Update: How Public School is Going for my Unschooled Teen

It’s been over a month since I wrote about my oldest child starting public school for the first time, going into grade 8, so it’s time for a little update on how that’s going.

The quick summary is this: school is approximately as stupid as I expected, but its been pretty OK anyway.

On the first day of school my daughter was put with a sweet, young teacher who was wonderful. The classroom was decorated in shabby chic, with candles, flowers, and comfy pillows, and she sent parents photo updates every day. But alas, at the beginning of the third week, without warning, all the classes were switched. My kid was switched into a class that had no teacher, in a bare room. The hiring process for the new teacher, I was told, takes at least a week. In the end, they had a substitute teacher just killing time for close to two weeks. Finally they hired a teacher, and he decided that even though they would be four weeks behind, he was going to start teaching from the beginning, and instructed the class to throw everything they’d done into the garbage. The new teacher seems like an ok guy. Not as great as the original one, but my efforts to have my daughter switched back to the original class failed. The principal let me know that I have no say in the matter.

My kid’s experience with her classmates is that they spend the day goofing off and at the age of 12/13 are already burned out and turned off of schooling.

Most of the students don’t seem to have retained much knowledge from the past 8-9 years of public schooling, and so the teacher spends a lot of time reviewing things that were supposedly covered in past years.

That’s just a quick example of the kind of nonsense we’ve dealt with. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already have some idea that school is a very silly place and don’t need a whole diatribe about it.

Nevertheless, despite all the nonsense, my teenage daughter is coming home every day in a good mood. She gets herself up, dressed, makes her lunch and walks to school without any help from me.

She is a favourite of her teachers because she is polite and trying her best.

She’s doing just fine.

If you’re worried that your unschooled child won’t be able to integrate into regular school later on, whether that’s high school or college, I hope our experience is encouraging.

We never did a sit-down lesson or an assigned project in her whole life, and yet she is perfectly able to do those things now that she has chosen to do them.

In many ways I wish we lived in a bigger city with a huge homeschooling community that would make it easier to continue shunning school all the way through the teenage years. But that’s not possible right now, and I’m glad that we are able to use school on our own terms and that it’s been a fairly positive experience for my daughter.

I don’t feel very confident that she’ll learn much of the intended curriculum. In fact, if things keep going the way they have, she probably won’t have retained very much useful information in exchange for giving up six hours of her free time every school day. But that wasn’t really the point.

I’ve used this experience as a chance to talk with her, as she approaches adulthood, about the choices we make with our time. She knows that there’s a valid path outside the mainstream, and I hope that knowledge will make it so that even if she chooses a mainstream path, she’ll never feel that she’s trapped there.

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