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Why do we need to deschool?


Although there certainly are some parents who always knew that they would unschool, most find their way to unschooling after finding that mainstream school just doesn't work for their child. Whatever the reason we are on this path, typically we have a lot of expectations of our children and of ourselves. Most of us only know about education in terms of formal school and have never seen children learn independently. We may have always assumed that school is essential in order to learn, get a good job, go onto higher education, or to have friends. We may have never seen a self-directed child, so we can’t imagine what that might look like.


So, we tend to come unstuck, not because our child is doing anything wrong, but because our own deep conditioning around learning, parenting, and even around ourselves makes it hard to trust our children and the process. Because unschooling doesn’t necessarily look like anything we’ve ever seen before (or like how we were raised), it’s easy to get stressed and anxious that things aren’t as they should be. What sort of thing might a parent get stuck on? We're all different of course, but common triggers range from worrying that our children will fall behind, to thinking that they are not being busy enough, or engaging in activities that look like a waste of time. Typically, when one of these worries or triggers arises,  we give ourselves a hard time because we don’t seem to be getting it right. If we’re not careful, we can start a vicious circle, whereby our concerns create tension, no one really thrives, and that in turn feeds our stress. Rinse and repeat. 

Deschooling is all about us getting beyond this deep conditioning that can easily undermine even the best day. It’s about learning to trust ourselves and to trust our children. I often describe this as an unravelling. It can take months or years to really get comfortable, and the gentle peeling back of layers probably lasts a lifetime. At the beginning it can feel like a crazy rollercoaster, with huge, mind blowing realisations, and exhilarating highs and lows. But, as time moves on, it becomes a practice—a gentle and continual practice of self discovery and connection. A process of constantly growing and bumping into new edges. 

Almost every parent I have spoken to who has been through this process says that:

  • it never ends

  • it has been a healing journey for their child, and for themselves

  • it has resulted in them living their own lives in a happier and more authentic way



An intentional practice
Deschooling is an intentional practice that we need to bring to every day. It is becoming aware of the things that are uncomfortable for us, and starting to work our way through them. Every time we let go a little more of trying to control things, we are likely to bump into a new edge that we need to acknowledge. Because this process involves changing the way we think, it requires intention and a willingness to bring our awareness to areas that may feel quite tender. It’s impossible to do this work and not sometimes find ourselves dwelling on our own childhoods, school experiences, or general fears and insecurities. Consequently, we should always take it at the pace that best suits us and always be extremely gentle with ourselves. And remember, that the learning and growth is in the discomfort.

Our children are our facilitators
Because our children naturally  trigger so many emotions in us, they are a constant mirror of what we find challenging, joyful, painful and easy. If we are able to observe what arises, they will show us exactly what the next step is in our deschooling process.

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