EU363: Deschooling

EU363: Deschooling

Update: 2024-03-28


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Deschooling is a bit of a buzzword in homeschooling and alternative education spaces at the moment. So, let’s dive in!

Pam, Anna, and Erika talk about the definition of the word, what that transition to unschooling can look like for parents and adults, the importance of letting go of expectations, some of the paradigm shifts that happen during deschooling, and how deschooling is something that we revisit over time as we reach new seasons in our children’s lives.

We hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey!


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So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player.


ANNA: Hello, everyone! I’m Anna Brown with Living Joyfully, and today I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Erika Ellis. Hello!


ANNA: Hello! Before we get started, I wanted to encourage you to visit the Living Joyfully Shop. There you’ll find all of Pam’s books, our growing catalog of courses, and you can join our online community, and also book coaching calls with us. We are really having fun creating this one-stop shop to support you as you navigate relationships with your loved ones and deep dive into your unschooling journey. You can follow the link in the show notes or just go to

So, today we are going to be talking about deschooling. It seems that lately it’s kind of popping up again and it’s a word that’s maybe reaching a bit of a wider audience as people start to pull away from traditional schools for a variety of reasons. But people have questions about it. So, we thought it would be helpful to talk about it again. And I know we’ve talked about it before, but just keep digging in about what it looks like, what it can help us with, how it’s an ongoing process. So, I think we all have a lot to say about this. But Erika, would you like to get us started?

ERIKA: I would, yes. So, I think deschooling really has become kind of a buzzword in homeschooling and alternative education spaces, as people are really looking at the ways that school isn’t working for their children. This word comes up. Most of the time, the word “deschooling” is referring to a process of examining schoolish assumptions and beliefs and questioning those. So, getting out of a school mindset, as well as decompressing and healing from any time that has been spent in school.

And I’ll give you a couple of examples of schoolish assumptions and beliefs that you might start to question during deschooling, so that you know what kind of things we’re talking about. So, like believing that learning can only happen in a classroom, or that reading has to be happening by a certain age, that children need to be around a bunch of other children their same age, that mistakes are to be avoided, that grades are the most important thing, that everyone should be following the same educational path, that you can’t be successful without college, that children have to be made to do things that they don’t want to do, and that there are certain topics that they need to learn at a certain age, or even that children need to be taught in order for them to learn. And so, you can see just by listening to those, that these are major mindset shifts that are happening.

Deschooling is a mental and physical transition away from school for us as parents and for our kids, and all of the thought processes and choices that are wrapped up in that transition. And I know that today, we want to dive into a few important points about deschooling. First, that it looks different for children and parents, and we can explore what that can look like.

And we also really want to emphasize, like Anna was saying, that this is not a one-and-done, checklist kind of thing, where you could check it off. Anytime a belief comes up or a new phase in our child’s life comes up, more deschooling can happen.

I heard a question recently that was something like, is it okay if I feel like we need to go back to deschooling? Is it okay that our life is still looking like this? And I think the mom was really referring to the amount of time it seemed to be taking for her child to decompress and heal from his time in school. It seemed like he wasn’t interested in the usual things, which is just so common. And so, I think it’s valuable to envision deschooling not as a phase with an end point, and to really sink into allowing that transition to take the time it does and be ready to question your beliefs and give plenty of time and space for healing along the way as things come up for your family. And I know you both probably have a lot to say about this topic, so I’m excited to see where our conversation goes.

PAM: I will say, a million things bubbled up while you’re talking there, Erika. It’s like, oh my gosh, yes.

Maybe I’ll start from the kids’ point of view, since I’m the only one who had kids in school going through this deschooling process for them. If I had to put a timeline on it, at least a year of deschooling. My kids were only in school for a handful of years. My eldest was in grade four or five, I don’t even remember, but one of those. But yes, the messages that they came home with were strong.

My daughter who enjoyed school, I was actually a little bit surprised when she said, “Yeah, sure, I would prefer to stay home. That’s great.” But she had gotten the message that she wasn’t a very good reader. And so, when she wasn’t being forced to read, it’s like, “I don’t read.” And don’t put books within 10 feet of this poor girl for those first months, because it’s like, “Oh, I don’t have to do that? Okay, I’m going to step back from that.”

I wrote a whole article, we’ll link to that, about her journey with reading. To watch her step back from that and then to come to it herself was super fascinating and interesting, to the moment when she’s like, “I’m a bookworm!” She declared that. You could just see the connection she’s making to like, “A year or so ago, I hated books. I hated reading. I would swear I couldn’t read,” all those pieces, but to give her the space to come to that, a lot of deschooling in there.

Same with my son, his challenge was writing. And I remember when he picked up a pencil. It was at least a year after he left school, he was like, “I haven’t written by hand in ages.” And it was a choice to finally pick it up, but so much trauma and crap all wrapped up in that from his school experience. Those were a little bit more obvious to me, but there is the whole host of other stuff about the environment and stuff that we might not know about. So, to give them that space to just decompress.

And we’ve got lots of stories in the archive of the podcast, even young adults talking about, “I laid on the couch for a year. I just needed to really decompress entirely,” and for us to judge, like, “Oh, your experience wasn’t that bad. Why haven’t you recovered this quickly?” It takes as long as it takes.

And that was a fasc









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EU363: Deschooling

EU363: Deschooling

Pam Laricchia