School doesn’t have the monopoly on learning. In fact, school may not even be the best place for children to learn. Learning isn’t compartmentalized in one location during a certain set of hours. Learning happens everywhere. School’s approach instills the concept that children need to work hard accumulating as many facts as possible in a classroom during the school year in between cramming for standardized tests. Children generally take a break from learning during summer and holidays as learning is something that children come to hate. School fosters this idea of learning in a box on a certain time frame with an expiration date at maturity. Then, kids are finally free to forget what they have learned and move onto more enjoyable pursuits.
Deschooling is a necessary step on the path to unschooling. It is imperative for a child who has endured the banality of school but it is equally important for parents as well. Anyone who has been indoctrinated in a schooling mindset and experienced the social conditioning that goes along with it, needs to deschool their mind. Shifting one’s mind from conventional thinking doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Don’t rush the process.
A schooling mindset can be hard to shake. It is more ingrained than you think. As soon as one is on this path or, at least, considering it then fear may begin to set in. Fear of doing it differently. Fear of the gaps. Fear that you aren’t smart enough to be an unschooling parent. Fear that your child won’t learn what the other kids are learning in school. Fear of college and career options. Fear that letting go of everything you thought you knew about your child and education is wrong. Fear that your child will just laze around the house and play video games. The fears are quantifiable; however, the enlightenment and freedom at the end of the tunnel is immeasurable.
Stay the course. Trust the deschooling process.
Make the decision to open your mind and change your beliefs. In-the-box, one-sized fits all thinking doesn’t apply to divergent children. Schools served a purpose during the Factory Age when they first emerged. Direction following, obedience training, punctuality and following authority were all cultivated for a reason. They served a purpose for the progeny of factory workers. School was to create little worker bees and parents needed free daycare. Sadly, it hasn’t changed.
Our school system doesn’t need more money thrown at it, it needs to be entirely demolished and reconstructed to suit the whole-child living in the Digital Age. Children in many classrooms are not free to move, speak, eat, drink, laugh, read, express their ideas or even go the bathroom without explicit permission from an authority figure who may unreasonably withhold such access. School is akin to a mental and physical prison. The passive recipient style didactic rote memorization and regurgitation of disjointed facts that predominate most school pedagogies, is superannuated.
Deschooling is a great time to experience passion-led, meaningful learning instead of focusing on worksheets and recreating school at home.
For gifted children, school is irrelevant at best and completely damaging at worst. Gifted children suffer bullying, hostility, damage to self-esteem and regression or, sadly, dumb down to conform socially and intellectually. Many gifted children act out behaviorally to demonstrate their frustration and often get mislabeled with a disorder and some, medicated. All gifted children eschew mindless worksheets and tune out as teachers stand in front of them attempting to impart remedial tidbits of information with no context and meaning. Most gifted children already know the information being taught and prefer discussing new and novel ideas but there is simply no time for that in a classroom. Teachers and students must prep for standardized testing instead. Repetition, the main pedagogical choice in conventional schools, kills their curious souls. Gifted children crave real knowledge and insight. Schools fail miserably when it comes to the gifted and few people care. The school environment, filled with sensory overload and devoid of intellectual and creative stimulation, fosters anxiety in so many gifted children. Sometimes the damage is quite deep which makes the deschooling process take longer.
The concept of school will soon become foreign. School is just too radical a concept. Sending your lovely little offspring off to a stranger versed in administration and authoritarian principles for eight hours a day, five days a week for much of the year who has complete control over your child is scary. Trusting that stranger to fill your child’s mind with whatever the billionaire businessman and state deem relevant despite having no background in child development or education should be seen as outrageous. Expecting your gifted child to endure the futility that is grade level schoolwork is punishment. The invasive homework that seeps into your home life and takes over your child’s free time should offend you. School is the extreme choice. Creating a lifestyle where everyone is able to learn, think, create and flourish individually is natural, healthy and relevant.
The best part, and there are so many great parts about an unschooling life, is that parents really get to know who their children are and they are able to support their child’s authentic development. School can negatively impact the parent-child relationship. The stress and anxiety of school seeps into the home and can wreak havoc on family life. The school turmoil coupled with everyday overexcitabilities and asynchronicity can make raising and nurturing gifted children quite challenging. Once you start deschooling after time served, you may see the curious spark come back and light up your child’s face. As soon you take school out of the equation, everyone becomes more joyful and emotionally connected. Life feels good again. The world is a happy place.
During the deschooling period it is helpful to let go of old notions, do some research and relax. Your child needs it and chances are you do too. When we were involved in school, I remember with zero fondness about how stressful the morning rush was. It was stressful getting out of the house on time and equally stressful driving cross-town in Los Angeles traffic. That daily morning grind is not missed at all. It may have been one of the first, most important deschooling epiphanies that reinforced our decision to leave school behind. Leisure, stress free mornings help cultivate a wonderful sense of calm, creative energy. If one is stressed out the brain shuts down and goes into fight or flight mode where no learning occurs. Children learn best when they are relaxed, open and interested.
I often have parents approach me with statements like these: “We unschool except for math.” “My child goes to school and we unschool on the weekends.” Unschooling is a philosophy that embraces self-directed learning, creative freedom and rejects indoctrination. If one is a vegan, then one doesn’t eat meat on the weekends. If you are an unschooler, you don’t allow a schooling mindset to impact your child and your way of thinking. This is why the deschooling period is so important for the parent. A child who is deschooling after having spent time in prison is letting go of all the negativity that he/she experienced while being forced to endure an authoritarian, one correct way to do things atmosphere. While the child is decompressing, relaxing and hopefully re-energizing their curiosity, the parent needs to let go of a long history of social conditioning related to education and parenting. The more you are able to shift your mind to think differently from conventional practices, the more your will be able to enjoy the unschooling experience without second-guessing the process.
How long should I deschool?
There is no predetermined time period for shifting your mind but many believe one month per one year in school as a minimum. Instead of focusing on a specific time frame for completely changing your embedded thinking, just relax and appreciate the process however it manifests. Unschooling is a constantly evolving journey with no prescribed outcome. Let life and learning unfold without trying to quantify it. Fear of the unknown is the biggest obstacle for many who have always lived with structure, a clearly defined agenda and an allegiance to the status quo.
Trust the process and enjoy the ride.
As you begin to let go of a schooling mindset, you can start letting go of the tools of the trade that are inherent to the system. It is okay to let go of curriculum. Learning is everywhere and children are curious about their world. Part of the deschooling experience is realizing that children are capable of pursuing their own interests and developing their own method of learning based on intrinsic desire and their need to discover. Children need the freedom to make choices about their life including that which they put into their own mind and body. As the parent, your role becomes supporting your child’s interests and providing access to desired resources. The whole world is their classroom. As a family, you figure out how much of that world you can explore. Each member of the family may learn differently and have varied interests and goals. Unschooling allows for everyone to follow their passions. Discovering how your child learns best is part of the deschooling process which helps reveal what type of resources may be most beneficial in your unschooling life. Once you are clued into your child’s interests and learning preferences, you can strew resources around the house that support the interest.
Deschooling moves you toward unschooling where freedom, intellectual curiosity and creativity proliferate.
Deschooling naturally leads to unschooling which drifts easily into radical unschooling. Radical unschoolers extend the self-directed learning concept to the whole child which impacts parenting and lifestyle. In a radical unschooling home, children have the freedom to make choices about all aspects of their life. Parents don’t regulate children. Children are free, autonomous beings capable of choosing that which serves their needs with unconditional guidance, love and support from their parents. There are no restrictions on screen time, content, food, bedtimes or appearances. Parents and children are engaged in a partnership where no one controls another and everyone is treated with respect.
Once you shift your mind regarding education, you may consider shifting your mind with regard to parenting as well. Bookstores and the internet are littered with traditional parenting how to tricks to get your child to behave and do as they’re told. The more children are controlled, the less likely they will be able to make healthy choices in life. If you want to raise independent thinkers, you need to give them the opportunity to think for themselves and be comfortable with pushing the boundaries of conventional wisdom.
As you shift your mind away from traditional paradigms, you may begin to question everything about mainstream living. Your perspective shifts, your beliefs change and the way you view the world may forever be altered. Deschooling is just the beginning.
Open your mind.
Embrace divergent thinking.
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