How to Deschool a Twice-Exceptional Learner

By Teresa Currivan, LMFT, Parent Coach

What is deschooling? 

Deschooling is the process of allowing a student to abstain from any school or learning-related activities. The objective is to allow the child’s intrinsic motivation to learn to return. 

While it is easy to understand deschooling in terms of “no school” for a length of time, (and sometimes this is all that is needed,) what is more difficult to understand (and to do!) is the nuance of integrating the twice-exceptional, or any differently tuned-in student back into learning. This integration is crucial to the student’s success and is best done using a combination of deschooling and unschooling.

Why would I need to deschool my child? 

Deschooling is necessary when a child has experienced school refusal or trauma — any intellectual, social, mental or physical harm within the school setting. The nature and length of the trauma the child has endured impacts the amount of time he needs to deschool, from a few months to a few years. 

What is the difference between unschooling and deschooling? 

Deschooling differs from unschooling but works nicely with it. Unschooling is a method of schooling that follows the child’s interest in connection with real life and the real world around them. It can include travel, cooking, watching documentaries, having a mentor, and, in my translation of the term, even traditional instruction and classes.

Both unschooling and deschooling involve a break from the traditional school setting and assume that the child has an intrinsic desire to learn. There usually isn’t one magical day when deschooling ends: there is an art and science to knowing when and how to introduce education again. Unschooling works well with deschooling because there is room to understand when to back off, when to drop seeds of thought, and when to allow the child to rise to a challenge, but it can be accomplished in any educational setting with willing adults. 

What do I need to know about deschooling? 

Not feeling like you belong to a group, not feeling capable, feeling bored (and confused about that boredom), in addition to related issues can cause a child to act out in rage or feel deep depression. So many of the parents who I help are in the midst of helping their child out of this. It takes parents and teachers to believe in them in order for them to believe in themselves again. Deschooling with trust in the process is a large piece of this puzzle. The paradox here is that deschooling can cause more anxiety for parents who are new to homeschooling or alternative schooling more than any other factor. 

Because differently wired students are often misidentified as being “behind” the performance level in some or all areas that a traditional school expects, to the parents, the prospect of deschooling seems to be going in the wrong direction. Additionally, these students can have challenges such as autism, ADHD, or sensory issues. And the tip of the iceberg is that these very same students are often bored to tears because the subject areas that they are very interested in are not being explored in the capacity they crave (if at all.) This seemingly paradoxical mix is why traditional school doesn’t work and is why a new direction is needed.

Deschooling is the transition to this new way of learning, and inherently involves a big leap of faith. It requires that the adults let go of any outcome in one or all subject areas and an investment in discovering how the child learns. The paradox (so many paradoxes!) is that, in letting go of an outcome, the adult is making space for the child to return to the subject on their own terms. Easy to understand, hard to do!  The most important element in allowing the child to heal and to come to learn on their own is the adult’s trust in the process and in the fact that the child has an intrinsic desire to learn. Sometimes the stress or doubts the adult has about the process can impact the child’s own faith in their shooling or in themselves. (Especially the sensitive ones.) When ready and motivated, gifted children will catch up on any topic they are interested in, especially when taught in a way that suits them. (Often there is no stopping them!) 

What does it look like? 

In my work as a coach to parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children, many who are homeschooling, I have found deschooling in combination with unschooling to be effective and essential to getting back on track to learning. More often than not, certain topics continue to be a struggle until deschooling has fully occurred. 

© 2019 Teresa Currivan

To read more about deschooling, unschooling, scaffolding and other topics related to differently wired learners, you can read Teresa’s book, My Differently Tuned-In Child: The Right Place for Strength-Based Solutions. 

Teresa Currivan is a mother, licensed marriage and family therapist, TeresaCurrivanschool therapist, and  Parent Coach. She is the author of the book, My Differently Tuned-In Child: The Right Place for Strength-Based Solutions, and has published extensively on the topic of differently wired children. She has developed the Currivan Protocol™ for assessing, treating, and supporting the complexity of differently wired children. Teresa has connections to SF Bay Area schools and gives talks to parent groups and faculty there. She leads support groups for parents of differently wired children at The Right Place Learning Center. She has been published on sites such as, Filter Free Parents, and is a blogger at GHF and Hoagies Gifted Education page. You can find more articles related to being differently wired in her book. Follow her on her Facebook at

**Teresa offers assessments and coaching. To schedule a free 20 minute consultation by zoom or phone, fill in the contact form, below, or email her. She looks forward to talking with you!**    

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This is part of a blog hop over at Hoagies Gifted Education Page, go check out other writers on the topic of Deschooling Your Gifted Child.

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