So you want to start homeschooling? That’s great!

Now is the time to start panicking. You’ve pulled your kids out of school, or you’re at least planning to once this school year is over. You’ve done the research, but you feel like it isn’t nearly enough. You still have a dozen books to buy. It feels overwhelming, like you’ll never be really prepared for this change.

Well, even if I tell you not to panic, you probably will…at least a little, right? But, honestly, it’s not that bad! You just need to ease into this—and deschooling might be just the way to do that.

If you’ve ever Googled “how to start homeschooling,” you may have come across the term “deschooling.” Today we’ll be looking at this term in-depth so you can determine if you should deschool your kids (and yourself!).


Okay, so this word sounds a little sketchy. “Deschooling”? That sounds almost anti-school. 

Take a deep breath: it’s not. Deschooling is all about finding a new rhythm outside the public or private school setting. In other words, The Homeschool Mom says that deschooling is simply “the adjustment period a child goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling.”

Deschooling is all about getting used to less-rigorous expectations and grading, shedding school culture, and throwing off the rigorous schedule.

The Origins of Deschooling

The man who coined the term was Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich. He wrote a book, Deschooling Society, which critiqued modern education and suggested an alternative: a society that learns in a holistic way, free of institutionalized education. He proposes that real learning happens outside of school.

If you know anything about unschooling, you’re probably thinking that deschooling sounds familiar. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be an unschooler (where “students do not attend school and do not follow any set homeschool curriculum,” according to US News) to benefit from deschooling.

Contemporary Deschooling

Today, “deschooling” is used to indicate the transition stage from attending a school building to being schooled at home. It’s a deliberate act on the part of the parent, as we’ll see in a minute. However, whether you’re ultimately going to be unschoolers, a traditional homeschoolers, or emphasize classical education is up to you.

Typically, deschooling looks something like this in the homeschool culture today:

  • A parent takes their kids out of school with the intent to homeschool
  • The parent begins homeschooling, but does not immediately start off with books, worksheets, grading, or a schedule set in stone
  • Instead, he or she plans to take a certain period of time (this could be two weeks or two months!) to let the kids explore this new lifestyle
  • The adjustment period over, the parent has a better knowledge of her children and a game plan for a homeschool experience that will fit her and her kids needs, interests, and natural routines
  • Now it’s time to establish curriculum and schedule

How do you know you need to deschool? Well, you could try skipping the deschooling phase and jumping right into the “important” stuff, but there are good reasons why it’s so highly recommended by homeschool veterans. Let’s take a look at the benefits.

Getting School Out of the Child

You’ve gotten your kid out of school. Now it’s time to get school out of your kid!

If your child has been at a school for any length of time, they know what’s expected of them. They’re used to getting up early, spending all day at a desk or in a large group, being graded and being disciplined in a classroom setting

But this is homeschooling. You need to help them—and you—realize that this is different. The expectations have changed. The discipline will be different (they answer to you now, on everything). Learning at home is more relaxed. Smaller group means different dynamics. Working together as a family is harder and more wonderful than it sounds! Your relationships and family system will shift and grow.

Will they feel comfortable in this environment right out of the gate? Probably not. They’re not used to the idea of home and school blending together. Neither are you. The very way you learn and relate will look so different a year from now. 

Give yourself space to explore that for a little while. Like a new pair of shoes, this homeschool thing will need some breaking in.

Observing How They Learn

Another plus of deschooling is the chance you have to watch your kids and see how they learn. This is just as important whether you have one child or multiple. 

As individuals, they have a unique approach to processing and using information. They’re used to a certain measure of one-size-fits-all in the traditional academic setting, but again, homeschooling is different. You don’t have to purchase the same curriculum for each child. You can even choose what to emphasize and what to eliminate, in some instances.

With this in mind, shape your deschooling period around learning, not school or academics. Interact with other people. Take field trips like nature walks or a visit to the fire station. Join a co-op (this is a great way to meet other homeschoolers, another essential part of deschooling). Explore your town, your hiking trails, the library, watch education YouTube videos and documentaries. Read good books. Spend a few minutes everyday Googling a random question you discussed at lunch or researching dolphins. 

Are you starting to get the picture? You’re learning about your child in a way you couldn’t if they were seated next to you with a math worksheet. 

Plus, they’re on a little journey of self-discovery too. Without the restraints that schools necessarily put on them, they’re allowed to get a glimpse of their own potential.

And hopefully, the many possibilities of being home-educated.

Create Your Own Version of Deschooling to Help Your Kids Thrive

Anyone can deschool. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting homeschool in the middle of the school year, or waiting until after summer break.

Yes, you should even deschool even if your kids have had the whole summer to get school out of their systems. We all know summer is for sleeping in and enjoying loose routines. When you deschool, you’re being more intentional and testing out more efficient routines.

However, you’re free to create your own version of deschooling. Just because everyone does it one way does not mean that will work for your family. The whole point is to help you and your children thrive. Some people thrive with more structure. Some thrive with less.

Find what works for you.