how to deschool 101: Embrace Freedom and Individualization

If you want to learn how to deschool 101 in your homeschool, you have some homework to do.

Homework, get it? A homeschool mom prescribing homework.

Let’s chat about how to deschool 101. Here are 7 lessons that propelled me toward more satisfaction, individualization, and freedom in my homeschool.

So, here’s a story from last fall.

Despite being invited to a not-back-to-school picnic last fall, it did not dawn on me that public school started that same day. Summer activities still occupied our schedule until the first week of September, because the weather was still, well, summery.

Since our family is not bound by provincial outcomes or guidelines, we don’t follow conventional school schedules or curricula.

We’ve learned to do what works, we follow our kids’ interests (and ours), and we allow for interruptions and changing rhythms of our family.

FYI this was not always so. I began with a private school-at-home approach.

(And it didn’t last long, because it was exhausting and impossible. It wasn’t just me that didn’t like it.)

So here are 7 lessons I’ve learned to deschool in my homeschool.

1. Our schedule is defined by our family’s rhythm.

For many years, autumn has been our season to travel.

I find it challenging to reign in energies before Christmas, so we don’t do traditional learning most of December.

Family birthdays are equivalent to school holidays for us, so no traditional learning either.

Since there’s so much to do outside in May, we direct our energies toward botany (gardening & nature drawing) and weather study (just a good excuse to use outdoor activity in science).

And if you want to determine your family’s rhythm, consider this:
Sometimes our homeschool moves in and out of different seasons:
Whatever season of our homeschool we are in; we can build on and lean into more homeschool freedoms.

2. Our world is filled with books: printed words are for sale everywhere.

Textbooks, workbooks, novels. Bookstores, homeschool mama blogs, Facebook threads. Curriculum fairs and websites abound. I have 3 suggestions about buying a curriculum here.

How to deschool 101? Don’t overbuy curriculum.

During our first year of homeschooling, I overbought, assuming we were able to cover more than we could. Every year in the last eleven, I have bought less and less, sometimes relying on the previous year’s purchases. Sometimes I heavily rely on library cards.

Kids should influence your choice of curriculum.

I have even heard my kids comment on curriculum: “I don’t want to get a curriculum that I don’t want to use.” They know they will be expected to follow through with the use of their purchase. (This is also a way to discover how they learn and encourages them to take responsibility in choosing useful resources.)

I am often asked about our less-than-conventional approach, and if we’re not following public education outcomes, where do we find curriculum?

This is what I’ve learned about curriculum:

When they are engaged in their educational choices, they are engaged in their learning.

If my kiddo can read, the world is an adventure for that child.

Capturing curiosity is important for deschooling our homeschools: how to deschool 101

3. Every year is a lesson in learning for my children (& me).

Who are we educating? Only our specific children.

If we’re educating that specific child, then we should allow that child to lead the learning. They should be our point of reference for what curriculum we choose, how we assign their time, or whether we assign their time at all.

Learning should be child-led.

Not every resource we think we’ll use is quite what we thought. There are some wasted resources.

  • One child prefers reading history independently.
  • One child likes colouring worksheets.
  • Kinesthetic activities like wiki sticks in creating letters when one kiddo was learning to spell.
  • A National Geographic chemistry set was purchased for three kids.
  • There were many other science boxes over the years.
  • Apologia and Brave Writer online classes have been used.
  • One of my teens is taking a college writing class at present.

Every child is different and every year is different.

Consider learning more about this child-led learning approach here:
PS This is an ongoing process of learning about your child & learning about learning. Your goal? just to embrace it.

students studying a globe: adjust your child's education to the child, deschool 101

4. I spend differently as a homeschool mom.

When I think back to my school experience, I remember tucking my new outfits into a bunk bed drawer that I wasn’t allowed to touch until the first day of school. I still have that blue plaid, two-button shirt.

We visited Zellers for grade-specific supply lists: another box of non-broken crayons and a package of those smelly markers.

Now that I’m a mom and have collected six hundred and fifty-two broken crayons (no I didn’t count, but I’m pretty sure I’m close) and purchased oodles of white erasers (that seem to only resurface under sofa cushions), and know that there are only eight Crayola markers that didn’t dry up by the end of the year, but there are still 67 barely sharpened pencil crayons, I no longer do the official school supply trip.

I buy what I need, like I purchase kids’ clothing based on need when seasonal shifts require it, and not on the latest style (though my kids are old enough to inform me).

However, I don’t buy indoor shoes, though every Christmas I provide fluffy socks.

I try not to buy at all. But I do. And it entirely depends on the tangible need in front of me.

How much does it cost to homeschool anyway?

Deschool your Homeschool Checklist

5. If you want to know how to deschool 101? Ask yourself, “What is an education anyways?”

If I thought of education as solely ‘in the classroom’, ‘textbook driven’, ‘test proven’, or ‘teacher taught,’ I would follow the system, its schedule, and its curriculum.

An education includes academics, of course, but the sky’s the limit to what we could know and how we could learn it.

Google is called Google for a reason, and it contains more knowledge than the most knowledgeable human might embody. Is our goal for education to enable our children to match Google?

Our family might not be going to school, but we’re still learning in our way.

I believe an education is learning to live this life well, engage in meaningful work, nurture our community, and experience life.

Learn more about the 5-Day Deschool your Homeschool Challenge.

6. Every year, we enjoy our home-spun version of a not-back-to-school party.

We plan our daily schedules in rainbow-colored pens, take grade photos, and discuss our academic plans.

Each of the kids finds a box of Smarties at the bottom of their new book stack…because they are about to get smarter.

You can find more ideas on how to celebrate your Not Back to School party here.

You can find 15 ways to incorporate fun into your homeschool here.

“There isn’t a right way to become educated, there are as many ways as there are fingerprints.”

John Taylor-Gatto

Zach building an electrical piece: learning science naturally, deschooling

7. How to deschool 101? Recognize that life is learning.

In the meantime, we have Legos to play with, dogs to walk, chickens to coral, trampolines to bounce on, a garden bounty to process, and a few more late evenings.

There are one million and one things we’re going to learn from the moment we’re born to the moment we die.

We’ll have fewer than a million, but still many, iterations of what we do in this life.

We might work at…

  • a fast food restaurant on the cash,
  • a grocery store in the bakery,
  • a real estate office as the receptionist,
  • a billing clerk at a doctor’s office,
  • a unit clerk in the labour & delivery at the local hospital,
  • a registered nurse in the perinatal float pool,
  • a new mom at home with two little girls,
  • a homeschool mom of four kids,
  • a writer for a website,
  • a host of a podcast,
  • and life coach for homeschool moms.

(A few of my iterations.)

Throughout each of those roles, I have learned one million and one thing, and I continue to too.

So, homeschool mama, you have your homework to do so you can learn how to deschool 101. What do you need to do to carpe your homeschool freedoms?

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.