Jennifer Soldner INFJ
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How to Deschool So You Can Unschool

Unschooling can be a difficult concept to wrap one's mind around, especially if they have not yet "deschooled." Since most people spent their youth traditionally schooled, whether within schools walls or homeschooled with a curriculum, it is hard to comprehend what life without school would be like, let alone attempt to live it. The deschooling process is the act of relearning how we learn in order to recognize that school is not, in fact, the only way to do so.

Deschooling is a process that is important for both parents and children. If your children have never been to school, the process will lie mainly within yourself. However, if your children have attended school, even for a year, then it should be a mutual process of deschooling together.

The ultimate goal of deschooling is to recognize that you are built to learn on your own and do not need teachers, curriculum or specific guidance in order to fill your mind with the wondrous knowledge the world has to offer.

Since life without school is so abstract for so many, here I offer some techniques to get you started on your road to rethinking education and building confidence in your innate ability to teach yourself.

Avoid all things school. This is very important for children if they have been in a school setting. It is difficult to comprehend life without something if we are still immersed in it. Simply stepping away from school may not be enough. Instead, try to avoid anything that registers in your mind as "school-y," from textbooks and worksheets to PBS specials to science experiments. If your brain recognizes it as something from school, skip it unless you are absolutely enthralled and fascinated by it. Consider behaving as you would on a weekend or a school vacation, but do it all the time.

The important thing to remember is that there is no time line to this. Some children may need a year or two of genuinely doing nothing of importance. It can be hard for parents to handle this stage as fears of laziness set in. But that is where step two comes in.

Categorize everything into subjects. While you are actively avoiding all things school, try to look at everything you are doing and put a subject label on it. Math, science, history, language arts. Whatever subject you can apply to your actions, apply it. This will be hard at first because we are taught that subjects exist separate from everyday life. But after a couple of weeks of consciously labeling everything, it will flow so easily that you will find almost everything you do, from waking up to going to bed, is filled with subject labels.

Playing outside? Register the science lessons, physical education and team building. Video games? How about reading, problem solving, mathematics and even more science. Watching your favorite sitcom? Look for lessons right in the show: history, current events, social studies.

Everything you and your children do is filled with lessons if you actively look for them. Get really creativity and don't sell anything short. Try not to look for future applications or varying levels of importance but instead, just recognize the subjects at every moment.

Learn something new. To a schooled mentality, this may sound counter-intuitive to avoiding all things school but it is a very important step in deschooling oneself. Choosing something that you have always wanted to learn but never had the chance, whether it's knitting, learning a new language or building a model airplane, and then starting from scratch to figure out how to learn it will teach you so much about building confidence in your abilities. Searching for YouTube videos or articles, heading to the library to check out a how-to book or even buying the materials and jumping in head first are all ways we can educate ourselves about something new.

From making the choice about what you want to learn, taking all the steps to learn it and ultimately recognizing the knowledge (no matter how much or how little) you have gained are all steps that show you how you learn and that you can learn. It shows you that you can take control of your education and succeed. The more you attempt this, the more confidence you will gain and the more you will question why you ever thought you needed school at all.

Give it time. School is a very powerful mentality. Its existence relies completely on its ability to make us think that we need it. Not too long ago, no one thought it was a necessary tool to learn anything. Everyone had confidence in themselves to learn what they needed to know for life and centuries of history was proof of this. The basis of school is to falsely educate us that we need school.

Submerged in a society that believes this and after years of being taught this mentality, shaking it will not happen overnight. It can take weeks, months or even years to completely remove the mentality that we cannot learn all we need to know without school.

Anytime you waiver or question your own confidence in your abilities, start back at the beginning. Avoid school, categorize everything you are learning at every moment and, above all, actively learn something new. Overtime your confidence will explode, your abilities will flourish and your thirst and passion for more knowledge will fuel you day to day. From there you can enter the world of Unschooling.


  1. Wow, I have never heard of this before. How do you get a decent job as an adult with no schooling? It's not like you can just get a GED, because that requires forced learning and testing. It seems like a paradox. While freeing oneself of the need for school, one also may be holding himself back from the freedom of achieving his dreams. Say a child is raised to say no to school, and he learns a great deal from the world around him and his own experiences. He loves astrology, and develops a passion for a world above that he cannot reach from the ground - so much that he desires to become an astronaut someday. How could he ever make it to NASA without any credentials? I am asking this out of sheer curiosity.

    1. I have had three of my five, so far, go to college. All of whom were unschooled, all who started well early of normal college age. When the time was right, we issued their high school diploma and they went to community college, around 15, caught up on whatever academics they lacked and then went to university. My dd will have her BA at 19 and her master's at 21. Unschooling doesn't mean no academics, it means the child chooses their path and you facilitate, mentor, and honor their needs and passions. Some go college, some go trade school, others art or whatever. Un schooling is about learning to trust that your child will discover their own passions and follow them. And the deschooling period isn't forever, it's a temporary time to build trust and relationship and communication so when they choose to move forward, you get to be a big part of it. It goes against everything we've been will never choose to "learn" but that's entirely untrue. Kids will choose to learn when they're not being forced, when they see the need for it in their life, and when they are allowed to follow their passion. It may not be on your timeline or the typical scope and sequence of traditional school, but it will happen. As long as their is love, communication, interaction, strewing, and modeling, you will end up with passionate, critical thinking, goal oriented wonderful adults. Seriously.

  2. Your question is definitely a common one for most unschoolers (even some homeschoolers). We live in a world that has become so school-oriented that it is hard to step out of that line of thinking. The first thing to recognize is that unschooling is about stepping out of *compulsory* schooling (which means going to school just because you are supposed to) and instead shifting toward learning through living, even if that means choosing to take a few focused courses or even attending college. Some great resources on the subject can be found over at the blog The Path Less Taken:
    Unschooling is a complete shift in perspective, but is very worth looking into. And, yes, unschooled children can still become astronauts! :-)

  3. THANK YOU for this article! We are just getting into our deschooling/unschooling adventure, even though our children are technically enrolled in private school until the end of this year due to a tuition contracts. I have a 9-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy. Even though I've told them from the beginning that college is not the only way to make a life, and that I don't believe in the paint-by-numbers approach to "success" that we're sold as students because it sure didn't lead to success and happiness for my husband and me (I'm paraphrasing--I don't tell them exactly that.) But even so, because of peer influences they believe that they must get into college. At the same time they hate the structure of school and over the past year I've come to agree. Anyway, I'm hoping deschooling helps BUT the original commenter inspired me to comment that I discovered you DO NOT need a certificate like a GED or high school diploma to go to college. You can get in as a "mature student" at the age of just 21. And if there's a job that a young person wants that requires a high-school equivalency certificate, then they'll have some motivation to study and take the test. *Feeling optimistic and finally free* :-) Katie

    1. Hi Katie! Just a note regarding the need for a "high-school equivalency certificate" for a job that might require a private homeschool in every state, a diploma issued by the parent is absolutely legal and just as legitimate as any other diploma issued by a public school. More info on this on the site (Home School Legal Defence Association).

  4. Trippy, have read links to your blog for ages via pinterest for the infj stuff, then it shows up in our aussie unschoolers group. Hello from Australian unschoolers. :)

    1. Wow! Hi over in Australia from the US! Great to connect with other unschoolers, especially INFJs! :-)


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