Unschooling can be a difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around, especially if they have not yet “deschooled.” Since most people spent their youth traditionally schooled, whether within schools walls or homeschooled with a curriculum, it is hard to comprehend what life without school would be like, let alone attempt to live it. The deschooling process is the act of relearning how we learn in order to recognize that school is not, in fact, the only way to do so.
Deschooling is a process that is important for both parents and children. If your children have never been to school, the process will lie mainly within yourself. However, if your children have attended school, even for a year, then it should be a mutual process of deschooling together.
The ultimate goal of deschooling is to recognize that you are built to learn on your own and do not need teachers, curriculum or specific guidance in order to fill your mind with the wondrous knowledge the world has to offer.
Since life without school is so abstract for so many, here I offer some techniques to get you started on your road to rethinking education and building confidence in your innate ability to teach yourself.
Avoid all things school. This is very important for children if they have been in a school setting. It is difficult to comprehend life without something if we are still immersed in it. Simply stepping away from school may not be enough. Instead, try to avoid anything that registers in your mind as “school-y,” from textbooks and worksheets to PBS specials to science experiments. If your brain recognizes it as something from school, skip it unless you are absolutely enthralled and fascinated by it. Consider behaving as you would on a weekend or a school vacation, but do it all the time.
The important thing to remember is that there is no time line to this. Some children may need a year or two of genuinely doing nothing of importance. It can be hard for parents to handle this stage as fears of laziness set in. But that is where step two comes in.
Categorize everything into subjects. While you are actively avoiding all things school, try to look at everything you are doing and put a subject label on it. Math, science, history, language arts. Whatever subject you can apply to your actions, apply it. This will be hard at first because we are taught that subjects exist separate from everyday life. But after a couple of weeks of consciously labeling everything, it will flow so easily that you will find almost everything you do, from waking up to going to bed, is filled with subject labels.
Playing outside? Register the science lessons, physical education and team building. Video games? How about reading, problem solving, mathematics and even more science. Watching your favorite sitcom? Look for lessons right in the show: history, current events, social studies.
Everything you and your children do is filled with lessons if you actively look for them. Get really creativity and don’t sell anything short. Try not to look for future applications or varying levels of importance but instead, just recognize the subjects at every moment.
Learn something new. To a schooled mentality, this may sound counter-intuitive to avoiding all things school but it is a very important step in deschooling oneself. Choosing something that you have always wanted to learn but never had the chance, whether it’s knitting, learning a new language or building a model airplane, and then starting from scratch to figure out how to learn it will teach you so much about building confidence in your abilities. Searching for YouTube videos or articles, heading to the library to check out a how-to book or even buying the materials and jumping in head first are all ways we can educate ourselves about something new.
From making the choice about what you want to learn, taking all the steps to learn it and ultimately recognizing the knowledge (no matter how much or how little) you have gained are all steps that show you how you learn and that you can learn. It shows you that you can take control of your education and succeed. The more you attempt this, the more confidence you will gain and the more you will question why you ever thought you needed school at all.
Give it time. School is a very powerful mentality. Its existence relies completely on its ability to make us think that we need it. Not too long ago, no one thought it was a necessary tool to learn anything. Everyone had confidence in themselves to learn what they needed to know for life and centuries of history was proof of this. The basis of school is to falsely educate us that we need school.
Submerged in a society that believes this and after years of being taught this mentality, shaking it will not happen overnight. It can take weeks, months or even years to completely remove the mentality that we cannot learn all we need to know without school.
Anytime you waiver or question your own confidence in your abilities, start back at the beginning. Avoid school, categorize everything you are learning at every moment and, above all, actively learn something new. Overtime your confidence will explode, your abilities will flourish and your thirst and passion for more knowledge will fuel you day to day. From there you can enter the world of Unschooling.