“Deschooling” refers to the mental process a child goes through after being removed from a formal schooling environment. Families who take their children out of school in order to home educate them generally find there is a period of adjustment – a rough guideline of the time it takes to deschool is one month for every year of school attendance. If school was a negative experience for your child then the deschooling process may be even more pronounced and important. Deschooling is about letting go of the rigid ideas of learning and adjusting to the freedom of not being told what to do every minute of the day – essentially it’s about rediscovering the joy of learning.

The phase can be a difficult time and it’s worthwhile connecting with other home educators about any concerns you have. For example, your child may just seem to ‘veg out’ watching DVDs or lie on the couch doing nothing for days on end, or neither of you may know what to do at all. Conflict can arise as everyone adjusts.

WharfDeschooling is not just a process for the child who has been taken out of school – in many cases it is the parent who needs to deschool and that process can be harder and take quite a bit longer than for the child! You will slowly see the light return to your child’s eyes as he/she begins to rediscover the joy of learning, however you may continue to worry about all those ‘missed days of education’ and how ‘behind’ your child might get. It’s important to connect with others, online or through your local group, and also to take the opportunity to read about home education (see our list of Best Books).

It’s best not to make any rash decisions during this phase and, particularly, not to think that home education is too hard or that it isn’t working – give yourself and your child a decent period of time to deschool and to settle into your new home education lifestyle. There is no definitive time when the deschooling process ends and home education actually begins, however there will be a time when you realise that you have found a rhythym which works for you and your family.

At a glance …

  • There is a period of adjustment when a child leaves school to be home educated
  • The length of this adjustment period can be several months
  • This is an opportunity to allow the child to rediscover the joy of learning
  • Parents/caregivers may need as much support as the child during this phase