Sunday, June 16, 2013

What is Deschooling?

The idea behind deschooling is to let go of traditional, schooled beliefs, where learning only happens when someone is taught. Usually it is the home educating parent who needs to deschool and alter their perspectives of what it means to learn and have an education. However, there are many children who need to go through a deschooling period after they are removed from school, and before formal home education begins. This deschooling period gives children back their time and freedom. A bit like a holiday only one that never ends and gradually changes into an unschooling lifestyle.

As a family who has engaged in natural learning from birth, the last thing I expected was for the children to need a deschooling period.  After a discussion with 10 year old Kalea, I realised something. There is no escaping school in this society. Kalea is under almost constant pressure from others rooted in the schooled mind, philosophy and lifestyle. She does not know what to think when adults tell her school is good for her, will help her, and is full of fun things like crafts and playing with other kids and visiting the school library. This fluffy image painted for her is nothing like what she hears from her school friends who turn around and tell her they hate school and don't like going, how their favourite part is lunchtime to play with other kids. They tell her all about peer pressure, bullying, lying, and how children group off and how you aren't supposed to play or be friends with other kids who have a different skin colour. Then she is confused when her friends then tell her she "needs to go to school".

We had a long talk about it all and it turns out she really values her home ed friends because they don't tell her who she can or can't be friends with. She really values having the freedom she does not going to school. She feels insecure about herself when others tell her she cannot read (when she can read, just not every single word yet!). She feels like she is missing out on something when other adults undermine my decision as a parent to home educate. When asked what appeals to her in what is said about school, her first reply is usually that the school has a library. Our solution to that is to go to the library more ourselves. When she is made to feel insecure about what she knows, or what she can do, we use it as an opportunity to learn more. When Kalea is personally motivated to learn something, she picks it up fast. And frankly that is what unschooling is all about. Giving children the trust and freedom to do that, in their own time, when they are ready, regardless of what we, or others may think about what they should know.

This brings us back to deschooling ourselves as parents. What we think we know, and what we think our children need to know, is often modelled on a school perspective, and based on a distrust of learning and a distrust of our children. It is not easy to face society on your own, so it helps to have access to the local homeschool network so you are exposed to a diverse variety of different home schooling families. Deschooling is much easier when you have other parents to talk to who get it!

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