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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 you might be asking about deschooling.

  • 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 the concept of deschooling, you’re in the right place. Whether you want to know about deschooling as it relates to homeschooling, or about Deschooling Society and Ivan Illich, we have the answers you’re looking for.

Read this article, listen to the podcast episode, and watch two videos about deschooling. In addition, you can also learn about our coaching program for homeschooling parents and book a Homeschool Strategy Call.

What Is Deschooling?

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

  • Deschooling is about breaking free from the mindset 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, plan, and prepare for your new homeschool lifestyle.
  • Deschooling is a time to decompress from the school experience and allow yourself and your child to live and learn more naturally.

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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.

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Listen to our podcast episode about deschooling and Ivan Illich.

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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.”

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Deschool Before You Homeschool:

Transitioning from Traditional Schooling to Home Education

It is often said that when a child transitions from a school setting to homeschooling, he or she needs a deschooling period. This is because when children go to public or private school, they are trained to be good students and wait for a teacher to tell them what to do, learn, and think. In school, children learn to ignore their curiosity and follow a path of education created for the masses.

In addition, children must ask for permission to care for their basic needs within the school environment. Using the restroom, drinking water, eating, speaking, and moving are only allowed with permission.

Often, a child’s innate desire to learn and care for themselves is squelched in a traditional education system. In essence, a child needs to rediscover the love of learning they were born with but was likely schooled out of him or her. Deschooling is a great way for new homeschoolers to begin a new way of life and education!

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

The Importance of Deschooling: Reignite Your Child’s Curiosity

Deschooling is about giving your child time to rediscover their curiosity, develop their own interests, and follow their body rhythms. When a child is homeschooled, they have more free time to explore ideas that are meaningful and interesting to themselves. This is when real learning happens!

In essence, homeschooled children have time to be curious and learn naturally. Deschooling is an excellent way to begin your family’s homeschooling journey. Through a period of deschooling, you and your family will begin freeing themselves from the “school mindset.”

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.

When Is It Time to Deschool?

  • In the time period between attending conventional school and homeschooling.
  • During extended holiday breaks.
  • When changing your homeschool approach.

In general, deschooling happens during the transition from attending school to homeschooling. However, if you change your homeschooling approach, you can also deschool intentionally. For example, if you’ve been using a school-at-home approach to homeschooling and are transitioning to another style of homeschooling, it might be appropriate to deschool during that period of adjustment.

Homeschool Styles, Types, Approaches, and Methods.HomeSchool ThinkTank: Blog, Podcast, Video.

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.

Below are several benefits of deschooling.

  • Time to connect with your child.
  • Allow your child time and space to explore their interests.
  • Better understand your child’s interests and natural learning process.
  • Explore opportunities that are available because you are homeschooling.
  • Take time to set up your homeschooling environment.
  • Make plans and prepare for your new homeschooling lifestyle.

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

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Deschooling for Parents

While we tend to focus on our kids, most parents also need to undergo a deschooling process. As parents, most of us attended public school and have adopted the belief system taught in schools. If schools are good at doing one thing well, they teach us that education happens in school.

As a result, before the pandemic, most parents had been so well-conditioned that they didn’t question whether their children would go to school. When children turn five, most parents send their kids to school without considering other educational alternatives.

By reading articles like this or listening to the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast, you are likely in the process of deschooling yourself.

If you went through the public school system, wrapping your mind around homeschooling requires a major paradigm shift. That’s why we’ve created a coaching program for homeschooling parents. It’s called THRIVE. Inside our coaching program, you’ll receive the support you need while homeschooling your kids.

You can learn more about THRIVE here.

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How to Start Deschooling 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. If you need to meet your state’s homeschool requirements while deschooling, focus on concept-based learning rather than curriculum-based education.
  3. Get your child involved in their education. The parent’s role is to guide and help provide opportunities for your child to learn.
  4. 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.
  5. Explore educational opportunities with your child.
  6. Make homeschooling friends.
  7. Have fun on your deschooling journey!

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Deschooling Definition & Etymology

While the Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not define the word deschooling, we found a definition in the Online Etymology Dictionary. If you aren’t familiar with etymology, it’s studying a word’s history and tracing it 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.'”

By the way, the word is not spelled as de school or de-school. It’s spelled as one word: deschool.

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

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

Who is Ivan Illich?

In 1970, Ivan Illich wrote a lengthy paper called Deschooling Society. In his paper, Ivan Illich coined and introduced deschooling, subsequently impacting how many families worldwide begin homeschooling 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.
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Deschooling Society Chapter One: Why We Must Disestablish School

In the first chapter, “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

Video about Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich

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
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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 his writing about education within Deschooling Society.

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Buy Deschooling Society on Amazon

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

Buy the book on Amazon.

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

Unschooling vs Deschooling

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

  • Deschooling is a transition period between conventional school and homeschooling. The purpose is to remove education from conventional schools to non-institutional ways of learning. Please note that while the word deschooling is commonly used as a transitional time, in reality, the act of deschooling is a process that can take many years.
  • Unschooling is a child-led learning approach to education.

While unschooling parents may guide their child’s education with intention, they allow each of their children to follow their innate ability to learn and care for themselves. Unschooling families do not follow a traditional school model.

Read this blog post about unschooling.

Educational Activities and Ideas While You Deschool

From relaxing with a book to exploring museums and the great outdoors, it’s easy to fill your time while deschooling your kids. Learn more by clicking a link below.

Do you have ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Learn How to Be a Good Unschooling Parent

What Is Unschooling? Homeschooling 101. Blog & Video

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