As a frequent spender of time on social media, I get involved in lots of conversations with other secular homeschoolers. Well, at least I read a lot of conversations. I have noticed that discussions of unschooling and deschooling frequently get confusing because people are using the terms incorrectly, getting one idea mixed up with the other. So I thought I would elaborate to help new homeschoolers get their lingo down.
This is an overall approach to education, that lets learning happen naturally as life unfolds. No schedules, no curriculum and usually no plans. It doesn’t mean you don’t do anything, but rather that you let experiences and opportunities happen on their own. Books are taken out of the library as interests come and go, documentaries are watched as they are available, and field trips are a big part of just getting out of the house.
Deschooling is the period of time you take to “decompress” after your kid’s have been in public school. It’s basically just taking a break to get used to the idea of homeschooling and to let go of old ideas about how learning has to be.
There is some debate on how long you should deschool for, because it depends on a lot of factors. A common trope is to deschool for 1 month for each year they were in public school.
Personally, I think it mainly depends on how their relationship with school was before you pulled them out rather than just how long they were in school for. A child who was happy and unstressed about school won’t need the same amount of deschooling time as a child who struggled with stress, anxiety or other self-esteem issues while at school. The first child may be fine to just dive into a new schooling environment without a break at all, but the second one may take many months to let go of their fears of academic work.
So unschooling is a relaxed form of natural education that lets kids learn as they live without plans or curriculum. This is a style of learning that is intentional and ongoing (until you change your mind, I suppose).
Deschooling is taking a break from school in order to shift from public school to homeschooling. It is a temporary situation as you let go of formal schooling.