Yeah, yeah. Just go back and read. Or don't. But don't complain about not knowing what's going on if you don't. No, I'm not providing all the links, because you're all smart people and can find the posts.
In the end, we were left with only two options: continue as we had been doing, the equivalent of throwing ourselves and our son against a large brick wall and hoping to make a doorway, or find some other way, something that was non-system. We figured we'd been bruised up enough by the wall and would look for a way around.
As an aside:
California has what is called the CHSPE, the California High School Proficiency Exam; it is exactly what it sounds like. It is a test to see if you possess the minimum requirements that they expect you to gain in high school. Passing the test is the same as a high school diploma. The only problem is that you have to be 16 to take the test. We weren't looking at that as an option.
But let me tell you a little bit about the test so that you can understand the extent of what I'm talking about when I say that the system is broken.
The CHSPE covers only two subjects: English and math. There's no history. No science. No arts or physical education. If you only need English and math to "pass" high school, why do we require all of these other subjects as part of graduating? And the math is pretty basic, algebra and a small amount of geometry. Stuff my son completed in middle school. The English, also, is pretty basic. That this is all that is required to pass this test tends to affirm my assertion that high school is mostly a waste of time.
We began looking at alternatives, because homeschooling was not an option. Homeschooling, in the general sense of it, requires that you enter into a certified program which, essentially, means you will be doing all of the normal things you would be doing at school but you'd be doing them at home instead. It is the same kind of drudge work we were trying to bypass.
This is an important thing to take note of. The reason for this, which I learned by talking to a few people at our school board, is because if you are not in a certified homeschool course then you can't actually get credit for any of it if you ever decide to return to regular school. You would have to start back where you left off.
The thing we eventually hit upon was something called "unschooling." I'm not going to explain it; you can click the link if you want to know what it is. What I will say about it is that the main guy I spoke to at the school board, the guy who deals with homeschooling and related "alternative" schooling methods, strongly counselled against anything that wasn't a certified program, and unschooling is not. It's not even a "program."
So we were all prepared for that.
Somewhere in there we discovered, though, that there was an exception to the age qualification on taking the CHSPE. The student must be 16 years of age OR must have completed 10th grade. So, well, my son has completed 10th grade. We signed him up to take the test.
I want to reiterate that he is 15 years old.
As I write this, he took the exam this past Saturday. His reaction to it was that it was easy. Granted, we don't know that he passed, but I'm going to operate under the assumption that he did (by the time this posts, we should have the results of the test). Which brings me back to the point of high school being mostly superfluous. Even within the parameters of the test for an average teenager, it is implied that a student should be able to pass the test by the time s/he has finished her/his sophomore year of high school, which is age 16 for most students.
Why, then, do we do high school at all?
Because it's tradition. And, sure, you could expound on all the conventional reasons for doing high school, but all of those come down to tradition. This is how it's done and, therefore, this is how you should do it. However, that's only true if you let it be true.
So we're proceeding, at the moment, with what is basically the unschooling path although we're also assuming that my son has passed high school. He is already hip deep in a (free online) Harvard programming course and having a lot of fun with that. At some point, probably sooner rather than later, we'll be looking into classes at the local community college for him.
All of which brings me to my point:
If my 15-year-old son can take and pass the CHSPE, then there's something very wrong with the system. That there were no avenues for him within the system shows that there is something wrong with the system. That there is this test and it is not presented as a viable option for every student shows that there is something wrong with the system. That the vast majority of what students are required to do in high school is considered nonessential by the state shows that there is something wrong with the system.
In fact, I would say that there is everything wrong with the system.
Right now, the plans for fixing the system mostly have to do with pumping money into it. And, while it's true that there are parts of the system that are in dire need of funds, that general response is about fixing the system by doing it harder. By banging yourself up against the wall over and over again hoping to break through. What we really need is a new system. We all need to be unschooled.
"Unlearn what you have learned."
[I also want to point out that everything with my son is better now. Since we decided back in January to explore other avenues for him, he has come back to himself. Rather than the constant battling over homework and the forcing him to buckle under and do what he "needs to do," we have our old, pleasant child back who is affectionate and jokey and fun to be with. We can do things as a family again. It is all well worth it.]
Update: We received the results of his test last week, and he passed. Not just passed; he totally aced the test. I want to point out, specifically, that he got a 5 on the essay part of the exam (the highest you can get on their 0 to 5 scale). I also want to reiterate that my son is 15. And, now, a high school graduate. So tell me again: What is the point of traditional high school?