5 Reasons You Should Let Your Teen Leave the Traditional School System

Updated September 14, 2020

You have an unhappy teen in school.  Perhaps they’re more interested in non-academic subjects and just aren’t focused on schooling;  perhaps the social scene is not a fit; perhaps they’re chomping at the bit to do something else, but school stands in their way; perhaps they don’t mind academic opportunities but find school stifling, unchallenging and boring; perhaps they suffer from anxiety and/or depression- and school only exacerbates this.

At any rate your teen wants out- and you are considering  it.

Give your teen a chance, let them leave their uninspiring, uneducational school.

Uneducational school? Well it is for your teen.

Here’s what we know:

1. School Does NOT Equal Education.

Education comes from the Latin word educe- which means to “draw forth from within.”  It is the process of preparing oneself intellectually for one’s place in the world, and entails learning, which is quite different from being taught.

Learning comes from within.

Unfortunately in today’s society we often believe that education has to come from teachers. Just imagine all the time people have spent trying to teach you things that you still don’t know!

Schools are places where kids go and teachers teach. Learning doesn’t necessarily happen there for all kids.  For learning to happen, the learner has to be interested and engaged. If your teen is neither interested nor engaged in school, they are not being educated there,  and are therefore wasting their time.

Your teen CAN learn outside of school!– by pursuing what interests them through life experiences, social interactions and, the internet.  We live in an information age, where anything you might want to know is available at the click of a button.

Albert Einstein quipped once that “education is what remains after one has forgotten everything one learned in school.”

Your teen already learns all the time about what interests them. Think of their passions, and how they already know quite a bit about that non-academic subject, probably more than most adults.  Giving your teen freedom from school’s time requirements gives them the opportunity to  pursue a real education,  preparing themselves for that ever nearing world of a life of independence.

2. They can still go to college.

When your teen hits 18 (or has passed a high school proficiency exam such as the CHSPE), they can go to Community College. Community Colleges are wonderful resources, and often have technical programs as well as academic. Community Colleges offer many opportunities to study a wide variety of subjects, thus giving a young adult  a huge opportunity to find himself academically, before transferring to a 4 year college (or not).


If your teen is motivated to go to a four year college, she can pursue a college prep program on-line or at home, and still have the opportunity to apply and get into any number of  four-year colleges.  More than 1000 colleges have admitted homeschooled students, and  studies have found that homeschooled students actually complete college at a higher rate and get better grades on average. Check out this book: College Without High School, a step by step guide on how to leave high school and still pursue a college prep life.

3. Leaving school will give your teen TIME to pursue what they love, and the OPPORTUNITY to discover that they are , in fact, smart.

We have all heard the statistics that high school drop-outs are less likely to be successful in life, and more likely to engage in criminal behavior, etc. However, consider this idea: high school drop-outs consider themselves failures, and were not engaged during their formative teen years, and fundamentally do not believe themselves to be intelligent.  Their intelligences were not celebrated, built upon, and challenged in constructive ways.

When teens start their young adulthoods in failure, they have very little confidence to build lives of joy and abundance upon.

Everyone is intelligent. School unfortunately values very few types of intelligence. Is your teen a  master gamer? super handy and loves fixing things? a musician? a surfer? an artist? a tinkerer? a naturalist? The types of intelligence that kids develop in pursuing their passions are useful in life, yet our current school culture holds little value for them.

Reframe leaving school as an entrepreneurial move, not a cop-out. Leaving this traditional school culture gives your teen a chance to develop creativity in their real skill sets. And if they leave school not as a high school drop-out, but as a budding expert in their own particular interests and passions, they will have a lot more confidence to take their next steps in life.

4.  And from pursuing these passions, your teen is more likely to find a field that they care about, and eventually find work they are passionate about.  

Meet Ava, a teen  who could not focus on school nor had interest in any academic subjects. She regularly got D’s and F’s in her academic classes. But we saw intelligence in her. She was extremely socially intelligent and a very talented artist. What she was interested in? fashion, hair and make up. She stopped attending school, and attended a beauty school at 17. At 19, she currently has a successful and growing career as a professional make up artist.

Or Zach, who had no interest in doing homework or completing academic subjects; as a result, he floundered in school and was on the path of not being eligible for a high school diploma. We saw intelligence in him. He worked on a ranch and was incredible with horses; he was also very handy and could complete any number of construction projects. He currently works in his father’s construction business, and part time on a ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Or Max, a student who at age 13, was just starting to learn his multiplication tables. He was always allowed to follow his interests at his own pace, and never went to elementary, middle or high school. He loved gaming and strategy, theater, magic and puzzles. He began taking community college classes at age 16, and is now studying advanced mathematics in Budapest through Hampshire College (where he is currently a Junior- and double majoring in Math and Drama).

Students we have worked with who either did not attend high school or left high school are currently involved in some of the following passions: attending college (UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Hampshire College, Cabrillo College, to name a few), choreographing musicals, teaching dance, mastering guitar, creating beautiful drawings (on line and off), designing web sites, designing and building underwater robots (and all kinds of other electronic devices), starting and running their own small businesses, volunteering in political, social, or environmental  campaigns.

Most of all, they live lives of joy, interest and passion.

5. Your family relationships will improve.

If you truly let go of the school paradigm, and hand over control of your teen’s education to her, your teen will be happier; not only will she be happier, she will be free, and ultimately become more responsible. You will have positioned yourself in her corner, supported her authentic self, and demonstrated that you have her back. You will begin to develop a partnership with your teen rather than the antagonistic-“butting heads”  relationship you must surely have been experiencing trying to force her through a school system where she has been unhappy.

This takes loads of trust, time, nurturing, and loving support on your part, and won’t happen overnight. But you, as the parent, are part of this equation.

By giving your teen new personal space and a new level of trust, you are setting the stage for some good times and great memories with your teen.


For a free consultation about what learning approach might work best for your teen, please contact Shauna at info@pacificsandsacademy.com. Leave your phone number and the best time of the day to reach you.

I believe in interest-led, self-directed learning. I love helping teens find lives of passion and fulfillment outside of traditional academia.

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Posted in Drop-Out, Opt-Out, Parent-Teen Relationships, Uncategorized
4 comments on “5 Reasons You Should Let Your Teen Leave the Traditional School System

  2. Meredith says:

    Hi. I got here from a link Kraig Ward posted on FB. Great work you are doing! I realized from the name of your personal blog that you were on the chat during Dale Stevens creativeLive workshop today, weren’t you? Small world.

  3. Caleb says:

    I totally agree with what is said in this article. Take Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the classic examples. They both dropped out of school to pursue their passions and succeeded. One does not have to do extremely well in school to be successful. After all, how many people actually use most of what they learn in their adult lives? I know a very successful engineer who uses less than half of what they learned in school on a daily basis.

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