Transitioning from conventional schooling to unschooling saved my life, but my first year of unschooling wasn’t as easy as one might expect. The experience of transitioning from conventional schooling to a more free way of living and learning – known as “deschooling” – can be a tough transition for both parents and young people accustomed to conventional schooling. Unfortunately, Grace Llewelyn’s book The Teenage Liberation Handbook is the only major resource I can find for young people new to unschooling. Most resources for navigating this transition are written for parents.
In light of this, I’ve contacted other young people involved in Self-Directed Education about their experiences deschooling. This guide is the result.
For months after I left school, like most teens new to unschooling, I often doubted my capability to direct my own learning. There’s a time where we don’t appear to be doing much as we get used to our new freedom and we can be hard on ourselves during this time. It’s normal and it’s temporary; it won’t last forever.
Though it can be trying and at times painful, this adjustment period is unavoidable. Conventional schools tell us what to do, so we’re not accustomed to scheduling our days around our own needs and interests. As a new unschooler, you’ll likely find yourself doing whatever you used to do to relax after school all the time. You might spend too much time on the computer or stay up later than you should be playing video games or watching videos. But eventually, these things will leave you feeling sick or depressed because you’re not taking care of your needs.
My advice for this deschooling process is to accept this adjustment period and pay attention to how you feel. Make plans to meet your needs as you discover them. If you’re finding yourself feeling sick from lack of activity, make it a priority to do something that gets your body moving every day like biking or martial arts. If you’re feeling depressed from lack of growth, create reasonable goals for yourself every day like practicing a skill or spending time with friends. Recognizing our needs and taking care of them is an important part of being self-directed.
It’s also easy to isolate yourself. You now have a vastly different schedule from any conventionally-schooled friends you have, which makes it difficult to socialize with them. My advice to you is to get involved in something. Join a group related to one of your interests, like a band program, theater club, or non-profit organization. If there aren’t any groups you’re interested in joining, create your own. Also, If your area is fortunate enough to have one, I recommend hanging out at a local youth center. Humans are social creatures, so we need social interaction to feel our best.
Welcome to the world of unschooling! There’s some struggle involved, but in the end, it’s so much better than conventional schooling for our mental health, our physical health, and our love of learning. The freedom we have as unschoolers is something not many young people experience. Celebrate!
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