Dropping Out of High School
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Dropping Out of High School
My son is 17 and suffers from anxiety (we all suffer from his anxiety).
He is on medication to control it for the most part. He finally has his
first girlfriend and we had him get a PT job to pay for his dates. They
broke up and he doens't want to keep the job and said he is strongly
considering dropping out of high school. Although I explain to him the
consequences of having no diploma and that he will struggle the rest of
his life to get ahead (because most companies worth a darn want to see at
the very least a HS diploma), he is trapped in the moment of failing
geometry and working his job and being tired all the time. I told him we
will get him a tutor for the geometry and he says ''great, more
work....if this is how life is going to be, I'd rather not be in it''.
I'm really conflicted as to what my next step should be: * let him quit
the job and make him stay home (no dates)....* Keep pushing him to do it
all and hope he doesnt have a breakdown? Any advice is appreciated
I need nerve pills
Your posting raised some red flags for me. Given the recent
break-up, his low energy level and feelings of overwhelm
around school, i wonder if he is depressed. Is the quote you
offered an indication of that and does he think about
self-harm? I hope someone competent is monitoring his meds and
can help evaluate his mood further. Seems like his emotional
life is the priority here.
There is a middle solution: take the CHSPE exam and enroll in
a community college. My son did this and it was really a
great solution for him. He started out working towards a
certificate in one of the trades at Laney, and is currently
working towards his AA so he can go on to the Calif State
University system. The CHSPE is not a difficult exam but my
son's counselor at BHS said it was meant to weed out kids who
cut class all the time and don't learn anything.
My son is 17 and has not done well in school for the last 3
years; passing only half his classes each year since 9th
grade. He is a senior now. He needs probably 5 courses to
graduate from BHS. BHS does not let kids stay on to finish
so... I am looking for alternatives. I am not sure where to
look. We don't have a lot of money but can afford a nominal
He's a great kid, very smart, but hates organized classrooms.
He works almost everyday in the theater; loves lighting, sound,
productions. Wants to work in theater professionally and
thinks he will go to community college whenever he finally gets
out of high school.
Does anyone have advice on what alternatives are available?
Children can get credit at junior colleges for high school--
look into the nearest junior college
1. Summer School. My boyfriend's daughter was also very into
theater tech, low academic achiever, and failed a class senior
year so she couldn't walk the stage. She went to summer school
with kids from all over the district(they are in San Jose) and
they had a mini graduation for them mid-summer when they
finished their requirements.
2. Do you think he could pass his GED if he just took it? It is
mostly math and english.
3. I used to volunteer with East Bay Conservation Corps in W.
Oakland and they had a program called something like ''Young
Businessmen'' that helped young men who hadn't finished HS to
get their GED. They use a proven method and have very nice,
patient volunteers to work with.
Good luck to both of you.
It is wonderful that your child has a passion. In our community,
there is an Adult School associated with our school district that
helps students complete their high school degrees - this may be a
place to go to get advice. We also have independent study
programs. Our middle school aged son did independent study last
year because he hated traditional school, which felt pointless to
him. He is in school this year, but we may resort to independent
study again in the future. We have had to consult literature on
the gifted for alternatives to traditional schooling. You are
You should call the Piedmont Adult School
(www.piedmontadultschool.org). They can work with your son to
get the credits he needs to finish.
just have him take the CHSPE exam (google it). Like the GED but
for kids 16-18 (and easier bc only English and math). There are
practice tests online. Even if he doesn't pass it, he can still
enroll in community college once he is 18.
Your son should consider taking the California High School Proficiency Exam. If he
passes, it's equivalent to a high school diploma. Check out the California
of Education's website: http://www.cde.ca.gov. Search for proficiency exam. The
administration is on March 21, 2009. He must sign up in advance and pay a fee.
There are prep materials out there. Good luck. High school is not the be all and
Why don't you try California Virtual Academies or Insight
Schools? These are tuition free online public high schools. Their
website addresses are www.caliva.org and/or
www.insightschools.org. Good luck!
I believe your son could attend Berkeley Adult School to complete
his GED, and can get a high school diploma too by passing the
high school exit exam. http://bas.berkeley.net/academic.html
Perhaps combining this with a private tutor and a part time job
in the theater world would get your young adult off to a good
start next school year. They also offer independent study where
your son would just meet with a teacher once a week. I'm kind of
aghast that your Berkeley High School teachers/counselors haven't
made this option clear to your family but it seems like the most
''The play's the thing''
I've been struggling to try and get my 16 yr old foster son
to stay in school, but it may be to no avail. Does anyone
know whether a kid who drops out of school can get a job?
He wouldn't have a work permit because that comes through
the school district.
my son dropped out of school and has gotten 3 jobs since
then (ages 16-17). No one has asked for work permit.
Encourage your son to take the CHSPE exam...
hang in there
My foster son is 16 and is dropping out of high
school--partly because academically he's so far behind, and
partly because he isn't up to it emotionally. Does anyone
have any suggestions (besides job corps) of programs for 16
yr. olds to work towards GEDs? Also, he'd like to work
part-time, but how can I get him a work permit if he doesn't
go to school? I'm confused about how to help him with this.
This was not my first choice of how things would go, but he
is in the 9th grade for the third time and failing it and I
can see why he wants to drop out.
I know thre is an independent study oiption at Berkeley
High, which is taken by students that find the emotional
aspect of going there too much, by students with learning
disabilities, as well as by students who are bored with the
regular school, so, a broad range. Also, reading the post,
have you ever assessed your foster child for learning
disabilities? Researchers have estimated 20 percent of
students have dyslexia, and from my experience and that of
many other moms, BUSD is not very helpful picking up on this
or helping, but at any case the first thing to do is send a
letter and ask, in writing, for an assessment.
try to finish however he can
I'm sorry your local high school has failed your son. So
many kids don't fit the ''cookie cutter'' curriculum or image
that so many high schools expect of our kids.
I have 3 places for you to check out; all in Oakland. Oasis
High is specifically designed for kids who have dropped out.
They work with your son to develop a program that meets his
needs and interests. Civicorps Academy is a high school
recovery program that is hooked in with the conservation
corps. And my daughter goes to one of the many charter
schools in Oakland - Envision Academy. It is more
academically motivated, but with a student-teacher ratio of
15-1, no one slips into the cracks. We don't have ANY 3rd
year 9th graders, and your son can attend the mandatory
summer program to make up for missed credits. We too have
some older than grade level kids, but I have seen kids that
2 years ago were way below grade level (more than 2 years)
catch up, and now you would never know how far behind they
A lot of times, kids, especially boys, want to drop out, or
just plain give up because of a totally shattered academic
self esteem. Teachers expect these kids to ''get'' the
concepts they teach, by teaching every kid the same way. It
has been my experience that very few non-alternative high
school teachers have updated their methods, or updated what
we now know about teenage development, and how the brain
works and processes information. And even if a teacher does
want to change the way things are, they are usually the
lowest person in a department of dinosaurs. (I've been
there-in middle school, with ex-high school teachers
teaching 8th grade)
And don't even get me started on how much money is wasted on
administration in traditional high schools. How many
non-teaching vice-principals can we get rid of and take that
money and hire 2 teachers for each vice-principal. Lower
class size=fewer behavior problems=no need for vice-principals.
Sorry off subject - good luck to you and your son.
My son is attending a therapeutic boarding school program and would only
have to wait until March to finish his entire high school program, diploma in
hand (They attend school year round, so he would, in fact, finish high school
three months before his peers here at home). He has many home visits that
last for two weeks at a time. He will be coming home in a few weeks for one
of these visits, and then for Thanksgiving, and then two weeks over the
Christmas holidays, etc. However, he is saying that coming home for good is
the most important thing to him, and when he turns 18 in late November, he
legally has the right to do so. We can't seem to reason with him about the
benefits of waiting just 10 more weeks to finish everything at his current
I have checked the California High School Proficiency Exam date, and it is
given in October, when he will not be here. I believe the only requirements
he has to finish high school, and meet the California criteria for graduation
are English and a science course. I have looked at the GED, and honestly feel
he would struggle to pass it - he's not good at taking tests, and has a
learning disability as well as ADHD. Besides encouragement for him to wait it
out, is there another way he could get a high school diploma here locally, and
start in late November?? By taking these courses at community college, does
that automatically give him a diploma? , or, after meeting the requirements
for graduating high school in California, must he take the GED?
Any insights/help/suggestions would be appreciated.
I'm part of a group of educators and psychologists who have just opened a
school in this area called School For Independent Learners. The original
school has been open in Los Altos for the past five years. The school is WASC
accredited and helps high school students complete courses for their
diploma. The teaching is one-on-one, and uses mastery learning, so if your
son fails a test, they will reteach and retest. He can start at any time, since
the teaching is individualized. If you'ld like more information, you're
welcome to email me directly
In reference to your question about other ways for your son
to get his high school diploma - yes, there is another
route. He can get a high school diploma through your local
Adult Education district. Most programs that offer the GED
also offer a high school diploma. Of course, this being
California, your son would need to pass the California High
School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) in addition to completeing the
course work required by the state of CA (which could be
slightly different from that which is required by the state
where he is currently attending school). If indeed he only
needs two course, he could probably start in November when
he comes home and finish by January or February. If you
have more questions about going the Adult Ed. route to a HS
diploma, you can email me directly.
Sara (program co-ordinator for an independent study high school)
The situation you describe is very difficult, and I'm
empathetic. I was in a situation with my child that was
somewhat similar, but not completely. Feel free to write to
me if you'd like a listening ear.
parent who's been there
One of my foster kids is taking the proficiency exam in
October. She got a lot of great advice re logistics and
rules from the Drop Out Prevention Center in San
My almost 16 year old daughter has decided after 4 years
of fighting middle school and high school to drop out and
take the California High School Proficiency Exam. She
wants to go to community college in the fall and start
I totally support her because this is an organic
decision arising out of her experience but I also have some
concerns about logistics and technicalities. Since the exam
is not until November (and I don't know when results will
come), I'm wondering if she can go to community college in
September? I think she might end up falling through the
cracks and not be in school and not be able to go to
community college either.
Anyone with experience in this area, please feel free to
give your two cents on the situation.
you can get info about the chspe at www.cde.ca.gov/
it says that it is unlawful to drop out before you pass the
test if you are under 18.
if she takes the 11-15-03 test they mail results 12-19-03.
basically your daughter needs to go to one more semester of
I know from having worked at SF City College for 20 years
in the past, that students who do not graduate high school
can take the GED exam to get a high school equivalency
and then simply enroll in a city /community college
I have a friend whose daughter is now a grad. from UCSan
she left high school, took the GED, enrolled in Laney
College did well for two years of courses and transferred
to UC San Diego
I have a friend with an engineering degree from UCB who
never graduated high school
just contact the registration office at Laney or your
closest city/community college to confirm this
I believe one can attend CC at any time, regardless of high
school graduation status. Of course, you would have to call
the CC of your choice and find out, some might be ''pickier''
My experience is with Solano Community College and my
teenage son, who attends classes there in addition to HS.
We anticipate his leaving HS at the end of December '03
(his Junior year) and entering there full time. Solano CC
staff and faculty have been so encouraging, and he loves
it. They treat him with respect, something sorely lacking
at his HS.
Good luck, sounds like you're going in the right direction.
Some time ago, a post in a UCB parents newsletter stated
that Mills College does not accept applicants who have
substituted the GED for high school graduation. Given some
of the recent discussions here, I thought it worth
mentioning that this is incorrect: Mills College does in
fact accept the GED, and offers a wonderful and welcoming
environment for all women, including those who choose
alternative paths. Our motto is, after all, ''Uno
destinatio, viae diversae.'' (One destination, many paths.)
My 15-year-old daughter has stopped going to school. She has some emotional problems
and we are considering a residential boarding school. Does anyone have
recommendations about that? In the meantime, I am looking around for a Wilderness
program or something of that nature for her to do. Any suggestions?
To the parent seeking information about therapeutic boarding schools: one of
our boys spent 18 months in a residential treatment center and is home now,
doing well. We tried a lot of differents things before sending him off, but
his running away several times was what finally impelled us to take this
drastic step. It was a lifesaver for all of us. I'd be glad to talk with
with you. Debbie
Additional Recommendations received:
Educational Consultants & Therapists
Deer Hill Ranch ropes course
Oak Meadow Homeschool Program
UC Berkeley Online Extension Classes
I have a 17 year-old son who is a junior. He would like to take charge of
his own education: choosing topics to read about, research and write on in
greater depth than is possible in school.
I don't feel competent to home school him. Do you have any suggestions as
to how we could set up a program to meet his learning style? Any resources
anyone could refer me to? He'd like to work with a tutor like in the old days.
Talk with Carl Brush, the principal at Independent Study. I am sure
there are teachers there that would love to have him as part of their
Flora Russ --
Computer Science Dept, BHS
(recommendation for Berkeley Independent Study is Here)
Two very different possibilities come to mind:
1. Independent Study Program. Call Carl Brush, administrator at 644-8592.
2. Read "Real Lives," a collection of self-taught teen autobiographies; and
"Teenage Liberation Handbook" subtitled, How to Quit School and Get a Real
Education; both by Grace Llewellyn.
Self-schooling or unschooling is not the same as homeschooling. You needn't
do the teaching. As your son realizes, tutors can be found everywhere. Many
uschoolers start college early, some later. Your son can easily earn a high
school diploma now, by taking the California High School Proficiency Exam,
and continue to learn in whatever way he does best.
After a six-month struggle, we could no longer fight with our son to
stay at Berkeley High and he has made the decision to leave school,
take the high school equivalency exam and go to community college as
an alternative route to university. I have heard many stories of
people who have done this successfully and, although it would not have
been my choice for him, I think he will ultimately do well. But I
would be interested in hearing from other parents whose kids have
taken this route. TIA. Miriam
This is in reply to Mariam's concern regarding her child's choice to
take an alternate path. I can speak to that concern from the point of view
of one who took that path. My parents were extremely distressed 25 years ago
when I chose not to go to college after finishing high school early. I was
throwing away an opportunity they'd never had. However, after a few years
working and taking night classes from a local community college, I decided to
go back to school full-time at a community college and then transferred to UC
Berkeley. Without the support and encouragement I received at the community
college level I would never have attempted to go to a UC nor would I have
done as well. I can understand how difficult it is to watch a child take an
alternate path, but there are many roads to success and we each need to find
our own way. Community colleges are wonderful jumping off points with
dedicated teachers.....not to mention much cheaper. Fern
My 17 yr old son has always had difficulty in school (since middle
school). He has struggled up to the 11th grade with poor attendance and
even poorer grades. He knows that he does not have enough credits to
graduate next school year and thus has dropped out. I have pushed,
threatened, begged, pleaded and enticed him to continue in school, but
since i am a single parent I must work and cannot be at home to make sure
he goes off to school. He is not playing hookey or hanging out elsewhere
during school hours and knows that I do not allow him to go out in the
evening if he didn't go to school. So there he is, at home, all day and
night, 24/7. He says that he wants a high school diploma but we don't know
what his options are. The school he is suppose to attend has no other
alternatives other then attending classes there. We have spoken about
attending an adult school and obtaining his GED but he feels strongly about
finding other ways to get a high school diploma. I am at a loss. I can't
understand how he expects to earn a high school diploma without going to
school. Do anyone out there know of alternatives to a high school
education without attending school??
Note: I live in Albany and we have explored all options there already.
The situation with your son sounds almost identical to ours. Our son will
be taking the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) in
November. This test is essentially the GED for students 17 and younger.
You can receive the information on the internet, along with sample tests,
and then sign up for the tests which are given only twice a year at local
sites (El Cerrito High School is one of them). Purchase the CHSPE Handbook
at the local bookstores so that he can prepare for the test. It is a
pass/fail test and the registration is $50. We are totally frustrated with
our son, as his attitude sounds just like your son's, and we have talked
ourselves blue in the face about the importance of an education, etc., etc.,
blah, blah, blah, and it has gotten us nowhere. He does want to enroll in
community college if he does pass the test (which he says he will). He has
gone one year to Independent Study and it only worked for one semester.
Everyone tells me that he will eventually learn (the hard way) on his own
that what we've been saying all along is true. He definitely beats to a
different drummer, as all of his friends are on track to graduate in June.
He has two older sisters who are doing extremely well in college (one is a
Harvard graduate student now). Substance abuse is part of the problem,
which maybe your son's problem also.
My 17-year-old daughter also dropped out of school last April at the end of
10th grade....she took the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency
Examination) passed...and has started Junior College...she loves her classes
and is playing 2 sports...she plans to transfer to a State College in 2
years...for more info on the CHSPE here is the website:www.chspe.com.....or
call:(916-383-9506....FAX:916-383-8657) the address is P.O.Box 1478...Rancho
Cordova,CA 95741-1478...the test is given 2 times a year (April and
at many locations in California.
I am extremely sympathetic. Our son dropped out of BHS after 11th
grade at age 16. We were able to get him into college (Rory Bled at
BHS was so helpful), but he always was and still is a marginal
student. Schools don't work for many kids. If your son wants
something that stands in place of the diploma, he can take the
California High School Proficiency Exam and then go on to community
college.--see http://www.chspe.com/. But if he wants to take high
school courses, have you explored transfer options - could he enroll
in Independent Study or the Alternative High School in Berkeley?
Or, while he waits to take the CHSPE, he could work -- perhaps it
would be healthy for him to take a break and be productive in another
way. From what you say, it seems he spends all his time at home--if
he has anxieties and fears that keep him at home, it sounds as if he
needs counseling or at least a respite from years of struggling with
school issues. It must be so difficult for you as a single mother,
and I hope that other parents who respond can give you suggestions
that will put you and your son on the right track.
This is very common problem for the young men (and young
women) at BHS. There is not an established way at BHS to support/
teach those who haven't gotten the necessary educational skills to
continue with their high school education. It is a very sad
situation that I have seen repeatedly. We have fine teachers and
tutorial projects, but teens, especially boys drop out. I wish we
could help these really wonderful young wo/men find a way to grow and
flourish in our society. It seems such a wasted time for them.
I suggest you try the Albany or Berkeley Alternative High
Schools. This works for some kids. It allows them a place to go and
have a more 1 on 1 experience with a teacher. I think you can also
send your kid to Vista. I would try having a tutor come and work
with your son, in basics -- math/writing and/or music/choir-- social
things outside of school environs, where they can build positive self
esteem. Some way to give them a grasp on something positive - a
lifesaver to a seemingly drowning person. I would pray and I would
stay positive and not worry....... as roses do bloom at different
Have you checked out the California High School Proficiency Exam?
It's something he could study towards, and is the equivalent of a
regular high school diploma (NOT a GED). I'm an Oakland school social
worker; a few of my former students with a lot of school failure
experiences took and passed this test. The fact that they did,
succeeded at it, and could use it to apply for jobs and college made a
huge difference to them. They (CHSPE) might have a website, but I
know there are also books to prep for this test, and high school
counselors do know about it!
This is the web site for the California State High School Proficiency Exam:
Your child must be over 16 and completed
credits for the 10th grade. The next date for the test is April. This test
doesn't require your son to take any more classes.
I'm replying to the mom of the 17 year old who is
dropping out because my 16 year old is doing the same.
You could get a cross district transfer into BHS
Indipendent Studies (although there is a waiting list
I think). My son is signed up to take the California
High School Proficiency Equivalency Exam on November
17, which, if he passes, will give him a high school
diploma. You can still enroll in high school to get
the regular diploma even if you have passed this exam.
Two and four-year colleges in California recognize the
CHSPEE as a high school diploma, so your son could go
ahead and take classes at a junior college, which is
what we are encouraging our son to do. He could also
get a job with the diploma and then sort out his
options. At least he would have some structure to his
life. Has your son been evaluated for any type of
learning problems that might have made his journey
through high school more difficult? Good luck.
To the mother whose son has dropped out of school -- Especially if she
has Kaiser Permanente coverage, she should be referred to the previous
information on the e-tree (last spring/early summer) about the Parent
Project workshop for dealing with teens engaged in destructive
behavior. Her options are not easy but she can learn and use new
tools for the destructive behavior of dropping out of and failing
school. I hope you have in the archives my comments at that time and
the additional comments from the Rhona in Richmond.
the postings about the Parent Project are here:
I know Berkeley has an alternative school, an independent study school.
Hopefully someone else can tell you how to make contact.
My son didn't get as far as dropping out, but might have arrived there if
we hadn't found an independent study school for him where we live. Last
year he'd go in once a week for a meeting with his teacher, turn in his
work and get new work. He could earn grades separately from units and did
indeed make fewer units than he should have last year. But he can work
with his teacher to make them up this year.
This year he hangs out there practically every day. It has made an
incredible difference. He's happy this year!
16-year-old wants to drop out & take the GED
My daughter is 16 and went to a private school thru to 8th grade. She
received a national award for her SAT scores during the seventh grade and
is very bright. She then went on to Berkeley High and although began both
freshman semesters very strong, she ended up slipping out with failing
grades or incompletes expressing boredom and frustration with group
projects. She pleaded to go to Independent Studies and has also not been
able to motivate herself and so far has received incompletes and f's. I
have tried counseling, academic coaching, therapy, meetings with the
"truancy officer" and to no avail, she is still slipping and struggling
unless I am constantly checking in with teachers and even then they are
discouraged. She wants to take the GED or the Ca. Equivalency since she is
only 16 and start taking classes at community colleges. She is very
talented in art and theatre. I fear if she cannot succeed in independent
studies, how will she at Vista. Any suggestions or experiences with this
kind of situation? Any names or leads on an "academic therapist" or
career coach etc?
My daughter has also struggled with buying into high school. I have to
admit, I share some of her skepticism. We tell them to think about their
future and take responsibility for it, so I feel they should be making a lot
of the choices. I feel if they come up with a viable alternative, we should
support it. Clearly, the current approach is not working for your daughter
and if you force her to continue on that path and it doesn't work out, she
could blame you. On the other hand, if she makes the decision to try
something else, that will be her responsibility. I think you can help her by
making sure she has as much information about what taking the test and
attending junior college will involve. It will take some time for her to
take the test, get the results, and enroll in junior college. By then she
will be older -- closer to the age of other junior college students -- and
have had additional time to consider whether this is the best choice for
To the person whose daughter wants to take the California High School
Equivalency Exam and go to community college: your story sounds so similar
to what I went through with my son last year. He did end up taking the
CHESPE and getting out of high school. It was not what I would have
preferred, but I have heard many stories of people who have done that and
done well. He is currently working and taking a couple of community college
courses this year, hoping to go to college next year. So, we're very much
still in process, but I would be very willing to talk to you if you want to
e-mail me privately. Miriam
Re: California High School Proficiency Examination
Take the California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE) rather than
the GED. The CHSPE gives you a high school diploma from the State of
California. One of my former students (class of 2000) completed her
sophomore year and started her junior year but she really wanted to get out
on her own as quickly as possible. She took the CHSPE and passed and
started school for massage therapy. When her classmates got their high
school diploma last June she was finishing the certification for her
massage theray program.
Another student had a lot of issues about school and the restrictions of
school. She, too, took the CHSPE and passed and is currently working. I
hope that some day she will return to a post-secondary program to explore
fields that might interest her.
Information on the test may be found on the State of California website at:
http://www.chspe.com/main.html. I believe the deadline for registering is
next week and the test is during the first part of November, prior to the
Good luck to her. I'm sure she will pass and can then decide what path she
wishes to take.
Flora Russ --
Berkeley High School
my daughter went through 1 year at berkeley high and began thinking
seriously about dropping out. she was very depressed there and hung out
with kids that scared me. then we heard about the school of the arts, in
san francisco, which is a regional public high school open to kids from all
over northern california who are accepted, either through audition or by
portfolio. the entire school is only 400 kids,but they are all passionate
about their art. there are various depatments, including theater and
visual art. my daughter is now in her 3rd year at sota, planning on
majoring in theater in college, and in love with life.
if you think your daughter might be interested, their phone is
[this recommendations is also on the page for San Francisco School of the Arts]
I hear your pain. The pattern of a bright child starting off well each
semester, and then failing, sounds all to familiar. We too have tried
many, many things to motivate our teen academically, most to little or no
avail, including both public and private schools, living with us, and
living with another relative, etc etc etc. After her suicide attempt last
spring, however, we were forced to conclude that standard schooling was
failing her, bigtime. At the suggestion of a friend, we decided to embark
upon "unschooling"-- a method of self-directed learning especially
appropriate for teens. The marvelous book "The Teenage Liberation
Handbook" has been recommended on this list before, and you might want to
read it, or better yet hand it to your teen. It can be slightly preachy
about the topic, but it's worth wading through that, IMO.
I can't tell you yet whether or not this is working (from an academic
standpoint), since we've only been doing it a few months. The book
suggests that you let your teen take a "break" of indeterminite time when
undertaking this process. This is to allow them to "recover" from the
damage inflicted by the current system of schooling, which according to the
author (with lots of convincing evidence) was desiged not to foster a love
of learning, but to turn out good, unthinking factory workers. I know this
is controversial (just listen to the ads pro and con about Prop 38!), but
it made sense to us after all our struggles, and watching her becoming more
and more frustrated with school. I *do* know that the moment we told her
we would do this, she became the active, animated person that I knew her to
be in the past. And I would say she's already moving toward some serious
learning on her own. She applied for and got a great short-term job with
Zeum over the summer. She did a summer theater production. She read Brave
New World last month, and we talked about it. She went to England with her
aunt and uncle, and saw a lot of theater (one of her passions). She's
starting a teen drama group, which is a REALLY big project that I totally
support. I heard her last night discussing a book with another
homeschooled teen, something that I've never read, but that sounds REALLY
interesting, about early american history. She's done several sewing
projects, developed an interest in the Oakland A's, applied for a job with
the Athletics, and now is the person to do all the data entry and keep our
entire household budget. The results are, academically, a bit intangible.
But it sure looks to me like she's learning all kinds of things, and this
will be a positive experience. And all of this is during her "break"!!
She plans to start a couple of community college classes next spring, and
wants to go live in Europe for a while in a year or two.
Regarding taking the exam and then doing community college--you might want
to do it slightly differently. In California you can file something called
an R-4 Affadavit, and become your own private school. Once you have done
this, your child can take classes at the Community College *FOR FREE*.
(You, as the school officer, sign the recommendation allowing them to take
classes "concurrently" with their "regular" high school curriculum). They
get credit just like they would if they had taken the equivalency exam, but
you don't have to pay the tuition. If your child is already interested in
taking Community College classes, this might be an option that you strongly
want to consider. And it may be that the higher level of classes, and the
fact that your child can choose *exactly* which classes to take, will allow
them to succeed where "traditional" high school has not.
Yes, definitely let your daughter take the CHSPE (California High School
Proficiency Exam). She will pass it easily and will be free to take
community college classes if that's what she really wants to do. Otherwise,
she will be just plain free.
For alternative education get a copy of Grace Llewellyn's Teenage
Liberation Handbook, How to Quit School and get a Real Education--it is
full of ideas for education outside of school. It sounds like your daughter
may be a candidate for self-schooling, since other forms of school don't
work for her.
My own kids (16 and 18) both have a CHSPE diploma, and are self-schoolers
(or unschoolers), though when in school they have done well, i.e., gotten
good grades and good test scores. However, both are very independent, and
pursue their own interests, preferring not to follow a canned curriculum
and format usually presented by schools.
My 16 year old daughter is also pursuing theater, and looking forward to
college level classes in dance and theater. Your daughter might enjoy
classes at ACT (though expensive), but the best involvement might be in a
community theater--whatever is nearby: Actor's Workshop at Live Oak
Theater, Contra Costa Civic Theater in El Cerrito, Masquer's Playhouse in
Point Richmond, Chanticleer in Castro Valley. She can audition, volunteer,
paint sets, whatever. My daughter finds the community theater her
home-away-from-home, including a crew of theatrical friends to hang out
with. Sometimes she is in plays, sometimes on crew, sometimes managing the
Though our family is a distinct minority, especially in this educational
institution-crazed town, there are other ways to get an education than in
school; and there are positive, constructive, educational opportunities
everywhere in life. I'd also be interested to find a career counselor who
can think outside the box of school diplomas and degrees.
It sounds like you have done everything you can to help your daughter. I do
have a question, however; were all these steps done "cooperatively," i.e.,
with her input? I, too, have a daughter about her age. Although she didn't
go to private school, we moved here for me to attend Cal and she had some
difficulty adjusting, to say the least. Now that she is in high school
(Albany), she is often less than enthused about the school itself, although
she has had a few teachers she likes and done well in those classes. She
and I talked at length over a period of time about her dissatisfaction with
her particular high school and high school in general. She is planning on
taking the CA equivalency exam next spring when she turns 16. If her high
school experience is still unchallenging for her, she wants to go to
community college also and work part-time to save money to transfer to a
four-year. There is also the possibility that I will do my graduate studies
stint at Cambridge, so an equivalency will allow her some freedom to pick a
program in England. The reason I tell you all this (probably unnecessarily)
is that I think it's really important that your daughter feels she has
options. She sounds unchallenged and/or unhappy with public high school and
I think we're fortunate that our kids have educational options that we often
didn't. I think my lack of option and say in my education led me to a long
series of dead ends, culminating in a return for my bachelor's degree in my
late 30's. I think if your daughter has expressed interest in attending
community college, you should consider exploring that option with her. I
think a different level of expectation and academic freedom might make all
the difference, even if her educational path seems outside the "norm" to
you. Believe me, I know it's hard to watch your daughter struggle. Whether
community college is the answer, perhaps it's more important that she is
making the choice herself for her future. Good luck to both of you.
Having just reviewed all the responses above and found that most were from
parents of girls, I thought I would share a bit about our 18 year old
son. Thanks to a previous response from a father of a son, we first
learned about the CHSPE option. The staff at the CHSPE office are
remarkably cordial and humane, and provided helpful telephone information
the two times I called. They said that thousands of kids have taken the
exam which has existed for more than a decade, and it is quite
rigorous---as 40% who attempt it do not pass. The student must have taken
or mastered three years of math (two years algebra, one of geometry) to be
able to pass. After passing, within three to four weeks, the student
receives a frameable "diploma" and an explanation quoting California state
law that all California institutions of higher education and agencies must
recognize the CHSPE certificate as the equivalent of high school graduation.
We have a smart, stubborn, independent 18 and a half year old who seemed to
emotionally fall apart at the start of senior year in a local small private
high school. He simply could/would not do any home work, and let a 3.4 GPA
slip into Ds and Fs. He claimed that he should have been in the public
high school, although after all 8 grades in public school, he was also
starting to go down dangerous paths, and we felt the need to find more
structure for him when starting high school.
By November of his senior year, he simply left high school and home, and
after two months, had parlayed his weekend job into a full-time job.
He has now passed the CHSPE, works full time for all his own "projects"
(cars) and spending money, lives at home with us, and plans to start local
community college to give it a try in the fall. He seems happier, proud of
his accomplishments, and behaves mostly like an adult with respect to his
Although this is still a "work in progress", and we had our hearts set on a
UC or CSU right away after high school graduation, it was just not meant to
be. The pressure with SATs and applications throughout fall of Senior year
was simply excessive for this boy, and he has honorably found another path
which we are now supporting. Communication and caring at home has vastly
improved, although sometimes it seems that we have a young tenant who only
accepts the most minor guidance, whom we see about twice a week, rather
than the son who requires parenting----so we feel that we are learning
these new "hands off" skills.
The pressure in our community to be able to share information with our own
peers about high school graduation, GPAs, SAT scores, and college admission
is off the charts---and very hard when your child does not select that path.
If nothing else, parenting teens teaches us humility......
good luck, loosen those reins----
this page was last updated: Nov 6, 2011
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