kitchen table math, the sequel: how to bypass high school

Saturday, February 9, 2008

how to bypass high school

an email from my sister:

Speaking of just sending C. to community college and being done with you know that's what we are doing with M. out here in California. She's halfway through her first year of high school and hates it. The solution: we will homeschool her through one of the zillions of charter schools until she turns 16. [ed. note: My sister isn't talking about homeschooling as the rest of us know it. I believe the CA term is "independent schools." I'll check. Better yet, I'll get her to explain!]

What the home schooled high school kid does is enroll in the local community college. During what would be her 10th grade year, she will be working on UC general education requirements. JCs are designed to meet needs of very basic learners on up, so high school kids can complete the necessary pre-reqs (tranlation: high school level classes) needed should they not test into the college level class.

Now there's a bit more to this. At 16, M. will proficiency out of high school. A proficiency is a bad thing if that's all you plan to do as it ranks below the GED. Essentially, to pass, all a student needs is a pulse. Why proficiency out? If he proficiencies out of high school, the youth is free to enroll full time in college (prior to proficiencying out of high school, students are limited to 11 units a semester; plus you do have to play some games with the charter school that get tedious).

Now, why this plan?

First of all, you avoid high school craziness.

Second, you avoid all the stress of AP, SAT testing, etc. You see, what parents don't realize, or seem to disbelieve despite admissions officers stating this fact, is that transfer students do not submit high school transcripts. All that matters is your college record along with any unique entry requirements in the school/major of choice.

Third, if you've got a mature kid, they get a jump on college. At 18 when Michelle's friends are graduating from high school, she will be ready to transfer into the UC system as a junior.

Fourth, it's a huge money saver. CC classes are $12 a unit (and for homeschool students that fee is waived; plus the homeschool charter pays for many of the college textbooks). Additionally, we'll save $27,000 a year (tuition/housing at UCLA) for the two years Michelle attends the local CC fulfilling the general education requirements she would have had to take during her first two years at UCLA.

Fifth, admissions officers at the universities will tell you it's easier to get accepted as a transfer than a freshman.

I tell you, this is a huge discovery. I asked the admissions officer at our CC why tons of high school kids weren't flocking in and her exact words were, "It's because their parents can't wrap their heads around the concept." She said she will tell parents what I just spelled out here and they don't believe her. Parents are that engrained in the belief that their kids must suffer through high school and take those AP classes.

Classic example: Michelle's dear friend is going to enroll in a $37,000 a year boarding school in the Bay Area as a 10th grader. He hates high school and figures this will solve his problems and be his ticket into college.

Of course, our plan isn't for everyone. You do need a level of emotional maturity that some kids don't have. But, it really should be an option seriously considered.

I'm trying to figure out how this might work here in New York state where we don't have an independent study option that I know of. I should see whether we have any kind of proficiency-ing out option.

What I also don't know is whether kids can take the Regents exams on their own. As far as I can tell, your school district controls the tests - but that can't be, right? Homeschooled kids would have to be able to take Regents.

I wonder if Chris' guidance counselor knows.


Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine,
Look under your state's dual enrollment policy. You don't have to be a regular student at the higher education institution to take some classes there that will count for both high school and higher ed credit. There may be an age requirement in your state. If you do your research, the policy may offer the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

Home schooled kids are generally associated with a district [that has to approve various curriculum type things, and stuff like that]. So even if they're not attending a school in said district, they have access to district resources [like Regents exams].

Catherine Johnson said...

Thank you!!

This is a GREAT, great thing to know about. I will investigate right away.

There is so much tutoring going on at our high school that we had already planned to try to recruit some other parents to hire our own chemistry and physics teachers (math, no doubt, too) to teach a class-outside-the-class.

The great thing about dual enrollment in terms of our own situation is that it bypasses the War of the Roses taking place in my district, which all too frequently takes the form of harsh & punitive grading, aka grade deflation.

Example: The freshman English Honors teacher, I'm told, begins the year by telling her students, "Don't expect to get an A."

Another freshman Honors teacher, in another subject, told her students this year: "Your grades are too high."

The accelerated math teacher at the middle school was told to "hold down the number of As."

8th graders in the Earth Science course last year were getting Bs and Cs; all but 2 passed Regents with distinction but their high school GPAs have now been lowered by their 8th grade Earth Science letter grades. Teacher practices gotcha teaching, etc.

Other schools routinely weight grades so students aren't punished for taking harder classes.

We don't.

One of the reasons we want out of here is just to get to a school where grading will be transparent and fair.

I assume most community college professors teach the course, grade the work, and are done with it.

Same goes for online courses.

Our kids here are pitted against each other for 4 long years, with each test, each paper, each assignment hitting their GPAs. That would be fine if students understood what they are being graded on and how to improve their work.

Very often they don't.

Our feeling about the high school is: let's not and say we did.

Catherine Johnson said...

So even if they're not attending a school in said district, they have access to district resources [like Regents exams].

Our district is extremely unfriendly and unhelpful.

Homeschooled kids can't do sports, can't go to the dances (that may have changed thanks to some very bad publicity), etc.

But I'll find out.

Catherine Johnson said...

I did ask if I could take Chris out of the school for math and they said no. Against state law.

This is the middle school.

If there are state laws saying a high school must allow dual enrollment that will be different.

Hypatia said...

I teach at a community college as an adjunct mathematics instructor and have been doing so for many years. It isn't my fulltime job, but I can say that my students have ranged in age from 12 to 60. Community colleges traditionally serve the community. Even if the course will not count for dual enrollment, it will be taught by a math instructor with a Master's Degree minimum, the classes will be small, the instructor will have office hours, and all students can avail themselves free tutoring at a Learning Assistance Center. The tutoring hours are usually very flexible - even Saturday's and Sunday's. You might even want to take a class with your son and go to tutoring together. It probably won't solve the school problem, but it might solve the math learning problem. I should add that most community colleges have agreements with most state universities, public and private. However, none of the Ivies will accept transfers. Some pretty good technical/ engineering schools will though if you are aiming for an engineering degree. -- For future longterm reference, MIT has all of its courses listed online now for free (Opensource)-- you don't get credit for these courses, but there are classnotes, problems and solutions, exams, and even whole downloadable texts.

Sorry for the long reply.

TerriW said...

I did this back in the day -- and I'm now almost 35. My parents saw the writing on the wall -- in 7th grade, I was 4th in my class. In 8th, I was 10th. In 9th, even farther, in 10th, even farther.

So, I never attended 11th and 12th at my high school, I went to the local community college instead. I left CC with an Associates degree and something like a 3.8 avg and transferred to my four-year with zero trouble. (Though maybe my experience with "reform" calculus in college could be a post for another day...)

I can't say that I "never" took the SAT, because I had to take it in the 8th grade to qualify for honors classes in high school. I got 1100ish, which must have been heavily verbal, because I'd only been through Algebra at that point. But I didn't bother to take it again because ... well, why would I need a test score to tell you how I'm going to perform in college? Why not just look at my 2 years of college transcript?

Also, in MN where I did this, at least at the time -- my tuition and books were covered by the school district (or somehow through the government) until I would have graduated from high school.

LynnG said...

My children's school district is collaborating with a community college to provide courses to students. The biggest benefit is transportation -- the high school will transport kids to the community college. Next year, I believe the community college is going to offer a course that will be held in the evenings at our local public high school, but taught by comm. college professors, and open to everyone (including adults).

The only down side right now is that I believe the public high school is limiting which courses you can take at the community college -- approving those courses not already taught at the high school -- such as welding and Chinese.

Ben Calvin said...

We are actively consider strategies like this for when we reach high school (we have a few years, as our son is seven).

California has two things going for it -- a good curriculum standard, and a straight forward law on creating charter schools.

If one is enrolled in an online charter you can get access to books and materials which adhere to the state standards.

And it is absolutely correct that one can attend community college from the age of 16. And that the easiest path to the UC system is via transfer.

The only downside is the maturity issue. Is the student responsible enough to do work? Or alternatively, does he have enough guidance from his parents to make sure it gets done?

I'm sure there are kids who will do better in a good High School environment. Another option for us will be one of the city's Catholic High Schools. We particualrly like the smaller all boys one 10-15 minutes from us.

But we will see when the time comes!

Anonymous said...

I've heard from homeschooling friends that not only do they not have trouble getting their kids into college, but the colleges like to get self-motivated students who enjoy learning.

Here's the laws for NY:
NY Homeschooling Laws

a bit about college and homeschooling:
Homeschool and college

and some groups in your area to contact about homeschooling:
NY Homeschooling

Catherine Johnson said...

Terri - if you're around - what was going on with you in high school?

Was there a reason why your class rank was slipping?

Were you checking out in some way?

Liz Ditz said...

Hi C -- I'm still too much on brain overload to actually write a post about the Learning & the Brain conference, but this CC issue is old stuff--

I live in CA, just between 2 CC districts. Both offer what they call "Middle College" for HS students. It is sort of like CC with training wheels. The HS kids who are in Middle College have mentors and counselors.

It actually began in NY State.

Here's a link:

Anonymous said...

You don't have to wait for high school, either. I know a whiz kid who was taking community college classes at age 10 and 11. For fun and interest.

At first the college said no, but that he could audit a class. When they realized that he could more than handle it, they let him take what he wanted.

One way to determine whether classes like that are a good fit for your middle schooler or early high schooler would be to take the SAT/ACT early.

I like the idea that I have some freedom to choose classes for my son that the schools may not offer.

Susan S.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think homeschooling a talented high schooler (or online schooling, more likely) is probably a way to bypass the scramble for GPA in affluent school districts.

I'll post a link to the study saying that kids from high-performing schools are less likely to be accepted to elite colleges than valedictorians from low-performing schools.

Looks like it's better to be a big fish in a small pond, as I was.

TerriW said...

Catherine --

High school did not work for me, that's for sure. Junior high didn't much, either. Basically, all schooling that occurred after the onset of puberty and the new Byzantine (to me, at least) social structures, which for me was 5th grade.

Plus, looking back on it, I can see a bit more clearly what was going on. I'm the kind of person who becomes interested in something and then has to TOTALLY IMMERSE myself into that thing and learn everything there is to know about it until I'm satiated ... and then I move onto the next thing.

That learning style isn't well suited by school -- I remember as early as 5th grade being fascinated by Greek and Roman myths, and waiting to come home so I could sit in my room all night and read Edith Hamilton or Robert Graves, who I had found in the library. School was my "day job" and then I would come home and read books all night.

Basically, I was one of those people who was tormented and humiliated in school. I was a happy kid until 5th grade, and frankly, college was a revelation for me. It changed my life. It probably saved my life.

Catherine Johnson said...

Liz - wow! Thanks!

Terri - thanks for leaving this.

I was wondering about this very subject this week: the fact that kids have to learn 4 or 5 different subjects at the same time.

Obviously I did it for years, but I find it quite difficult at this stage of the game. I'm like you: I dive into a subject, read everything, tear into it.... etc.

VERY difficult to change tracks. (This is a problem for writing, obviously, because I need to train obsessive focus on the subject of my book at the same time that life keeps clobbering me with not-my-book topics I have to master, too. e.g. math ed.)

C. doesn't seem to have a problem with this structure, but I can certainly see where there would be kids who would.

It's obvious to me, at this point, that there are lots of kids who just don't "fit."

Lots of parents, too.

Although I don't think choice per se is going to fix things, I'm always going to take a pro-choice position.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, on the dual-enrolling.

I dual-enrolled for 6 courses (one course per term, the last three years of HS: 5 math (4 terms of calc/linear algebra, plus diff.eq.) and a Western Civ class) at my local Big State University branch campus. My (small, independent) school had been sending kids there for a course or two for years, though it also helped that a bunch of the parents were professors at said campus. I knew three of my five math profs.

We also had a local CC, but people took classes at the U even if they were offered in both places. The only person I can recall who took classes at the CC took sign language, which the U might not have offered.

My senior year in HS I was hired by the math department to do drop-in tutoring in the math lab (and eventually also some college algebra students in a small group). At minimum wage. I should have known better. :-)

Transportation was indeed an issue. Another student who was older and could drive took the first course with me; after that, the next three I took in the evening when my mom could take me; then senior year I could drive myself which was good because the course only was offered at noon.