check your local homeschool group or community events guide for details near you.

  • Find and become involved with a local homeschool group

  • Get a library card and use it frequently

  • Play at the park

  • Take nature hikes

  • Watch and discuss movies

  • Bake and cook

  • Travel (even locally)

  • Visit museums, exhibits, the zoo, aquarium, etc.

  • Watch plays, musicals, and performances

  • Volunteer

  • Take up a hobby

  • Learn a new skill

  • Go for bike rides

  • Journal

  • Arts and Crafts

  • Build and create with blocks, Legos, etc.

  • Build a garden

  • Limit screens and electronics

  • Create a small business

  • PLAY!!

Need help? Let us know. We offer solutions for every family and are here to help! Contact@SpritelyMind.com