Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So I was thinking about deschooling last night because of a question on a waldorf list I'm on...

Deschooling is not the same as unschooling. Deschooling is giving children time to make the transition from the expectations of public school to the expectations of the home or homeschool.

Deschooling is sort of like...summer vacation...and that sense of throwing open the school door with a "bang!" and letting the child run out into the sun. They have a million things they want to do and a sense that there won't be enough time and that the pressures of school and raising their hand and bells and readers are just around the corner. It takes awhile for them to settle into themselves and find out that there really is all the time in the world. and that the real world and a homeschool, has a very different rhythm than the traditional school.

So how do you help your child deschool? Do you need to deschool yourself?

My advise is to focus on your home rhythm right now. What is a home rhythm? It is the flow that day takes. Do you like it? Is it is like a stream? Does it bubble and roll over rocks and eddy in pools and then roll along towards the sea tinkling happily? Or does it seem to be a river crashing over rocks, sweeping you up in a current that leaves you gasping for breathe as you get pulled over and under by its power? Or could it be a stream that has been altered by a hydro plant - alternating between rushing dangerously in spring and then drying up to form stagnant pools and a quickmire of mud, then dry and cracked and lifeless in the heat of the summer.

I see the three as lifestyle issues. The first home rhythm is one that is balanced and allows you time to enjoy the things in your life. The second is the over scheduled family life, too many activities, too much "stuff". The thid is the family life dominated by electronic media - information overload (news sports and even weather is depressing and overwelming today!) AND then no time for anything else outside of Prime Time entertainment.

I have a few things that are very important in this in *my* situation (I feel I'm deschooling every day as my 7 year old is forced by a custody dispute that was settled by the family court to attend *public school* instead of private school or homeschooling).

First - I got rid of the television. unplugged it and stuck it in a closet and closed the door. Did the same with the stereo, radio, and set a specific time during the day for the computer and cut back on that too.

Second - if your child has been in a public school even kindergarten, they likely spent a great deal of time doing "educational activities" instead of *playing* - which is the work of childhood.

The easiest way to give this back to your child is to spend as much time as possible right now while you "deschool" - outside. You don't need toys, although some child sized gardening tools would be nice, they'll make the toys they need from nature. Pinecones, sticks, stones, forget me nots, dandelions - oh MOUNTAINS of dandelions.

While they play you will have plenty of time to hang out the laundry, weed the garden (start a garden!). SLOW DOWN, simplify meals and have simple picnics and simple foods during this time. WALK with your kids. My experience has been that the biggest thing missing from a publically educated child's day is large muscle work. WALKING places, moving a wheelbarrow, pulling a sibling around on a cloth "cart" while they play draft horse. It is missing from our lives too the whole chop wood carry water thing. We need it for fitness yes, but really we need it for our emotional stability, hormonally we need to expend physical energy *releasing* overloads of stress hormones in our bodies from driving, from the stress of high pressure but low activity jobs. No wonder we end up depressed or anxious, or sleepless.

Third - and personally, I can't stress this one enough - it has made ALL the difference in our lives. Don't use electric lights in the evening spring and summer and as long as you can hold out in autumn and winter too - it will force the entire household to observe their body rhythms instead. It will naturally mean you get dinner on the table earlier and the setting sun will be YOUR bedtime guide - the children will likely be ready for bed earlier. Getting them outside in the morning as soon as breakfast is eaten and the kitchen tidied will help reset their clocks too - the sun has a wonderful curative power. No lights in the evening, blackout shades if you live in the city and have big lights outside. Wake with the sun and open those blinds.

All of it comes down to simplicity and slowing down the pace. If you give yourself a season outside relatively media free you'll suddenly find you have time for all those things you figured were really important but couldn't find time for - prayer, art and crafts, reading together as a family, service, whatever.

Oh, and another part of deschooling for YOU - get a sketchbook or a journal and start writing and drawing yourself. You can do it!

I have two books I suggest as well they aren't waldorf books btw - just great books for anyone making the shift from public school to homeschooling - Punished by Rewards - Alfie Kohn and The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

I think they're great books for anyone making a shift in their lifestyle.

And now I should get back outside!


XUP said...

I was just thinking today how much I miss those 5 years when my daughter was young and I stayed home with her and we could just drift through a day learning from and enjoying whatever happened to crop up. The institutionalization and expectations of conformity/uniformity of public school has such a profound and negative effect on children. It crushes their creativity, individuality, quest for knowledge, curiousity, motivation and even their compassion and empathy for the world outside of themselves. I wish I had never had to send my daughter to school. She's a lovely child, but that's despite the schooling

radical mama said...

Nice! I am so looking forward to the freetime of summer!

Do you homeschool all but the 7yo?

My oldest is in Montessori and we like it a lot. But we plan to move to the country in the next couple of years. Montessori doesn't exist there and we don't feel that it is ethical to drive 40 minutes twice per day to take her there. I just can't put her into a normal public school classroom, so we will likely be homeschooling at that point.