Your Thoughts on De-schooling?

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One of my Facebook fans recently asked for tips on de-schooling, the process in which a formerly traditionally schooled child is given some time to decompress from a traditional classroom setting and transition into a homeschool setting.

This topic used to come up a lot on a homeschool message board I frequented, but I haven’t done the message board thing in years.  De-schooling wasn’t something that I had to deal with, really, since we started homeschooling at the beginning of my daughter’s second grade year.  We took the summer off and just started up our homeschool in the fall, so she had an automatic twelve weeks of decompression time.

My advice was:

I’ve always heard to take a week off for each year that a child has been in school. When we moved from public school to homeschool, we made the switch at the end of the year, so we just took the summer off. Depending on the age of the child, it can make moms antsy to take so much time off (it would me, anyway), so I would recommend a minimum of two or three weeks.  {Edited to add: longer if you’re comfortable with that}

During that time, I probably wouldn’t require anything schoolish of the child and see where he leads. My kids would most likely totally veg out in front of the TV or video games for a solid week, maybe longer…then, they’d start getting bored, which is when you start getting some real insight into what interests them. I’d probably start getting back into a routine with a focus on their interests and gradually build back up to a full academic schedule.

Of course, if the self-regulation of screen time doesn’t happen, I’d start introducing academics myself, but I’d probably start off with the least painful – a high-interest history or science topic, for example. And, my lead-in would be an area that interests the child. If I had a strong reader, I’d go for great books. If I had a kid who disliked reading, I’d start with some good documentary DVDs. If I had a hands-on learner, I’d try to pull in some great active learning.

What would you have said?  Anyone have any great “been there, done that” advice for a new homeschooling mom?  Is there anything you would have added?  I’m sure this question is still being asked by new homeschooling families every day and it’s not something I think I’ve ever really addressed here on my blog.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I definitely think it's best to de-school for a bit. The child needs a chance to just cool off and relax. I was lucky enough that my oldest only went to brick and mortar school for 3yrs, so when we choose to homeschool he was more than ready. Kids have this curiosity when they are born and my opinion that the public school system crushes that. Relax, get to know your child's interest and find out why they are. Go to the library and have fun!

  2. Thank you for addressing this. My son is in fourth grade and we have just decided to homeschool, starting in the fall. Like you, I figure we'll take the summer off to allow for the deschooling period.

  3. I pulled my son about a month into 1st grade. I honestly don't remember, but I think maybe I took it easy for a week.

    I would recommend if you think you need it… do it. As a homeschooler you can always "make up" that time going longer in the summer or other school implemented holidays. (if you are in a state that even requires a strict number of days)

  4. When we pulled our kids out of public school we debated doing it at the end of the year but ultimately decided to pull them out in February. The remainder of the year we did the bare minimum (Math & Language Arts), while following their lead for Science and History. We just studied whatever they were interested in for those subjects. It worked well, I was able to see how they learned best and research curriculum without feeling rushed.

  5. It sounds TERRIBLE to say, but my experience of bringing three home–AFTER The School Year of Dismay and the Summer of Horrors–was that it took an incredibly long time for the KIDS(and for me!) to get to "like" each other again. The breakdown of sibling relationships AND parent/child relationships(I really didn't like them very much those first few weeks!)was HARD to deal with as an after-effect of classroom schooling.
    It may help to warn a new HSing family that they *may* have some rough times ahead because it takes awhile for those (ahem!selfish!)feelings of the parent/child relationship to right themselves after something so UNnatural as traditional schooling–and especially if the child has been "in" for several years.
    The adage "absence makes the heart grow fonder" does NOT necessarily ring true. . .testimony borne out of watching non-full-time moms in the stores with their children during traditional school "breaks". I am SURE you know exactly what I mean.

  6. I should add–sorry–coffee isn't working well yet this morning–that telling the parent "It is OKAY" to spend time just DOING (fun)stuff WITH your child for a few weeks, is a helpful step, too–to spend time intentionally building back up the relationship. Since so much of home schooling *can be* hands-on, this sets a great foundation.
    I thought YOUR advice was spot-on, btw. 🙂

  7. We started homeschooling our daughter in the middle of 1st grade. We took a week off with just hanging around having fun then another week of educational yet fun trips like to local museums and historical sites.

    We started with unit studies and picked something that I knew she would find interesting. Also made sure to include a lot of hands on activities and trips to really get her hooked on homeschooling and not miss going to school "like everybody else."

  8. I think I would take a month or more off, but I would ban or seriously limit any screen time (tv, video games, computer, etc). As in, no more than 20 minutes a day tops.

    Why? Because filling their time with a brainless activity that entertains them nonstop is counterproductive. You want them to be bored so they develop that desire to learn and do things again, not to veg out in front of the screen. Screen time stifles creativity.

  9. We did 'de-school', but we didn't take time off of learning. We did things like Unit Studies on topics they were interested in. We did LOTS of hands on activities as well. It helped us adjust those first few months and got the kids excited about homeschooling.

  10. We "deschooled" for awhile before starting homeschooling. Daniel was 5, I think. Terrible, isn't it that after 2 years of special ed pre-k he already HATED school??! I think it was more a time where I spent time with him one-on-one, got to know him, got on his level and just connected with him. We did what he wanted, went places together and found joy in learning NOT in a "school-type" setting. I didn't have any huge plans, we just went with the flow and I used that time to get MY thoughts straight on what I wanted for him and for us in our homeschool. The hardest thing for me was NOT to just jump right back in and start homeschooling in the way work might have been done in school. We call it "doing lessons". We never do SCHOOL. Eventually we found a rhythm that worked for us (though we always are tweaking and working on what works for the family) and we went from there, happily thumbing our noses at "the right way" to do things and enjoyed the freedom of doing what works for US. Hope that helps!

  11. thank you for putting this on your blog!! I am the one who asked on facebook! lol!! I look forward to reading any comments

  12. we our kids started 3rd grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten at home this year after being in public and private schools since 4K. we took the summer off and then started the year with a few easy subjects and then a field trip. the conference i went to in preparation for all of this last spring talked about giving up to 6 mos off, but i just couldnt do it. the summer was enough for us, and then we had a few heated conversations about what we could and couldnt do in homeschool and off we went. there were some definite ideas about what school was, and i had to convince them that we had left that behind. the kids expected grades, and i refused to do it… the only thing they do miss from school is their favorite hot lunch, so after i have had them explained to me, i have tried to make my own version at home and now they are really happy.

  13. I am loving your de-schooling thoughts! Keep 'em coming. I know that they're going to be helpful to many new homeschooling moms.

    And, idigpotatoes, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who had to learn to make a "special" school lunch when we started homeschooling. lol

  14. Like you, we pulled our kids out of school at the end of a school year, so we had the summer off. If we had done it during the school year, I think we would have taken time for unstructured learning activities as well as just some general rest time.

  15. SUPER-helpful advice (& I'm talking to myself here) is to remember it's a process!

    Great advice from the moms above!

  16. I'm glad you described it because I mistakenly thought it was Un-schooling, a philosophy I totally disagree with.

    My oldest is the only one to have gone to school and he did okay just jumping into homeschool, but isn't that like a 1st born? 🙂

    I was a kid "lucky" enough to jump back and forth from home to public to private. I guess from my experience I would say whatever you do, do it with purpose and direction otherwise it can be very unsatisfying and frustrating as a student. My parents were always deliberate and slow to act. I think it helped transition in the end.

    Not really sure I actually answered the question. Ha!


  17. This is our first year homeschooling. I have a 4th, 3rd, and 1st grader. They had been npublic school and the transition has been harder than I thought. The main thing that I have had to do is completely throw grades and testing out the window. And just me learning their learning styles has taken some time. So now 6 months into de-schooling we are in a great routine and everyone is at peace. There is zero pressure for them to perform or be anything but who they want to be.

  18. I pulled my daughter out 2 1/2 mths into Gr. 3. However, other than a few days to talk about what kind of things she wanted to learn about, we did no de-schooling. She had been afterschooled, year round, since 4 years old. In the summer we did pretty much full homeschool of a couple hours work per day. So going from PS to HS wasn't a big leap for her. Now that we ARE HSing full time though, it's getting that school mentality out of her head. There is so much she learned or didn't learn in school that is very counterproductive to HSing and life in general.

  19. When my daughter came out of school (mid year third grade) we started right into school, but we did so much reading (we did Sonlight) and she loved it. I also did very little written in the first few months….just fun fun fun! It has been a little over a year and I think we are finally deschooled! It takes awhile!

  20. This is my 2nd year of hsing my 4 younger children (b13,g11,b7,g4). We had to de-school a lot! (too many years destroyed by the ps system). The biggest thing I've noticed is that I frequently have to "de-school" myself. Having been public schooled myself and having my 3 older kids go thru the public system, I find myself falling back on the "lies" of that system, especially when I'm tired. There's no doubt in mind that hsing is now the best and only option for my family. I just have to constantly pray for the wisdom to reach / teach each child understanding the beautiful / wonderful way God created each one of them.

  21. We are in the middle of the process outlined in your post. It has definitely worked with my third grader to ease into the subjects.

    He is taking an interest in what he needs to accomplish for the year, and has even recommended a subject or two that he would like to add to his schedule.

    Great post Kris!

  22. Honestly, we started right up with the new school schedule, but came to an abrupt halt this year when I miscarried and was put on bedrest (by my husband's advice). To date we haven't done "school" in 8 weeks.. and I am not stressed at ALL. In the beginning I was worried about things and now my son (who is 11) kinda took a stand and does stuff that needs to be all by himself.. I mean look at homeschooling and what your child learns anyways… Mine has learned that sometimes mama's need help. 🙂 Its not under the best circumstance, but sometimes one needs to be able to look at those they love and realize its SMALL things. We've been schooling for 3 years at home…

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