Alternatives to High School & High School Diplomas in California
Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling®
Many parents contact Homefires asking for ways to emancipate their teens from
traditional high schools. This section offers some suggestions that you'll find
Before you start worrying about getting a high school diploma you should know
that many colleges and universities do not require them at all - Stanford
University and Harvard University, two of the most competitive colleges, are
just two examples of schools that do not require high school diplomas.
There is a terrific book called
Bear's Guide to Earning High School Diplomas Nontraditionally
by Tom Nixon. It offers a directory of the many possible ways to get a high school
diploma including online and independent study high schools, equivalency exams,
university-based high schools, charter schools, alternative high schools, and more.
It blows the lid off of the usual, mundane method of getting a high school diploma.
To read an article by the author
Tom Nixon's book is a remedy for all of the square pegs that don't fit into the
round holes of traditional public and private high school programs, as are the
Available in California...
California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE)
If you would like to leave high school, and would like to have a diploma, you
can take the California High School Prociency Exam or CHSPE. It is administered
twice each year. Passing the CHSPE earns the equivalent of a high school diploma
in CA, and allows students to seek employment without a work permit, and also lets
the student move ahead to higher education. Passing CHSPE does not exempt you from
attending school unless you are 16 or over and have verified parental permission
to leave early. You may take the test if you:
- are 16 or older (no upper age limit) or
- have completed at least one academic year of the 10th grade, or
- are enrolled in the 2nd semester of 10th grade
For further information you may call California Proficiency Testing at 1-866-342-4773
or visit the website at http://www.chspe.net.
Passing this test is considered by CA law to be equivalent to a high school
diploma for purposes of employment by all state and local public agencies. You
must be 18 to take the exam. Contact the GED Program Coordinator
More Options for High Schoolers
BEACH HIGH SCHOOL
There is an alternative, private high school in California through which teens
can leave the traditional school system and earn a high school diploma without
stress. Beach High School has no classrooms and has graduated more than 1,000
students. Most of the students, some homeschoolers and more public school leavers,
obtain a diploma over a very short period of time so they can get on with their
lives. The diploma is based on a very minimal portfolio because one of Wes Beach's
most basic beliefs that has grown out of his experience is that, when a kid says
she (or he) can do something, she probably can. One of the students he had some
of the strongest doubts about now has an M.D. from Stanford. Beach High School does
not provide any direct instruction or instructional materials. What they offer is
legal cover, guidance, documentation, and moral support. They work with students at
a distance via e-mail, phone, and fax.
Contact: Wes Beach of Beach High School
Center for Gifted Homeschoolers, San Jose
The School of Choice's "Center for Gifted Homeschoolers" is an Interfaith ISP,
which offers a project-oriented classical curricula in a private San Jose day school,
which meets the University of California's A to G requirements. Working on flexible
schedules at affordable prices (scholarships available), friendly teachers in large
high school buildings lend space to homeschool groups and give a smorgasbord of middle
school, high school, and AP level classes in most academic subjects, plus drama, art
Homeschooling contact: Robert C. Arne
Address: 3800 Blackford Ave., San Jose, CA. 95117, (near 280 and Saratoga).
The areas of study covered in the program include:
- Field Sciences -- Biology, Botany, Ecology, Taxonomy, Zoology, Anthropology, and Ornithology.
- Earth Based Skills -- Fire Making, Tracking, Basketry, Food Preparation, Bird Language, Primitive Tool Making, and Natural Building Materials.
The backbone of the program resides in learning one piece of land intimately. Using
a local county park (Huddart Park) enables the group to discover subtle patterns during
each season. Throughout the year they will also use a program van to explore diverse
landscapes around the Bay Area. Overnights and Field Trips may include Pescadero Marsh,
Coyote Hills Regional Park, Ano Nuevo, and Bair Island.
This program is staffed by two instructors, Scott Brinton and Elaine Hirson, who bring
degrees in Natural History and Wildlife Conservation and Alternative Energy and Sustainable
Community Design to this program, and they have tons of experience working with teens in
summer camps, backpacking and rock climbing trips, as well as teaching nature skills to
teens. They prefer to consider themselves mentors rather than teachers. They generally
avoid lecturing students -- and create experiences for students to discover and develop
critical thinking, cooperative teamwork, problem solving, and research skills. Presentations
by experts and naturalists in the areas of wilderness survival, tracking, environmental
sciences and more, also enhance the program.
Interested people should contact the Nature Studies Program at the Riekes Center at
650-298-3405 or 650-364-2509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art & Film is offered to all students in the San Francisco Bay Area from late
middle school through college. It offers you a Cine/Club on Friday nights that
introduces you to classic films and is followed by a terrific discussion. On
Saturdays it takes you to visit galleries and museums, treats you to a picnic,
a commercial film and discussion afterwards. It offers you free tickets to the
symphony, opera, theater, and dance performances throughout the year (donated
by the city's cultural institutions), it runs a Film Workshop which helps
students produce their own films, A Shakespeare film festival in August, and
takes its most devoted students for a month in Europe every other year. It's
the only program of its kind in the nation, and its free! You only have to
sign up on the web site, and attend the events you want. You join with your
feet. Art & Film represents students from 42 public, private, and home
schools in the Bay Area. The students are diverse, but the most devoted
students (the ones that attend almost all the events) fit a certain profile
you might recognize:
- They're bright, self motivated students that have some real issues about
their schools and the type of education they're getting.
- They don't think they're learning enough, or being challenged or excited
- They complain about the busy work, the information and testing that their
schools have become obsessed with.
- They love film.
- They also find the arts something that sounds interesting to them.
- They don't often fit in at their schools because they sometimes have unusual
opinions, a different way of looking at things, or they like to discuss
- They're frustrated with the status quo and bored with their everyday routine
walled in by school and home. These students find a home at Art & Film
and begin to flourish there. They bring their friends, and tell others.
Schools have changed radically in the last five years. Funding has been withdrawn
from the arts programs first. Most schools have retreated from the demands of a
diverse student body by placing an almost single minded importance on science,
information and, above all, testing. Other needs in a student's life are seldom
addressed. What about experiences that stimulate your imagination? That touch
your emotions? That help you gain self awareness? That excite you to talk about
what you like about something or don't so that you can start to develop critical
judgment? And what about getting you really excited about something that's
awesome, or beautiful, or that blows you away? Our students are experiencing
moments like this all through the year, sometimes weekly. Because that's what
experiencing great films, music, art, theater and dance is all about. Art &
Film makes the arts an active and vital presence in your life. It's nothing like
school. You go, you do, you move around, you see things, you talk about them,
and you have fun. Nobody talks down to you. It's voluntary. If you don't want
to come to something, you don't. You're under no obligation, but if you throw
yourself into the schedule, you'll see the difference.
The director for Art & Film, Ronald Chase, has had a long career in the arts -
as artist, as a film maker, as a designer working in opera. You might even have
heard him on local NPR radio, as he is an arts critic there. Some of the Art &
Film mentors are photographers and artists, some designers, film makers,
architects - some are people who just love the arts, and take time off because
they think it's interesting to spend some time with young people. They give you
a great opportunity to get another, different perspective about the world from
At 10 am on Saturdays you meet with other students for coffee in the heart of the
downtown art scene -- at Starbucks above the waterfall at Yerba Buena Gardens in
San Francisco. You hang out with friends and catch up on what's happened during
the week. Then you're off for a visit to museums and galleries. By noon parents
have set out a terrific picnic-- French ones like the ones our students created
when they visited Paris. Then it's off to a film, and after the film, a
discussion, where you talk about your reactions, your likes and dislikes. You
learn to get around town.
On Friday nights Art & Film offers free classic films at the Randall Museum
or the Dolby Labs screening room. Our pre-film social comes with free
refreshments and you can meet new members and friends. The program features
introductions to the films and a discussion afterwards. You'll see greatest
films and gain a terrific film background. The discussions are exciting.
You're offered free tickets to the opera, symphony, dance and theater performances
all year. Students who go often receive over a thousand dollars in free seats.
You'll not find an opportunity like this anywhere else but at Art & Film.
THE FILM WORKSHOP
Professional editors, cinematographers, and film makers help you make your own
films. Our films consistently win film awards and our graduates enter the
best film schools in the country. Offered free six months during the school year.
OUR EUROPE PROGRAMS
Our most devoted students can travel with us for a month in Europe. Open to top
seniority students (some receive grants) our trip in 2001 took students to
London, Paris, Italy and Spain. Our students claimed it was the high point of
their lives, so far. It can be yours, too.
Contact San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers at 415-864-2026 or visit the
website at http://www.artandfilm.org
or email the Director, Ronald Chase at
Here's a list of recommended books for homeschooling teenagers, by title,
chosen by your Homefires Editor for their outstanding features and editorial
excellence. As a result of a commercial relationship between Homefires and
Amazon.com online booksellers, these titles can be purchased directly from
Amazon.com by following the links below. (Note: Amazon.com is solely
responsible for fulfillment of book orders placed through these links.)
- Bear's Guide To Earning High School Diplomas
By Thomas Nixon
This book is the ultimate guide to all of the many non-traditional options for
earning a high school diploma. Highly recommended.
- The Teenage Liberation Handbook - How To Quit School and
Get A Real Life and Education
By Grace Llewellyn
This book is filled with ideas for how to get a traditional and non-traditional
education through unconventional means and real-life experiences. Tons of resources
- Real Lives - Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go To
By Grace Llewellyn
Inspiring stories about teens who author and edit their own lives successfully
- without the constraints of traditional schooling.
- Homeschooling The Teen Years - Your Complete Guide To
Homeschooling the 13-18 Year Old
By Cafi Cohen
Provides step-by-step guidance and resources for developing a course of study
for the high school years through either traditional or non-traditional
- And What About College - How Homeschooling Can Lead to
Admissions to the Best Colleges and Universities
By Cafi Cohen
This book explains how homeschoolers can prepare transcripts and portfolios
for college admission boards.
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Children
About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
By Robert T. Kiyosaki
The author repeatedly states that schools don't teach financial intelligence.
This book explains what kids (and adults) can do to develop financial
independence, so that they can live the lives they envision.
- Bears Guide To Earning Degrees By Distance Learning
by Mariah P. Bear
The is a comprehensive reference guide to alternative education. It it explains
ways of earning a Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate, law, or medical degree
through some very unconventional methods. It contains listings for night and
weekend colleges, foreign medical schools, correspondence programs through both
conventional and unconventional schools and universities, degrees available
through the Internet and other e-mail avenues, and more. These methods can save
you years of time and tons of money -- but are relatively unknown.