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Non-traditional paths, by Donna Hay


Education is not a destination but rather a journey. Too often as parents we are so focused on each step, that we forget to stand back to get a perspective. It is important to keep in mind that the real goal for our children is to instill a lifetime love of learning, and to prepare them to pursue the academic degrees that will allow them to achieve their life dreams.

If you found this website, you probably have a gifted preteen/teen who is having problems in school. Perhaps your child suddenly hates school and claims to be profoundly bored. Perhaps you have been called in for meetings with the teachers, administrators, and counselors at your child's school. Perhaps you have been told your child may have attention-deficit and were referred to a psychiatrist for evaluation and drugs. Perhaps you were given other advice as to how to make the child fit in a traditional school, including counseling and tutoring. Perhaps it was suggested that you just need to exert more discipline, make your child buckle down and do the work. Maybe these solutions do not address the real problem — maybe it's not that your child does not fit they system, but that the system does not fit your child.

                                                  "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." - Albert Einstein

This website is for you. You are not out of options, in fact, you are on the cusp of discovering a whole new set of non-traditional ones. As a parent, these options are both exhilarating and frightening — exhilarating to find a potential solution that might make school and learning fun and happy for your child again, but also frightening to buck the main-stream opinion, and especially the advice of well-meaning family and even experts, including educators, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

It is a sad fact that many of the educational experts are not aware of all the options for our children, and do not know where to refer us. My son attended three gifted schools in his life, and all three I learned about from moms — not from teachers, administrators, counselors or testers. On this website I am compiling information from a variety of professional and nonprofessional sources. What helped me most personally was "going to school" on the experiences of parents who traveled these paths before me. The stories and advice of parents are the heart and soul of this website — describing the problems they faced, the options they considered, the option they chose, the outcome, and what they would have chosen if they had it to do over again. In other words, this website provides not a menu but insight; it is not just a menu of choices with links to each school, but instead provides insight into the critical thinking that went into the choices made. While educators and psychologists may be experts on all children, you are the expert on your child. This website is to empower you.

Your child's problem is in fact an opportunity to explore some brave new possibilities that can open some amazing doors. My son looks back on his non-traditional early-college option as the best years of his life; yours could too. And bottom line, isn't that what we all want not just for our kids but for all kids — that their teenage years be the best years of their life? Good luck on this journey for you to find the key to unlock your child's mind, and set your child on an exciting and more appropriate path.


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A little history may be helpful to step back and gain perspective of our educational system, and why it does not work for all. Schools have not always been organized in such a rigid lock-step way; "age-grading" (educationally segregating children by age) was first introduced in 1848 by Horace Mann. Before 1900, our country was largely agrarian, and most children attended local one-room schoolhouses from age 6 to 14, after which they worked/apprenticed fulltime. A few studied further to go to college, and there were but a few small colleges which were geared to a few specific professions, such as science and religion. The one-room schoolhouse with a teacher skilled in handling all ages provided a certain fluidity of teaching and learning that was lost when age-grading became the norm, with a specific curriculum assigned to each grade. While age-grading has many benefits and fits most children, it does not suit all children — specifically, those children who learn at a vastly different rate from their age peers, either faster or slower, can have difficulty with the strict pace of an age-graded curriculum.

This website is geared to parents of children ages 12-16, but it is hoped it may be of some use for parents of younger and older children as well. It is also a work in progress; it started in November 2013, and will grow as more parents share their stories, and more resources arise. It is a labor of love. I have found nothing more personally rewarding in life than to help a desperate parent of a miserable child find the right educational option, one that literally turns the child's life around, in some cases even saving it.