Taking a Year off from High School

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Year off for small, timid 13-year-old?

Sept 2009

Have a 9th grader who is just getting by high school, 3rd week. He's already on a 504. He is a sweet 13yo, gifted IQ wise (supposedly), but is timid with new people and lacking confidence. At 68lbs, can easily pass for an 11yo. Not into sports. Am considering an atypical solution, like a ''gap'' year to give him a year to blossom, grow, mature, and resolve some health issues. The high school is supportive should he decide to withdraw, given his situation and stature, and he could enroll in 9th grade next fall. The question is what to do with him during the gap year? He wants nothing more than to hang with friends but is out of step in terms of interests (wants to play games, esp. electronic, and Legos, while other boys are starting to check out girls, etc.) Has anyone else done something like a gap year before highschool successfully (or not)? -Worried mom

You should consider filing an R4 (they are filed yearly every October) for home schooling your son and set up a curriculum. There are many resources for home schooling. There are also charter schools which can assist you in this goal which will provide assistance on a curriculum.

As to your son's small stature, you should discuss this with his pediatrician. It is especially difficult for a boy to be small as he most assuredly will be bullied. My son was quite immature and experienced bullying by a boy with 20 pounds on him during middle school, was depressed and starting to fail, so I pulled him out for a while and developed a curriculum of science projects, mathematics theorems and literature. When he improved, he went back to public school. He's now 6 ft, has a very fast right cross and is attending UCLA.

One advantage of a home school curriculum is that you control it. If your son is fascinated by a topic, such as botany or astronomy or robotics, you can allow him to go in-depth and shape the curriculum around it from essays on the topic to building apparatus. He can enter science or art competitions and do independent study - you would be amazed at the number of home schooled kids I run into at these events.

Look, it is a lot of work for a parent. But no one knows your child like you do. If you're really serious, get cracking and read the web resources for California. Contact home schooling experts. File that state form. Because it's a lot harder to fix a failure than to prevent it in the first place. Good Luck

Have you considered an international exchange? I know it's late to arrange, but could be possible. We did a half-year exchange in France in my son's ninth grade because we were going to Montpellier anyway. It was a terrific growing experience for him, but was a hassle to get the graduation credits for high school afterwards. You wouldn't have that problem if he's taking a gap year. Also, if he's small, kids in countries like France and Mexico are frequently less tall at that age, so he'd fit in okay. My son towered over them. He was actually reluctant and nervous about going, but said, unprompted, at the end that ''it was fantastic and I was lucky to do it''. It doesn't matter if they don't know the language beforehand - they learn. I personally think that the high school curriculum is narrow and time-consuming and often doesn't teach kids the emotional and personal things they most need to learn. Fiona