Deschooling is a general term used to describe the transition to unschooling, expanding our definition of learning beyond the classroom paradigm. Conventional wisdom tells us that learning looks like teachers and listening and writing and tests. Even years after we’ve graduated, chances are our vision of learning is still locked within those four walls. But what might we see if we remove our school-goggles?
The process of deschooling is interesting, inspiring and difficult. Rethinking how children learn, and what they 'need' to learn raises so many questions and involves so much trust. Trust that my children naturally want to learn, that they will find their passions and follow them, that they will develop the skills that they will need in order to enter higher education or the workforce. Unravelling the mindset that schools are the only way for children to acquire knowledge, socialise or prepare for the 'real world'. It's so easy to slip back into schoolish ways of thinking.
I see in my children that they have a natural curiosity about the world. As they discover and experience new things they want to know how everything works. I know that together we can answer all those whys, whats and hows. We live in a culture rich with language and maths. There are signs all around us. Numbers on houses, on the calendar, in baking, when making purchases. We have so many resources at our fingertips. Children are natural scientists, experimenting with everything, asking questions and trying to find answers. They are fascinated by nature, history, music, other cultures and art. They are experts at play. They move their bodies because they need to - running around the kitchen, jumping on the couch, climbing on the table - even when you would rather they didn't! They are unique. Each with their own likes and dislikes, habits and quirks. I want to honour who they are. Connect with them and get to know them as they evolve and change. Share this journey with them. Learn alongside them. Present them with a feast of options from which they can freely choose.
But still, there is fear. Still, there is deschooling to be done. I still have to remind myself that it doesn't have to look like school. Especially when I see others homeschooling and their version does look like school. Sometimes I listen to too many podcasts, read too many blog posts, too many articles, too many Facebook posts, and I begin to fear that I am not doing enough to educate my children. Facebook shows me links to free printables, worksheets, lap books, online courses, teaching aids and curriculums. I start to plan what we will learn the following week. Schoolish ways start creeping back in as I compare what I am doing to others.
This week I found myself coercing my children to complete the work samples I had chosen for them (homeschool parents need to compile samples of the children's progress for the end of year reporting). They resisted. I persisted. They weren't enjoying it. I sat with my head on the table, confused, feeling like a failure. I bribed them with screen time and the work got done, but I felt horrible. I apologised to them that night. I took the pressure off. We snuggled in bed and read bedtime stories. Instead of choosing what their samples should be, I think using what they make themselves as samples is the better option.
I don't need to tell them what to learn. Or when to learn it. I see them learning. Emerson asks to do sight words with me. She makes me point to each word every time I read to her. Cohen writes notes and entries in his gaming journal. They practice their maths in real life situations. They learn with their hands in new environments, with new experiences. They look to me as I model a lifelong love of learning. Of reading. Of nature journaling. Of crafting. They are obsessed with 'Horrible Histories' books and the television series. They ask to watch documentaries about their interests. Cohen reads constantly. They love for me to read to them each morning and evening.
I could try to fill them full of facts. Or I can help them discover how to learn. Encourage their love of learning. I believe these two tools will be the most important they could have when they enter the workforce. I can trust, in them, and myself. And keep deschooling. xx