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My kids aren't -doing- anything! Or What is deschooling?
People who have been in a traditional school situation often have to take a different approach to unschooling, especially initially. Traditional schooling can cause the loss of intrinsic motivation and joy of learning. The process of recovering those gifts is usually called "deschooling." It's the process of healing, learning to know oneself, and escaping the expectations and forms of traditional schools.  Deschooling is at least as much a problem for parents as it is for children.

In an interview
, Sandra Dodd, a Home-Ed Magazine columnist, said:  "People think learning has to happen on a schedule, and incrementally, and they get that idea from "courses" of study, and school years and semesters and graded textbooks. People fear that if teachers go to school for years to become teachers that they must know something and that this arcane knowledge is the key to learning. People fear that without "A Permanent Record" their child will grow up without an identity, without a reality, and might never get married or reproduce. School phrases like "being a student is a full-time job" and "what you do here will affect your entire life" and "you have to learn to get along with people, [so no, we're not going to transfer you to a teacher you can stand]" live in the heads of people who went to school for twelve to eighteen years, and if we didn't question them then, are we safe to question them now, with our tender children's futures in the balance? Those kinds of fears.

"Deschooling means dismantling the overlay of school. Gradually (or just all of a sudden, if you have that ability) stop speaking and thinking in terms of grades, semesters, school-days, education, scores, tests, introductions, reviews, and performance, and replace those artificial strictures and measures with ideas like morning, hungry, happy, new, learning, interesting, playing, exploring and living."

I think we are finally deschooled, but it has taken years of conscious effort to get rid of the false standards we had drilled into us during the years we spent in institutionalized learning situations. There is a fascinating book, Deschooling Our Lives, edited by Matt Hern. (I believe the forward to this book is available online at

The practical aspects of deschooling are simply time and freedom. Many suggest that it takes one year of recovery for every year you spend in school. I'm sure that would vary with each person. I think it would be much harder to "let go" if my children had been in school for any great period of time. Try to view what they *do* (even if it seems like nothing) in educational terms. Sometimes that makes it easier. There is much encouragement for deschooling available in the online community. Especially on the unschooling list and the home-ed list, you will hear stories that will reassure you.

I always tell worried parents this: If your child can read and do basic math (add/subtract, multiply/divide), then you've met the basic standard. Anything else they need to know, they can find out on their own. I really believe this is true. Unschooled children learn how to learn.

Again, I would highly recommend the hs magazines Home Education Magazine
and Growing without Schooling Magazine. They both deal with all kinds of homeschoolers, from old to young, with a leaning toward unschooling. You might also check their websites.

Other places for support are the home-ed list and the unschooling list. There are also high-school home-ed lists. (For more information, or to subscribe to these lists, visit Karen Gibson's List of Homeschool Lists

Unschooling is fine for younger children, but what about older kids?
Quite frankly, I can't see how anything but unschooling works with teenagers. How successful is it--not to mention possible--to get a teenager to do something he/she doesn't want to do?

These two books are the "textbooks" of unschooling and homeschooling teens and preteens.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education by Grace Llewellyn
List: $9.95 Element ISBN: 1862041040

Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School
by Grace Llewellyn (Editor)
List: $17.00 Lowry House Pub ISBN: 0962959138

They are available from FUN books
. Growing Without Schooling Magazine also carries them.

Another good resource is And What About College?: How Homeschooling Can Lead to Admissions to the Best Colleges & Universities by Cafi Cohen
List: $18.95 Holt Assoc ISBN: 0913677116
Cafi also has a website

You can also check out  Home-Ed Magazine's
Older Homeschoolers resources, and there are several resources available from Growing Without Schooling Magazine

back to Unschooling FAQ



1998 Amy Bell  

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