Though my youngest did great in 9th grade last year at the local public school, wrapping up the year with a darn impressive 3.93 GPA (way better than I did in high school, I’ll tell you that!), K- wasn’t enthused about going back for 10th grade. It wasn’t the social experience that was the obstacle as it is for many teen girls, but rather the ratio of solid and engaging academics vs busy work and irrelevant material that she felt was just wasting her time.
Some stats: According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, 36% of dropouts didn’t like school, 25% couldn’t get along with teachers and 19% couldn’t get along with their peers. Interestingly, 27% dropped out because they got pregnant and 28% quit because they got a job. The NEA also reports that in particular “math seemed to be the academic tripwire that [dropouts] stumbled on and never recovered.”
To be fair, I don’t consider K- a “dropout” because while she is no longer at her school from last year, she’s still eager to push forward with her education through the online program. I’ll call this a “jump up” instead of “drop out”.
Both of my older children dabbled in online high school: Ashley, now 22, did well and said that it was the most academically rigorous and informative period of her entire school experience (she completed 11th and 12th grade through Laurel Springs School). Her brother Gareth, now 19 and heading into his sophomore year at college, did not fare so well with online mid-way through 9th grade, but there were lots of external factors that influenced that experience.
As a parent, one of my greatest hopes is that my children grow up to be happy and successful, whatever that looks like to them. I think all parents have that same dream for their children. As a result, even with our mostly positive experience with Ashley succeeding with online high school, I have some significant anxiety about whether this is going to go well for her younger sister. Does my youngest have the self-discipline to succeed at age 15? Could withdrawing from her high school cohort torpedo her entire social life, with obvious adverse long-term consequences?
To help ensure success, her mother and I have had a number of discussions with her about what we need to see happen so we can continue to support her choice. Namely, a solid and workable daily schedule, measurable progress on a weekly basis, and balance; volunteer time with a local charity plus some form of daily athletics. She’s signed up and we have a contract that details her daily school schedule, so that’s good.
I am guardedly optimistic about this new academic adventure. I completed my own MBA program online through the University of Baltimore and there’s a lot to like about the flexibility and efficiency of online school, if you have the self-discipline to actually do the work rather than procrastinate. As your only activity in life, it’d be lonely, but as long as we keep encouraging K- to stay engaged with her social circle and our community, I’m hoping for the best.
Meanwhile today was the first day of school for her public high school but her online program at Laurel Springs doesn’t fire up until next Monday. Once that happens, it’s likely she and I will be sharing tables at coffee shops, me working and her, well, working too.
I’ll report on how progress goes here, so don’t be shy about asking questions. If your child hates school or is bored by their school experience, this might well be an option to explore for your family too…