The image says, "What is deschooling?" There's a red dot that says blog, podcast, video. Image of HomeSchool ThinkTank's logo on image. On the right side of the image is a man and boy cooking. On the left side is a girl sitting at a desk in a classroom. The girl's hand is raised and there is a teacher standing at the front of the classroom.

In this article, we’ll help you understand what deschooling is and how it’s different from unschooling. You’ll also learn about Ivan Illich and his book, Deschooling Society.

Here are some of the questions that you might be asking yourself.

  • What is deschooling?
  • Is deschooling different from unschooling?
  • Should I deschool my children as I start homeschooling them?
  • Where did the idea of deschooling come from?
  • What is Deschooling Society & who is Ivan Illich?
  • How do I deschool my kids?

If you’re curious about deschooling, you’re in the right place.

You can read this article, listen to the podcast episode, or watch a video near the bottom of this page. In addition, you can also learn more about our coaching program for homeschooling parents or book a Homeschool Strategy Call.

Deschooling Before Homeschooling

It is often said that when a child transitions from going to school to homeschooling, the child needs a deschooling period.

The reason for this is that when children go to school, they are trained to be good students and wait for a teacher to tell them what to do.

As a homeschooling parent, you might prefer that your child be more self-driven and allow their innate curiosity to guide their education.

When you deschool your child, you are giving them time to rediscover their curiosity and develop their own interests.

What is Deschooling?

Below you’ll find various ways to think about deschooling.

  • Deschooling is about breaking free from the mindset that is developed by going to school.
  • An adjustment period between attending school and homeschooling.
  • Deschooling can also be a time for you and your child to connect.
  • Time to dream, visit, learn, make plans, and prepare for your new homeschool lifestyle.
  • Deschooling is a period of time to decompress from the school experience and allow yourself and your child to live and learn in more natural ways.
Deschooling Definition

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “Deschooling is the ‘act or process of removing the function of education from conventional schools to non-institutional systems of learning.'”

Read more about the official definition of deschooling further down this page.

Deschooling 101 Video: What it is and Why You Need to Do It Before Homeschooling

Why Deschool?

If your children have been in school and are struggling with their education, you might want to consider deschooling them. In addition, if you’ve strictly adhered to homeschool curriculum and your kids are struggling or bored with the curriculum, deschooling might be something for you to consider as well.

Another sign that you might want to deschool is that you and your child are struggling with curriculum.

  • Is your child bored, struggling, or in tears?
  • Are you stressed out, tense, or yelling over schoolwork?
  • Is school exhausting for you or your child?

If you answered, “Yes,” it might be time to deschool.

Deschooling Definition

While the Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not offer a definition for deschooling, we found a definition in the Online Etymology Dictionary. If you aren’t familiar with etymology, it’s basically studying the history of a word and tracing a word back to its origin.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “Deschooling is the ‘act or process of removing the function of education from conventional schools to non-institutional systems of learning.'”

In addition to defining the word, the Online Etymology Dictionary also mentioned that the word was coined in 1970 by Austrian-born U.S. anarchist philosopher Ivan Illich.

Below is HomeSchool ThinkTank’s definition of deschooling.

“Deschooling is a period of time between attending school and the beginning of an intentional homeschool education. The purpose is to separate schooling from education and learning so that a child might rediscover their own curiosity and desire to learn.”

HomeSchool ThinkTank
What Is Deschooling? Quote by Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society book

Traditional Public School

In a traditional school setting, children wait to be told what to do and what to learn.

Children are also told when to learn, and how much time they have to learn.

In addition, when a child goes to school, they must ask for permission to take care of their basic needs. Things like using the restroom, getting a drink of water, eating, speaking, and moving are only allowed with permission.

Oftentimes, a child’s innate desire to learn and care for themselves is squelched in a system of traditional education.

If you want to learn more about how schools impact children, read this article about John Taylor Gatto and his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Agenda of Compulsory Schooling.

Are Schools Dumbing Us Down? Blog Podcast Video. Listen to the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast.

Deschool for Curiosity & Meaning

When a child is deschooled, they are allowed the space and time to reignite their curiosity and to follow their own body rhythms.

When children are in school, they are often told what to do, learn, and think.

However, when a child is homeschooled, they have far more time to explore ideas that are meaningful and interesting to them.

In essence, homeschooled children have time to be curious and learn in natural ways.

Listen to the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast!

Click here to listen to our episode about deschooling before homeschooling and Ivan Illich.

HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast: Homeschool Your Kids with Confidence

Click here to learn more about the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast!

Who is Ivan Illich?

In 1970, Ivan Illich wrote a lengthy paper called Deschooling Society.

Ivan Illich coined the word deschooling, and subsequently has had an impact on how many families around the world begin to homeschool their children.

The introduction of the book, Deschooling Society, opens with the following words.

“I owe my interest in public education to Everett Reimer. Until we first met in Puerto Rico in 1958, I had never questioned the value of extending obligatory schooling to all people. Together we have come to realize that for most men the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school.”

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society.
HomeSchool ThinkTank Happenings

Sign up for our newsletter, get the podcast, and join our community.

Deschooling Society Chapter One: Why We Must Disestablish School

In the first chapter that’s entitled, Why We Must Disestablish School, Ivan Illich says the following.

“Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance.

Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success.

The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.

His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value.

Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.

Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.”

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Decide if Homeschooling is Right for Your Family

THINK HOMESCHOOL: Live & Learn Your Way. Front Cover. Read the book or Listen to the Audiobook at HomeSchool ThinkTank

Ivan Illich Quote from Deschooling Society

“Rich and poor alike depend on schools and hospitals which guide their lives, form their world view, and define for them what is legitimate and what is not.

Both view doctoring oneself as irresponsible, learning on one’s own as unreliable, and community organization, when not paid for by those in authority, as a form of aggression or subversion.

For both groups the reliance on institutional treatment renders independent accomplishment suspect.”

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Learn About Our Coaching Program for Homeschool Parents!

THRIVE: Coaching for Homeschool Parents

More From Ivan Illich’s Book, Deschooling Society

“But in both places, the mere existence of school discourages and disables the poor from taking control of their own learning. All over the world, the school has an anti-educational effect on society: school is recognized as the institution which specializes in education.

The failures of school are taken by most people as proof that education is a very costly, very complex, always arcane, and frequently almost impossible task.

School appropriates the money, men, and good will available for education and, in addition, discourages other institutions from assuming educational tasks. Work, leisure, politics, city living, and even family life depend on schools for the habits and knowledge they presuppose, instead of becoming themselves the means of education.”

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

This quote from Ivan Illich is a good representation of the portion of his writing that is about education.

Video about Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

Buy Deschooling Society on Amazon

You’ll want to have a little time, some peace and quiet, and a comfy chair before you dive into this philosophical and thought-provoking read.

Buy the book on Amazon.

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich.

Unschooling vs Deschooling

If you’re new to homeschooling, you may have also heard of the word unschooling. Sometimes parents wonder about the differences between the words unschooling and deschooling. Let’s take a moment to help you understand the differences between these words.

Unschooling is about approaching education with a vastly different mindset than is prevalent in a school environment. Deschooling is about breaking free from the mindset that children develop when they go to school.

While unschooling parents may guide their child’s education with intention, they allow each child to follow their innate ability to learn and care for themselves.

What Is Unschooling: Homeschooling 101. Blog post and video.

Traditional Schooling

In the conventional school system, children are taught to wait for a classroom teacher to tell them what to learn and when to learn it.

At school, children learn to ignore their own curiosity and follow a path of education that was created for the masses rather than following their natural curiosity.


The idea of unschooling is that children are given the free time to learn in a more natural way.

While a parent provides general direction, unschooled children follow a natural learning path. They are frequently allowed to make their own choices and learn in their own way.

Get One-on-One Guidance

At HomeSchool ThinkTank, we offer one-on-one guidance and coaching. Book a call today!

Book Your Homeschool Strategy Call with HomeSchool ThinkTank. Learn More...

Deschooling After Schooling

It is often said that when a child transitions from going to school to homeschooling, the child needs to be deschooled.


Because school is not the equivalent of education or learning.

To be educated or to learn, one doesn’t need to be in a school environment.

In essence, a child needs to rediscover the love of learning that they were born with, but was likely schooled out of him or her.

What do you believe about education? Blog, podcast, video. www.HomeSchoolThinkTank.com

Deschool to Start Homeschooling

In a traditional school setting, children wait to be told what to learn, how to learn, when to learn, and from whom they should learn. In addition, they’re also told how much time they have to learn. Finally, children have to get permission to do basic things like drinking water, using the restroom, and speaking.

Frequently, the child’s innate desire to learn and care for themselves is dampened in this system of traditional education.

Deschooling is one way to help your child begin to free themselves from the mindset that is developed in school.

Video about Deschooling: What it is & How to Get Started

Transition to Homeschooling with Deschooling

There is a period of adjustment that happens when you remove your children from a formal learning environment and begin your homeschooling journey.

During this adjustment period, you’ll want to take time to set up your environment.

While we’re not suggesting that you follow a school-at-home model, you’ll want to make your home an inviting place to learn in. You might need to help your child clean their room and create space for projects and activities that your child would like to do.

How to Homeschool Your Kids: Step by Step Guide to Homeschooling Your Children. Blog, Podcast, Video at www.HomeSchoolThinkTank.com

Connection Time

Another reason you might want to deschool is to connect with your child. If you and your child have tension between you, then it might be time for a decompression period.

At HomeSchool ThinkTank, we have a saying, Connection Before Curriculum.

To homeschool successfully, you will need to develop and maintain a strong connection with your child. When you are going through the process of deschooling, this is an excellent time to reconnect with your child.

Take time to dream, visit, learn, make plans, and prepare for your new homeschool lifestyle.

By taking the time to deschool, you and your child can begin to envision a new way of learning as you embark on your homeschool journey.

Connection Before Curriculum

Deschooling for Parents

While we tend to focus on our kids, most parents need to go through a deschooling process as well. As parents, most of us attended public school.

If schools are good at doing one thing well, they teach us that to get an education, we need to go to school.

As a result, before the pandemic, most parents had been so well-conditioned that they didn’t even question whether their children would go to school. It’s simply what we do when kids turn five years old.

We send them to school.

Our society has been well-conditioned to believe that school equates to education and that we should do as we were taught in school. It’s incredibly difficult to break away from this school mindset.

If you are reading articles like this or listening to the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast, then you are likely in the process of deschooling yourself. Wrapping your mind around the world of homeschooling or even unschooling requires a major paradigm shift.

Changing the way that you think is hard.

That’s why we’ve created a coaching program that’s just for homeschooling parents. It’s called THRIVE.

You can learn more about THRIVE here.

Support for homeschooling parents. Learn more about THRIVE here.

How Long Should We Deschool?

At the end of the traditional school year, many parents use the summer break to deschool their children.

If you’re starting to homeschool at another time of the year, a good rule of thumb is to do a month of deschooling before settling into any specific curriculum or homeschooling style.

One purpose of deschooling is to get a better understanding of your child’s interests and natural learning process.

One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you have the opportunity to help your child develop a natural love of learning.

Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized education plan.

Video about Deschooling: The Why and the How

How to Deschool Your Children

If you’re considering deschooling, you might feel anxious about it. Here are some steps to help you get started.

  1. Visit this article about How To Homeschool.
  2. Learn about your state’s homeschool laws.
  3. If you need to meet your state’s homeschool requirements while deschooling, focus on concept-based learning rather than curriculum-based education.
  4. Get your child involved in their own education. The parent’s role is to guide and help provide opportunities for your child to learn.
  5. Make plans with your child. Downtime and the freedom to be bored can be part of the plan. People generally discover new ideas and interests when they have time to reflect.
  6. Explore educational opportunities with your child.
  7. Have fun on your deschooling adventure!

Learn More About Unschooling

What Is Unschooling? Homeschooling 101. Blog & Video

More Books, Articles, Videos, & Podcast Episodes For You

Homeschool Blog, Podcast, Coaching, Workshop, and Support. www.HomeSchoolThinkTank.com

How to Share This Episode

Copy and paste the link below to share this article anywhere.


Thank you for sharing.