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You love, or know, or are an unhappy teen in school.
Are you the unhappy teen? For the purpose of this blog, I’ll be writing towards your caring adult. But go ahead and read this, and share these ideas with your parent, if they appeal to you!
(And I’ll be writing another post directly towards you later).
Perhaps your teen wants academic opportunities but finds school stifling, unchallenging and boring; perhaps she is more interested in non-academic subjects and just isn’t focused on her schooling; perhaps the social scene is not a fit; perhaps she’s chomping at the bit to do something else, but school stands in her way. There can be a thousand reasons.
At any rate she’s told you she wants out- and you are considering it.
And we are here to tell you- yes. Give your teen a chance, let her leave her 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 learning comes 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 since for learning to happen, the learner has to be interested and engaged. If your teen is neither interested nor engaged in school, he is not learning there, and is thus wasting his time.
Your teen CAN learn outside of school!– by pursuing what interests him 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. And real-life, interest-led learning can be the best “school” of all.
Albert Einstein quipped once that “education is what remains after one has forgotten everything one learned in school.” Think about this. It’s true.
2. She can still go to college.
When your teen hits 18 (or has passed a high school proficiency exam such as the CHSPE), she 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 by Blake Boles, 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 he loves, and the OPPORTUNITY to discover that he is, 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. Perhaps this is the reason for the statistics we have all heard.
When a teen starts his young adulthood in failure, he has very little confidence to build a life of joy and abundance upon.
Everyone is intelligent. School unfortunately values very few types of intelligence. Is your teen a master gamer? Is she super handy and loves fixing things? Is he 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. (Blake Boles came up with this concept in College without High School) Leaving traditional school culture gives your teen a chance to develop creativity in his real skill sets. And if he leaves school not as a high school drop-out, but as a budding expert in his interests and passions, he will have a lot more confidence to take his next steps in life.
4. And from pursuing these passions, your teen is more likely to find a field that she cares about, and eventually find work she is 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 had incredible intuition and skill 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 beginning 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 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, and supporting him and valuing the pursuit of his real interests and passions, you are setting the stage for some good times and great memories with your teen.
HERE are SIX alternatives available if your teen
chooses to leave high school:
1. INDEPENDENT STUDIES PROGRAMS
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. Online. There are over 100 online schools. A couple that seem to get a lot of traction are Laurel Springs Academy and Keystone National High School. Many Universities have Online 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 Online High Schools.
2. ALTERNATIVE HIGH SCHOOLS IN YOUR AREA.
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 5-8K 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.
3. TESTING FOR DIPLOMA EQUIVALENCY:
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. Wisconsin 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? It hasn’t been tested in the courts yet, but 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 college acceptance in other states, but we still recommend that you check with your college 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. Homeschooling has many advantages. For one, it can be very free form- and take any number of paths.
Your teen can study subjects that interest him in ways that interest him. You can also find more interesting ways to approach less interesting topics. Homeschooling for teens can include taking community college courses, participating in sports, clubs and activities, spending lots of time pursuing personal interests, taking online courses, volunteering, traveling, blogging starting a small business You can homeschool on a college prep track, or not.
In California, if you homeschool independently, you don’t have to worry about state standards and testing requirements, while if you homeschool using a charter or public school, you generally have to follow state standards and testing requirements. Different states have different requirements. Check that link out for starters.
This is a branch of independent 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. They don’t worry about covering particular academic subjects.
Unschooled teens live life following their interests. They often become experts in their fields, take college courses, travel, get deep into video games, work jobs, hang out with friends, create blogs, participate in community activities, to name a few possibilities.
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. And here about living joyfully with your teen and unschooling in general..
6. ENROLLMENT IN PACIFIC SANDS ACADEMY.
Enrollment at PSA is a bit of a combination of online 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 from 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, teens enrolled at Pacific Sands Academy can earn a high school diploma.
We also have a path that allows your teen to demonstrate that she is already ready to move on from high school and earn a diploma in one to six weeks.
For a consultation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will be happy to discuss if PSA is the right fit for you and your family.
My name is Shauna Reisewitz, and I have worked with teens for over 20 years. While I have spent quite a bit of time in the traditional system (teaching high school science and math), I have spent more time in alternative education- from teaching in a school that focused on travel, to teaching overseas, to supporting learning in a Charter homeschool program, to currently homeschooling my own children.
I know that learning occurs when kids (or adults) are interested, engaged, and have the opportunity to follow their own leads. Think of the last time you learned something new. It was fun, right? Did anyone coerce you? The same is true for our kids. With a little time to develop their own interests and passions, and a little mentoring, they can develop their own education, leading to a life of joy, fulfillment and abundance.
I would be happy to talk to you about your teen, his or her specific issues, and your fears or worries about leaving your traditional school.
If you would like to schedule a free consultation with me about what approach might fit best with your teen, please contact me at email@example.com.