In a world where traditional education has been the norm for generations, the concept of deschooling has emerged as a fundamental stepping stone towards unschooling. While both ideas may seem similar, they are distinct in their goals and methods. Deschooling, however, is the essential process that paves the way for the true freedom and empowerment that unschooling offers.
Deschooling is not a term you’ll find in most dictionaries, nor is it widely discussed in mainstream education circles. It’s a concept that emerged within the homeschooling and unschooling communities, and it refers to the process of unlearning and dismantling the ingrained beliefs and habits associated with traditional schooling. In essence, it’s the transitional phase that allows individuals to break free from the constraints of conventional education before they fully embrace unschooling.
The Limitations of Traditional Schooling
To comprehend the significance of deschooling, one must first acknowledge the limitations of traditional schooling. In traditional education systems, students are often confined to rigid schedules, curricula, and standardized testing. This structured environment can stifle creativity, critical thinking, and individual interests, as it did for me. It tends to promote rote memorization over genuine learning, and it can inadvertently discourage students from pursuing their passions and exploring their innate curiosity, by simply leaving them no time to explore.
The Deschooling Process
Deschooling is not a one-size-fits-all process; it varies from person to person. However, some key elements are common to most deschooling journeys:
The first step is acknowledging and questioning preconceived notions about education, learning, and success. This involves challenging the deeply ingrained belief that formal schooling is the only path to knowledge and achievement. For Mom and I – This meant moving away from “School at Home”, and instead becoming self directed learners.
Taking a Break:
Many deschoolers opt to take a break from formal education entirely. This break allows individuals to decompress from the pressures of traditional schooling, reevaluate their goals, and rediscover their natural love for learning.
Deschooling encourages individuals to explore their passions and interests without the constraints of a curriculum. This process fosters self-discovery and a deeper understanding of what truly motivates and excites them.
Embracing self-directed learning is a central aspect of deschooling. It means taking responsibility for one’s education, seeking knowledge independently, and developing critical thinking skills through life learning, rather than a textbook.
Deschooling helps individuals regain control over their education and life choices. It encourages autonomy and self-determination, enabling them to make informed decisions about their learning path. This can also take the immense pressure off of older teens shoulders when it comes to exams, deciding career pathways, and allowing them to choose what they want to do, not what they feel pressured to.
My experience with Deschooling
For those parents who are worried about time, or feel anxious when your childs journey through deschooling doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly as you had thought it would – it has taken me 6 years, out of 8, since leaving school to finally rediscover and regenerate my love for writing.
When Mom and Dad pulled me out of primary school (elementary school), I had learned from my 3 ½ years in school, that if I didn’t write a certain way, then I wasn’t very good at it. That belief stuck with me for the 6 out of 8 years I’ve now had out of school. But it’s through the hands-off process that Mum and Dad took, stepping completely back from pressuring me into showing them my writing, or feeling as though if I did then there would be immediate judgement waiting for me, that I slowly rediscovered my passion for writing.
Because of this, I felt that I could begin to pursue my writing the way that I had always wanted to. In 2021, I asked for a creative writing tutor and was connected with someone who has been such an inspiration, guiding light, and friend through my writing process over the last 2 years. Earlier this year, I entered in a national writing competition here in New Zealand, something I would have never considered even 2 years ago, let alone 6 years ago. And now, thanks to my incredible mentor, I get to write every week about something that I am so passionate about.
But all of that came from the long and patient practice that Mom and Dad spent years watching me go through, which was Deschooling my mind from the unneeded and unwanted judgement I had learned at school.
The Bridge to Unschooling
Once the deschooling process is well underway, individuals are better equipped to transition into unschooling. Unschooling is a radical departure from traditional education, as it emphasizes self-directed, interest-based learning, rather than a structured curriculum.
Deschooling provides the necessary foundation for unschooling by freeing the mind from the constraints of conventional education. It allows individuals to develop a strong sense of self-motivation, curiosity, and a genuine love for learning. With deschooling as the bridge, unschoolers can fully embrace their own unique educational journey, pursuing knowledge and skills that are deeply meaningful to them.
Deschooling is the paramount process that prepares individuals for the liberating world of unschooling. It’s the vital step that frees minds from the limitations of traditional schooling, empowers individuals to become self-directed learners, and is a process for parents to take as well as children. By embracing deschooling, we open the doors to a more flexible, personalized, and fulfilling approach to education—one that encourages lifelong learning and celebrates the diversity of individual interests and talents, while leaving behind the unwelcomed stress that traditional learning often allows room to grow.