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Deschooling - Need support (long)

638 Views 12 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  cottonwood
Here's my hs story. I'd been thinking about/wanting to hs for years but always worked full time so it wasn't an option. When my dh came to me and said he wanted to join the Marines I saw it as an opportunity for me to become a SAHM. So, we made a deal. He could become a Marine as long as I could be a SAHM. After all the training and moving around we finally ended up in paradise during the last 6 weeks of my ds' 6th grade year. He finished out 6th grade in the public school and started middle school here. After a few weeks he was failing! I tried to work with his teachers and prinicipal but they gave me the impression that I should just sit back and let him fail. The last straw was when, during another one of our conferences that my ds attended, one of his teachers compared my ds to another boy in her class who read his Bible when he was finished with his work as if my ds wasn't as good because he liked to read comic books. By this time my ds was practically suicidal. So, I immediately pulled him out of school that day and told him he didn't have to go back.

We took about 2-3 months off while I researched curricula and gave my ds time to unwind/deschool. I started to get pressure from everyone, including my dh, to get things started. I finally settled on a curriculum and we got down to business. It went alright. Sometimes my ds would be interested in doing his schoolwork and sometimes he wouldn't. It progressively deteriorated, however, to the point where we were fighting daily about it. I decided that maybe he needed more time to deschool. I've also been leaning more and more toward unschooling because I think my ds would "fit" into that more. He's not the type to be structured and scheduled and sit for more than 15 minutes. (He was labeled as ADHD in the ps.)

So, we have now been deschooling for 2-3 months and I'm starting to feel the pressure again. This time coming from myself because I haven't told anyone else that we aren't doing schoolwork. Whenever someone asks how school is going I just say it's going fine. All my ds has been doing is playing video games, pc games, watching TV and running around the neighborhood. I'm very surprised I haven't gotten a call from someone yet asking why my schoolaged child is roaming the streets in the middle of the day.
(BTW, we live on a Marine Corps base so it's very safe.) I have read that the rule of thumb is one month of deschooling for each year a child was in ps so I'm trying to keep that in mind. I know he has a lifetime to learn and that he is actually learning while he's playing these games and helping me around the house. He says he wants to be a chef so I've been encouraging that as much as possible. (He cooks all of our meals
) He has shown no signs of being interested in studying anything else and even the cooking isn't what I would call studying. He just cooks food when he feels like. I guess I just need reassurance that he will eventually start to really get into something or at least reassurance that what he's doing now with the cooking is enough. If my PhD mathemitician father and MS chemistry mother knew what was going on they'd freak!

So, please, tell me what we are doing is okay and his brain isn't rotting!
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Maybe you could try gently trying to get him to find out what really interests him. You might try turning off the TV, computer etc. Spend some time at the library and local museums. Try to get him reading. Once he finds something he is interested in then run with it. It doesn't have to be structured, and you don't have to pressure him. It sounds like he has had plenty of time to decompress, and now it sounds like its time to find his interests.

If he likes comic books then get him a bunch of them. Let him read them all he wants. Then maybe get him some cool art supplies...maybe he might decide to try making some of his own comic books. Maybe help him do a little research into the history of comic books and comic book artists and authors. Maybe find a local comic book convention and take him to it.

I find that when the TV is on, my kids aren't learning...they are vegging out. As long as I give them the tools they need they are constantly learning.

Guide him and give him ideas and follow his lead. I think you will find that it feels much more natural, and it comes very easy.

Hope this helps
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Wow! He cooks all your meals and enjoys it
Run with that - you have the hook. Have him plan the meals in advance (writing, reading, planning). Start to have him consider a budget that must be adheared to (math). Have start looking for recipes he wants to try, make larger or smaller batches (math). Have him volunteer to cook / serve at a soup kitchen (volunteerism, interpersonal skills). Perhaps have him try to write down a recipe he has created (technical writing). I would not pour this on him all at once, but in pieces as he will accept it. Have him help you shop and comparision shop (consumer math). Can you believe all this is just in his hobby?

I am sure if you looked into his other hobbies and interests you may find similar things that could be done. And he cerainly is old enough to sit down and talk with you about your concerns. Tell him you're happy to have him home but are concerned, tell him why, and see what he has to say, see what he wants to learn about. His ideas may suprise you. And remember learning does not have to be done at the kitchen table for hours on end. It can be split up into 15 minute intervals to suit his learning style - AND READING COMIC BOOKS COUNTS AS READING TOO!(I would have been so angry with those school administrators too)

As for brain rotting - - - if he is happy, you are soul saving and that is so much more important.
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What Brenoi said!

Just to add, imo it's best not to get too attached to that "one month of deschooling for each year a child was in ps" bit. I heard that too, when we first started. I'm not sure where it originated, but my oldest took much longer than that to heal from his ps experience and begin to start persuing his interests. I think it depends a lot on what ps was like for the individual child.
Thanks so much for all your input and suggestions. From reading, I've learned that we are both doing more than I thought. He does go shopping with me and we comparison shop and he always has to adjust recipes. I have suggested that he go through the cookbooks and pick out recipes, plan meals, etc., but he doesn't want to do that. When I ask him what he's interested in or if there's anything he'd like to learn about his says nothing. When I ask him when he's going to get back to his schoolwork he says never. He has always had a very difficult time in ps. His first grade teacher actually suggested that I spank him and the school vice principal wanted me to give them permission to paddle him! I told her that where I come from that is illegal and she did a lot of backtracking.

Anyway, you all have given some good ideas. I think I'll try the comic books and drawing. He used to draw comic book characters. He also loves surfing and wants to become certified in scuba diving. We're in the perfect place to pursue those interests and we won't be here forever so we should take advantage.
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Remember things don't have to be presented as lessons - they can just be left on the coffee table i.e. National Geographic magazine, a cool dice game or cards, a model to build.

As for deschooling I think truthfully my 7 year old, who was only in ps for k and 1st grade took almost a year. So don't worry about what the accepted practice is just look at him and decide what is right.

I would also pull into the conversation a question maybe not what he wants to do now for learning, but what does he want to do in life in general. He is old enough to realistically understand that he will need to make a living. What does he want to do (granted it may change five thousand times from now until then)? Start thinking / working on a plan to get there. Just a thought.
Brenoi, So far he says he wants to be a chef. He wants to go to culinary school, which I think is wonderful. He is not interested in doing anything but cooking, though. He doesn't want to plan meals or menus. He doesn't want to look up recipes. When I ask him what else he's interested in he tells me nothing. Sometimes he refuses to even talk about it. I try to approach things in a conversational manner rather than in a, "What do you want to do with your life?" way. For example, if he shows interest in something, I try to casually discuss it further with him, but he gets annoyed and won't talk to me. He seems to be so opposed to learning that he rebels against anything that even appears to be educational. And, he's smart enough to know what's what no matter how I try to cover it up.


I joined the hs association here because they seem to do a lot of fun stuff and some of the parents even offer classes in some of the more advanced or obscure subjects. I just joined last month and it turns out a lot of people are sort of taking a break for the summer. My ds said he wasn't interested in anything they had to offer anway.

I thought his innate desire for learning would eventually kick in and he would start to do more but that hasn't happened yet. He moans and complains about going to the library or to a museum or nature preserve. I don't want to force him because I thought that was contrary to the whole idea of unschooling. I'm getting worried and am not sure what to do at this point. Do I just back off and let him do what he wants or do I make him go with me to "educational" places and events? Btw he doesn't watch TV or play video games all day long. He has a limit on these things.
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His brain is NOT rotting! All of the things that you are talking about him doing are all valid means of learning.

I truly believe that he needs more time of "deschooling". I don't agree at all that he's had plenty of time at all. A few months is not long at all especially at that age. And if you are leaning towards "unschooling" (sorry I hate that term even though we fall into it) then it could be said that ones idea of "deschooling" would be continuous anyway. It wouldn't be a matter of that you "deschool" and then start "unschooling". There really wouldn't be any difference between the two because the child would be leading the way throughout.

As far as turning of the computer, tv, etc...that would be more about your own personal feelings of these things. It could be argued that he is getting much more out of doing these things than you may realize. "veggin" doesn't necessarily equal not learning.

I really think that so often it's more of a matter of perspective. Most of us were schooled so we look at what they are doing in those terms. Part of the unschooling process is with the parents as well. It takes some time and creativity for us to step outside the box and see things in a different way. When you do...I think you will realize that he's doing much more than you might think


I think you may get some better information/support at www.unschooling.com since you talk about leaning that way. I think many of these boards out there have more homeschoolers posting than "unschoolers" or natural learners. JMO


Remember...it's a journey. It's all a process. Continue to tune into your child and your heart and you will all do well
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Now that you have posted more about your situation it sounds like you are doing a lot more than what you thought.

I really agree with what the PP said about those of us who were PS tend to think of learning in those terms. It sounds like he is doing lots of learning. Maybe scuba and surfing might be what he needs right now. Those sound like great ideas....maybe an interest in marine biology might spawn from the scuba lessons...who knows.

I definately don't think that he is sitting around wasting time.

Maybe you might be able to find a local restraunt that will let him hang around in the kitchen a few hours a week. Maybe something like that would spark his interests some more.

It does sound like you are doing a great job. Its great that you are being so sensitive to his needs and realizing that he needs a break. I think he will come around eventually. Oh, and I hope I didn't offend you by mentioning that maybe you should limit his TV or video games. I just worry that it might be taking the place of another more valuable activity. (at least with my kids that's how I feel. I find that if the are watching TV too much they lose their sense of creativity and the ability to entertain themselves....and when they are entertaining themselves they really seem to choose great activities...reading, drawing, imaginary play, things that are much more learning oriented)

Good luck!
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when I pulled mine out my then 13 yr old needed 8 months to deschool...

In the meantime he cooked ( wanted to be a chef) , drew, studied the Egyptian Book of the Dead -something he got interested in from the curricula that didn't work ...

He drew, he played around with electronics and did some unit studies books so we could "show " something. At that time poor dh was school at home lol

It sounds like you are doing fine truly
I would say- go take him to Hanauma Bay and let him snorkel all day long if he wants to
I loved that place when we were stationed there. Take him to the Arizona or to the parade tomorrow ( they still have that one- or do they ? ) and talk about King Kamehameha ( sp? ). There are sooo any neat thing to see on Oahu- it is a great opportunity you guys have on this island. My son was to little to remember Oahu but begs me at least once a week to go back
How much longer have you guys got there? Maybe you can just let him be a kid for now and get "serious " with homeschooling when you get back to the mainland
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I think, for what it is worth, that in your responses that your answer has become clearer . . .He is fine! You are just worried about explaining that to dh and others who ask. Give him the freedom to do what he wants and wait for him to come to you. There is not much more that you can offier. He knows you are there and he knows you love him and are concerned. Give it time. Good luck
Brenoi said it all. You know that he's fine, and that he's learning things that are relevant to his life which probably wasn't the case in school. Definitely check out the unschooling sites. I know it's hard to explain to people for whom school is the end-all and be-all of learning, but in the end placating them is not your priority nor your responsibility.
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