Jumping Off A Cliff! But, Not Really…

Joel HammonUncategorized

Sitting on top of a mountain, looking out and taking in the view

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Princeton Learning Cooperative has been supporting young people and their families to be in charge of their life and education for the past 8 years. We’ve seen that providing a flexible, interest-based education in a welcoming community with caring adults can be a LIFE-CHANGING idea for young people.

In order to get this flexibility to really do what is in the best interest of your child and family educationally and personally, it’s often necessary to leave the traditional school system. Generally, this is a SCARY idea for families.

The phrase we’ve most often heard from parents and young people is that leaving the traditional educational path to pursue self-directed education feels like jumping off a cliff…as in a big, dangerous, no turning back, life-threatening cliff.

I’d like to suggest a different metaphor that I think is a bit more accurate.

Leaving school to use self-directed education is more like entering an unfamiliar room with the lights off. It’s dark…you can’t see what’s in there, or if you are going to trip and fall over something…perhaps there’s even someone in there that’s going to get you.

But once you turn the lights on, it’s not that scary anymore. It might actually be quite lovely.

One of the best ways I’ve heard of to deal with the fear of the unknown or fear of leaving your comfort zone is to not only have Plan A, but to also work up a Plan B that you are ok with if Plan A doesn’t go the way you’d hoped. That helps take some of the anxiety and fear out of the equation. You realize that very few decisions in life are totally irreversible with no way to recover or end up in a positive place.

So if Plan A is leaving school to use self-directed education and eventually apply to a 4 year college, what are some typical Plan B’s if it doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped…or even if it did work out and you’re ready to move on to the next thing before what would be the traditional time to move on? (There are a lot, so I’ll just include a couple.)

  • You could do what Sherry did. She left school, was at Princeton Learning Cooperative for about 6 months and then decided to go to college early at 15, and enroll full-time in the 2-year biotechnology program at a local community college.
  • You could do what Maia and Arthur did. They used self-directed education for a time in what would have been middle school years, and then decided they wanted the traditional high school experience for themselves. They started back in 9th grade at the local public high school and are doing great.
  • You could do what Quinlan and Tulsi did. They took what they did while directing their own education and used it, along with some standardized tests, to apply and get into local private high schools.
  • You could do what Konstantin did. He used self-directed education with PLC’s support during his high school years. He applied to a film school and got in, but then decided it wasn’t for him. He took a gap year that involved a lot of travel and filmmaking, applied to another film school and was accepted with an academic scholarship.
  • You could do what Max did. He used self-directed education with PLC’s help through his high school years. He went to college for a semester, realized it wasn’t for him, ended up working for a local tree company and orchard and recently joined the Navy.
  • You could do what Hope and Cameron did. Both attended traditional high school for a time, then turned to self-directed education at PLC as a better option. Both decided to start with a certification-type program (cosmetology and yoga, respectively) to learn money-earning skills that could then be used to help pay for further schooling.

The point is…these young people decided on Plan B and are alright. They took a path that many people would consider “crazy” and ended up just fine. They are exactly where their peers are who stayed in the traditional system. In some cases they are better than fine and have experiences and opportunities that their traditionally-schooled peers couldn’t access.

How do you fearlessly go after plan A? Have a solid plan B.