Deschooling: How to Transition to Homeschooling

10 Ways to Help Your Child Transition to Learning at Home with Deschooling

How exactly do you transition from public school to homeschool? This transition can be tricky for families as it is a major change to their normal routines. But, many families have found that this transition becomes much easier when they go through a period of deschooling first. Here’s everything you need to know about deschooling, and how you can use deschooling to make your transition from public school to homeschool go smoothly.

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What is deschooling?

Deschooling is an intentional transition period between public school and homeschool. During deschooling, families take a break from everything that looks like a traditional school experience. Kids don’t do worksheets or read textbooks or take tests. They don’t sit in desks or listen to lectures. There won’t even be scheduled school hours. This unscheduled time gives kids and their parents an opportunity to rethink their mindset around school. It helps us to realize that teaching and learning can happen anywhere, and that homeschool does not have to look like public school.

Deschooling Stack of Books

Why should we deschool? Is deschooling really necessary?

There are actually lots of benefits of deschooling. Here are a few reasons why deschooling can be really helpful to kids that are transitioning from traditional school to homeschooling:

Deschooling helps kids relax and decompress.

Often when families are choosing to transition kids out of their school experience into homeschooling, there may be some negative circumstances in their former school that they are trying to avoid. These negative circumstances probably caused significant stress to the child, and to their parents as well. It can be really helpful just to take some time to relax after a traumatic situation. Rather than stressing your child out with more school right away, consider taking some time to relax and enjoy life for a bit. School will be there when you are ready for it.

Deschooling helps kids rediscover their curiosity.

During this time kids have the opportunity, the time, and the freedom to explore things they are interested in. They can control what they are learning about, rather than being forced to follow a curriculum that’s chosen and designed by someone else. Curricula definitely have their place, even in homeschool. But, during the transition it can be so helpful to kids to have some control over what they are learning. This is one of the biggest benefits of homeschool and it can be worthwhile for kids and families to explore and experience this benefit right away. How can you help your child find their curiosity again? What would they like to explore?

Kids who are deschooling have a chance to learn about things they are really and truly interested in.

This can help to reignite their passion for learning. Would your child really say that learning is fun? If not, how can you help them explore things they are interested in, in a way that they enjoy? If our goal as homeschool parents is to help our children grow up as lifelong learners, this is one of the most important things we can ever teach them!

Deschooling helps kids come into their homeschooling time with an open mind.

Kids will naturally try to compare homeschooling with their experience in traditional school. Objections like, “But this isn’t the way we did it in school!” are common, even from kids who didn’t like school. If you have had some time since your child was in school, it can help to minimize the comparisons. Homeschool can be completely different than public school, and that is ok- even good! The process of deschooling will help kids to see that.

Kid on Swing

Deschooling helps parents, too!

Deschooling is really helpful to kids, but it can actually be helpful to their parents, too! The period of transition for parents becoming homeschool teachers can be a really scary one, and deschooling first can be so beneficial for parents, because:

Deschooling shows us that learning at home doesn’t have to look just like public school.

We don’t need textbooks, worksheets, tests, lectures, or desks- unless we want to use them. Watching your child learn through play, through independent exploration, and through their own interests can be so liberating. Your child can and will learn things daily, whether or not you are teaching them. You are just there to guide them, to make sure they are exposed to a variety of things, and to make sure that they have the right environment and opportunities to explore. This is so freeing to know that our kids’ learning doesn’t always depend on our ability to teach them!

While we are deschooling, we can focus on relationships.

Homeschooling can be an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your child, to get to know them better, and to really invest in your relationship with them. But, homeschooling can also bring stress to a relationship when the homeschooing is stressful, or not going well. Your relationship with your child should always come before anything you are trying to teach them. A deschooling period helps us to establish these priorities from the very beginning of our homeschool time. It also helps to establish a relaxed atmosphere to homeschooling which will help to eliminate some or many of those conflicts before they begin.

Deschooling gives us time to transition.

Sometimes the decision to pull our kids out of traditional school is a sudden one, without lots of time to prepare. We are suddenly our child’s teacher, with little time to plan what that will look like or how we will do it. Deschooling gives us time to explore learning with our child. During the deschooling process, you can observe your child. What are their interests? How do they like to learn? These observations will help you to make good decisions about how to homeschool, what curriculum to choose, and what to study. It will help you make homeschool fun, and help you teach in the way that your child learns. This means your child will learn better and faster, and have more fun doing it- which means less fights and resistance.

Deschooling Kid and Parent

How long does deschooling take?

The deschooling process will take a different amount of time for each family. It will depend on things like how old your child is, how much time they spent in traditional school, how well their traditional school experience fit with their learning style, and if they had a traumatic experience at school. In general the expert rule of thumb is:

Plan to deschool for at least 1 month for every year that your child was in school.

In deschooling, the goal is to spend time helping your child rediscover the joy of learning. Use this time to build great relationships and to reconnect with your child. You will know that it’s working when you and your family start to find a relaxed rhythm to your day. Your kids will be enjoying exploring and learning things that they are interested in, in ways that they learn best. You will start to understand how your kids learn, and you will know what they are interested in. You will be enjoying spending time and learning together. These are all signs that deschooling is working and you may be ready to add more structure to your homeschool. As you begin to transition to a more structured homeschool experience, make sure that you are taking cues from your child. Do they seem ready? Are they enjoying what you are doing?

Things to remember

The idea of deschooling, especially for a long period of time, can be really scary. Parents often worry that their child will fall behind during deschooling. Or they may be concerned that their child is already behind, and feel that they chose homeschooling to help their child catch up, not to take a huge break from school. It is so important to remember that your child will still be learning even while you are deschooling. You can be intentional to encourage your child to explore their interests during this time.

It’s also important to remember that the observations that you are making about your child’s interests and learning style during the deschooling process will be so valuable to you as you start formal homeschooling. Really understanding your child’s learning style and being able to teach to your child’s interests will allow you to homeschool faster and easier once you do start up again. Your child will also feel more comfortable with homeschooling and will be more willing and able to learn as they relax in the home environment.

Deschooling Kids in Woods

How do I deschool my child? 10 ways to help your child transition to learning at home

First, let’s talk about what NOT to do. Don’t use textbooks, worksheets, or tests. Avoid asking your child to work at a desk for long periods of time. Avoid a strict schedule with set school times (having a routine to your day is ok though!). Your goal is to make your days at home look and feel very different than your child’s days in public school did.

During your deschooling time, the most important thing is to focus on your relationship with your child. Enjoy spending time together, and enjoy learning together. Invite your child to explore things that they are interested in. Learn about those new topics together in as many creative ways as you can. Here are a few ideas:

1. Read a LOT of books together.

This is one of the best ways to get started homeschooling, and it’s a fabulous way to build your relationship with your child while learning something new. A great starting place is a visit to your local library. Ask your child what they would like to learn about, and then make a trip to the library together to look for books about that topic. Really let your child choose the topic- even if it’s something that doesn’t seem educational to you, or something that you don’t know a lot about. It’s ok to learn right alongside your child. You might also notice what kids of questions your kids ask you throughout the week, and then suggest those topics for library books.

Even if your child is already reading independently or is learning to read, it’s ok to read the books to your child. Hearing books read aloud can be beneficial even for experienced readers. Your goal here is to enjoy learning together, not to teach your child to read. If the book is at all frustrating for your child, you should definitely read it to them.

2. Do a project together.

How can you make learning hands-on for your child? Can you build something together? Make a model? Cook a new recipe? Brainstorm with your child to think of some activities that might be fun to try together. You might also think about any upcoming holidays, and if there is a fun way to celebrate them together.

3. Explore technology.

What resources are available to you for learning with technology? Can you find fun apps or interesting educational shows that your kids enjoy? Technology should never totally take the place of your homeschool lessons, but it can be so helpful to have a few resources available to supplement what your kids are learning. We have several favorite science TV shows that my kids love. I like to find episodes that relate to the topics that we are learning about in science for my kids to watch. This is a great way to reinforce what they are learning as they hear the same material presented in a different way. What resources can you find now to help you once you start more formal lessons?

4. Take trips and have experiences.

Can you go to a museum? Visit someone who is working in an interesting career field and see what they do for the day? Travel to a historical site or landmark near you? These kinds of trips are a great way to spark interests to learn more about. One of the best things about homeschooling is the freedom to learn through experiences like these, and you can start now!

5. Volunteer.

How can you and your child work together to give back to those in need? There are many volunteer organizations who are flexible and willing to work with kids. Look for a way that you can serve your community. When you serve alongside your child, this can be a great bonding experience in addition to a learning opportunity.

6. Get active.

Can you learn how to play a new sport? Take swimming lessons? Get involved in a team or club? Go play a round of miniature golf? Take some hikes or start jogging? Find a way that your child can get or stay active during their deschooling time. This is a great opportunity to help your child explore and find ways to stay active that they enjoy.

7. Spend time outside.

How can you use this time to help your child appreciate and enjoy nature and God’s creation? Can you take a nature walk? Maybe learn how to identify leaves or flowers or bird species or bird calls? Explore the changing seasons? Or what about just reading some books together outside?

8. Learn a new skill.

Is there a craft, hobby, or activity that you just haven’t had time to try? Can you learn how to knit and make scarves for the homeless? Learn how to change the oil in your car? Teach your child how to cook? Watch YouTube videos and learn a new kind of dance? Do an art project together? What life skills do you wish that you (or your child) had? What new hobbies would be fun? There is no time like the present to explore something new!

9. Enjoy educational toys.

Can you sign up for an educational subscription box and explore it together? Or what about those educational toys that have been sitting on your shelf? This might be the perfect opportunity to learn coding, explore the globe, try a new art set, or play pretend together.

10. Play a game.

Games are a great way to practice math skills while having a lot of fun. Can you teach your child a new strategy game to help them think logically? What games did you love when you were your child’s age?

Kid in Field

What should parents do during the deschooling process?

As a parent, the most important thing that you can do while deschooling is spend time with your child. Really concentrate on investing in your relationship with them. But, there are a few other things you can do to prepare for success as a homeschool teacher:

1. Observe your child.

it is really important that you spend the deschooling time observing your child. You are probably already the person who knows your child better than anyone else, and this is one of your biggest advantages as a homeschool teacher. You are an expert in your child, even more than their school teacher was! Your job is to learn everything that you can about the answers to two key questions:

  1. What is your child interested in? What do they love to learn about? You can use these topics as “ins” to help you teach other things. Your kids will also learn more and faster about topics they are interested in- so it makes sense to follow their lead as much as you can.
  2. How does your child learn best? Are they a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Do they love to read? Do they remember everything they hear? Or do they learn best with hands-on activities? Do they remember things pretty quickly, or do they need lots of review? This information will be so helpful when choosing a homeschool curriculum, and also when deciding how to teach your lessons.

It can be helpful to journal about your answers to these two questions. Your notes will help you as you continue on your homeschool journey.

2. Do some research.

The deschooling period is also a really helpful time to research and plan what you would like your homeschool to look like. What style of homeschooling do you like? What kinds of curricula seem like they will work well with the way your child learns? This is a great time to research and learn! You can get started by checking out some of my reviews of our favorite curricula.

3. Discuss it with your child.

As you are researching, it can be helpful to discuss ideas and plans with your child. Older children especially will benefit if they can have some input in the homeschool plans. Ask your kids what they would like their homeschool to be like, and take their suggestions into account as much as you can. What would they like to study? What would they like the schedule to look like? You might even look through curriculum choices together to get your child’s input. The more that you can give your child choices about the specifics of their homeschool experience, the more likely they will be to go along with your decisions in the areas where it really matters to you.

Deschooling Kid at Beach

But, deschooling is scary!

We live in a culture that really emphasizes academic achievement, and grade level standards- and that can be scary for any homeschooler, and especially one who is choosing to do a deschooling period. But, it helps to keep this in perspective. Remember that you are raising a child. If your goal is for your child to grow up to become an adult who loves learning and continues learning long after school is done, it won’t really matter whether they covered subtraction in January or April. But it will absolutely matter whether they enjoyed their school experience. And, your relationship with this child matters more than anything else. It helps to think of deschooling as a temporary investment in that relationship, in having right priorities, and in teaching your child how to grow up to become an adult who loves learning. And really, is there a curriculum more important than that?

What’s next?

I have collected a list of top tips for those getting started homeschooling. This advice comes from over 60 other homeschool families, who told me what they wished they had known when they got started. I would love to share this free PDF download with you! You can check out my top homeschooling tips here!

Check out my post on what to do on your first day of homeschool here!

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21 Comments

    1. Hi Loren! No, I didn’t make it up! And that’s why I wrote the post, because people might not be aware of it, but it’s such a helpful tool!

  1. As a mom of a homeschool graduate I can honestly say deschooling was such an important transitional time for us. I’m glad you brought attention to its importance.

  2. This is interesting, especially because just today I came across some content that talked about how the way formal education works in the country doesn’t really work. How we don’t know enough about how people learn so rote memorization isn’t really the best way to teach anything.

    1. Hi Tia! As a former public school teacher, I agree. It is so hard to teach the way that kids learn best in a classroom, especially when not all the kids have the same learning style.

  3. I have so many friends that are homeschooling and I think this would be so helpful for them. I will definitely share.

  4. Yes! I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a homeschool graduate that has been homeschooling my children (going on 11 years now). I’ve been helping new homeschool parents get started for a few years now and telling them about de-schooling. I saved this post, it is so well written and emphasizes the importance of it perfectly. I’ll be sharing it!

  5. I absolutely love this post! And so important for parents to learn that they don’t need to transform their home into a traditional school for the kids to be able to learn at home. I don’t homeschool yet, since my daughter is so little, but I already am reading and learning all I can to be prepared and can’t wait!

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