False and deceptive statements coming from the public school establishment are common and may cause actual and potential homeschoolers to question taking their kids’ education into their own hands. Don’t be misled.
One statement that has grated on me for several years came from an assistant superintendent (she is now superintendent) of a local (California) school district I’ll call Hometown Unified School District (HUSD). This district administrator has said that, if students don’t plan carefully at the very beginning of their stay in high school, by the time they’re juniors, it’s too late to decide to go to college. This is not true. Here are three reasons why.
High School Performance is Irrelevant
Students can graduate from high school with an abysmal record and still go to college, beginning at a community college where, in California, there are no subject requirements for admission; a person need only be 18 or older, or, if younger, have a high school diploma or its equivalent. (In other states, community colleges are accessible, possibly in different ways.) One young man I knew did in fact graduate from high school with a grade point average (GPA) near the bottom of his class, compiled a solid record at a community college, and qualified for transfer admission to San Jose State University. A young woman I worked with left a high school in the middle of her junior year with a record of D’s and F’s, entered a community college (I provided her with a diploma and purely narrative transcript), earned a 3.8 GPA, and transferred as a junior to the University of California, Berkeley, a move that does not depend on one’s high school record. An alternative for this young woman was to take the California High School Proficiency Exam (not an exit exam) and earn a high-school- diploma-equivalent certificate; this option is open to anyone in California who is 16, in the last half of her sophomore year, or has completed her sophomore year.
Scoring Well On College Admission Testing
One way to gain freshman admission to the University of California (UC) is to earn very high scores on standardized tests. This path to admission also does not depend on one’s high school record. (More info about UC's minimimum requirements.)
Early College Starts Help
Finally, students in the HUSD are scheduled from the beginning into classes to meet high school graduation requirements, and some of these also satisfy college admission requirements. A high school junior who hasn’t planned for college may have many more requirements to meet, but a student willing to work hard can devise a carefully planned program, using supplementary community college and online courses if necessary, that meets the freshman admission requirements of at least some colleges and universities.
Intimidating (False) Statements
There’s a local consortium of high schools. community colleges, and universities that promotes education; I’ll call it the Home County Education Boosters (HCEB). On one page of HCEB’s website this appears: “[HCEB] is a a countywide collaborative comprised of public education institutions aimed at getting every [Home] County student college-ready.” At a UC outreach event, a district superintendent (not the one referred to above) said that a college education is necessary to have a “real career.” Another false statement.
Many teens I’ve worked with have chosen not to go to college, and in many cases have not finished high school, traditionally or alternatively. They have been very successful in a number of ways, including in music, dance, photography, entrepreneurial endeavors, professional sports, and the trades. Just three of many examples I can cite: One former student is a principal dancer with a big-city ballet company, another is a well-known wedding photographer, and a third is a professional rock climber and gym owner. The man who provides yearly maintenance for our house’s furnace, a former student, is now an apprentice, and, upon completion of his apprenticeship, will be in a position to earn a six-figure yearly income, doing hands-on work he enjoys.
The actress Jennifer Lawrence has said she likes to learn but not in classrooms; she chose not to go to college. I say she has a real career.
I’ve graduated from my private high school (just a home office, but legal) about 1,500 young people who have been homeschooled, have left high school early, or have simply skipped any form of high-school- level studies. They have been hugely successful, sometimes without going to college as I’ve mentioned above, but most often as college students. Some of them, with a detailed, carefully written transcript showing their abilities and accomplishments, have gone directly to four-year schools. One former student who never attended any K-12 school was admitted to MIT. Most of my college-bound students begin at a community college because they have not completed the subject requirements necessary for direct admission to four-year colleges and universities. They transfer to four-year schools, where they succeed, and, when they choose to do so, go on to graduate and professional schools. My son has a BA and a PhD in computer science and never experienced any form of middle or high school.
No Need to Take the "Recommended" Path
There’s a lot of talk from school officials and politicians about getting kids ready to be competitive in the global economy. I believe a lot of this is self-serving babble from people who are more interested in the global economy and their place in it than they are in the well-being of children and teens.
Shedding our culture’s widely-accepted but false and deceptive ideas about young people’s developmental paths and education is not easy. I felt I needed to start doing it even before I left the public schools in 1993. It’s necessary in allowing kids to grow and learn in ways that allow their authentic selves to become strong and able to contribute in productive ways to our culture and society. The effects of passionate people engaged in personally meaningful endeavors, regardless of what they are and how they were developed, ripple out in the world in a myriad of beneficial, and often unknowable, ways.
Wes Beach worked in public schools for 31 years where he taught science, math, and English, and directed programs for gifted and “at-risk” kids. He wised up in 1993, left the system, and has since then directed Beach High School. He is the Teen Adviser for both the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) and the HomeSchool Association of California (HSC), speaks at conferences nationwide, has several articles at Gifted Homeschoolers and is the author of Forging Paths: Beyond Traditional Schooling and his newest work, Self-Directed Learning: Documentation and Life Stories .