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Deschooling During Summer & All Year: Myths & Tips

We often hear from parents who are planning to use the summer break after their child exited traditional school to deschool them. This seems like a good idea -- in theory. Summer is a long break, during the longest days of the year, with friends and opportunities all around to allow children to relax and have fun. Deschooling during summer seems like the perfect time to get them ready to homeschool, right? Well, maybe not.

Myth: Deschooling is Perfect to do in Summer

Fact: Summer Break is Still Part of School

Summer break (or any long break, if they're going year-round) is still part of the same routine and schedule that your child has been used to during the course of a normal school year.

Summer break is accepted as a time for traditionally schooled children to kick up their feet and avoid all things academic. It's the accepted cultural norm for children to shed themselves of everything school-related and be FREE during summer! Summer is this rare time in our culture where it's acceptable for children to finally be seen and present everywhere that fun and recreation exist: beaches, parks, movie theatres, restaurants, stores, and so much more. It's sad that this is our norm, and that children are almost always expected to be invisible the rest of the year. But, as you embark on your deschooling and homeschooling adventure you can happily leave that norm behind.

Trying to utilize summer break as a convenient deschooling time is not necessarily going to work simply because it won't feel like a departure from what your child has known in school. This is especially true if they can still see all of their school friends and continue activities, camps, and plans during the summer. So, please consider that summer break may not be the start of your deschooling. Your deschooling adventure might instead begin in the fall when school is back in session and your child doesn't return with their friends and classmates.

Of course, you'll both will be processing their departure from school on some level this summer. They'll tell their friends, and move on to playing and enjoying summer. You have everyone to tell as well (and the school to deal with if you haven't already), and you'll be busy with their normal summer routine. However, your new choice to homeschool is not a full-fledged reality until school resumes and your child doesn't return there. So, please prepare yourself that if things are smooth all summer, and you think you've moved past any grief or emotional experiences, that the return to school in the fall might be the time when reactions and emotions surface. This will be the time when it's finally apparent that you're embarking on something new, and different.

Myth: Deschooling only lasts for a certain amount of time

Fact: Deschooling is a process that continually unfolds over time

It's commonly estimated that it takes 1 month of deschooling for every 1 year of school your child attended. This deschooling time might not begin in summer, it may not begin until fall when school returns and your child doesn't. Although for students who were ready and anxiously awaiting the chance to exit school, this process might be very different and the departure from school accepted and processed in a quicker time frame. This type of acute, immediate deschooling may take longer than is estimated, or it may be shorter, but many people rely on this time estimate.

While it's helpful to know what to expect, it's also important to know that deschooling is not like a light switch being turned on and off. Deschooling also happens unconsciously, when children naturally shed all of the accouterments of traditional school over time, the longer they've been out. There is no way to measure that in time, as it unfolds throughout your child's life, and your life, too. I always like to think that the happier you are, the more deschooling you've experienced.

Deschooling applies to parents, too, since parents are a big part of the schooling experience. You lived within that world and you need time to release all of that baggage and discover new ways of living. Deschooling is as necessary for parents, as it is for children, and maybe more so. As a parent pulling your child out of a traditional school, you've probably been invested in the traditional schooling system the longest, as a student and a product of that system before you had children. Therefore, your deschooling time may take the longest.

Tip: Focus on the Reasons You Chose to Homeschool & Your Wishes for Your Children, Yourself and Your Family

Think of deschooling as a decompression exercise, stripping away all of the unnecessary trappings of school. When you find yourself experiencing anxiety or worry, practice the simple mindful act of setting.your intentions. Close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and remind yourself of the reasons you chose to withdraw your child from traditional school to homeschool them. What do you wish for your child to experience through homeschooling? What do you wish for your family to experience, and what would you, personally, like to experience? Remind yourself of these things as often as it helps. You have your reasons, and things you want and need for your child, yourself, and your family. You made this decision with clear intentions, and don't let yourself forget those when anxiety or worry creep in.

Observe your own behavior and patterns. Be ready to be honest with yourself, as well. Don't get in your own way of achieving your new goals. If you chose to homeschool your child to remove them from a toxic school environment, then don't duplicate that environment at home with rigid schedules and expectations. If you chose to homeschool your child to travel and have important life experiences together, then don't expect your relationship to look like it did when they were in school. If you chose to homeschool your child to give them access to a better education then don't just pick up the same types of textbooks and curriculum that the school uses.

It doesn't mean that you need to go out right now and start buying and amassing all kinds of unique educational materials and homeschool curriculum or executing impulse purchases to assuage your anxiety. In fact, you should not be making big life changes during this period of transition. The desire to research and learn during periods of change can be intense. It's an intuitive search for knowledge that should not be ignored. However, the impulse to buy things and start planning an academic path for your child to embark on the exact day that their peers go back to school, or the impulse to start redecorating and repurposing the entire house in one month should be put on pause as you explore all of your options. And trust me, I'm not judging, but speaking from experience! ;)


Tip: Start with Building a New Relationship with Your Child - and Yourself

In my experience, one of the most important aspects of homeschooling success is in our connections with our children and our family. You and your child are going to be spending a lot more time together, and getting to know more about one another. Your relationship with your child when they were enrolled in school was partly based on you being an ally of the school: enforcing attendance, the completion of homework, and compliance with all school rules and protocol. You don't want to adopt that kind of relationship as a homeschooling parent. Unfortunately, you and your child may find that to be a natural relationship at first, and it may be easy to revert to that, so go easy on the both of you while you navigate this new relationship and move towards more connectedness.

Don't expect things to change overnight, but work on finding ways to practice patience and empathy for your child and for yourself during this time. Finding a deeper, more authentic relationship with your homeschooled child may take time. It will require you, as a parent, to change and adjust your expectations of your child, and of yourself. Let yourself sleep in, or wear PJs all day. Binge-watch Netflix, or eat ice cream for breakfast (unless it grosses you out). The point is, allow yourself some grace during this time, too. It's also a helpful exercise to put yourself in your child's shoes and understand why they do things, rather than just judging them. Maybe you were never allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast as a child and so you automatically shut that option down for your child. What would happen if you tried to do the things you weren't allowed to do as a child during this time? It might help you to heal and grow, as well. Maybe there's a great lower-sugar ice cream with lots of protein and you can think differently about ice cream. Maybe it's just a cold way to eat something yummy that isn't as terrible for our health as it used to be? Giving yourself some new freedoms will allow you to extend those to your child and for both of you to learn about each other in a new way. This is a chance to form some new, unique memories together!

Deschooling Reading Recommendations

If you're going to invest any special time or money during this deschooling process (aside from ice cream and a Netflix subscription!), it should be on sites and books created by parents who have walked the deschooling road themselves and know what they are talking about.

Here are ten great deschooling resources that give you unique perspectives on education and life. They may not all be your cup of tea (you don't need to unschool to feel like you've successfully deschooled), but it's good to know just how diverse and free the world of homeschooling truly can be. You can learn about and celebrate that diversity while you begin to learn where you and your child fall along the wide spectrum of homeschooling.



Deschooling Doesn't Definitively End - It's a Whole Life Experience

From my experience as an unschooling mother whose children have never been to school, and who never had to consciously deschool (though I definitely had to deschool!!), the process of deschooling also happens naturally. It happens as part of a larger shift of thinking outside the mainstream when you decide to homeschool. And it's not always just about education. Sure, it starts there, and for some families, it may stop there, but for many others, deschooling encompasses other aspects and continues on throughout our lives. It becomes a positive force, helping us accept our children and ourselves. It can help us find our rhythms, explore our true interests and discover our genuine passions, and we may surprise ourselves. All of this can lead us toward being happier, well-adjusted people. If you're willing to take that journey, you won't regret it.

Happy deschooling & homeschooling, everyone, and please enjoy your summer, no matter where you are on your journey!


Written by Paige McKinney

I’m a mom of 2 grown unschoolers, and 1 nearly grown unschooler, who have never been to a traditional school. I have over 20 years of experience homeschooling and unschooling, including working with homeschool groups, educational non-profits, and independent study charter schools. I have a strong background in attachment parenting, peaceful parenting, non-violent communication, as well as home birthing, natural mothering, and journaling for self discovery. In 2019 my family and I moved to Pennsylvania. We are enjoying exploring the East and homeschooling in a new state!


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