Alternatives to Traditional High School

Do you know a teen unhappy in school??

Here are 6 alternatives you might check out.


A. District-based. Many school districts have independent studies programs. This is a place to start. Public independent studies programs have the same requirements as public schools. And they are free.

B. On-line. There are over 100 on-line schools. A couple that seem to get a lot of traction are Laurel Springs Academy and Keystone National High School. Many Universities have On-line High school programs as well. Here is Stanford’s.  These generally run about $7000-$15,000 per year for full time enrollment. Part-time enrollment in these private on-line schools is also available.

Most Independent  Studies programs have students follow a traditional academic program. So if your teen is interested in traditional academics, and is independently motivated, one of these may be a good option. You may want to buy Tom Nixon’s Complete Guide to On-Line High Schools.

Often times alternative high schools simply are smaller, more intimate  ways of approaching the same paradigm of education, but with interesting twists.  A quick internet search will reveal alternative schools in you area. Some schools focus on arts or sports, and if your teen’s interests line up with the focus of the chosen alternative school’s, education here may be a viable option. Private schools tend to be expensive starting at about 15K per year.

Enrollment at a democratically- run Sudbury style school. This is a growing movement in education- At these schools,  self-determined learning is celebrated, and occurs in a community based on equality and mutual respect. They have no curriculum, no tests, and allow interest-led learning to happen naturally. Students vote on mentors and advisors to work in the schools, who will then guide the students in fields of their choices. These schools generally take students ages 5-19, and are often more affordable (around 5-8,000 per year)  than other private schools. Enrollment  may  likely be a welcome relief for your teen this idea appeals to him, he likes making friends, and if you have a democratic school in your area.

You probably already know that  your  teen can take the GED anywhere in the country when he turns 18.

However, you may not know about the CHSPE.  California has the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) available to teens who are 16 or have completed their 2nd semester of their sophomore years. This test carries the same weight as the GED  and by California state law is the legal equivalent to a high school diploma. Interestingly, a teen  doesn’t need to be a resident of California, she just needs to be in California, and many people come from neighboring states to take it.  Wisconisn and New York have similar versions. In Wisconsin you need to be in the state for 1 week before taking the test; in New York, one month. If this option appeals to you and your teen,  you can creatively approach these hurdles!

Will your state accept the CHSPE?  The U.S. Constitution (Art. IV, Sec. 1)  has a “full faith and credit clause “ that seems to apply. You can’t be a high school graduate in one state and then not have that accepted in another state. This should be sufficient for community college acceptance in other states, but it never hurts to check with your college(s) of choice.


Homeschooling is the most rapidly growing segment education, and can be done is a way that supports your teen, and his interests. Methods vary– from schooling at home, to charter programs within school districts, to interest-led learning to unschooling. Again, a quick internet search will yield many options where you can find support. You can start here.


This is a branch of homeschooling that fundamentally believes that learning  is fun and happens all the time,   especially when kids are interested, engaged, see connections and are self directed. It does not happen when kids are coerced or bored or don’t see the point. In unschooling, parents work in partnership with their teens to help them follow their interests and passions. This is a growing underground movement, and you can find lots of information on-line.  You can start here to find information about unschooling teenagers.

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Enrollment at PSA is a bit of  a combination of  on-line independent studies and interest-led homeschooling. We utilize some of the principles of unschooling, namely that learning is fun, and happens all the time, especially when the learner is interested and engaged with the material. We also support shifting the parental paradigm control based  to  parents working in partnership with their teens. We provide coaching and support to  help teens discover their learning strengths and encourage them to use these strengths to follow their interests and passions. And for this work, they can earn a high school diploma.

We also have a path that allows your teen to demonstrate that she already ready to move on from high school and earn a diploma in one to six weeks.


For a free consultation about what learning approach might work best for your teen, please contact Shauna at 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.

Posted in Alternatives, Opt-Out
6 comments on “Alternatives to Traditional High School
  1. Bobbie Carson says:

    Another of the alternatives to high school that has proven beneficial is early college. The students begin college as early as 10th or 11th grade in order to have the challenge they need. Places like Bard College at Simon’s Rock are designed to meed the needs of these students and help prepare them for the future.

  2. Marcy K Krich says:

    Looking into online programs for my 15yr old son, who will be 16 in December and wants to do this on his own schedule.

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