My Experience of Deschooling
Until I sent my children off to public school at the ripe old ages of 4 and 5, I didn’t have an opinion for or against it. I know I was very excited for them to take that next step in their lives. I can still see the photo of the pair of them proudly grinning at the camera with their little red jumpers and their arms around each other.
I ended up taking them out and homeschooling them when they were 8 and 9 years old. I had decided to take them out as I found there was no room in public school for going ‘outside of the lines’ or valuing individual ways of learning. I certainly have some sad memories from those times, them being so small and innocent, ready to embark on this new journey...
The process of deschooling was a learning curve for me and was an interesting and very healing journey for all of us. At first I had ideas of schedules and work we could do, but as we continued on homeschooling this way, something wasn’t working. I remember having thoughts that all I was doing was bringing mainstream school into our home. It didn’t sit well with me so we tried something different. I gave them space and let their individual needs lead the way. My older child regressed to being a small child and played on his own for hours using imaginative play. Out of this he just seemed to blossom. The younger child liked to be up at the crack of dawn doing things; experimenting, cooking, doing art and science... They were both so unique in their needs and desires.
One of the most healing things for me during this time of deschooling was to separate and let go of what wasn’t mine. I realised that I had taken on a burden; a way of life that wasn’t mine. We had no ownership.It was the pressure and anxiety that we had to fit into this school system; that we had no choice in how we wanted to learn and structure our day. No one was gaining from them going to school and sitting at a desk all day, being ‘taught’ through the traditional main-stream way. There was little time for play and learning things together as a family. There had been a depression settling over our family until I took them out of school. ]When I realised that this wasn’t our way and I had a choice in the matter, I began to gain my power back as an individual and as a parent. I stood taller and didn’t get upset at the small things. I listened to other mothers and saw that they were carrying the same burden.
My children, who are not children any more, have since gone back to school. We decided to go back for different reasons but one thing that remained is I’m not going to fight any more. I’m not going to fight for things that a system ‘cares’ about that are not in alignment with my own values. I’m not going to fight with my kids about homework, or uniforms. This is not ours. ‘Ours’ is personal freedom, responsibility and values; about finding one’s own voice and intuition, and learning together as a family. ‘Ours’ is about self-esteem; self confidence; emotional literacy; compassion and interdependence.
Like I said, they are in school now and it has been going pretty well for the most part. At least that huge burden that wasn’t ‘ours’ has been taken off our shoulders and our home. But as I’ve observed during the recent lock down due to Covid-19; when they first came out of school it was like deschooling again. I hadn’t realised how much they were a part of that school-system because there wasn’t time or space to see. It was like they weren’t ‘mine’ any more. They were the school’s. I wasn’t the ‘authoritative’ figure any more and I felt a separation between us. I spent the first half of lock- down bringing them back in to interdependence; self-motivation and joy as a family. The UNCRC states that the family unit is the ‘’fundamental group of society’’ and the ‘’natural unit for the growth and well-being of children.’’ I really do see that the school system takes over for the family in many instances. Main-stream school certainly does not suit everyone and therefore an argument can be made that the Child Education Grant should follow the child into other areas of education that suit the child, whether it be home-schooling or alternative education. Right now this is not the case.
At present it is summer and the ‘kids’ will be off for another few months. For now, they are deschooled; self-motivated; hungry for knowledge and discussion; they are joyful...Life is wide open to them. It took about two months to get to this point, but I feel every time they go back to school it creeps back in...