10th grader not going back to school

My 10th grader is DONE and is not able to go back to high school. They are unable to give a clear explanation other than suddenly waking up to the inefficiencies and dysfunction around them, and a realization that they are wasting their childhood in this school system. They are part of the LGBTQ community, are highly self-motivated and eager to learn, eager to be in college even. I have great trust in this kid's capacity and also their newfound awareness that school is unhealthy for them. We know that it would be easier to wait until next year an transfer to either a new school or online/homeschool option. But they cannot muster the strength to return - they break down in tears at the thought of having to spend another day there. We would love any advice on how to proceed, for this very capable and ready-to-be-educated-but-not-in-this-way high school sophomore. Thanks!

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

You should look into Simon's Rock, a fabulous college where sophomores and juniors in high school transfer to start college. My best friend went to Simon's Rock at 16- it changed her life for the better and put her on a great path academically and career-wise. https://simons-rock.edu/

You could try Laney's "Gateway to College."


It is a supportive high school for kids who are at risk for not finishing HS.  The teen does have to be reading at an 8th grade level minimum.  They have supportive classes, as well as taking regular college classes at Laney, depending on their academic level.

Have you thought of homeschooling? My daughter did this and had no issues with college acceptances, etc. It is not “odd” any more. In fact, she was able to focus on her passions and became advanced (colleges like that, if that’s a concern). There are many ways to socialize - theatre, music, sports, volunteering. There are online courses and colleges will take high schoolers as special students. IMO, high school is a waste for many young people (it didn’t even exist until the 1920’s). We did homeschool in Maryland. We just had to find out state requirements. Sure Cali is the same. 

I completely understand your child's situation and they are definitely not alone! I know of several high school students who decided that high school was not for them. The good news is that we have several local community colleges that offer excellent opportunities for high school leavers. I believe Laney College has a program specifically for this group of students, but I don't know about other campuses. Additional good news is that in Ca, community college is free for high school students, the classes will be good for both high school and college credits, and the classes are taught at an accelerated pace. For example, one semester of a foreign language is worth two years of high school foreign language (my daughter did this)! Most other semester courses are worth a year of the same high school subject. Check out the Peralta Colleges, with campuses in Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda. There is also Diablo Valley College. Classes can be taken in the evenings, on weekends, during the regular day and online. This is the best kept secret from high school students, and I just wish school counselors let their students know about this as a  possible alternative for students who would benefit from it.

Hello, there are a number of options you can pursue with your child.

They can do online schooling through something like Silicon Valley High School: https://svhs.co/ It's not free, but not too expensive either. There are probably online charter schools you can pursue as well, I'm just not aware.

They can do a 1/1 schooling situation like Tilden Prep in Albany or Fusion Academy in Berkeley. These options are very pricey but it's all a la carte--so you could choose to do a class or two in a setting like that. Works well, in my opinion, for subjects that your child has the most difficulty with.

Your child could also consider taking the California High School Proficiency Examination at age 16. If they pass, they can officially be done with high school and just enroll in community college. https://www.chspe.net

Another option if you have the $$ would be to look into one of the East Bay's small alternative high schools, like Mentoring Academy in Oakland or Holden High School in Orinda (both accessible by BART). Both are great for LGBTQ kids.

Best of luck. 

Congrats on supporting your kiddo and realizing the school system is not one size fits all.

Go file your PSA (http://www.hsc.org/legal.html) and you're legal!  As for learning for the rest of the school year, many suggest deschooling, especially after traumatic school time (https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/homeschooling-101/deschooling/).  But if they are ready and eager to learn I suggest making copious use of your local library.  You canalso start anytime using many online learning programs, e.g., https://www.liveonlinemath.com/ and https://www.time4learning.com/ 

Welcome to the depth, breadth, freedom, and joy of self directed learning.

Hi - My LBGQT/Asperger teen finished his sophomore year of high school, took the CHSPE & enrolled in community college.. That's one path. He mostly just took classes he was interested in the first year, but plans to start focusing on an associates degree & then transfer to a 4 year school. If he goes that route he might end up graduating one year earlier than if he'd finished up high school & then gone directly to a 4 year school, but he may take longer in community college or the 4 year college.. either way is fine. He's very bright & self motivated, so the CHSPE wasn't a problem & navigating community college seems to be OK for him. I think there are quite a few younger students at community colleges these days. It's a little harder to stay connected socially I think. My child goes to the Pacific Center & works a little big & I think that seems ok.. if he's ok.. Good luck! 

If you can afford one to one coursework, you might try Tilden Prep- my daughter took Geometry through them one summer. Pricey but she got credit she needed. Also Berkeley has an independent school. I’m not sure of requirements to use it but they provide once weekly meeting with teachers & kids work independently. My daughter used this for 2 classes one semester when migraines made it impossible to be at school for a full (overly stimulating) day. It wasn’t the most inspiring instruction but it got the job done.

We have a daughter attending Tilden Prep and have been very impressed by their inclusiveness and ability to meet each student where they are at with great instructors, quite a deep course list, and a fairly strong queer community. It is a bit pricey given its 1:1 model - but it can be used in addition to home schooling/online options.

You don’t have to wait if you want to homeschool for the remainder of the school year. Because it’s high school they would lose any spring semester credit but you could make this up with online classes now or community college classes later - there are many options. For details about how to go from a ‘regular school’ to a private homeschool mid year look at the HSC  (homeschool association of CA) website. They even have a phone line if you want someone to talk you through it.  

Best of luck!


High school can be a pressure cooker of social and academic expectations. It is simply too difficult for some kids. If your 10th grader is eager to be in college, maybe a junior college or community college would be suitable. Otherwise, start  homeschool or independent school now. No need to wait for a new school year. Especially since it may take some experimentation to find the right approach. 

My grandson made the same decision two years ago.  He finished 10th grade, and at age 16 took the state high school equivalency test.  He had experienced anxieties around school for many years in Orinda and did not have adequate support in a bullying situation at his high school.  His parents moved to Berkeley and my grandson enrolled in community college.  He is part Latino and he is much happier now in a more diverse school.  I was worried about his decision, but he seems to have identified some goals and is moving forward with his life.