Many families are discovering the world of homeschooling and choosing a “parent directed” education model of schooling instead of a model with a teacher in a classroom. This term, “parent directed” was first introduced by the director of Family Tree Private School at a Florida senate education committee in the early 2000s and has since been adopted in many governmental organizations to describe education in our “type” of school. Students enrolled in a traditional school or our school, and even with the district as “homeschoolers” often have the same question, “Can I graduate early?” The short answer is yes, if it’s appropriate.
A student must be a least 16 to graduate early. It is my position that if a student has the core high school credits accomplished and the rest of the course work, though inspiring and important is not what they want to learn then that student should have the option to graduate early. There is nothing wrong with “abandoning” that last year or 2 of high school or getting a GED, and your student is every much a graduate as someone who attended a “class” for 12 grades. The law says that at 16 they can legally drop out of school, but they are still entitled to a free and appropriate public education until the age of 21. So, there is a lot of wiggle room in this decision. That being said, the state has an “exit option” program where a 16+ year old who successfully completes the GED and a prescribed vocational course can get a regular standard high school diploma.
Students request to graduate early for many different reasons, such as, “She just feels ready.” “He might drop out if I make him wait.” “He’s changed his mind and does not want to go to college.” “He’s working with the family business.” “She wants to train for a vocational career.” and, “His SAT scores are strong, and he’s ready for college now.” If a student has a solid high school education thus far and feels they need to graduate a year or two early (I’m speaking to the 16-21 year old), then they should be giving the option if their parents support it. Parents will also be responsible to compile information for transcripts so that colleges or organizations know what classes and testing have been accomplished, if a foreign language was studied or what extracurricular and honors level work was accomplished. Students must spend their last two years in the same status as either enrolled in a school (public or private) or enrolled as a district homeschooler. They cannot split that last two years – one year enrolled in a school and one year enrolled with the district as a “homeschooler”. This is a regulation that must be followed for purposes of scholarships, statistic for reporting, Grade Point Averages and acceptance of graduation status.
A student wanting to graduate early should first make a short term (1 year or so) plan and long term (3-5 year) plan and build a resume. They should be ready for a job interview or begin plans to start their own business. The student’s job is to understand that what comes next requires them to walk on with maturity and take on responsibility for their own path. They should have closure for this “graduation” time and celebrate and reward themselves. There are very sophisticated groups a student can participate in that collaborate for graduation ceremonies and celebrations, or a student can just have a celebration at their church or with family. Let them launch themselves into the real world. But, remind them what they are in store for – meaning, time to pay the bills! When my children graduated home school I required them to be in college full-time, work full-time or be doing a combination of the two if they continued to live at home.
We know that working and/or going to trade school or college takes a lot of work. I understand the pressures of a young person transitioning out of school early. I dropped out of high school at 15, got a GED a year later, then even re-entered a private high school a year after that as a senior obtaining an honors diploma with a 4.0. I loved learning but due to our poorly run government schools my experience was horrible and quitting that environment was right for me. I continued serious studies later because I chose education as a career. I want students to feel they can play a big role in choosing the paths for their lives. The world is made for them, not them for the world. If they want to cast off the 12 year track a little early – I’ll support them if they have the right attitude. Students can be successful graduating early as long as it is a sober decision made with a strategy in mind.