It all changes in a blink of an eye

Last week my afternoon students were immature and disrespectful to put it mildly. It’s a challenge with any group of ‘at-risk-youth,’ (aka high school dropouts ranging from students who were homeschooled since the womb and former felons) to create a community and break old habits. It’s even more of a challenge when five of your students all attended the same previous alternative school AFTER all attending the same high school (and getting kicked out).

Recipe for disaster.

Or, like today: recipe for amazingness.

I’m not sure if I passed their hazing test, but they all seemed surprised when I let them out early. They stood outside the door and talked about ‘ballin” and I was able to heckle one young man who clearly wasn’t dressed to play a game of pickup basketball. It’s about connecting, and somehow my GIANT white-girl-former-basektball-playerness was enough to hang with them for a minute. And one dude even said that he learned something about himself today, which is a miracle all around.

Sure they’re chatty, and sometimes off topic, and I wanted to poke my eyeballs out last week, but it can all change in a minute.

Like, how, at 12:50 today, my friend’s mom died.

Yesterday she was alive. And today she died. And my friend went from having a sick mom, ciorrosis of the liver, given 5 months to live (which was changed to 5 days in the span of less than a week), to not having a mom…planning a funeral…all the emotions attached to the death of a parent.

Two extremes. In the blink of an eye.


  1. Life is a perfectly balanced see-saw of extremes. Please tell me more about how “home-schooled” kids end up in your program? I’m seriously contemplating home-schooling my child, but currently in the process of eliciting different perspectives

      • I don’t think I’ve answered your question yet!

        I think it’s really complex. My homeschoolers are really in 2 categories…those that were ‘truly’ homeschooled and those that attended a homeschool co-op that got shut down and they funneled into my program. The ones from the co-op appear motivated academically, though most of them are ‘behind’ college level (not surprising, they didnt’ finish high school!) and often place into English 092 (one step below college level). For math they often place at 075 or 092, which is 1-2 steps below. Most of them struggle with basic algebra, which, here, is an 8th grade/9th grade requirement.

        The students who have been only homeschooled vary a lot more widely. I had one student who hadn’t done math since 4th grade (self report) and couldn’t write a cohesive paragraph. And that’s not the exception, that’s just one particular example.

        Both sets of homeschooled students appear motivated academically, but struggle with being overwhelmed/challenged by the material (which seems surprising because my class is under the Human Development category) because it’s not a straightforward ‘math’ class as well as overwhelmed socially by interacting with students who didn’t have the same homeschool background/common experience of public school. I think one thing they struggle with the most is seeing value in a class that isn’t straightforward, and seem struggle with having to do things because it is part of our coursework instead of more self-guided activities?

        Now…it’s hard to compare them to the ‘true high school dropouts’ because their reasonings are SO varied in why they aren’t in traditional high school (everything from drugs/gangs to things like getting a concussion in football and being overwhelmed by 6 classes a day, pregnancy, mental health stuff, etc).

        I’d say overall, most of my students that have dropped out of high school are ‘better’ academically prepared, in that they mostly go right into English 101 and Math 98 instead of having to take remedial work. I’m not sure if this is because they dropped out/were kicked out later into their high school career and so they finished more coursework or if it’s an actual comparison of what the materials were in the homeschool vs. high school. I think one of their biggest hurdles is getting over the stigma of being a HS dropout and some patterns that they might have picked up that contributed to their lack of success in the traditional public school model.

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