Since our oldest first started attending elementary school, our family was used to a Monday through Friday drop-off at 7:30 A.M. with a 2:30 P.M. pick-up. At once, the school served as both an opportunity for education and childcare. For us, childcare officially ended at 2:30, but the education continued. After an early afternoon break, the rest of the afternoon and evening was set aside for homework, study, and reading. Like mom and dad had a full-time job, so the logic went, for our oldest, education was his current vocation. This ideology changed somewhat when we decided to homeschool, and when I first discovered the concept of deschooling.
Home School Mom defines deschooling as “the adjustment period a child goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling. To fully benefit from homeschooling, a child has to let go of the private or public school culture as the norm. Together, these norms are called deschooling, and it is a crucial part of beginning homeschooling after time spent in a classroom.” I soon discovered parents had to deschool and let go of norms as well.
Time and schedule were the first things on our deschooling list. When, exactly, were we going to homeschool? At first, our default went to the norms held in brick and mortar schools. We soon discovered our old conceptions of time and schedule did not work, so we started asking questions around time. “What is the best time of day for our oldest to learn?” “Where was he comfortable learning (table, desk, couch, outside/inside)?” “What were his default learning styles?” What were our natural teaching abilities?” “Do we want to learn together?” “Do we want to teach one another?” With these questions and others like it, we soon discovered a natural teaching/leaning cycle in the morning with lighter activities in the early afternoon. We also learned that if we only have one hour of substantial learning time one day while doing four hours the next, there is no harm. Finally, we got rid of the Monday through Friday mentality; instead, teaching around work and life schedules. Sometimes we take the weekend off. Sometimes not. Sometimes homeschooling happens several days in a row. Sometimes there’s a needed break in the middle. We all had to learn that every hour of direct one-to-one instruction far exceeded the time in a classroom full of other learners. For example, if we need to spend a whole hour on something difficult, we do so. If we solve a problem in 10 minutes, we move on, pushing the learning hour to its limits.
The concept of deschooling also gave us the freedom to experience learning in all aspects of family life. We’re now cooking more together, visiting exciting places during the week, checking out more books from the library, discussing the candidates for President, watching documentaries, playing board games, and getting curious about the world – together. We listen to music while we study, play chess, and memorize Shakespeare. We pray Noonday Prayer out of The Book of Common Prayer. Learnings mostly occur at our home, but they also happen in car rides, family walks and trips to the swimming pool.
Homeschool has permitted all of us to take charge of where, how, and what we learn. It gives us a sense of awe and joy for the world around us while nodding to humility as we realize that we are standing on the shoulders of all the saints and sinners who came before us. My wife and I no longer check homework because the work is done at home, in the car, around the dinner table, and on walks. We no longer rely on the brick and mortar school to provide an education as well as childcare. We’re caring for one another in new, different, and more profound ways. The choice to homeschool has brought us closer, and for that, I am grateful.
To read more about deschooling and to find many books on the subject click here.