Deschooling – How and Why it is important

Deschooling is a term invented by Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich. It is mainly used by homeschoolers to refer to the adjustment that children and parents go through when they leave the school system in order to start homeschooling. I also think that it is important for children to decompress after the school year, as the Summer break starts. To me, this decompressing, is a form of deschooling.


It is allowing children a time to decompress and disconnect from school and the school setting. It is important to allow time to process the change. Is this important? Yes.

deschool in nature


As parents you can expect a shift in behaviors. Remember that this a time to break away from traditional school settings and so there will be some re-thinking, or re-shaping of emotions, etc.

They may not want to do anything because it is not how they did it in school. And they might not know what to do with free time or unstructured time. You will probably hear “I’m bored” a fair amount. They have to learn how to use their time in a new way, without the teacher telling them what to do every minute of the day.

Push back might happen about what they are learning. But this will be a great time to reconnect with interests and open up to subjects that are not necessarily in the curriculum. Do some unit studies or thematic units that focus on their interests.

Because they might miss being around friends and classmates all the time, this can affect how they act during lesson time. They will need to adjust to spending more time with parents and other adults. This is key. How they relate to adults

They might seem disinterested in any form of learning. This just means the adjustment really is needed. 


Deschooling allows for change in thinking, attitudes, and preconceived notions. It could last a few days but it could also last even a few months. Give yourself a chance. If you are jumping into homeschooling with both feet and eyes wide open, you might find that it is not exactly what you thought it would be. I know it wasn’t for me, even with all my planning and ideas and I had to make adjustments and this was just for kindergarten. 

children laying down


There is really no right or wrong way to deschool. Some people take time off from any sort of formal lessons or set school work. Others night limit the amount of work being done each day and doing a shorter day. It is going to take time to adjust and find your own style. Add in non-school activities (remember that learning can be done in a variety of ways – it does not have to happen in formal settings or even in set curriculum). 


  • Play games together
  • Do art and crafts (finger knitting, crochet, learn an art technique)
  • Do sports together
  • Have unstructured play (get out the Lego etc)
  • Ride bikes and scooters
  • Explore parks and hiking trails
  • Bake and cook together
  • Let them be bored!
  • Check out new books at the library

girl with ball deschooling

I also think it is important to even have a period of deschooling after the school year is over – even if your child is going back into public or private school. There needs to be a time to decompress, esp after coming off a season of all virtual learning or on and off virtual learning/in the classroom.

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