By Beth McCarter

What is Deschooling? + 9 Deschooling Ideas

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Have you ever wondered what exactly deschooling is?

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook groups dedicated to homeschooling, you’re likely to have seen references to the term ‘deschooling’. 

Deschooling can be kind of an elusive term, and not just for parents raised in the public school systems.

Keep reading to hear my exert opinion as both a certified teacher and a homeschool graduate to find out exactly what is deschooling, as well become inspired by a ton of awesome deschooling ideas!

mom and child drawing together

What is deschooling, exactly?

Deschooling is the process of detoxing from the effects of traditional school.  

It means shedding the expectations and thoughts about education that have been ingrained in us over the years.

It can be tough to retrain your brain to think about education in a way that has nothing to do with testing, arbitrary goals, and peer comparisons.  

That’s why many homeschoolers suggest a period of deschooling before embarking on an adventure in homeschooling.

Most Seasoned Homeschoolers Recommend a Deschooling Period

Let’s say that you’ve decided to withdraw your kids from public school and homeschool them.

Instead of jumping straight from one method of education to another, it makes sense to take a breather in between. 

Spending time deschooling is a great way to ease the transition into homeschooling.

dad and young son relaxing on the couch looking at phones

Why deschool?

Imagine that a child has had a traumatic experience, or years of traumatic experiences, in a public school.  Their parent wants to provide the best environment for them to learn in, but when they attempt to homeschool them, their child is resistant.

The child may be resistant to any form of education because of the traumatic experience of school.  Maybe they believe that they aren’t smart enough, or capable enough, to learn.

People who deschool believe it’s important to change one’s mindset about education before attempting to learn from anything that resembles curriculum.

What are the Benefits of Deschooling?

Deschooling can provide tons of benefits for both children and parents.  Here are a few below.

Deschooling can allow you to:

✅ Decompress after a rigorous schedule

✅ Explore reading

✅ Find new passions

✅ Discover new hobbies

✅ Practice drawing

✅ Play music

✅ Dance

✅ Rediscover yourself

two children sitting on bench next to lake

Deschooling Doesn’t Mean You Have to Stop Learning

If you’re familiar with alternatives to traditional schooling, you know that learning doesn’t happen exclusively within a school. 

In fact, learning can happen without any organization or curriculum at all.

My own experience with deschooling may have looked like I was simply catnapping in the hammock in summertime, but that’s when I spent the most time day-dreaming, reading, and planning out a future as a world traveler.  

I wouldn’t be who I am today without those idyllic childhood periods of deschooling. 

The Homeschool Graduate
child putting sunglasses on dog

But what is Deschooling, Really?

Think about it this way.

You just went through a really messy divorce.  Your sense of self is shattered and you’re just focused on surviving.  Do you dive right into finding another relationship, or do you spend time healing yourself? Nurturing yourself? Discovering who you really are before opening yourself up to love again?

That’s what deschooling can be for children (and parents!) who experience trauma in public schools.  

Really Cool Deschooling Ideas 

Ok, so you’re sold on the whole deschooling idea.  But what do you actually do while you’re deschooling your kids (and yourself!)

Here are some great ideas for deschooling.

The 9 Best Deschooling Ideas

1. Games and Hobbies

Use this time to play board games and discover new hobbies.  Maybe your children love Pictionary, Chess, or watercolor.  They wouldn’t know if they didn’t have time to decompress from school!

2. Books and Movies

Deschooling gives you the chance to expose your children to your favorite books, movies, music, and more.  It also allows them to find content they really enjoy.

child playing electric keyboard

No Effort Deschooling Ideas

3. Nothing

Yes, that’s right, do nothing! You don’t have to plan entertainment for the whole deschooling period.  It’s OK for your kids to be bored.  

My mom used to always tell me that only boring people get bored. I always hated hearing it.  But, to her credit, I now have a really amazing imagination!

4. Unstructured Play

When I want my kids to have a no-screen day of play, I just let them dump out their lego bucket.  They will spend hours playing with their toys with no planning on my part.

5. Relax

Mimic the people in Paris and sit in the sun with a nice drink and enjoy each other’s company. 

My ultimate relaxing day is a rainy one, curled up in my chair with a book and a warm drink.

children swimming in pool

Outdoor Deschooling Ideas and Field trips

If the weather is nice, heading outside can be the best part of deschooling.  

6. Explore Nature and Other Local Places

Heading outdoors can be extremely educational.  Look up local areas you can explore with the kids.  Pack your camera and let the kids take pictures or draw what they see.  

7. Swim

If you have access to a pool it can be an amazing low-cost way to keep kids entertained.  Bonus- they’ll be so tired that they’ll sleep great!

More Activities for Deschooling Your Kids

8. Art

Don’t think that you need to be an all out crafty parent to let your children engage in arts and crafts.

My kids will spend hours doodling and listening to chill vibes on Spotify.  (I will too, honestly).  

9. Crafts

Again, crafts don’t have to be this big beautiful Instagram occasion.  A couple old Amazon boxes, some items bound for recycling, masking tape, and markers will keep them occupied for hours.

RecapWhat is Deschooling?

Deschooling is a process of detoxing from traditional school.  Deschooling gives you and your children time to prepare yourselves mentally for a new educational journey.  It allows your brain and heart time to heal and rest.  

Ideas for deschooling don’t have to be work- in fact, they can be absolutely minimal effort! Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money or time setting up your family’s deschooling experience.

Beth McCarter head shot, working at a desk

Welcome! I'm Beth, your homeschool education consultant. I'm a 2nd generation homeschooler and certified teacher.

I help parents smoothly transition from public school to homeschooling.

I proudly serve families from ALL walks of life. My 1-on-1 services are inclusive and non-discriminatory.

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About the Author

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Beth McCarter was homeschooled growing up. After graduation, she became a certified teacher and spent 10+ years teaching students pre-k through adulthood. Now, she's homeschooling her own children as they travel around the world as a family.

Beth is an education consultant who works 1-on-1 with families transitioning from public school to homeschool.
Get 1-on-1 help from Beth here