Deschooling Question

by Barbara D. Martineau
(West Warwick, RI, USA)

How does one "deschool" when the state requires proof of "credentials" (attendance & grades) at the end of a school year? Please help!!

Good question Barbara.

Deschooling (and unschooling) can be trickier when you are required by your State to submit detailed records about your homeschooling. But there are some things you can do.

  • Start during the holidays.

    Starting deschooling at the beginning of summer vacation will give you a head start - you won't feel so pressured and will be able to relax for the length of the vacation. This will give you a chance to ease into it, and plan carefully how you will handle the first term.

  • Keep perspective.

    Some States do require records of what you have accomplished - but they don't need detailed records of every little thing your child is doing. You have a lot of flexibility in when and how you do things.

    If you recognize that your child's learning starts the moment they get up, and doesn't stop until they go to bed EVERY day of the week, then you will be less anxious about doing the 'right' amount of hours each week. You don't need to feel pressured about fitting learning type activities into normal school hours.

  • Watch your language.

    You can act as a buffer between your child and State requirements.

    Just because the State requires records in the form of 'education speak', doesn't mean you have to use that terminology with your child. There is a big difference between saying "come on, lets play with some water now" and "it's time to do some water experiments".

    You can impart a sense of freedom to your child by refusing to think in terms of 'schooly' subjects - and then privately translating what you have done into 'school-speak' when you are preparing your credentials.

    With your child you may 'build a model airplane' - but later you will see you have have studied design and technology, developed construction skills and you maybe even looked at history of design and the aeronautical industry!

    Don't talk in terms of lessons, but let your child's activities flow naturally from one thing to another.

    There is a nice example of educationese phrases here and an example of an unschooling curriculum on Sandra Dodds website.

  • Keep Records.

    I mostly think record keeping is unhelpful when deschooling, but in some States it just can't be avoided.

    Records keep us tied into what we are 'supposed' to be doing, so try not to let your records panic you. Don't let the records influence you or make you judge what you do. See it as a recording exercise - keep a notebook with you and record the little things you are doing, and how long you spend at them.

    A lot of unschoolers use a grid type schedule to keep a track of their activities. It can be difficult to decide exactly where an activity can fit - but just make your best guess. If you know any, I would recommend you talk to unschoolers in your State. How do they cope with the State requirements? What methods of record keeping do they use?

    I think you will be surprised at how many activities can be educational. And how much time you spend doing them! Even a conversation can cover a lot of ground. On a walk recently, my daughter had an in-depth conversation about politics with her Dad. They probably covered more in that half hour than we would have managed if we had sat down and studied, because she was interested in it at that moment in time.

  • It is difficult when you feel the State is looking over your shoulder.

    Try to stay confident and trust both yourself and your child. Children really do WANT to learn - you just have to let them!


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    Jun 03, 2010
    by: Julie B.

    We have to turn in something to our school once a year. I have the kids create a powerpoint of what they have done for the year to share with our friends. I then send this to the coordinators at the school.

    Love your site. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    Apr 28, 2010
    deschooling/unschooling record keeping
    by: Lori D.

    Great reply Julie and I would totally endorse the grid system idea. One of the things I've done in the past is pick up one of those desk calendar pads the really large ones at an office supply store and stick it on the wall (during the summer is a great time to do this) and just record in the big blocks what you do every day. And then your "writing assignment" for the week is just pick one item and see if you can 1) categorize it into a "subject" (or subjects even better) remember one activity can count for many) and write a simple one or 2 sentence blurb written in educationese. (I usually do this part on my computer because as you get better at it, and you will, the creative juices start to flow and you'll be able to edit past entries). Just as a hint look for the following type of activities within the activity your child is doing For e.g.(reading (can be reading a cereal box), communicating (doesn't necessary need to be "in writing") viewing (that's a great one), observing is another good scientific term, discussions (which is part of communication/language), any board game which requires dice and counting spaces would be included in the math category, history is anything that happened up to the present day so if you discuss something that happened last week that "counts", any time you go somewhere you are doing geography. Start with a subject you feel comfortable with Phys Ed maybe and then move on from there. I hope some of these hints help and the great thing is you will begin to see learning happening all the time and it will help you to relax with the whole deschooling process as well - then the fun will really begin.

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