High School Is Not Mandatory

High School Isn’t Mandatory

High School just isn’t in the program at our house.

And it’s not that we have any burning issue with the local high school programs, public or private. We just don’t have time for it.

Too much. Too busy. Let’s just keep it simple people.

When I meet new people and tell them that we homeschool, the first thing they almost always say is, ‘Wow, I could never do that.’

To that I always reply that it’s really no different than parenting. It’s just messier.

And now that we’re two kids down with just two more to go, I can back up my Bypass High School idea with experience. After all, the first two were my beta tests.

The high school I’m talking about is high school as we know it. In a building. Starting and ending with a bell. And herding a mass of kids along a path with a dizzying array of hoops to jump through and boxes to check.

These days, if I were to just meet you, the conversation would likely end at my reply above and I would smile and move on. The backstory is too thick, and thankfully, nowadays, homeschooling doesn’t require the kind of explanation it used to when we first started schooling our guinea pigs at the turn of the century.

That was back when I proudly accepted the scornful comments that amounted to me robbing my children of their god-given right to ride a school bus.

But since we’re friends now, I thought I’d share with you a bit of our backstory.

Life Decision Made In An Instant

Long, long ago, before I even met my husband, I decided that when I had kids, I would homeschool them. And it wasn’t because I had a negative school experience. Quite the contrary. I had lots of fun in high school and got pretty good grades without much effort.

Nor was it because of a disdain for public schools either.

And at the time, I had no idea that people would homeschool for religious reasons. Wasn’t even on my radar.

I just knew I could inspire my kids to love learning better than anyone. And more than that, I couldn’t imagine not being with them every step of the way when now I knew I could with homeschooling.

At 19 years old, while working at our family’s Dairy Queen in Apopka, Florida, my decision was set. It’s so weird looking back on that moment and realizing how quickly I made such a huge life decision. And stuck with it.

One day at work, standing alongside another teenage cone curler while making one of the ga-gillion banana splits that summer, we got to talking about school. I could hardly focus on my strawberry, pineapple and chocolate toppings when she told me she was homeschooled. I had never heard of such a thing. This was pre DQ-Blizzard, back in 1984.

Clara patiently went on to answer my non-stop questions. I thought this homeschool concept was over-the-top fascinating. My eyes had been opened and my wheels were turning.

In the days to follow, I couldn’t shake the idea. All I could think about was how uninspired I was in high school. How with just one year of college under my belt, I suddenly realized I knew so little and craved to learn more about everything.

I actually felt pretty ripped-off too. Ripped-off that so much of the time spent in so many of my high school classes was wasted on busy work and going through the motions.

I felt cheated that I could only really remember one teacher in four years that was inspiring.

In the years to follow, my resolve continued to strengthen.

Upon college graduation, unlike the stereotypical college graduate that “knows it all,” I couldn’t feel more opposite. I remember realizing that the most important thing I learned in college was that I didn’t know anything; that there was so much more to learn.

College inspired me, and my insatiable desire for lifelong learning kicked in.

My future husband never stood a chance. It was a package deal. I was homeschooling my kids.

And, as with pretty much every major decision in my life (even picking my husband), I went all in with my heart, and with complete faith that I’d figure it out along the way.

After all, you only need to see a few hundred yards ahead when driving down the road.

(Ok, yes, that way of thinking has bit me in the butt occasionally over the years. . .‘nother post, ‘nother time . . . but in general, I highly recommend it! 🙂 )

I’ve always believed that as long as we’re breathing, we have an opportunity to choose bliss, if even for a moment. It’s our choice. We have options. And this girl loves options.

And now, more than any other time in our history, the options we have in educating our spawn can not only be virtual, but they’re virtually limitless.

The point of this post is to show there’s no need to fret about your child’s education when you realize the many choices you truly have and to give you a little peek at how our family rolls. Thankfully, there is no straight-forward answer for any educational path anymore and at any point you can change course.

Most importantly, we need to remember to think about bliss when choosing anything in life, and most certainly when choosing for our kids.

Here’s a peek behind our curtain . . .

Benjamin HS Swimming

Flashback

At this very moment I’m sitting in in the stands amongst hundreds of parents watching the high school conference swim meet. Our son Benjamin is a senior and captain of our local high school swim team and even holds the school record for the 100 free and a member of a record-breaking relay. (#momgush)

Last week he lead the team’s homecoming float with his trailer all decked out in a swimming pool theme with lounge chairs, posters and pool noodles and swim-suit clad kids exclaiming their swimming and school pride.

That evening he attended the football game and during the week participated in many of the spirit week events at the school including donning a wig and pom-pons to cheer on the powder puff football team.

High School Isn't Mandatory

Festivities culminated with the homecoming dance, which he attended with a bunch of his high school friends.

And, as is tradition, seniors have the privilege of buying a parking space for the school year and personalizing it by painting the asphalt with their own design.

High School Is Not Mandatory

As the parking spot reveals, he doesn’t even go there. [Painting still in progress…Sistene Chapel wasn’t painted in a day . . . ]

This homeschooled, free agent / locally grown “foreign exchange” student will also be attending the rival high school’s homecoming events as well. Last night it was the football game. Tonight it’s their homecoming dance.

I think I also heard some whisperings about another homecoming next week. This particularly social Slaby is definitely getting good use outta those dress pants and bow ties.

But really, any kid attending any high school can attend another’s homecoming dance. It’s the fact that the homeschooled kid is doing it that makes it a little bit newsworthy.

Often one of the biggest concerns raised by people when I tell them that we homeschool our kids is that they’ll miss out on prom and homecoming dances, and of course, be lacking in socialization skills.

I’m still surprised that 20 years later, I’m still getting that response, but in their defense, if you don’t live the life, you don’t see it. We all get caught up in our own lives and spend the majority of our time rationalizing and defending our positions to ourselves, so it makes total sense why I’m still getting these questions. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

What’s different now is that the Homeschool Story is just getting too big to ignore. The Homeschool Trees are popping up in the traditional forests everywhere.

Everyday we hear about the sucky state of education in our country.

To that I say, Whatevs. We all have so many choices in educating our kids.

The fact is that these days, no family has to feel boxed into a building school, boxed curriculum or otherwise. We have so many amazing options in how we can educate our kids, the sooner people realize this, the better everyone will be. From full on traditional school to full-on homeschool, there’s lots of in between.

We Choose Happy

I don’t have any energy for the debate of whether to homeschool or not, or whether it’s good or bad, this or that. I have to take care of my kids. I’m beholden to no one but them. And my loftiest goal for them is that they learn how to be happy.

That’s not to be confused with Being Happy.

Being Happy and Knowing How To Be Happy are totally different.

How to Be Happy is the skill that comes before Being Happy (and a whole ‘nother blog post).

Let’s just suffice it to say, for me, Lead Parent at our homeschool, Hillside Academy, my program is Happy.

Building the skills to live a Life of Happy is critical because, to me, it seems like a universal life-long goal.

Who doesn’t just wanna be happy? What else is there?

But the problem is we just don’t come outta the box at 18 knowing one thing about how to Be Happy. It takes practice.

And that means Being Happy Where You’re At. With What You’ve Got.

And last I checked, that kind of program isn’t offered by the local public or private schools nor in any all-in one boxed homeschooled curricula that I’ve seen.

Skills

Part of learning How To Be Happy is in learning skills. I want my kids to have the skills to lead, initiate, innovate, disrupt, adapt and above all be kind and gracious all the while figuring out their bliss.

That’s why we don’t have time for high school. That’s a lot to do.

But this is what we do take the time for:

Prepping For The Hoops In Life

This means college in our household. Trade school not so much. They can choose to do that later of course, but in general, suffice it to say we see college as 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th grade.

Frankly, we believe in a college education if for no other reason than that it’s a badge of entry required in so many areas of life. I’d hate to have my kids denied even a look-see just because they weren’t card-carrying college graduates. It’s a fact. Many employers won’t even look at you without a college degree.

But most importantly, for me, it was in college when my eyes opened up to the world of, “I don’t know anything and there’s so much more to learn.”

To that end, we love Dual Enrollment.

This is when a high school student has the opportunity to take college courses alongside their high school classes for free.

This has been a “thing” for decades, and to me, is one of the coolest things in the world.

Way, way back when we first started homeschooling, I had my eye on this little known strategy and never looked back. From the time our kids started reading, we have prepped them for being able to play the college game, not unlike many parents. But for us, it meant getting them to a point of enrolling in college at a high school age.

After all, my husband and I made it through both high school and college and as far as I was concerned, if I had to help them learn how to write a research paper, they may as well be getting college credit for it.

ETC on all the other entry level college courses.

High School Isn't Mandatory

So far, two of our four have graduated with bachelor’s degrees degrees at 19 and 17 years old. Benjamin at 17, has been taking courses on and off for years and now is attending a local state college in the dual-enrollment program. And, Annika at 15, is in the works.

Interacting In The Real World

This is where that little “socialization” comment all homeschoolers get is soooooo fingernails on the chalkboard. Hopefully we all handle it with grace as it’s an understandable question that has been blogged on ad nauseam so I won’t dwell on it too much as it only brings more bad energy to a moot point.

My response to the socialization question is simple. In the real world, we interact with people of all ages, not just people in our own “grade.” That’s homeschooling. All people. All ages. All the time.

It’s really abnormal to just be hanging around people all day of your own age, don’t you think?

We expose our kids to opportunities to interact in the real world everyday, from talking to the manager at the grocery store or post office to calling on a craigslist ad or getting tech support for a computer issue. Our kids do it all.

Never once have they been shut down due to being in the wrong grade. People are awesome that way. 🙂

Honing Entrepreneurial Skills

To me, entrepreneurial skills are critical for everyone on earth. And the good news is we humans seem to come by entrepreneurship naturally; there’s a reason most kids at some point in their lives set up lemonade stands.

We’re hard-wired for serving.

And serving goes hand-in-hand with providing. Even the littlest of kids know that. They know that if they serve up a good batch of lemonade they’ll be able to provide for their own needs for starts…like buying that really cool thingamabob that Mom won’t buy.

And isn’t that the fun in life anyway?

Serving others. Being needed, essential and worthwhile and being rewarded with at least a livelihoood, and at best, mind-boggling joy for living a life with purpose.

Who doesn’t want that?!

And that’s exactly what entrepreneurial skills create. A feeling of purpose.

These skills can be applied both if working for someone else or for yourself.

So, that’s another skill we focus on at Hillside Academy. Each one of our kids has had, or has a business of some sort. For several years, Margo had a week-long day camp for kids. Erik has a bike rental business. Benjamin has a been buying and selling cars for years. And Annika had a bathroom cleaning business and now is a street-corner musician.

Each kid serving and providing real value, making real money doing stuff they really like to do.

These skills, although born within us, need development and nurturing. And that takes time. And not readily available on a worksheet or homework assignment.

Our Curriculum Is Life

Another common question people ask homeschoolers is what curriculum they use.

This used to kind of make me sweaty because it’s not a straightforward answer, at least not for the likes of me. We don’t put our kids in a building school and we don’t bring the building into into our home. Our curriculum is Life.

That usually creates more questions which I’m always happy to answer, but sometimes it ends the conversation too. 🙂

The beauty is that now more than ever, we all have so many options to craft our kids’ educations the way we see fit.

Our freedom in parenting should never be taken for granted or taken lightly.

If I’ve done anything here, it’s given you a little glimpse of what Life Over There is like. No two life stories, thankfully, are the same, which always can give us some sort of inspiration to evaluate yet again the choices we’re making today.

Everyday, and every moment, we have a new opportunity to begin again, etch-a-sketch erase any unpleasant moments we’re having and begin again. Being alive means always tweaking and aligning our lives with moments of Happy.

It’s these How to Be Happy skills that I’m most interested in teaching our kids.

And that takes time and the biggest reason why we don’t have time for High School. Or Middle School. Or Elementary School. Or preschool.

……

How do you school? Share in the comments below!

About The Author

Maria Slaby

I'm a lot of labels, not the least of which is a mom / wife with four awesome kids and an amazing husband. My lifelong love of making cool stuff with an eye on our humanness has also turned me into a branding and publishing specialist. I love helping others bring voice to their passions in this wild and tangled digital world. Catch up with me on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @mariaslaby.

  • Lee Anne Scott

    Thanks! Being homeschooled a while as a kid, I wanted that for my kids (package deal too). Now I have a 7th grader (plus 2 more) and am wondering where time has gone. We are looking ahead at “high school” and trying to decide what we want it to look like. I know it will include dual enrollment, but not sure what else. I love seeing what others are doing to gather ideas.

    • http://mariaslaby.com/ Maria Slaby

      Thanks for the note Lee Anne. Lucky you got to even experience homeschooling as a kid! So many of us are products of the building school and it’s hard to break out of those ways. Good that you’re thinking ahead. Don’t over think it though. Enjoy the moments with these kids and try not to bog yourself down in too many “shoulds.” Best times with my kids have been random, spontaneous learning, defying my every strategy. 🙂

  • Carrie House Klecker

    Funny! I was homeschooled (Where I really feel like I slighted my educational abilities.) So when my son was in 4th grade, because of family need, I put him in a relaxed school. I am using school as a way to get him ready for formal learning. He needs to learn how to have himself regulated (conquering issues) to prepare for life. Not really just “high school”, but life! 🙂 To that end, our “high school” goals are having him start college at the age of 16 years, in our local program. I hope by 20 years he can have have his Bachelors done… and shortly after his Masters (at least) I do believe that college should be earlier than later… At the end, our thoughts about his school goals have not changed, but rather how he can accomplish them. I love all the choices we now have!

    • http://mariaslaby.com/ Maria Slaby

      Thanks for the reply, Carrie. YES it’s astounding the choices we have with educating our kids these days. Sounds like you’re dialing into them well with your kids!