When my kids started this homeschooling journey four years ago, they did it as hybrid students, moving in and out of public school and home and even the university to get the education they needed. A few months ago, Ian, who has been enjoying math at the middle school this year and band classes at the high school, announced that he would like to work towards an official high school graduation, with the cap and gown and whole bit. He also said he identified most with his sophomore peers this year, and wanted to know if it would be possible to graduate with the class of 2015. I agreed to look into it.
Over the course of the next month, I poured over the high school graduation requirements and course offerings and began compiling Ian’s transcripts. Looking for applicability, I was pleased to find that much of our work matched quite neatly with the classes in the manual. I created a flow chart with detailed course descriptions of the work we had done in the homeschool environment, aligned it with the high school’s class offerings, and proposed credits that were consistent with the school’s policies. I then laid out the next two years, listing the courses Ian would like to take, making sure all fit within the school’s requirements, and found that it actually did make sense for him to come back into the public schools in the fall as a junior.
I submitted all of this work to the high school, and we began our exploration of this option together. Emails and phone calls and meetings followed, and once again I was (and am) so grateful for the innovative, friendly, flexible, forward-thinking administration we have here. Though in the end we did have to make a couple of compromises, we feel completely supported as we forge this new path. The principal is committed to seeing this work out for Ian, as he hopes to use his situation to help other kids in the future. We are still a policy-driven school system, but the long-term vision is hopeful.
A Result of Hard Work
This path is not for the faint at heart, and let me be clear: we have not avoided work in order to skip through the system. It is due to the depth and intensity of our studies over the past few years that the school was able to accept Ian’s incoming credits so easily. There were several instances in which his work in our homeschool world would have counted as three solid years’ worth of credits, but in the public school only made up a half. This doesn’t bother me, as we have never approached education for completed checklists, but for the quality of the experience.
One of the great strengths in our home is literature and the humanities (seeing as husband-Jamie is an English professor). Because of this, Ian was able to have all of his English credits approved and checked off his list. This will allow him to focus on the maths and sciences, which we are not as strong in, as well as fully enjoy the outstanding music program that the high school boasts. Again, however, though many of his peers may bemoan his luck at getting to “skip” English, that is in no way part of our plan. Though he will not earn credit for it, Ian will continue to read both modern and classic works, attend theater productions, and discuss quality films. You can’t live in this house without doing those things.
Consistent with our overarching homeschooling philosophy, we are following Ian’s lead in all this, helping him make informed decisions and weigh the plusses and minuses, constantly reminding him of his options. We have never been particularly set on having him get a diploma, but well, he wants it. And after we talked about it at length (to death, he would say) to determine his motivation behind striving for graduation, we stood behind him all the way.
Compromising on Both Sides
To make this work, we have to consider both the needs of the individual student and that of the larger school. When you homeschool as a hybrid student, the parent is accountable for the child’s education. Because of this, there are no particular school requirements about what you can and cannot take. However, we are now asking the school to take responsibility for Ian’s education, backing it up with a diploma. As a result, we had to give up some freedoms that we had previously enjoyed. The main compromise we had to relent was that of summer school. If Ian is to take all the music classes he wants, he had to agree to take an American History class this summer.
Though many motivated kiddos choose this option, it is not one we wanted. Taking summer school means Ian has to give up jazz camp, as well as many of his summer composing and recording plans. This is the one sacrifice that I am frankly disappointed we had to make. But Jamie and I left the ultimate decision to Ian, and after careful consideration, he felt the end goal was worth his time. What can I say to that? I agreed to sign him up (classes start Monday!), and promised to help him enjoy the course by finding fun and interesting resources to supplement at home. I also agreed to help him carve out regular time for music, even though it will be somewhat reduced.
Why Early Graduation?
This topic could be a stand-alone post! But here, for now, are some highlights:
- This is what he wants.
- He will be able to graduate with the kids he has formed a peer relationship with. Ian has seldom connected as closely with kids his own age, tending to prefer older company. He has found a group of which he feels a part, and is excited to share this experience with them.
- There is no need to continue to take high school classes if he has already covered the subject matter. That’s just wasting everybody’s time.
- He’ll have three full years at home after graduation before he goes off to college. During that time, he’ll be able to pursue whatever he wants (I’ll give you one guess as to what that is), while taking the occasional interesting non-music class at our local university.
- He’ll be able to use those three years to increase the breadth of his experiences. I plan on pursuing mentorships and internships as he gets older. By being free of required schedules in his teen years, he will be able to travel for extended private tutelage, or accompany touring musicians, or go on tour himself! Our local university also has a wonderful music program which Ian wants to take part in. The options are plentiful.
- As we have been a homeschooling family for four years, returning to an out-of-public school environment after graduation is just not something we sweat. We see the situation as a grand opportunity for fabulous experiences!
Our method of educating our children is certainly out of the box – not quite homeschooling, not quite public schooling, not just hybrid, nor eclectic, nor unschooling, nor classical, but a little of all of those things. Thirteen-year-old Logan LaPlante called it “hackschooling.” You can watch his fabulous TED talk below; it’s closely reflects our approach. Over the coming months, I am starting a book project about all of this, in hopes to bring home- and brick-and-mortar- educators together, in hopes to further our nation’s work towards reforming education into a more child-centered, individualized model, and in hopes of empowering parents to follow their own educational path with their children, even if it means taking the road less traveled. As a result, I will not be blogging as often, though I promise to check in every once in a while! Until then….
Happy summer everyone!
By the way, if you are interested in seeing the format of Ian’s transcripts, be sure to let me know. And if you want to read more about radical acceleration, try this post. And then click on the “gifted education” subject category to the right.