Alternatives to High School
Think high school is a waste of time? Hate doing your homework? You're NOT alone. Welcome to an entire niche subculture of successful young people who have left high school and are hacking their education and making life work on THEIR terms!
Contrary to popular opinion, you do NOT need good grades or even high school to be successful in life - unless your idea of success is an ivy league college or prestigious private college. But those are only 2 of many options you have. So read on...
Schools and grades are a cultural construct. In other words, they have no meaning outside of school and grades. Think about that a moment... They are not accurate measurements of what you know or of your ability to learn, and it's highly unlikely that any employer is going to ever ask you what your grades were. In fact, grades only matter in school. If you leave school, grades are no longer relevant That's what a cultural construct is - a reality existing only in a certain cultural vacuum.
So if you're sick of playing the school game and sick of people teling you you'll never be successful without good grades, check out these resources that prove otherwise!
Boyinaband's "Don't stay in school" will show you just how arbitrary and often pointless the things learned in school are - and how many other important things one could be learning.
Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and get a Real LIfe and Education by Grace Llewellyn - this is an old classic; some of the resources in it are outdated. BUT the first few chapters are so full of information that will make your brain turn flips of joy. No seriously!
Grace is a former private school teacher turned renegade leader of the idea of directing your own education. She explains the history of schools, how they are modeled after prisons, how they were to "babysit" kids while parents worked in factories while training new factory workers who can't think outside the box - and how absolutely irrelevent they are to being successful. She also helps teens know how to talk to their parents about quitting school in favor of a REAL education. Buy it. Read it. You'll be glad you did! This is the first thing I recommend to anyone looking for alternatives.
College Without High School: A Teenager's Guide to Skipping High School and Going to College by Blake Boles. This is a good one if you think college, of some sort, might be in your future. Blake shows you how to exceed all of the things colleges are looking for on applications WITHOUT going the traditional high school route. Way more fun and meaningful!
Homeschooling - homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. So NO, you don't have to go to school!! Methods of homeschooling vary from doing school at home, to alternative curriculums, to learning through real life.
Find the homeschool laws for your state. In some its simply a matter of saying "I'm going to homeschool" and that's it. NYS is much tougher with guidelines, but it's really just a mater of knowing how to write up real life in academic subject language for reports. NYS homeschoolers also have to take tests, but not school ones. Many people do the CAT which is a basic test of English Language Arts (ELA) and math. It's easy and no need to study for it.
Finally, realize that if homeschool laws say you need "science" or "English" you can meet these things by volunteer work, reading science fiction and exploring cutting edge ideas of quantum physics, volunteering as a junior docent at an environmental center or museum, writing a blog, and so many more ways!
TASC - formerly known as the GED, anyone over age 16 can take this test and be DONE with high school forever (ages may differ per state).
College - YES, you can attend college without finishing high school and get dual college/high school credit for your work! Many homeschoolers start taking math, English, and so on at community college in 9th, 10'th or 11'th grade. Why take all of those classes in high school only to repeat them in college? What's the point?! Usually community colleges are no harder than high school Regents classes, often easier.
Unschooling - This is a form of homeschooling where the student fully directs their own education. My daughter is unschooled and you can check out the homeschool/unschool category on the side for a zillion posts on what this might look like. It's basically life=learning=life. It looks different for every single unschooler. You learn by immersive, real-life experiences doing what you love. Seldom does it look anything like school. The foundational premise of unschooling is that learning is never coerced or forced by anyone. It's totally up to the kid what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, and how deep they want to go in a particular area.
Does unschooling or hacking your own education work? Dr Peter Gray, a Harvard graduate, has studied and written extensively on unschooling. In a study on the outcomes of unschooling he reports that most unschoolers get into their top 3 college choices; more unschoolers than public schoolers work in art and tech fields; more than average are self-employed; and more than average report greater job satisfaction.
What About College?
Alternate careers: First, if you really hate school settings, you could always self-learn in a tech field; get an electrician's or cosmetology license; go to nursing school; become a dog trainer and/or dog walker; get your realtor's license and/or broker's license; or find another trade doing something you enjoy.
Looking for life experience: Take a year and travel as a WWOOFer, a "willing worker on organic farms". You'll get modest/rough living conditions, usually meals, and usuall a small stipend. In your free time you can explore whatever exotic location you've chosen to live and work in. Or google Couchsurfing and travel with minimal money sleeping on stranger's sofas. Or volunteer for Green Peace for a year.... Or take a trip with Unschool Adventures. Or volunteer locally, or set up an internship or apprenticeship...
Alternative college programs: Don't rule out college entirely. Colleges such as Marlboro or Goddard in Vermont along with a number of others don't require SAT's or ACT's and allow students to create much or all of their own degree program. Even SUNY ESC has degrees where students create their own classes learning from real life mentorships or projects. Check out this post by Amy Landisman: 7 Colleges for Homeschooled, Unschooled, and Self-Directed Learners.
Uncollege: NO way to college? Check out the uncollege movement and download their guide to success without college.
Be an Entrepreneur: Finally, explore paths of enrepreneurship and self-employment. Yes, it can take time to build a successful business, but if it took 4 years AND you didn't have student loan debt at the end of it? If you could live at home while doing it? If you could begin while your friends are still in high school?
There are advantages and disadvantages of self-employment. On the one hand, you'll pay more for health insurance, and you won't always have regular paydays with predetermined amounts of income. Most people call those things "job security" but I'm not convinced. For example, I know of a collge dean who was laid off, can't find another job locally, and might lose his home and/or have to uproot his family to move across country for a new college dean position. On the other hand, if a client "fires" you when you're self employed, you still have 50 other clients. Multiple streams of income means more security in many ways! And the idea is that by the time you reach the "someday" of having family and bills like a house and car, then you'll have built the business up to be successful.
Books like Rich Dad Poor Dad can inspire you to think outside the box - not just being self-employed but creating a business with passive income, income your workers make for you! An example of passive income is owning rental properties and collecting rents while you sit on the beach or do other work that is meaningful to you. If you have any "fix it" skills real estate investing is a perfect path. No fix it skills? Some property owners pay a monthly fee to a mainenance company instead of doing the work themselves. Either way, there's a ton of money to be made in rentals because people will always need a place to live! Books like What Color is Your Parachute can help you think through the full gamut of your strengths and employment/entrepreneurial options.
Worldschooling - this is a homeschool FB page and worth checking out, especially the file where folks tell how they support themselves. These are all people travelling the world part time or full time with "location independent" work. Imagine whipping out your laptop in a cafe a few blocks off the beach, working a few hours, before you go dip in the ocean! The plus? Rent and food in many parts of the world are far less costly than here in the US but by working online (or having rental incomes back home) you'll still be pulling in a US level salary.
For inspiration, check out what other unschooled teens/adults are doing here!
Homeschooled Teens in Capital Region
HVCC - they have a homeschool liason in their admissions office and often accept teens for dual high school/college credit.
Yacon Village is a learning community with formal classes, clubs, and social gatherings - some of the things teens enjoy there include D&D club, book club, teen nights with pizza and movies or games, writing class with an award winning author, science with a U Albany professor... and more.
Flying Deer Nature Center offers wilderness programs for all ages. Learn primitive skills, survival, and science in the great outdoors! For younger teens, their 3 year "coming of age" wilderness programs culminating in solo time on the land are amazing - Moon Tribe for girls, Sacred Fire for boys.
HATCH has a tagline that says "Learning is essential; school is optional!" They are located in Hudson, NY but open to Albany area homeschoolers willing to drive. They meet weekly for a full day or two for classes that the teens decide on: coding, history of math, whatever you want...
Kite's Nest, also in Hudson, NY, has programs for kids through teens - totally outside the box stuff like building a boat, tinkering, gardening, media arts, and more.
Youth FX is a free youth film program with programs for all ages of young people. Their summer teen program (open to ages 14 and up) has created documentary films that have won awards at film festivals.