Autodidacts Creating Culture

Did We Cheat Him of a ‘High School’ Experience?

Never in my life did my teacher lose my homework; and never did one fail to report my last semester’s grade.

Incidents like that happened regularly to our son at the high school he was attending.  Fed up, he took a particular test, passed, and legally left high school as a sophomore.  Now he’s enrolled in community college at seventeen.  Here’s what happened.  

After having been homeschooled from preschool until eighth grade, Chet went straight into ninth grade classes in our district’s public high school.  It made no difference that he’d never been in a classroom before.  He got As and Bs.

His sister read more books in 5th grade in my book club than he did in two years of public high school.

One of the reasons he wanted to go to high school was that he thought he was behind.  It didn’t take long for him to realize the contrary; he was ahead.  He read The Catcher in the Rye , a book assigned in tenth grade English, when he was a tween in a parent-led homeschool book club.  

Although he wasn’t used to taking tests at home, it wasn’t hard for him to learn to:  fill in a bubble, take pop quizzes, or write responses.  His difficulty was keeping track of his paperwork and assignments, but he figured that out quickly.

Another reason he wanted to go to high school was to make more friends.  Unlike our eldest who had more guy friends homeschooling high school, there weren’t enough kids around for our second son.  Being extroverted, meeting people in high school was easy for him, despite the fact that he was a minority both in race and class.  The kids were friendly.

At one point, I suggested to him to take photographs of his homework as evidence that he’d done the assignments.  Both his English and Spanish instructors repeatedly lost them and then told him he had to redo them.

I have some strong sentiments about the public school he attended.  Basically, I think it isn’t working for about seventy percent of the student body.  I’m not saying I’m against public schools.  I’ve seen plenty of kids who’ve worked hard in them and gone on to attend reputable colleges.  

Our son really enjoyed playing varsity soccer there.  He loved his AP World History class and said he learned a lot in it.  Establishing a blog, learning Photoshop and the Final Cut Pro movie editing software were highlights for him.  His field trip to Pandora, the live-streaming music headquarters, to hear from the owner how he started the business, was probably his favorite learning experience in two years at his high school. 

Not all the staff was complacent and apathetic.  In fact I was in awe of how hard some of the teachers and principals worked.  I don’t know how they had the energy to work at a crisis level seemingly every day.  I wondered how they managed to care when so much of the student body clearly didn’t.  

The institution wasn’t run efficiently.  So much money wasted!  Our son brought home $300+ text-books for Math, English, Chemistry and Biology.  When I asked him why he never read the books, he said his teachers didn’t use them.  When he was an aide in his computer class, he repaired hard ware students intentionally broke, brand-new Apple computers donated to the school.     

The main reason he told me he wanted to leave his high school was fear that he was succumbing to the prevalent attitude of “do nothing”.  

It wasn’t all bad; but it was a waste of his time to sit at a desk for seven hours amidst chaos and disorganization.

Can you imagine presenting in front of a classroom with no one listening?

Try writing down an assignment when it’s too loud to hear the teacher’s directions.

Picture being assigned to a work with a group where it’s the norm for the other members to do nothing, every day.

When he began, he told me he wanted to have a ‘high school experience’.  When he wanted to leave, I reminded him of that and he said, “I’ve had it.” 

Terribly bored and frustrated:  he took the California High School Proficiency Examination, “CHSPE.  Passing that test gave him the equivalency of his high school diploma.  

After two years in community college, he plans to transfer into a four-year college.  Many of the classes he will take at community college will count towards his undergraduate requirements at a four-year college.    

Admittedly, we never offered the option to  attend a private high school.  We couldn’t afford both that and a four-year college.  Honestly, we didn’t want to spend anywhere from $13,000 (parochial) to $35,000 (college prep) per year for a private high school in our area.  And, we knew another way to handle their education cheaply.

His older brother took the CHSPE and attended community college and not high school.  According to him, he had some great professors (even one with a PhD from Stanford) who taught him how to write essays very well.  He had access to advanced math classes for his Civil Engineering major.  Class sizes weren’t too large.  There was little disruption during lectures in advanced classes.  He made friends with people from China, Russia (in math classes) and Africa (in soccer).

The truth is:  having our boys attend two years at community college saves us about $112,000 at a four-year college.  Arriving as juniors, they have to complete only two years to get their degree (in theory).  We are doing what is financially feasible for us.  At the same time, they are in control of their education.

I ask my readers:  did we cheat our boys out of having a high school experience?  I don’t think so.  They opted out themselves.  As parents, we provided our second son with another option and change when he needed it.  We felt that his staying in high school would’ve held him back from pursuing his interests.  Now he is in charge of his learning, with our support;-)

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17 Responses to “Did We Cheat Him of a ‘High School’ Experience?”

  1. stefani

    Yes, of course you did well. Giving our kids choices is what it’s all about. I’m sad for the kids and families who don’t have or know of the opportunities out there. My one big kid seemed to really like her community college high school experience. It’s going to be interesting to see what the others choose.

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Hey Stefani,

      Yes, of course you know all about this route, as your eldest did the same thing–successfully!

      I wanted to share our approach of handling high school in an alternative way. In particular, there are many families in CA who don’t know about the CHSPE option, like we do.

      Sometimes I get the sense that people view community college as a less than desirable place to attend; but it really can be useful and a great learning resource for many people.

      Reply
  2. debbie delong

    Thank you for sharing this story. Sometimes I wonder if Anthony is missing out on anything by not going to High School,or if he will regret not going. Then, I remind myself that he did give it a try and I do respect his choices. I admit there are times when I have imagined him going to prom or playing sports on a school team but I remind myself that those are my ideas not his and I need to respect/accept him for who he is. It is comforting to be reminded of how many of us are content and prosperous with our lives without the High School experience.

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Hi Debbie,

      You put it so eloquently when you wrote:

      “It is comforting to be reminded of how many of us are content and prosperous with our lives without the High School experience.”

      And I agree with you that the key is to respect our teen’s choices and to trust them.

      Heck, back in the Middle Ages children became apprentices as young as twelve. If our children have a keen sense of what they want to do at seventeen, power to them!

      I love that you dropped in and left such a heartfelt comment.

      Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Kelly

    Wow Kristin … I had never thought about this option. My son is only in grade school but I worry about high school already….the violence, apathy, drugs, discrimination. This is such a fantastic alternative. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Hi Kelly!

      The CHSPE and community college is a wonderful alternative for some teenagers.

      With regard to the violence, our son was never in danger. The kids who were doing drugs kept to themselves and didn’t bother him either. Discrimination didn’t come into play, except maybe once, with his interaction with the student council and running for office. Generally, people (students and staff) were friendly. From my perspective, apathy was a huge problem. It’s sad that many teens in urban high schools don’t equate education with opportunity. Many, not all, just don’t care.

      Gosh, I am certain there is something they are passionate about. I wish that kids could still take classes in high school in auto repair and home economics. People who like to use their hands need a chance to figure out what they like to do and what they are good at.

      But getting back to you: if your son has a strong sense of who he is, he will attract and find others. Then, it’s just a matter of meeting his friends and their parents and staying involved with his activities.

      I had similar fears as you did, but most of them were dispelled.

      It makes me very happy that you commented. Thanks!

      Reply
  4. big al

    Hey Kristin if Beth and I had decided to have kids we would’ve done what we though was best for them. No, I don’t think at all that you cheated your sons froma high school experience and also isn’t part of being good parents protecting your kids from bad experiences if possible Lord knows they’ll experience enough bbad experiences without any help! Hey I’m more then likely biased because of the confidence I have in you and Dave but so be it!

    Reply
  5. wewerenothing

    You gave your children choices and they chose what they thought was best for them. Even if later on they decided they weren’t happy with their choices, they would still be grateful to you for respecting them and those choices. Myself — my older boy wanted to return to the States for high school. I wasn’t too sure about that choice if his but still, I packed my kids (two) and returned to New York after a 10-year hiatus. He stunbled (lost his engineering scholarship –too much partying) picked himself up and grew. He’s happy. I’m happy. What more could you want for your kids but that they are happy in this life?

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Hi Kay,

      Your story is an example of truly trusting your child.

      I agree with you that their happiness matters. I have to admit though that what drives me is how engaged they are with learning throughout their life. I think if they have some thing they care about or are interested in happiness follows, hopefully.

      Thank you for sharing your story here. I’d love to hear more in person some day.

      Reply
      • wewerenothing

        Yes, it would be nice to meet up sometime. P.S. Do you live in San Fran? If yes, I recently discovered this thing/event called “Quiet Lightning.” Have you ever been/participated?

        Reply
  6. patricia

    You certainly didn’t cheat C. of a high school experience–I’d say that the high school cheated him! You allowed him to try it out because he wanted to. It’s really the ultimate act of homeschooling, I think: to allow a child to choose school, even if you, as a parent, aren’t crazy about the idea. Not only did you support C’s desire to go to school, but you allowed him to continue, even when the school began to fail him. You let him come to the decision to leave on his own. That’s some pretty powerful trust, and some valuable life learning for your kid.

    You didn’t cheat your kid; you championed him!

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Hi Tricia,

      Apologies for my slow response.

      Your remark hit-the-sweet-spot when you wrote:

      “…you championed him!”

      That strong statement sticks fine, when I’m in doubt.

      Reply
      • Kristin

        Hi Tricia,

        Apologies for my slow response.

        Your remark hit-the-sweet-spot when you wrote:

        “…you championed him!”

        That strong statement sticks fine, when I’m in doubt.

        Reply
  7. artisticmilestone

    You kids seems very mature and smart. I mean a lot of highschool students don’t even know what they really want to do/achieve. But I think that if they really do then giving them their own choice is great because less time is wasted. You did an excellent job raising them.

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Hi Abigail,

      Thank you!

      I think what my kids have is a strong sense-of-self. They have had downtime to explore who they are by engaging in their interests.
      This has helped them to know what they want, or rather, what they don’t want, and to go and get it.

      Reply
  8. Alvaro Salazar

    Hi Kristin… great post! I can’t speak about homeschooling yet because I don’t have any kids, but I can speak from my short experience as a self-directed learner, and I do believe it’s the path to take if you want to follow your real interests! Congratulations for the work you did with your kids… It seems things are very clear for their future!

    Reply

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