Home School Education: Deschooling

Walking in the woods - one of our favorite places to learn.
Walking in the woods - one of our favorite places to learn. | Source

Begin As You Mean to Go On – Home School is Fun

We have been home schooling, or home-educating as it known in the UK, for eight years. It's our chosen way of life. However, in the beginning we were filled with anxiety about how it was going to work for our children and us, as parents. Our son, Alexander was six when we decided to take him out of school, and the one piece of advice that was like gold to us was, 'Don't do school.' In other words, don't try to turn home into school.

We'd read about 'deschooling', i.e. a period of time that allows the child to rest from all things schooly, and decided this was the best approach in the beginning. In fact, as time went on, it became our only approach and it is only now that Alex is almost 14 and Tegan almost 11, that we are attempting a slightly more structured strategy.

One thing that became clear is that with almost no actual teaching going on, after all these years of 'deschooling', our children are at the same level, if not more advanced than their peers. Education happens – and it happens in a natural way.

Here then, are some unstructured, deschooling, unschooling tips to make the early days easier and fun for kids and relaxing for parents.

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Go Commando (be Curriculum-Free)

Don't purchase any commercial curriculum right away. It is tempting to dive straight in so that you have a structure in place and ready to go... and those curricula websites are very tempting. However, it is much better to wait and see how your days evolve before committing to any one program of work. So many parents find that their very expensive curriculum is abandoned after a few months because it simply does not fit in with the way their children learn. Yes, I realize you may feel 'all at sea' but it is normal. Don't panic, you have all the time in the world.

Spend a minimum of one month, and preferably longer, allowing the child to dictate the pace. Think of a few age-appropriate activities or trips and slot them into the month as treats. The rest of the time pay attention to your child and go along with his or her interests. Children learn at an optimal level if they are having fun. Restrict 'teaching' to interesting conversations in the car, baking a cake, stories and outings. Answer all questions and if you don't know the answers, look them up together.

My 13 year old says that his friends are always asking him how come he knows so much. He replies that if he has a question, or hears something on TV, or reads a reference to something he doesn't know about, he simply goes online and looks it up. This is something we have encouraged since the beginning. It has become a natural habit for him.

Tegan's Reading Journey

My daughter Tegan has never been to school but like any parent, I was anxious for her to learn to read. So when she was four years old, I gathered together some suitable books and games and away we went. Except we didn't. She hated it. She didn't like the level of story; she thought they were too babyish but, of course anything aimed at older children was too difficult for her to grasp. Reading lessons became stressful for both of us. Even reading aloud together was overshadowed by the 'need to read'. So I gave up. We stopped the lessons.

She did nothing much reading-wise for over a year. I continued to read to her, and bought her a read-along Leapfrog. We turned reading into an entertainment rather than a learning experience. Then one day we were in Borders and she spotted some books related to TV shows and enthusiastically seized a pile of Bratz books. Way too old for her as she was only six at the time. She asked me to read them to her. I glanced at them and they were pretty awful, it has to be said. So I told her, no, but I would buy one or two for her if she wanted. So I did and, because I refused to read them to her, she taught herself to read in about two weeks. I have never taught her spelling, grammar or punctuation yet, at 10 years old, she writes stories, plays, scripts and even 'books'. Her level of English language is amazing and she has easily outstripped her brother.

How to Teach Your Child to Read

Don't. Unless they are absolutely ready and asking to learn to read don't do any formal reading lessons. Read to, and with, your child for the sheer pleasure of the activity. Read, using funny voices for each character, make faces and encourage the child to repeat phrases. Discuss the pictures and point at repeating sounds as you read. It is also helpful to run your finger under the text as you read. Have story-time be an essential part of your day. Tell your child how much you enjoy it and that you can't go a day without story-time. In this way, the child learns that books are wholly enjoyable and much more fun than TV. Soon they will want to be able to reproduce the experience for themselves, at which time you can embark on a reading program.

Ensure you surround your child with books. Place a collection of interesting books in every room. Let your child observe you reading – you can smile and laugh out loud as you read so the child sees that reading alone is also a pleasure. Read snippets to the family, whether it be a book or newspaper or back of the cereal packet. Create a reading corner with cushions, blankets and comfortable seating.

Reading together is a cozy, intimate activity that will be remembered by both parent and child with love and appreciation.

Helping with the laundry when the washer broke down.
Helping with the laundry when the washer broke down. | Source

Chores as Learning Opportunities

Home schooling is about learning through living and you don't need a classroom for that. Doing the chores is usually an essential part of most people's lives, so use housework as a way to teach without teaching, so to speak. Give your kid his own set of cleaning tools. Make up silly songs or rhymes as you sweep the floor or dust. Sorting laundry is a good activity for learning the basics of classification. Why not turn it into an impromptu art lesson by making a miniature (insert your child's name here) out of their own clothes. I remember we made a life-size Dad on the living room floor. One of them drew a face to top the laundry figure and both kids rushed around gathering up shoes and reading glasses to complete him. They spent about an hour putting him into crazy postures while they shrieked with laughter.

Painting on Windows

Kids love to paint on big surfaces so if you have a large, easy-to-get-to window, protect the floor with a plastic sheet, provide some non-spill containers of cheap ready-mixed watercolor paint and let them have at it. We have a large glass door that opens right onto the yard, so I used to encourage the children to paint scenes relating to the season. We would leave the painted window for weeks and then simply wash it off when it was time for a new scene. Take photos of your child in front of his work.

We had 'messy' sessions several times a week – paint, cornstarch, playdoh... all those lovely squidgy things that kids adore. You will need to create a corner of your home where these activities can take place. Join in – you will love it and so will they!

Math Everywhere

Math is all around us and it is difficult to get through a day without encountering it in one way or another. Exploit this by involving your child as much as possible. Show them how to set the oven timer for a cake, explain why it is important that a cake bakes for a set length of time. If the child is old enough get them to weigh ingredients or plan a shopping list. If they are older, how about them doing the grocery shopping? It takes a bit of courage, for sure. My friend has each of her children do the week's shopping in turn. They plan the menus, make a list, work to a budget, add up items as they go round the store and pay the bill.

One of my children's favorite games was playing shop. We had a jar where we collected coins and they would use it as their currency. They would gather up various toys and 'sell' them to each other. They learned how to count out money and give change by using subtraction. Other things that teach math without pain are board games, Legos and other construction toys.

Deschooling – The Boredom Issue

If you have taken your older child out of school, the best plan is to leave them alone. There will probably be a good reason why you have chosen to take them out and it is very important that no pressure is put on them in the early days. Yes, they will sit around watching TV, playing on the games console and generally moaning that they are bored. This is okay. Research has shown that boredom can precipitate learning – as long as you are ready to cooperate with the child when he or she expresses an interest in something. Our son loves to deconstruct things and put them back together, so try to get hold of an old computer that they can work on. If your daughter loves clothes then why not learn to sew together?

You will find as time goes along that moans about being bored decrease to almost nothing. I think I can count on one hand the occasions that either of my kids has complained of boredom.

Home School Groups

Join a home school social group in your area. They will have lots of activities scheduled. We have several in our locality and they arrange talks, workshops, trips, courses and all kinds of other things.

The children (and parents) who take part are of all ages and abilities and this is a far more natural environment than a classroom of 30 children all the same age, learning all the same things at one time. Ideas are sparked and the older kids teach the younger ones. We found that our group sessions were a good way to extend the deschooling process. Our son, who had just been deregistered from school was able to observe the difference between formal teaching and a more relaxed approach, not only to education but to life in general.

Another positive is that there are several parents who are able to share their own skills with the group, thus widening the children's experience even more. Recently we have had a beach safari, model aircraft making, textile art, lessons on managing finances - and many other valuable sessions.

Outdoor classroom. Our son, Alex, gaining credits and having fun.
Outdoor classroom. Our son, Alex, gaining credits and having fun. | Source

Deschooling Explained

Deschooling is essential for any child and their parents. It is a period of time where the child adjusts to not being in school, not having a rigid routine and simply learning to be. For the parent, deschooling can take a lot longer. You have to get used to the idea that learning takes place all the time the child is awake. You need to know that you are not the source of all knowledge for the child and do not have to take the role of 'teacher'. You and your child take the journey together.

Education – Further Down the Road

You may decide that a structured approach will work better for your family and that is fine. The very fact that the child is at home and feeling safe will go a long way to making his or her learning experience a joy. If you choose this way, your path will unfold naturally and will very likely mirror school without the downsides.

We experienced a period of panic a few months ago when we felt pressured into enrolling our son into some formal classes. It felt as though 'he should be doing something'. The first class he tried was an outdoor one in Forest management. He loved it and gaining his first educational credits was a great experience. Since then he has done an art class, computers and basic science. In the UK, children gain their first major qualifications (GCSEs) at 16, so we are working toward getting a few of them done before he is 16.

Update: Alex decided that he wanted to continue with science, so at present he is working through the GCSE course round a friend's kitchen table with three other children. The atmosphere is relaxed and the children are enthusiastic - they *want* to learn for the experience of learning.

Another update: Bearing in mind that neither of my children have been formally taught any English language skills, they were both assessed to see if they were at sufficient level to undertake GCSE English. The children tested were between 11 (Tegan) and 18 years of age. Alex achieved 69/70 with a single spelling error. Tegan managed 70/70. So far neither of them can be bothered with the GCSE :-)

Yet Another update: I managed to persuade our local college to take Alex before his 16th birthday. He started on 1st September 2014 - three days a week doing the things he loves - Land-based studies. It's a basic foundation course but that's fine. From there he will have access to higher level courses.

On Fridays (for the last year) he spends the day volunteering at a nature reserve where they teach him everything from fence building to servicing vehicles.

Tegan, now 13, taught herself to play guitar and ukelele. We've bought her a fancy-dancy music keyboard so she's busy teaching herself on that now. She's already scanning the college prospectus for suitable courses.

One thing we have learned is that there are many paths to gaining an education and it is good to be open to all options and opportunities. Try things out but never be afraid of saying, “Sorry, this isn't for us.” Education is a life-long experience and should be undertaken with love, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. If you can encourage your children in those three things, then you have succeeded far beyond anything a school could do.

Ever considered home schooling? 36 comments

ThePracticalMommy profile image

ThePracticalMommy 4 years ago from United States

I really like the concept of the children directing their learning. I found that's how my son is; he'd rather learn something in his time and in his way rather than in a specified time in which I'd like it to happen (it's the teacher in me!). For instance, when he was 3 1/2, I tried to start teaching him how to write his letters. He didn't like sitting down at the table to do a lesson. A month after I tried, he started writing his letters on his own on an easel, copying how they looked on magnets.

Great hub! I'll have to bookmark this for future reference! :)

Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

Our kids go to traditional schools, but we firmly believe that education happens just as much out of school as in. We have naturally incorporated some of the techniques you mention through the years, and our afternoons, weekends, and vacations are filled with storytimes and child-directed discovery activities. It's wonderful to be able to provide learning opportunities that don't feel like school!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

Absolutely, and it's lovely that parents feel that way. When I was in school my mother left my schooling for school to deal with. I don't think she ever asked me if I'd done my homework! And isn't it great to let kids lead *us* toward new ideas and discoveries?

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

I work in a school and have to say that I am becoming disillusioned with the education system, which is leaning more and more towards the production of exam results rather than educating children. All the jargon suggests that the children are at the centre of the "learning" (we don't say "education" any more) but the reality is that they follow a narrow curriculum designed to get the "right" results. Depressing. If my daughter wasn't so very happy at school I might consider taking her out.

Interesting hub, voted up.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

Thank you, Judi Bee. I know of several teachers who decided to take the home-ed route after becoming disillusioned with the system. Yes, the National Curriculum in the UK is far from ideal. One of the things with home-ed is that the child is able to focus on one topic, let's say pre-history or script-writing or music and delve into it as deeply as they wish. They can leave that subject all together or return to it at a later time.

Alex is 13 and is just about to start GCSE science with 4 others (various ages) in a friend's kitchen on a Sunday afternoon (with a local teacher who wants to earn a little extra money). It's all very casual and it doesn't matter if he sits the GCSE next year or the year after. Another friend's son, a little older, has just taken his Maths GCSE at age 14 over 9 months. It's so freeing to be able to pick and choose according to the wishes and ability of the child. We are learning to trust that they can make many of these decisions for themselves.

CaitlinCole 4 years ago

Thanks for posting about this controversial subject. Lots of great info, nice hub!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

Thank you, Caitlin.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

That's a wonderful HubPages article, full of good ideas and good sense. Up, Useful, Interesting, Awesome, and shared with followers and on social networking sites.

I realized decades ago that boredom is the mother of invention. It takes me a fraction of a second to go from boredom to choosing what next to learn, create, accomplish, and/or enjoy.

A school can be run on the same principles as you've followed at home. Read, for instance, books by A. S. Neill, such as SUMMERHILL and FREEDOM NOT LICENSE and see the Summerhill School website

Back in circa 1966 I had the opportunity to teach for a short time in a free school in the States modeled after Summerhill. Students could do what they wanted so long as it was not illegal, too unsafe, or against the rules of behavior that they democratically made. We teachers were told to only teach a student facts, how-to's, or skills if and when the student asked, and we were to stay readily available for that.

Growing up, school was where I daydreamed and the public library was where I learned.

Sinea Pies profile image

Sinea Pies 4 years ago from Northeastern United States

Our daughter has home schooled all but one of her children and the results have been wonderful. Sara, her oldest daughter, was such an avid learner that she asked her mom to teach her year-round, which she did. As a result, Sara graduated from high school at 16. She earned enough college credits to start her college career as a sophomore and had her bachelors degree before she turned 20. She is popular, well adjusted and has a very good job at a university (while completing her masters degree, as well).

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

@B.Leekley, yes, I agree there are some wonderful freedom schools out there. Unfortunately for us, they are way too expensive in the UK. The school you taught at sounds perfect. Thanks so much for taking the time to read the hub.

@Sinea Pies - it is a wonderful thing when a child takes control of their own education like your grand-daughter, Sara. Mine aren't quite there yet... I wouldn't describe them as 'avid learners' but there's still time :-) Thanks for sharing your experience of home-school.

Nice to meet you both

Ciel Clark profile image

Ciel Clark 4 years ago from USA

I was home-schooled and then started public school in the 5th grade. I agree that you don't need to teach children to read. (Just like you don't need to teach children to speak). Read books with them, let them see you reading, and it is a natural progression).

PS, as a home-schooled child, I graduated from high school early, from university early, have a few degrees, and am now a teacher!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

Thanks, Ciel. Schools (and parents) in the UK seem to treat learning to read like a great big, ugly obstacle that must be wrestled to the ground and overcome, instead of being a part of everyday life. I did too - until my daughter showed me an alternative way :-)

travelschooling profile image

travelschooling 4 years ago from Australia

Absolutely, your experiences mirror my own exactly. It's a wonderful way to learn!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

It is. I only wish I had had the same opportunity when I was a kid. Having said that, the fact that we had to go to school was balanced by the freedom we had outside of school hours.

travelschooling profile image

travelschooling 4 years ago from Australia

I actually enjoyed school, academically, I've blanked out most of the bullying. I wanted my children to have a great school experience. It rapidly became obvious that it wasn't going to happen here and they weren't even getting an education. But I'm so glad I found homeschooling, it's life changing!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

I love your enthusiasm, travelschooling! And you are right - everything changes for the whole family. For us the concept of learning takes second place to living life... and the learning happens naturally. Having said that, there was a fraught half hour this morning while my daughter stamped her foot at doing her maths - it got done in the end. It's not always happy, sunny and smiley here!

travelschooling profile image

travelschooling 4 years ago from Australia

Not always, but mostly!

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

I was home schooled for two and a half years, but we had a pretty strict curriculum (my dad was an educator by profession), but I never missed out on the chance to learn outside of the set hours. There were a few drawbacks, socially, but I received an unparalleled education and learned things in 4th grade history I never saw in a textbook again until high school or college.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales Author

That's interesting, Natashalh. One thing we are always mindful of, is to make sure our children have plenty of opportunities to interact with their peers. Perhaps it wasn't seen as so important a few years back?

kaiyan717 profile image

kaiyan717 3 years ago from West Virginia

I am glad I found this hub, I am going to start my young son in home schooling this year and the questions are endless. He is four and in my state we have to use a required curriculum, however it will still leave most of the day open for his interests. He loves to grow plants in the garden, take apart and put electronics back together, and we started building a model V8 engine. I like your ideas of organic learning, and your thoughts on reading. He has no desire to sit down and write or read yet, but he already reads certain words from memory. This is my biggest worry is reading because it is emphasized so much. I hope that he will soon show as much interest in writing and reading, as he does in plumbing. Voted up and shared.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 3 years ago from Wales Author

Don't worry about anything... no point. Take it day by day and let him guide you towards the activities that he is interested in. You can easily demonstrate to him that reading is not a great big hairy obstacle by integrating it into the things he likes - we need to be able to read planting instructions on seed packets, for example. At the same time, I am convinced there is an optimal time for every kid to learn to read, you kind of have to feel your way into it. Good luck!

Doodlebird 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I've been homeschooling my kids for the past 14 years and recently realized that something wasn't working. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking, reading, praying...and now we're on more of an unschooling approach. I recently chronicled my thoughts in a blog call Live and Learn ( . And I just published a hub called True Confessions: How I Sabotaged Our Homeschool Experience . I look forward to checking out more of your writings on the subject. Also, I didn't realize that homeschooling was legal over there - learned something new :)

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 3 years ago from Wales Author

Hi Doodlebird, it's hard to let go of our ideas of what constitutes an education. Even harder is learning to trust that our kids have their own built-in guidance.

Home schooling, or 'home education' has always been legal in the UK. It was enshrined in law to 'protect' the wealthy from having to send their children to school. It is becoming an ever-increasing wave, as more and more people come round to the idea that school, as an institution is not working for all kids in the UK. Some thrive, of course, but many don't.

I shall enjoy checking out your blog right now :)

Doodlebird 3 years ago

We're in a bit of a precarious position as education was never addressed in the Constitution. So, it falls under State control - that's why there are different requirements for homeschooling in different States. That actually puts education/homeschooling in America at risk under the UN Charter for the Rights of the Child - one of the reasons we resist. We're trying to get Parental Rights amendment to the Constitution for protection (

And now, there's a thinly veiled power grab by the Federal Government through Common Core (

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 3 years ago from Wales Author

Scary stuff. And hasn't it been banned in California... or you have to register as a school or something?

Doodlebird 3 years ago

California is actually one of the states with more homeschooling freedoms. However, there have been a couple of occasions in the recent past where those in the California Dept. of Education have taken an unfriendly stance and made threats. Thankfully, nothing ever came of it. Here in Cal we basically file an affidavit at the beginning of each school year - the same one that private schools do. So, actually, we are our own private schools, only with 3 students instead of 300.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 3 years ago from Wales Author

Ah... I see. That makes sense, I suppose.

In the UK, we're not under any legal obligation to inform anyone. If the child is in school, then we have to deregister -- it's then the school's responsibility to remove the child from the school roll. If the child is not yet in school, then we just carry on as usual. However, more and more Local Authorities are trying to collect data on the number of home-schooled children. Some of them use spurious rules and regs to intimidate - if you stand up to them, there's not much they can do. We (our family) have never had any contact from any official - hooray!

Wacky Mummy profile image

Wacky Mummy 2 years ago from UK

This is a great hub! :) So much great information. We love home educating here :) Wales are trying to bring in more regs again aren't they? We have a few LAs nearby acting Ultra Vires, thankfully the one I'm under isn't as bad as it was but it still has lots of room for improvement!

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 2 years ago from Wales Author

Thanks, Wacky Mummy. Yes, I heard there was more stuff happening - I signed a petition. We're still under the radar here, thank goodness.

I'm a bit peed off atm because the local college has refused to accept my son as he will be a few days short of his 16th birthday when term starts next year.

AuniceReed profile image

AuniceReed 2 years ago from Southern California

Awesome hub! I have never unschooled entirely but since graduating my two oldest, I'm considering it for my 8 yr old daughter who has been in a public charter school for the last 3 years. I like the 3R's approach, but think unschooling is a wholesome approach to learning, especially for children who have recently been in the public school system.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 2 years ago from Wales Author

Thanks, Aunice (lovely name). You have nothing to lose and much to gain by trying the unschooling route. The Big Thing is having the confidence to carry on when it seems as though it's not working.

Tamara14 profile image

Tamara14 2 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

"Education is a life-long experience and should be undertaken with love, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn." Beautifully said. If only all Governments would put it in practice. Croatian educational system (elementary and high school) is going downhill and when they graduate from high school most kids know too many useless facts but very little ability to research and connect the dots.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 2 years ago from Wales Author

Sorry to hear that, Tamara. I don't think it's limited to the Croatian government though - the lack of teaching kids good 'thinking skills' is a worldwide problem. No point in stuffing their heads full of facts if they don't know how to apply their knowledge. We need innovators in education; people with passion who don't need rules and guidelines to inspire our youngsters.

Thanks for your visit. x

M L Morgan 23 months ago

I am still in home education 'boot camp', trying to settle ourselves in and still in the de-schooling process. Your article is full of great examples of natural home learning. Your children are lucky to have such a devoted mother. I can only hope that in years to come, we too will have similar examples of home learning as you do x :)

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 23 months ago from Wales Author

Thank you ML. Have just waved eldest off to college this morning. He is really enjoying it and his tutors are very pleased with him. They keep wondering why he has no GCSEs but they say he can use the college route to get to an HNC or degree course. The conventional path is not the only one.

You'll have many highs and lows - when you'll wonder if you did the right thing, but now I'm emerging from the other side, I can tell you, I wouldn't change anything.

Good luck to you and your family from a very damp South Wales.

M L Morgan 23 months ago

Thank you from the rainy Malvern Hills! xx

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