The what and why…

Detox may not be the most appropriate word for this but it seems to have taken a hold in the industry. Its not that school is necessarily ‘toxic” and you have to check your child (or yourself) into the Betty Ford Clinic or go to AA meetings to recover from it. Detoxing, or deschooling as it is also referred to, is simply a period during which the student is free to be themselves, to explore and to relax into an understanding that their new path is about learning in the real world versus having disconnected bits of information dumped into them. But this process is not just for the child, it is also, and perhaps more importantly, for the parent.

Most of us head into this new model for learning with hard-core programming that the students should be measuring up to certain requirements by certain ages, that worksheets and other busy work are required to show that the children are learning, and many more misguided educational notions that are part of our indoctrination. We want to take control of our children’s education but we mistakenly assume that simply means bringing school – with all of it’s limitations and issues – into the home. The detox period, if done correctly, usually has a bigger, more significant impact on the parent teacher than it does the child student. Trust me when I say that allowing this to happen will be the single, most important step you can take to successfully transition to homeschooling.

How its done…

School detoxing is about letting go and trusting the learning process that is inherent in everyone. For many, this ability or desire to learn is squelched in school, but it is still there and can be enticed back to the surface. Typically, the longer a child is in the traditional school, the longer this process may take. Because of this, the rule of thumb for determining the length of time to detox is to allow one month of freedom for each year of traditional school. So, what exactly does this look like? I realize it may not seem too helpful to suggest that it looks different for different families. Some limit the amount of TV, internet and electronics use during this time. Others may not.

Regardless of the approach, this is what detox should not include:

  • Curriculum of any sort, what so ever – NO Schooling at all!
  • Planning and scheduling – relax. It’s okay to plan ahead for a museum trip, etc. but avoid heavy, demanding schedules.
  • Busy work or worksheets – again, NO schooling at all!
  • Any pressure to learn – don’t worry about what you think they will miss.

This is what it could include:

  • Lack of specific wake up and bed times – this should be about letting the child find their rhythm.
  • A path strewn with curiosities and interesting things.
  • Getting outside to play, building forts – play with them.
  • Trips to museums, parks, observatories, movies, plays – places, events, things that allow them to pursue their interests and start asking questions.
  • Observation on your part to see what they like, what peaks their curiosity, where their questions lead…


Take time for you, the parent, to rekindle your own passions, to dig out old projects you wanted to do or finish. In our house, I am the morning person and my children and husband struggle with mornings. Their best time to learn is later in the day. That gives me invaluable time in the morning to pursue my hobbies and interests, reawakening projects long since abandoned over the busyness of life. There is nothing so encouraging and inspirational to children than their parents pursuing their own passions alongside them.

As you and your children deschool, you could continue to research curriculum and homeschooling methods and maybe, if the resistance has completely subsided and their passions have reawakened you could slowly introduce it into your day. However, as many of us have gone through this process, we’ve come to realize that the institutionalized version of education which follows the mandates of government, school boards, principles and teachers is not really what learning is all about and that organized curriculum falls short in preparing your children not only for real life, but also for a life of learning. Whatever method or option you choose, you will find that allowing for some unwinding from the rigors and demands of school through detox will help you and your children to get started with your best foot forward!

You can read about our personal detox and curriculum journey here.