catholic homeschool kids at museum

Transitioning from School to Homeschool: Deschooling

While there are those who have made the decision to homeschool right from the beginning of their child’s education, there are a great many families who only come to homeschooling later in life. The reasons can vary—a move, a change in life circumstance, a bad experience in a site-based school, or a learning disability can all prompt families to segue into homeschooling.

What is this transition like for a child who finds himself homeschooled after years of institutional schooling? A child’s educational structure is one of the great pillars that children depend on to find a sense of stability in their lives. A sudden change introduced into a child’s educational routine can be jarring and difficult to navigate For this reason, it is recommended to allow some time for your child to acclimate to the new circumstances. This period of transition is known as deschooling.

In this article, we will explore the idea of deschooling and offer some tips for families who are in this transitional phase.

What is Deschooling?

Homeschooling and institutional schooling are very distinct from one another. The educational setting, schedules, curricula, instructional methods, expectations, and practically everything along the educational gamut are different in homeschooling. The biggest difference, however, is simply going to be that homeschooling allows the child to receive individualized instruction instead of large group instruction. This changes the educational dynamic considerably, requiring the child to lean heavily into his own natural love of learning.

Deschooling aims to help “re-calibrate” your child’s mindset to develop that natural love of learning. During this phase, you will do very little formal “schoolwork” as you and your child adjust your approaches and expectations of what education entails, switching from the “teach to the test” method of public schools to an individualized approach that prioritizes the child’s own interests and educational goals.

What Should the Deschooling Period Look Like?

The focus of the deschooling period is simply to get used to the idea of being a homeschooling family:

  • Get tied in with a local homeschool group, either online or in person. A homeschool group will allow your child to make new friends and provide a much-needed base of support for you when you need encouragement or help to find resources.
  • Give your child more free time to pursue his or her own interests, with the stipulation that they spend the time doing something active or exploring an interest. In other words, something constructive, not zoning out on a screen. The purpose is to nurture the idea of learning for the sake of learning.
  • Get familiar with your local library. If you are going to homeschool, you’ll likely spend a lot of time there. Ask the librarian about homeschool programs or special lending privileges.
  • Likewise, get to know your local museums, nature centers, and other places that your child will enjoy visiting.
  • Look at homeschool resources and curricula. If he or she is old enough, include them in the discussions. Talk about your educational goals and start building a plan for the coming year.

The point is to get your family into a homeschooling frame of mind: realizing that education can happen anywhere and is not limited to a specific building, that instructional methods can be highly individualized; nurturing bonds of trust with your child as you spend more time with them, and starting to appreciate all the educational opportunities in the world around us every day.

How Long Should the Deschooling Phase Last?

How long you deschool is going to be relative to how long your child was in an institutional school. If your son is starting 2nd grade and was only in public school for a year or so, deschooling might only require a few weeks, akin to an extended mid-semester break. But if you are pulling your 17-year-old daughter out of the public school she’s been in her entire life to homeschool her senior year, you’re going to want to be more generous with the amount of time you allot to deschooling, perhaps several months.

You will know it is time to wrap up deschooling when your child starts getting bored or restless. It is likely you will just feel ready to jump into something more challenging. At this point you can start introducing more structure into the day as you move into a formal homeschool schedule.


Deschooling is an opportunity for you and your child to divest yourselves of the assumptions you picked up from public school about how education needs to look. It allows time to readjust your mindset and routines to the individualized nature of homeschooling.

Would you like to join other homeschool families in continuing this discussion? I invite you to join me and other Catholic homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group!


Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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