Jake was a high school senior struggling in his courses. His mom reached out to me when she was at the end of her patience with both the school and her son. She described Jake as an outgoing, energetic teen who had lots of friends and who could engage just about anyone in a conversation. Through his high school years, Jake’s mom had tried to work with the school, and she tried to work with Jake on his organizational skills. Nothing seemed to work. Jake had potential, but she was unable to help him tap into his own potential.
Rob Bell is an author and speaker with a weekly podcast, The RobCast. In a podcast titled “We Are the Committee”, Rob tells about a conversation he had with a mother who had a daughter that was struggling severely at school. The situation was so bad her daughter was to the point of harming herself. Rob says that there is a fine line between a challenging, difficult experience and a soul-crushing, damaging experience. Unfortunately, the mother claimed, this was just the way it was going to have to be for her daughter. Her daughter would just have to suffer through the experience. To that statement, I would have to say “No!” The mother is able to make changes for her daughter that will alleviate her suffering!
Often the attitude of “this is just the way it is” creates more suffering and is based on false assumptions such as:
- You have to stay in your current school because that is just the way it is.
- You have to attend school because that is just the way it is.
- You have to complete public high school to have a successful life because that is just the way it is.
Parents are responsible to make changes and decisions for their children. There are choices for parents so that life doesn’t have to be “this is just the way it is”.
There are many choices that will help create a positive learning experience for teens. The following three suggestions are based on rules and laws from the State of Minnesota. Different states have different laws, so be sure to check with your state department of education before acting on any of the suggested ideas.
Change Schools: In Minnesota, there is open enrollment. Parents can enroll their children in a school district different than where they reside. Open enrollment extends to local public school districts, charter schools and online charter schools. If you live in a rural area, investigate online charter schools for a different environment. Private schools might also be an option for your family. Don’t rule out a private school because of the tuition. Many have sliding fee scales and/or scholarships.
Postsecondary Enrollment Options: Maybe your child needs an academic challenge. Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) is a way for students who are in 11th to 12th grade to take college courses and to receive college credit. The course can be duel enrollment so that the college credit also counts for high school credit towards graduation. Usually, a four-credit college course is equal to one high school credit. The advantage of PSEO is that the college credit is paid for by the state. Importantly, the student must be ready for college-level material and be able to manage time well. PSEO can apply to both on campus and online course offerings. Here is the link for more information about PSEO in Minnesota, http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/fam/dual/pseo/
Self-directed learning: Self-directed learning offers students the chance to create a plan for their own personal learning. Students set their own learning goals, locate resources either within the community or online, and follow through with their customized learning plan. Most self-directed learners are officially homeschooled by parents, yet there are many resources to help both parents and teens to create such learning programs. Self-directed learners can earn a high school diploma since the parents, as educational directors, are considered a private school. The parents and teen can co-create the criteria for graduation, based on the teen’s goals for the future. Many colleges accept homeschool transcripts; just be sure to check with the college admissions office ahead of time since each college may have different entrance requirements.
The above are just a few of the alternatives to “just the way it is.” The trouble is that very few parents are aware of such options, and even fewer young people have the resources or initiative to seek out replacements for the traditional way education is delivered.
When talking to Jake’s mother about the choices she and her son had for his plan to complete high school, she chose an online public school. Later in the spring of the year, I received in the mail a nice surprise: an invitation to Jake’s graduation party.
If your child is struggling in the current school environment, for whatever reason, these are some ideas to get you and your teen started on the road to a more satisfying and successful education. Whether it’s changing to a different school, taking PSEO courses or becoming a self-directed learner, there are choices. You are in charge of making the decision to change.
Looking for more information about each of these choices? Join the Wildewood Learning Community or contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about the educational and career planning options you have for your teen.
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