10 Tips to Help You Deschool

1  Focus on the Learning instead of the Teaching.
When you notice that you’re thinking about planning lessons, turning interesting movies into “educational experiences,” creating a cute school room in your house – these are all examples that you’re losing touch with the most important focus: The Learner and their learning. What interests them? What brings them joy? What could you help them explore more fully?

2  Don’t worry about “gaps” or “keeping up” with kids of similar ages.
Comparison can really do a number on us! But it doesn’t matter if your child learns anything by a particular time frame set by schools – that’s THEIR issue, not yours anymore! If your child is interested, they will remember it. If not, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Gaps can be easily resolved when they need to be. “Hello, Siri?” 😉

3  The 1 month for every year of school is a good starting place.
Don’t rush through deschooling. Find out what triggers your “schooly thoughts.” Focus on undoing some of that irrational thinking.  Some people say that you should anticipate deschooling one month for every year you went to school. Sometimes it’s not exactly like that though. Children go through different developmental stages, and then various stories and expectations can pop into our heads that set us back. We may understand deschooling well while our kids are all playing and learning at 6, 7, and 8 years old. But then when adolescence rolls around, we start worrying again…gaps in learning, getting into college, missing out on high school events… and we’re back to Square 1 on Deschooling again. But that’s ok, because you know how to undo this kind of thinking. Still, if you want a ballpark idea, 1 month for every year of school is a good starting place.

4  Continue to read about unschooling and how children actually learn.
It’s always been interesting to me how schools don’t (or can’t) implement some of their own best research about learning. Homeschooling/unschooling parents can though!
Stay current – here are few good links:
Unschooling Mom2Mom (FB)
Homeschooling/Unschooling Your Teens (FB)
Homeschooler Post
Sue’s Notes


5  Plan a fun outing when typical school year activities tug at you.
Do “Back-to-school” ads get under your skin? Or maybe it’s those end-of-school year parties or even prom that makes you wistful. Those school experiences can pale if you plan a great trip or do something particularly fun when those events roll around. Perhaps it’s time for a beach trip or a campout? Maybe a road trip or some theme park hopping? The lines are usually so much shorter once school has started – take advantage of that! Remember, it won’t be long before the parents/children are all complaining again about how they find school to be boring/annoying/cumbersome… so distract yourself and your family in the meantime!

6  Remember that deschooling can sometimes be harder for the parent than the child.
It stands to reason that you spent a lot more years entrenched in the school system than your child. You’re likely to have far more stories in your head of what learning is supposed to look like. Also, parents sometimes feel an additional stress when they share what they’re doing with their friends, family and co-workers.Removing yourself from the competitive/comparative discussions that happens between parents, can be isolating too.

7  Make a list of your own school experiences, identifying how the school expectations interfered with the learning that interested you.
Sometimes we can go straight to the grievances we had with our school experience. We know what we wanted to do and how we didn’t get time to do it. We know how we have not used those things we were promised we’d need in our adult lives. What would you have spent more time on?
Sometimes we glamorize our school experiences, focusing on a hand full of great memories. Try to really examine how “great” they were – was it because everything else was so dull? how does it compare with what you can offer your child? Could it actually happen more frequently without the limitations of schools and schedules?

8  List (with your kids) all the places you’d like to explore but were too busy before.
Let me get you started: museums, parks, festivals, downtown areas, nature centers, the beach, the lake, picnics, camping trips, day hikes, bike rides, yoga classes.

Chambers of commerce have brochures about interesting places near you – as do interstate info centers, websites like (365 Fun Things to do in… ) <- yes you can write that in the URL and it will give you some ideas, and even Pinterest!

A few surprise benefits exist when you choose to do this.  Everyone practices a little cooperation and consensus, and gets a little clearer idea about family members’ interests and curiosities. Sometimes, one child *thinks* they aren’t interested in something their sibling wants to try. But after going, they discover they enjoyed some aspect, and a new interest begins.  (Or, maybe they just learn that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be, and they can focus on happy it made their sibling that they participated. 😉 )

9  List (with your kids) all the fun things you all might like to do together and apart while you’re home.
Movies, board games, card games, videogames, TV shows, painting, drawing, collage, building projects, meditation, blogging, art journals, skyping with friends, going on walks, walking the dog, playing with pets, cooking, creating YouTube/vimeo videos, photography, daydreaming, planning. The list can go on and on! 🙂
Spending time identifying activities that anyone can do at home – that is interesting to them – is a fabulous skill that many wish they had. You have the opportunity to help your child figure out how to spend their own time, not waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

10  Start a journal writing what you notice about your children’s natural inclinations.
Get in the habit of slowing down and watching your children. We are always in such a rush to be sure no one “misses anything.” And, in doing that, we miss out on what’s right there in front of us. Your kids are really giving you clues and cues as to what interests them – there’s no need to look to outside experts for lesson plans or curricula. Find out what they like to do, what makes their eyes sparkle! Spend more time with them and you will find that you are growing the connection with them. THIS will be the biggest benefit of deschooling.

More Info About Deschooling

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9 Responses to 10 Tips to Help You Deschool

  1. Great tips for deschooling

  2. Cori says:

    This list is such a thoughtful guide that speaks to all the things making me anxious right now. We’re currently finishing out the school year (less than 2 months!) and starting home/un schooling in the fall. I have so much negative self-talk and uncertainty in my head. And so much planning I think I should be doing. This list will be something comforting I will return to as we enter into a new chapter in my kid’s education.

    • I’m excited for you! Take the time to walk through some of those doubts and see what’s real and what’s not. Did you get the free downloads from the home page? They’ll help too. Especially the 8 Mistakes New Homeschoolers Make.
      Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!

  3. Vicki Bates says:

    I love the thought of this, but it terrifies me! I will have an 11th, 9th & 8th grader in the fall. They were all in public school for 4 years & although we are finishing our 3rd year back into homeschooling, they still make comparisons to traditional teaching a lot. My biggest fear is how to complete college applications if we did unschool…any suggestions?

    • Sue Patterson says:

      Hey Vicki! I get it – it can be so scary. But trusting the traditional approach is kind of delusional (I don’t mean that in a rude way) but you’re thinking that it’s all going to be fine if they just do it the way the curriculum says… and that’s not true. The world is full of people who went that route and are not happy with how it’s going.

      And… when one of my kids took some developmental courses at the community college, they were FULL of kids who HAD sat through 12 years of the traditional approach. And they still needed the developmental classes! Whereas my daughter had this great childhood filled with theatre projections, travel, dance, voice lessons – all pursuing her curiosities and interests – yet she was at no disadvantage.

      As for college applications… some colleges are way more interested in homeschoolers than they used to be. That’s worth exploring who is and who isn’t.

      But, I’m a big believer in letting the teens take community college courses first. Then they can transfer into any other university as sophomores. No one cared at all about high school transcripts once they had that proven college track record. (In Texas 15 credits lets you be a “transfer student.”)

      I have a small coaching group for parents of teens, if you were looking for a small community of support. We do a coaching call every week, share resources, etc. The tab at the top can take you to more info on this.

      Or if you prefer more 1:1, you can hop on my calendar and I’m happy to help walk you through. 🙂

  4. Dana says:

    Is it possible to unschool while with a charter homeschool??

    • Sue Patterson says:

      It would totally depend on the flexibility of the charter, the teacher that is assigned to you, and probably how old your child is. Most charters embrace the idea that “play” can be the focus of younger kids. Some more than others, of course. And they don’t usually think it’s a good idea for older kids… so we see a lot of charter school unschoolers leave their charter around the middle school grades.
      If your child is young, I’d take advantage of it. But then I’d read everything I can about unschooling so when the time comes, you understand what you’re options are.
      Best of luck to you!

  5. Pooja says:

    We are moving from homeschooling to unschooling. I have a 7 year old, 2 year old and a 6month old. My biggest fear is that I feel that I need to model learning, so basically learn the things I want to learn but keep putting them off because I am raising children and homeschooling. Homeschooling has been great, but I see greater and deeper learning in my child with unschooling. I just am not sure how to be a mom to toddlers and infants while unschooling, I need to find a solution that allows me to spend more time following my passions and interests with my elementary learner in tow. I keep saying 1 more year and the babies will be more independant, but I have this nagging through about time is wasted/.. it’s seriously driving me nuts.

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