Is deschooling a finite process in which one day you will emerge free from the confines of the school mindset? Is it necessary to deschool as a transition from public school to homeschool? Is there a time frame for deschooling?
Perhaps, but I have found it to be an ongoing journey that might last a lifetime.
My husband recently turned 50. That’s hard to believe but true. Yet, even at 49, he would still have dreams of missing a class or having a paper due tomorrow and not having a word written.
I have these dreams as well. I think most of us do.
You would think after 20, 30, or more years, we could sleep without recalling the stress of tests, papers, and grades. Yet we don’t or can’t.
If you really think about it, that’s quite shocking. I’m sure in my old age, and I’ll still wake up wondering if I dropped that math class or if I’m still enrolled and getting zeros.
This can make homeschooling so difficult for many and why parents often try to transition from public school by replicating school in their home. Yet, we should be focusing on deschooling, but there are so many difficult reasons that it is a struggle.
Indoctrination Begins Early
When I was a child, very few children attended preschool. Today it is seen as a necessity required to give children a “head start”.
However, we did have kindergarten which I began at the ripe age of 5 years and two months.
Think about that; I had only been alive for about 62 months. You can barely pay off a new car in that amount of time today.
Not only that but between the ages of 5 and 21, a span of 16 years, I spent almost a full 13 years in school. So of course, it becomes a driving force in our development and understanding of the world.
But today many parents would see it as educational neglect to deny their three-year-olds preschool. Won’t they be behind?
So our hyper-competitive society, a trait reinforced daily in school, has become so enthralled with early learning, we have flashcards and educational product marketed to babies.
If you think about it, these beliefs existed before we were even born, so the indoctrination is insidious, strong-held, and rarely questioned. This is what makes deschooling seem like an impossible feat.
Educational Stress Lingers
They are dreams that haunted me for years. Did I drop the class or have I missed the whole semester and didn’t know it? The 10-page paper is due in the morning, and I haven’t written a word. I’ve skipped a class so much; I’ll never catch up.
Now, I never did any of these things in my 20 or so years of schooling. Well, I may have procrastinated on papers but never up until the last night. These fears frequently inhabit my dreams and the stress seemed very real.
Finally, at 40 or so they seemed to stop, and I took that as a positive sign maybe I had officially deschooled myself. It had taken 20 years, an amount of time equal to what I had spent in school, but I had done it. Or had I?
There was a big break, but I did have them again. What is fascinating about this is that before marrying, I had a stressful job, yet I never dreamed about the stress of working. Was it because that was a briefer period in my life?
I don’t think so.
The significant difference is that school was compulsory and work was a free choice. I chose to take that job, and I decided to leave that job. School was never a choice, and it was something you were required to do.
What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all.John Holt
The Shadow of School is Everywhere
What grade are you in?
What, no school today?
Are you ready for summer break?
As a homeschooled child, these will be common questions.
As a homeschool parent you will be asked if you can teach algebra, when will you start the new school year, and hear exclamations about your patience and sanity. Usually right in front of your children.
Schedules for everything revolve around the school year, vacation rental costs double in the summer, and most activities are organized and structured to mimic school.
We can try, but entirely escaping the grip of school seems impossible.
Deschooling as a Life-Long Journey
Many homeschool experts advise taking one month to deschool for each year of schooling a child completed.
Following that advice, I should have needed about two years of deschooling, but I’ve come up with my own beliefs about the deschooling process.
It seems reasonable that an 8-year-old with only 3-4 years of schooling behind him could deschool himself in a few months. He’s young and resilient.
But you see, I was a 30-year-old mom with this crazy idea she could homeschool her children. I have completed 13 years of public education and have both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. My indoctrination is deep.
So I believe those of us who have chosen to homeschool our children, after our lengthy presence in an institutional setting, should realize our deschooling process may be life-long.
It’s like having 20 layers of paint you wish to remove, versus 2. Most people just continue to repaint in an attempt to make it look acceptable.
But those who choose to refinish have a lot of work ahead, and it is sometimes necessary to accept that we will never fully reveal the original surface.
Be Proud of Your Deschooling Success
How long will it take you to deschool? Who knows, but no matter how long it takes, be proud of each step forward.
The first step was the decision to homeschool.
After that decision, the next step in the journey is up to you.
Are you ready for the next step in your deschooling journey? Kelly, at Fearless Homeschool has created the mini-course, Deschooling Essentials, to get you started on the deschooling path.
I appreciated her discussion about the impacts of schooling on both she and her husband. They were very different, but both suffered from the structure of school.