Seriously thinking of homeschooling your children? Great! But wait, there is something we parents must do before we begin educating at home. We need to deschool ourselves. You may be wondering why one would need to do that when the whole point is to bring school to home! It is homeschooling after all.
Deschooling yourself – the parent – is a very important process to help you move away from the school mindset when it comes to home education. Deschooling yourself means to let go of your recollection of school and what learning looks like within a school setting. These notions can get in the way of homeschooling if those memories dictate to you how your home-learning should be.
First of all, our homes are a completely different environment from our schools. When the environment changes, then our habits and actions should change as well. When we think of home, we often think of a place of relaxation, slow movement, and letting our minds wander and reflect. In contrast, we think of schools as a place of focus, schedules, and doing everything at a hurried pace. That is because school and home are not the same! Think of the rules and system you followed at school when you were younger; it formulated your ideas of what formal education should look like. For example:
- You had to ask for permission to use the bathroom, class items, or even to get up from your seat.
- You had to be called on by your teacher to share your ideas.
- You had to say or write what the teachers instructed in order to gain their approval and get good grades.
- You had to follow a regimented schedule.
- You had to often sit for long hours in one place and listen to the teacher the whole time.
- And often do dull tasks or work.
- Every learning experience is measured at school in terms of grades, quizzes, and standardized tests.
- Parents or children themselves compare their grades to other children’s, which can lead to unnecessary anxiety and low self-esteem if they are not meeting expectations
So we know what we are leaving behind in order to start this new lifestyle. No doubt we will want our children to be quiet at times, respect authority and listen to them, and have the stamina to complete tasks they may not be interested in. Sometimes our lives will require us to get certain things done in order to move forward.
There are a wide variety of reasons why families are considering homeschooling for themselves. These include how many schools are underfunded, lack in resources, are not conducive to neurodivergent children, and are not favorable towards African American children, for example.
Deschooling the Entire Family
The deschooling period helps to leave behind any negative associations of learning a child may have developed from school so that they can settle into the new expectations, opportunities, and routines. Start by thinking of some fun ways to spend time deschooling him/her if your children have been to school before. Also, think of how you can de-school yourself.
One analogy on deschooling that resonated with me was that we should start by living every day as if it is Saturday. How do you and your family spend your weekend when there is no school or work? How do you spend time as a family? De-schooling also means there are no lessons, planned activities, or schedules. It means being open to new experiences and ideas as you let go of your old notions of schooling. We are not trying to have a desk and blackboard situation at home, nor a schedule from 9:00 am to 3:00 p.m. You let go of these characteristics of the school environment.
Homeschooling is an extension of parenting. We are mothers and fathers, and teachers quite naturally. We may not be certified but we are teachers nonetheless. But how we educate our children will be significantly different than in an institutional setting. It should be relaxed and natural just as we teach our kids to walk and talk. Just as we recite the Quran and pray in front of them and they pick it up right away. Or just as we teach them how to count the petals on a flower or read a sign on the road. Here are some tips on how you can start to deschool yourself along with your kids:
- Pretend that you are waking up on a weekend morning with no expectations, no pressure, and no demands.
- Watch your children explore their newfound freedom as they play and engage in activities they enjoy.
- Watch them be curious and notice the questions they ask you – you are retraining yourself to see how learning is happening naturally without a teacher or textbook.
- Let them play freely as would during the weekend (within limits, of course, which includes limiting screen-time as you normally would).
And these are activities that will allow you to see your children take on deschooling practices:
- Have a slow breakfast together.
- Read together with your children – even if they want to doodle or play quietly while you read out loud to them.
- Borrow or buy some books and lay them out on the kitchen table. Let the kids gravitate to them on their own, without your prompting.
- Bake or cook something together.
- Complete a puzzle, play a board game, build with Legos©, make crafts, or paint with them.
- Go outside, visit the museum, go to the beach or park, or hike in the forest.
- Visit family or invite friends over.
- Go on a short road trip together.
Basically, do activities that build a connection between you and your kids, and have big, juicy conversations. Be ready to hear what their interests are. These activities can be done with both your little ones or teens. And they are to be done during your normal weekday ‘school hours.’ The change will be invigorating at first because you are doing weekend activities during the weekdays.
As you deschool yourself and your family for a certain period of time, perhaps up to a month if possible, start to re-educate yourself on what learning without school can be for your family. You can read books, blogs, articles, speak to other homeschooling parents on what home education and alternative education is. You are forging a new path for your family. Therefore, give your family time to unwind, and slowly work your way to a new routine that will fit in the slow, relaxed environment of your home, inshaAllah, God-willing.
Here is some literature on deschooling and homeschooling for further reading:
Deschooling Gently: a Step-to-Step Guide to Fearless Homeschooling by Tammy Takahashi
Everywhere All the Time: A New Deschooling Reader by Matt Hern
Sumayya Khan is a homeschooling mother of two and a teacher. She has worked with several Islamic schools and organizations in the last 10 years. She is currently teaching Literature online with Dawanet and studying the Qur’an through Al-Huda Institute. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, play sports, enjoy nature, and read books. She currently resides with her family in Toronto, Canada.