(Originally published in a 2007 issue of Homeschool Horizons)
A few years ago, an article about Avril Lavigne appeared in our local paper. The article-writer noted that the singer had never finished high school, and questioned that she should therefore be so highly admired by youth. This prompted me to consider the difference between “high school”, and “an education”. If, for instance, “an education” includes, fame, world travel, over-the-top-success-in-the-art-form-of-choice and a thorough knowledge of the recording industry, must it also include “high school”? If so, why?
There is a great deal of importance given to the high school diploma. It certainly has its uses; however, it is worth asking whether the document is so useful that you have to (to use my husband’s words) “plant your bum in a seat for four years” in order to get one. If you don’t have a high school diploma, are you therefore uneducated?
By the time our eldest daughter was high school age, her interest and talent with ballet was such that she was at her ballet school every evening, most of the day on Saturday; and every weekday for four weeks in the summer. We considered it important that, along with her ballet training, she get an education. It seemed a waste of her valuable time to spend all day in a classroom in order to achieve it. We chose a course of study, loosely based on Ontario high school requirements, and she completed it at home. There is no diploma to prove that she is educated, but we nevertheless believe that she is. She is now in her second year of a two-year ballet training program in Nashville; and has just signed up for a correspondence course with Athabasca University.
Diploma aside, many people believe that the high school experience itself is good and necessary. I would never argue with that, since I have a sixteen-year-old daughter who is thriving in the school environment. But the high-school-fairy-tale-world depicted on TV doesn’t exist, and it is not the best environment for everybody. Anyone is capable of completing high school, but at what cost? If getting-through-high-school is the only goal, what are we sacrificing to that goal? If a young person is giving up personal talent and specific interests in order to achieve it, is it worth the sacrifice? My sixteen-year-old will end up with a diploma; but more importantly, because she is more inspired by a busy, robust learning environment than by the home environment, she’ll get a good education
In the afore-mentioned article about Avril Lavigne, the writer outlined, as a shining example, his own schooling. However, as the article continued, it deteriorated into a rant against the singer’s music. It became unfocused, and had no proper conclusion. This thoroughly-schooled young man was quite uneducated. So, apparently, was his editor. It is always worth examining the many options available to us when deciding how best to provide a good education for our teens.