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Alternative Schools & Independent Study

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Looking for independent study program for high schooler

Jan 2010

My 15 year old recently left high school due to acute anxiety and depression. I am now looking for an independent study program so that he can complete high school at home. I cannot afford private independent study programs. Does anyone have experience with this situation, or know anything about alternative ways to educate a high schooler? I have tried Berkeley High independent study program but they are not taking transfers. Mom at a loss

The California Virtual Academy is an accredited independent free public school program. They have a curriculum as well as a teacher who will meet with the student on a regular basis. Here's the link to their website to get you started: They even offer special services, such as speech-language therapy, when needed. Good luck in finding the right match for your son. Frances
If you're looking for public school options, there are two home study charter schools that go through high school, Connecting Waters and Basis. I haven't used them so I don't know any details, but I do know that they both offer a curriculum of subjects you work through at home, with periodic teacher meetings. Jennifer
My older daughter attended 10th through 12th grades at Venture in San Ramon, it is an independent study public school that took us as transfers from Contra Costa county. She had an excellent experience there and is now a college sophmore at a UC. My younger daughter is currently enrolled at Vista, which is an independent study public school in San Pablo. You could check them both out and see if either would work for you. my kids couldn't stand high school either
There's a terrific book that can help guide you in analyzing your child's needs and searching for alternative education methods. It's ''The Picky Parent Guide: Choose Your Child's School with Confidence'' by Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel. A treasure trove of information, it's available from We decided not to go the independent study route and finally found the perfect school for our 9th grader, who loathed traditional school: Envision Academy in Oakland. Search this BPN site for previous postings on this school. Best of luck--your child is lucky to have you as an advocate. Nancy

Considering alternatives to public high school

March 2009

My high school sophomore is at odds with his high-pressure Lamorinda high school environment - he's extremely bright, but not engaged with classes/teachers. He manages decent grades but is working under capacity. He is quiet, seriously into computers and somewhat socially isolated, and had some depression last year which has improved with treatment. I wish we could find a place where he'd get more attention, have less pressure and could allow himself to catch fire with his classes. We might be able to handle a private school for a year or two, or would consider letting him try DVC. Looking for good advice from others who have been here. Also looking for comments on the School for Independent Learners or options such as Bentley in this area. Thanks in advance. Lamorinda Mom

Consider Orinda Academy for your teen. Small class size with a lot of individual attention, responsive teachers, nice kids, accepting community. My son is a sophomore there, and is thriving. Anon
My son, too, struggled with similar problems-- wasn't engaged with his high school classes, spent way too much time on the computer playing video games, and was not very social. He also struggled with anxiety. I took him out of his too large and too hectic high school and he is doing much better at the School for Independent Learners in Albany. The directors, Shary and Karen, are fantastic, and so are the teachers. I wish I'd known about this school when my son first began high school. It is wonderful to see him excited about learning. Grateful mom
If you believe your son is capable of working independently, you might want to consider enrolling him at Venture (, an independent study school which is part of the San Ramon Valley public school system. My daughter hated high school and started at Venture the end of 10th grade, graduated last spring and is now a freshman at UC Santa Cruz. If you would like to know more about our experience at Venture feel free to email me. mg
My son went to Miramonte in Orinda for his freshmen year and became very depressed. The kids were cliquish and cruel. He did like his English class because the teacher, Mr. Lytton, was creative and inspired, but my son was not impressed by his other teachers.

We are sending him to Bentley this year and he has a lot of respect for all of his teachers. Also, he is a guitarist and he is thrilled with the music program. Socially things are OK - not great - but the Bentley administration and faculty take the well-being of the students very seriously. Intolerance and the kind of teasing that goes on at Miramonte is not allowed. It may be a better place for your son - I don't know - it is so hard to know what to do when your child is depressed. I hope things work out for you. Bentley Mom

Dear Lamorinda Mom,
go for private school. Your sophmore sounds like the perfect candidate. I have Three kids, all different, and I have had to research all kinds of school. I would be happy to speak to you and pass on anything information I can. Feel free to email and I will give you my phone no. Tracy
My son has had great success at Holden High School in Orinda. The staff is supportive, understanding and dedicated. The class sizes are small so the students get more attention and are less distracted. There is also a counseling component built into the program. Found to be very helpful for teens. A great sense of community and acceptance is felt between staff, students and families. Check it out at It is the East Bay's best kept secret in our opinion. Best of luck to you and your son. Sincerely, Jane

Independent study or intern schools for bored 14-year-old

Sept 2006

I have a 14 y.o. boy who hust started high school in Albany.He's smart but has a bad track record with motivation and doing work. He states school really bores him and the high school is no exception. If he straightens up with his responsibilities and does okay this year I promised him We'd get him into Berkeley High or maybe Bekeley's independant program. I've heard of ''intern schools'' where the student goes to class 3x a week and then sits in on some college classes 2x a week.I haven't had any luck finding any.So...can anyone tell me of their recommendations,experiences about any of these modes of learning? I would ideally like a combination of independant and classroom work. I don't think I could handle an intense or exclusively home based program.Thanx in advance

You might want to consider Venture H.S., which is an independent study high school, part of the San Ramon School District. My daughter also hated high school, and at Venture she can work independently under the supervision of a teacher, and take community college classes also. Their website is
Check out Urban Renaissance on Stanford near the Oakland/Berkeley border ... (click for full review)
Just a second on Urban Renaissance in Oakland. My older daughter attended a similar school in Napa ...
I am a Co-Director at Holden High School, a small private school in Orinda. We work with students like your son who are bright, but have not enjoyed or have been bored by school. Our school schedule is such that students have flexibility to take community college classes:we have a fairly short school day, and we have a requirement that students take at least 1 community college class. If you would like more information, please feel free to email me, call the school to have a brochure sent, or check out our web-site at It may not be the right fit, but might be worth checking out. Good luck in your search! Sincerely,
Kristin Lamoureux
Co-Director at Holden High School
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