education · Independence · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 124: Deschooling?

I’ve heard from a few sources that we should take the time to “deschool” our kids and ourselves before we begin homeschooling in earnest. We’ve read many articles and looked at the reasoning, and I have to say that I’m not sure I see it. Not for three of our kids, for sure.

In part, the concept of deschooling relies on the assumption that our kids (and we, but let’s focus on the kids for now) have been indoctrinated by the school system and will need time to “deprogram” and to understand that learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom, with the learning schedule dictated by bells and a calendar. Fair enough. I would contend, however, that our kids were never really indoctrinated in the first place.

Take N, for example: at parent-teacher interviews we were told that he wouldn’t move on from one thing to the next until he was fully ready to do so. “He’s never rude about it,” his teacher said, “but when I say ‘hey N, it’s time to put away Math and take out Language Arts,’ he’ll say, ‘Okay’ and then keep on working on his math until he’s done.”

Mr. December thinks that the whole concept of deschooling relies on a straw man version of conventional school. To that I say, “Remember K and her jacket?”

One day last winter, the principal called me to say that she was having a problem with K not wearing her jacket down to the lunchroom; apparently the kids weren’t allowed to go back upstairs after eating lunch because there was nobody to supervise that process. The principal was at her wits’ end and wanted to know if I could help her deal with it. I was polite and supportive of the school, and since I’m in favour of natural consequences, I suggested that K should just go outside without her jacket. At the end of recess the principal saw K wearing her jacket, so it would appear that K sneaked upstairs and got her jacket before going out.

Part of me felt I should support the rules of the school and tell K off for doing what she did. The other (bigger) part of me agreed completely with K. Who wants to eat lunch while wearing a winter jacket indoors? And how ridiculous is it to tell a twelve-year-old that they are too irresponsible to retrieve their own jacket without an adult watching? Furthermore, I was impressed that instead of being confrontational and belligerent (as she so often is), K solved her problem quietly and without fanfare.

As for me, I definitely don’t think that learning needs to happen at school. I’m a fan of Mark Twain’s Grant Allen’s statement, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” I’m also not sure what most people retain from elementary school, besides the mechanics of writing (I would hope) and math.

If anybody here needs deschooling it’s Mr. December, who believes that everything should be measured and learning doesn’t count if you haven’t produced something from it. According to most homeschoolers, you need about a month of deschooling for every year your child was in school. So for Mr. December… hmm… elementary school plus middle and high schools… undergrad… masters degree… carry the one… it looks like he would need about 20 months of deschooling. And who has that kind of time?

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