Saturday, January 5, 2013


Well, this transition to high school and institutional school has been quite a challenge.  I am going to try to explain (without too much confusion) what we've experienced the last 6 months.  Eleanor's goals were these:  to improve her social skills around peers, get more academic rigor, and experience what "real" high school is like.  She has done all three.

It has been an interesting and challenging journey.  We are trying desperately to use the school system to meet Eleanor's needs, but it has not been easy.  We are not willing to sacrifice our family life, educational goals, or her soul.

After the first quarter in the local high school, Eleanor decided that the pace of the academic classes was too slow and the interactions between the students and teachers too often unproductive.  She lamented that one teacher, in particular, was very nice and interesting when she was one-on-one with Eleanor, but she turned into a sarcastic and not-so-nice person when dealing with the class as a whole.  Eleanor would've loved to explore science with this woman in another setting.  However, the school setting was just not productive or enjoyable.

I found Eleanor's reflection incredibly similar to Grace Llewellyn's description of her teaching years.  Llewellyn quit teaching and started advocating homeschooling and actually wrote a book entitled The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education.  Ms. Llewellyn explains that she quit teaching after she realized she became a different person (who she did not like) when in front of a class.  She realized the traditional classroom setting was not a good environment for learning.

So...Eleanor withdrew from academics at the high school and started taking her academics through our local public on-line high school.  She decided to stay in the local high school's choir, which she really enjoyed.  While the pace of classes was too slow at the local high school, the pace at the on-line high school is faster and the material more difficult.  Let's just say that doing classes 100% on line has its ups and downs.  It is very easy to get really far behind, really quickly.  It is lonely.  It is flexible (a good thing). In summary, French didn't work so well, English and Algebra have been OK.  However, we must continually ask ourselves, "IS IT WORTH IT?"  Eleanor's stress level has been very high and her love of learning has been compromised.

On a positive note, Eleanor has learned a lot about herself and has improved her people skills with peers.  She has done well in her on-line classes, which have required much more traditional school-type work than I have ever asked of her.  She is having a wonderful experience being recognized and rewarded for her singing skills at the high school.  The kids are very supportive and love to hear her sing.  She is also playing basketball for the school.

We continue to strive to find a balance between traditional classes and real-life, soul-filling learning.  We have decided to cut back on traditional classes and re-incorporate less traditional learning. Eleanor is embarking on a real-life project that will stretch her skills and help others.  She has committed to volunteer with Friendly Water for the World ( which brings BioSand Water Filter technology to Africa.  She is nervous, but I think it will be an amazing experience for her.  She has already had contact with a woman in Uganda and will go to Washington State in the summer to learn to build these filters.  If she wants, she may go to Uganda in November.

We continue on this wonderful journey and feel fortunate that we have options!

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