This is Mr. December – here to guest write a blog post on “deschooling”. I had not heard of deschooling — which is apparently a way to transition kids from a heavily-scheduled externally dictated learning style to a more self-motivated way of learning — until a few days ago, and it seems, at first glance, very different from my approach. However I now see a path to reconcile the two views.
First, let me note my agreement that children are designed to be outside and playing. Traditional school with long periods of focused study are not easy for children, and it is not realistic to expect this. We need to focus on where they are as individuals as opposed to some pre-conceived notion of what ideal, obedient children are like. We need to accept our children for who they are, including what they can and cannot do — hence the need for daily stimulant medication that requires photo ID to pick up at the pharmacy (i.e. Ritalin.)
My modest proposal for de-schooling:
Encourage the children to wake up on their own, perhaps by gently splashing a cup of cold water on them if they feel that today they need more time.
Encourage them to learn math for 2 hours, cheerleading them on with privileges when they do. This is fully self-directed – any way that they want to approach math is fine. Even de-schoolers recognize the need for some structure, therefore we have a very small number of straightforward guardrails: Must use the Kumon materials for their current ability level, and complete the arbitrarily assigned number of pages each day.
“Strew” a math test in front of them, which is completely optional, just like the screen time they hope to have later.
Lunch. This too is self-directed; for our older child this means independently baking a huge mug brownie which she then consumes.
Free time. They can play outside or engage in self-directed learning as they please. We do note, however, that if they don’t do their typing practice and “Winning With Writing” workbook they’ll have no privileges.
Encourage them to practice piano or violin (they play different instruments), but underscore the choice and agency they have, which in some ways is similar to our agency as parents in deciding whether to serve dessert later that day.
Cheerlead them through their chores – laundry, setting the table for dinner, cleaning up and so on.
Gently encourage them to go to bed or find the sleep cycle that works best for them.
More gentle encouragement to go to sleep – each child knows their own body best, and we respect their choices and agency.
Continue to encourage bedtime, telling them that if they are not all lying in bed silently in the next 5 minutes, Mean Mommy will come out to yell at them and will take away all privileges for the next week, so help me God!
Set a good example by turning in early, reading only for a few minutes
“R, please go back to your room and go to sleep. All of us need sleep.”
“N, stop reading – it is bedtime!”
Is K talking on her phone to someone? Let’s turn this into a playful learning experience by hiding her phone somewhere in the house – hours of fun self-directed searching!
“Get the fork back into bed, all of you! We cannot help you sleep!”
Read for just a few more minutes – we’re this close to the end of the chapter.
Finally put down our phone or book and go to sleep.
About the guest author:
Mr. December is an engineer, published author (for real!), father, husband, part-time chicken, and all-around smartass. He rejects modern educational theory and has embraced the enduring methods of the past, when children’s self-esteem was derived from their ability to actually achieve something.