Transitioning from Traditional School to Homeschooling - Deschooling

Posted in Just Starting Out on May 15, 2017 - by

Moving away from a public school

School choice is not feasible for every family, and even when it is a choice, not all feel called to home school right off the bat. Many of us American moms and dads not only look forward too, but actually fantasize, about what we’ll be doing the day our children are loaded on the bus in the morning only to return late in the afternoon.

What will mom and dad do? Well, the parent who stayed home all through infancy, toddlerhood and pre-school might look forward to getting a job, joining the PTA or even a gym to help lose some of those parent pounds. As for the children, maybe they dream of riding the bus, study halls or prom.

The Homeschool Transition Period

Choosing to homeschool, no matter what the reason, changes everything in the life of a family. Everybody’s plans change. This change can be dramatic especially if Junior and Jane have been attending a traditional school setting for some time. There will be a transition period and it’s possible it will be quite challenging for all parties involved; mom, dad, Junior and Jane, even the cat might need to get used to the new situation.

After reviewing the state’s homeschool laws or educational codes, mom and dad will begin the process of withdrawing their children from school. Each state in the United States presents different regulations for homeschooling parents to follow. It’s imperative that mom and dad familiarize themselves with the requirements for the state in which they reside.

Now is the time to join a homeschooling support group and HSLDA. After submitting the mandatory paperwork and taking the kids off the bus for the last time, the journey begins.

1. Re-establishing the parent-child relationship

No matter the reason a parent chooses to withdraw a child from the school setting, it is likely they’ll face some struggles in the transition. Rebuilding and strengthening the parent-child relationship is important during this time. Many veteran homeschoolers would caution a parent from jumping right into the school part of homeschooling soon after withdrawing a child from the school setting.

Take some time to get to know your child’s learning style as well as your teaching style by hanging out together. Planning a bunch of field trips or a vacation during this time will help set both the parents and children in “de-schooling” mode and help build up their relationship.


Yup, that’s a word. Ivan Illich describes the term in detail in his book, Deschooling Society. “De-schooling” has several definitions, yet in this case it refers to the time taken to adjust the family from the expectations and traditions of the school setting to the freedom of homeschooling.

Think of it as a reset button. No workbooks or online school programs should be used. This is a time of bonding and relationship building as well as adjustment from the distractions of school. Take a trip to the library or a museum. Stay home and play some board games, cuddle and read.

Related: 11 Myths about Deschooling

Observing Your Child's Interests

During this time, be sure to take note of what the child’s interests are. Be sure to ask open ended questions and use reflective listening to keep open the lines of communication. After this trip down de-schooling lane, parents can then start looking for curriculum perfect for their kids! Maybe they’ve discovered that they want to un-school. There’s no curriculum needed for that!

If the family lives in a highly regulated state, like New York, North Dakota or Georgia, parents should contact a local homeschooling support group or HSLDA to find out how to word de-schooling time on any mandatory paperwork so that the homeschool is in compliance with state regulations.

Outside of getting any mandatory paperwork in order, Diane Brooks from says that “I usually advise them (families) to take a period of "deschooling", especially if the child has a lot of negative attitudes about "school" or learning.”

2. Friendships change

Unfortunately, many of us buy into the idea that because kids are made to see the same people five days a week for 10 months out of the year that these are the people with whom they will develop great friendships. How many people do you really keep in touch with from elementary school?

School Friends versus Friends

The truth is, although we might be accustomed to seeing the same people every day they might not necessarily be our friends. Friends are people with whom we have a deep emotional connection. School “friends” could be categorized more as acquaintances who children are forced to associate with due to convenience and proximity within a school setting.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “friend” as those with whom we have a loving bond, excluding familial relationships. Children transitioning from a traditional school setting to a homeschool setting might struggle with missing the ritual of seeing the same people every day, causing them to be moody or blue for a season. They will probably miss their real “friends” also, those other children in school with whom they have developed such affections for. I’ve noticed that even children who were bullied might feel a mixed sense of relief and longing.

Broadening Friend Groups

One advantage to homeschooling is that parents and children have the opportunity to deepen and widen their kid’s social pool. Church groups, youth groups, scouts, library gatherings and homeschool support groups are all places to meet new people and choose friends instead of having them chosen by the school district.

After de-schooling, diving into some fun activities with other families might just be the cure to any “I miss my friends” blues. Groups like LEAH in New York offer plenty of opportunity for both parents and children to get plugged in to some homeschool experiences.

Parent School Friendships

Parents might struggle with missing friends also. We might not realize that our identity and friendships were enmeshed with who our kids had class with. Not all school friendships will end when a family chooses to take the plunge into homeschooling, although because of scheduling and priority changes some relationships will ultimately fade into the background.

The thought of loosing friendships can make people anxious. Rest assured, as the family delves into life as homeschoolers and joins more activities, friendships will surely blossom for everyone!

3. There will be a less grueling schedule

Patience is key during the transition time from traditional school setting to homeschooling. One issue that might come up is that both the kids and parents will need to get used to the less exciting/grueling schedule. There is a lot more time to ponder, consider and think when homeschooling.

Traditional School Schedules versus Homeschooling

From getting ready to catch the bus to finishing up homework assignments, instrument practice, sports practice and finally plopping in bed, the traditional school day can consume up to 8 hours or more often leaving very little time for family fun. Homeschooling will most likely take a fraction of that time!

When my children were in the elementary grades, we were able to get our “work” done in just 2 hours in the morning and had the rest of the day to pursue our other interests.

Handling Freedom

Kids who have already attended a traditional school will be accustomed to being shuffled around from place to place and told where to go, what to do and when they can play. Not true in the homeschool setting! This new found freedom might seem overwhelming at first and will come with a lot of “I’m bored” whining, from both the kids and parents.

Again, unwrapping the individual’s interests and passions will help with this problem. An article by the Pew Research Institute states that we’re more likely to pursue knowledge if it’s something we’re interested in anyway. Maybe plan a field trip every other Tuesday. Consider dedicating one day a week to science experiments. Spend time at the library and seek out homeschool activities in your area. Joining a homeschool support group is a great way to find out what’s going on nearby during the day, keeping boredom at bay and helping the child discover what interests they’d like to pursue.

Wrapping It Up

It’s true that the reasons for withdrawing the kids from public or private school will vary from family to family. No matter the reason there will be a period when both the parents and the kids will need to adjust to the new normal. De-schooling and relationship building are integral to the success of this new family adventure.

The longer a child has attended school, the longer it might take for them and their parents to adjust to their new role as homeschoolers. Be patient, loving and supportive. Keep expectations reasonable and give things a chance to develop into a new family directed routine. You can do this.

About MarieRose daSilva

MarieRose is a homeschool parent living in New York. She is a board member of a local homeschool support group. She currently teaches gym and art at a homeschool cooperative. MarieRose also enjoys her list of job titles as mother, wife, teacher and amateur homesteader.

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