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Closer to School

While Dev was at work last Friday, I met with the guidance counselor of the high school I'd want him to attend.  The woman had been quite happy to set the meeting with me.  Even so, I went armed with print-outs of statutes governing homeschool/public school interactions, requirements and the like.  Experience had taught me to expect resistance at best and derision at worst.


When I was a high school senior, I had two required academic classes left to take: English and Government/Econ.  The school was too small to offer much in the way of electives, but one of the teachers had gained permission to do a Humanities class, so I signed on for it.  I took theater, which wasn't much more than playtime.  But the school said I was legally required to be on campus for five periods, so I signed up for the only elective that fit around the other classes: study hall.  Even better, that fifth period study hall came after lunch. 

So I spent about two hours of every school day of my senior year hanging out on campus.  The school refused any other options, including paid work, internship, or volunteer work.  If I wasn't on that campus for five periods, I was a truant.

Four years later, when my sis went through the same high school, my parents had grown savvy to the inner workings of school policy and legal options.  They came to the school at the beginning of her junior year, knowing exactly what their daughter was permitted to do.  After a couple yelling matches with school officials, after catching the school in outright lies, after threatening to sue the school for their lies and insinuations about my sister's character, Sis was able to do what the law said she could do: take some college classes in place of some high school classes.

The school wanted my sister to take study hall, just as I had, instead of College Composition and Statistics.  Instead, she graduated high school with 36 college semester units.  Four years later, she'd completed her Master's degree.

Fast forward to the beginning of Dev's school career.  That school counselor literally laughed at me when I asked about early enrollment.  She told me it wouldn't matter how high he scored on an entrance exam.  The school didn't make exceptions for anyone.  Realize, too, that Indiana didn't require any child to attend school until the school year following the seventh birthday.  Dev would have been starting school two months shy of his eighth birthday.

Three years ago, when I thought it would be a good idea for Dev to transition into public school, I had another official in another school district laugh at me.  No, the school couldn't really accommodate a part-time student.  And missing ten days out of the entire school year for travel?  Ridiculous!  How could he learn anything if he missed an average of one school day every month?

So layer all that atop what I've heard from parents and friends in this community, and you have an inkling of my expectations.  The only item tempering my dread was my decision to approach the small high school that's in our county, but not our district.  Though its academic offerings are limited, it has the best reputation for student behavior and social policy.  (More important for us, since Dev will still do core academics online.)  And it's actually closer to our home than the other high school.

Meeting with the guidance counselor took five minutes.  I didn't have much to say when her answer to my request was, "Sure, we can do that.  We just need to clear it with the principal."  So I went to the next office down the hall, was welcomed to have a seat and explain what I wanted.  Within five minutes, his answer was essentially, "Sure, we can do that.  Here's what I need to make it work."

I have two forms to complete and sign, and a brief action plan to write up.  Since the school hasn't had a situation precisely like this, the principal wants an outline of what Dev has done to this point, and what we want going forward.  He said he understands the changes happening in education, as well as the benefits of non-traditional delivery of classes, and wants to build school policy on what is best for the student.

Fancy that.



Barring unforeseen problems, Dev will take electives at that high school, beginning after the winter break.  As long as his grades--online and in-class--stay up, he can do all extracurricular activities.

I'm not certain which one of us is more excited about it!

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
aanna_t
May. 20th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this! It gives me great hope for when my kids reach that point. There are some things that are simply not available outside of the local high schools: for instance, where else would they be able to join a band or orchestra easily? Maybe if we still lived in NYC, but out in the boonies?

Dev's projected classes seem like precisely what I have been hoping might be doable for us someday.

Thank you for being a pioneer, and congratulations to both of you! =)

blairmacg
May. 20th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)
I think it's the school administration choosing to be the pioneers, actually. Apparently, it's the smaller and more rural schools that are embracing what technology brings to the education of their students, so they're seeing more of their students gaining a broader education than small districts are able to provide. Rather than say no to a situation because they don't have a policy addressing it, the school is choosing to create policy to cover new situations!

And this is a small school. Enrollment grades 9-12 is around 270 students.

With the rise in accredited, online education, there are indeed an increasing amount of options. I remember when online education was synonymous with fraud. As will all innovations, it takes awhile for the established monopoly to realize the changes can lift them rather than destroy them.

Start checking your state laws regarding homeschoolers and public schools now. Indiana statutes permit homeschoolers to take part in classes, extracurricular activities and sports *at the discretion of the individual school.* If the laws in your state need tweaking, that's totally possible with some lead time. :-)

Edited at 2012-05-20 01:52 pm (UTC)
queenoftheskies
May. 20th, 2012 01:12 am (UTC)
That's AWESOME, Blair! Congrats to you and to Dev. I hope he loves it!

Edited at 2012-05-20 01:13 am (UTC)
blairmacg
May. 20th, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I hope he loves it, too. He is very excited about the possibilities.
sartorias
May. 20th, 2012 01:43 am (UTC)
Wow, that is excellent. It really gives hope for parents who are trying to rescue their own kids from the troubling morass of public education. I love it when those on the inside facilitate it--making it a win/win.
blairmacg
May. 20th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
Absolutely.

Indiana now offers an online public school option that is completely FREE to any student in the state. That innovation alone has made a huge difference in the way some school districts view education options.

The high school I visited had a student graduate a year early because she completed her senior year online. Rather than tell her she had to stay on campus for a senior year, even though she had had completed all the classes with a perfect GPA, the school wrote a new policy permitting her to graduate with a full diploma.
aanna_t
May. 20th, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
How excellent!
safewrite
May. 26th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for friending me! Your journal is interesting.

I did sort of the opposite: what I called Stealth Home Schooling. My three sons were enrolled in an excellent public school, but I did not trust the school to cover everything my boys needed. I taught them at home by doing things like reading The Lord of the Rings as a bedtime story (which took three months). I involved them in budgeting so we could save up for goals, and taught them math, how to do charts in Excel and fractions as a consequence - and how to cook from scratch. Every trip outside became a botany, ecology, or birding excuse. I had business men show them how to run a business and they started one while in middle school.

I applaud your hands-on approach, not to mention the savings you will accrue getting Dev college credit while in high school. Why parents expect schools to raise their children, let alone handle all of their teaching, is beyond me. Kudos to you!
blairmacg
May. 27th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
Stealth Home Schooling... I like that. My folks used to call formal schooling the Table of Contents. :-)

There were many reasons I began homeschooling: felxible academics, more reading help for Dev, more diverse socialization, loads of family stuff. But the primary reasons we kept doing it through middle school and freshman year were the control we keep over our own lives, and the experiences that gave Dev.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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