There are times in our family life that we need to take a step back and de-school either ourselves or our kids.  When our thinking and practices are so in line with ‘school’ we often need a complete break, just to be family, to get our thinking turned towards discipleship.

This process is often called de-schooling.

Many years ago when I was going through a realignment process (read about this in Blending Life with Lessons) I asked my family “If we weren’t homescooling, but still not going to school, how would we spend our days?  What would we do?”

They all decided we would:

  • Still read and study God’s word
  • Still read books
  • Still talk and laugh together
  • Play board games
  • Go camping
  • Do chores
  • Have a veggie patch
  • Visit with friends
  • Help people and have people in our home
  • Cook and make things (craft)

These things they listed is our family lifestyle.  They are the things we do.  Take us camping or on a holiday, away from all the busyness or expectations of life and we still read, write, talk, we still cook and eat together, we still play board games and have a project on the go, we still get involved with other people.  This is what we do.    This is us.

This is what we need to get back to when we de-school – know who you are as a family.

When we look at de-schooling from a discipleship perspective though it doesn’t mean just let all disciplines go and do whatever.  At no time do we let our responsibility towards our children and their heart completely go.  The idea isn’t to remove discipline the idea is to remove thinking as a school thinks.

I have found that even on family holidays (vacations) we still need some discipline, some boundaries that help us all do the right thing.  When we take a study break (aka school holidays!) we still live by boundaries that help us do the right thing.  This applies to a season of de-schooling as well.

I believe that if you focus on

  • Building relationships – with both God and each other
  • Establishing responsibilities – habits of time management and chores especially
  • Address issues of personal growth – different for each of us
  • Allow time to develop our own talents

Then we will fill our day successfully.  Not just for busyness sake, but these four focuses will give us, as parents, plenty of opportunity to train our children, and to realign our thinking about what education and discipleship is all about.  Which is the purpose of de-schooling.

These are the types of things that we do during a break, and will help you during a season of de-schooling:

  • Maintain a family friendly routine – though I may let my kids sleep in during these times we have a cut off time where we need to be starting our day.  Get dressed, exercise, quiet time, breakfast, chores.  I lightly structure our day so that we achieve the goals that we have (whatever those goals may be).
  • Maintain chore time – our responsibilities haven’t disappeared just because we need a break or need to realign our mindset.
  • Maintain meal times – this is for two reasons.  Kids always do better when well fed so regular meal times helps regulate that.  Secondly, meal times are a great time for family togetherness and this is key in finding our balance as a family
  • Be productive – without this mindset we just waste our days.  A break is for a purpose, and de-schooling is for a purpose, so we need to make sure we achieve that purpose.  Doing nothing is not the only way to recharge, sometimes it is more energising to do the things we love.  This is what I mean by being productive.
  • Have time to self – during these times in our life I find it very important that each of us – my children and myself – all have a little bit of time to ourselves every day.  This works for us straight after lunch when we have ‘reading time’.

One other question that arises with the idea of de-schooling is when do I start introducing school type subjects – like math and reading.  I don’t think there is any one correct answer here – can you do those things without becoming the school ma’am?

One other thing that we do to maintain order in our home even when we aren’t doing a full study schedule is that I have table time.  Our day will look like this:

  • Wake up – morning routine
  • Family devotions – family meeting (to talk about our plans for the day)
  • 1-2 hours Table time – this is a time where each of my kids focus on a specific task for an allotted time.  Initially this would have been 30min but as they grow older and are able to focus independently this has stretched to 1-2 hours.  They read, do their math, typing practice, music practice or work on a project they have decided upon.

I have found that on a day when I’m giving them a lot of freedom that this short time of focus sets the stage for success.  They are a lot more creative and interactive for the rest of the day.  This is a good second step in de-schooling – where you slowly introduce intentional focus times.

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